It doesn’t matter where I am…
who I am with… where I am going… or what I am doing. When I hear its song, I have to stop and listen. It’s as though I am listening for the next line in a story that I have been listening to since I was a child. As though I’m afraid that even if I miss one verse, I will lose the thread of the story and not find out whodunnit, in this avian mystery sung by the Grey Warbler.
It’s the first day of another lockdown
and it’s raining cats and dogs and covid. I don’t know whether to call the SPCA or go out there and join them… mask on of course.
Our cat wouldn’t think of venturing outside.
Not when there is a friendly fire to stretch out in front of.
And no matter how much I try
to impress upon her the dire situation we find ourselves in, she just yawns nonchalantly and suggests I scratch that spot just under her chin.
They mess with your head. One moment they gaze at you with unadulterated love and the next with utter disdain. (as though you’ve shit in their bed)
They sit at your feet,
as you lose all dignity trying to coax them onto your lap. And after sufficient humiliation they give you the one-eyed salute as they saunter out of the room.
Of course, later,
when you are nursing a hot cup of coffee they launch themselves onto your lap, in a blatant attempt to demonstrate their despotism.
And the final ignominy is
after they have deigned to bless you with their presence they purr with satisfaction while you stroke their fur and their ego.
A small dog
introduces the piece with a staccato motif.
The low tremolo thrum
of the distant traffic sets the foundation.
A small aeroplane,
pianissimo, hums a lonely melody.
A distant hammer
sets the tempo with an irregular beat.
A neighbour’s door
slams, announcing the climax.
And the soprano brakes
of a recycling truck provide the quotidian coda.
A bright summer afternoon
cycling beside old man Manawatu. A gentle cooling breeze blowing upstream and a raft of ducks showing me their backsides as they forage off the river bottom.
And now seated on a bench seat
in the shade of a macrocarpa tree I realise that it is the very same tree that my nephew and I climbed and claimed for our own more than thirty years ago. And I am grateful.
From a distance
they looked like seagulls but somehow their manner was not quite right.
There were five of them
looking somewhat bemused and pecking at the sand purely out of habit.
They also seemed to be
discussing something, nodding to each other as if in agreement
that the travel agent who sold
them this holiday destination as a dove’s delight had somehow known they were gullible.
I have heard the saying many times
but today, for the first time, the adage came with an image.
In my mind’s eye a cat dropped
from the branch of a tree onto a roof…stalking a bird no doubt.
Its carnivorous smile vanished
as it delivered a frenetic, and not at all stylish, catwalk across the hot tin roof
and leapt for the ignominy of the long grass
desperate to ignore the smirks and sniggers from its avian audience.
I’m not sure whether it is a
tradition of mine to write a poem on my birthday or not. But if it isn’t, it should be.
This particular birthday finds me
sitting on a garden bench seat, once owned by my grandparents, enjoying the chatter of birds and nursing a head-cold.
As is my want, I am musing on the
ideal metaphor for the aging process. Currently I am favouring standing atop a shiny board that is gradually
being lifted from one end.
Each inch that it is raised makes the process of remaining upright that much more difficult and hastens the slide.
Then there is the fine wine that becomes
more succulent as the years pass until it turns and begins to take on a vinegary quality.
For now, I think I’ll go and pour a
cup of tea. It’s been brewing for fifty-three years… it should be just about right.
The Fence: It serves him right. Fancy trying to leap a fence of my height.
The Footpath: It’s not often I get up close and personal like this… A trip, a fall and a concrete kiss.
The Bystander: He was jogging with ease and leapt the fence with finesse. Alas, he caught his back foot and made a bloody mess.
The Victim: How could I have been so stupid? How could I not see, that one shouldn’t leap fences at fifty-bloody three.
Reading about the ‘Bad Old Days’ is okay
when things are rosy,
tucked up by the fire
all nice and cosy.
But having History
dished up for breakfast, lunch and tea
just isn’t me.
The Black Plague, World War One and the Holocaust
all catastrophic and morbidly fascinating.
The rise of Donald Trump, Nationalism and Covid 19
all terrifying and incapacitating.
I don’t want to ‘feel’ History
with all its barbed wire and hooks.
I don’t want to ‘live’ through History
I want to read about it in books.