Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Caelo Usque Ad Centrum

(This is a poem I wrote to welcome in the New Year two and a half years ago. It hasn't been published publicly anywhere - only on my private blog, which has 39 readers! - and I quite like it, so I thought it was worth posting today).

The old year is dying. outside
clouds gather as the storm builds
the thunder low, growling like a distant predator
the lightning spitting ice across the sky. the dogs
are barking, insistent
thunder and firecrackers conspiring to unnerve them
the rumble of the faraway hunter, the sharp whining pop of the skylighters

two girls are awake. they are listening to the sounds
and restless in the stuffy heat of their bedroom.
Tell me a story, says one, her hand brushing her face
as the other wraps her braid around her finger, and nods.
A story about what? What do you want to hear about? says the mother
curling up on the foot on one bed
her eyes tired.
Scooby Doo! No, Tweety Bird! No, superheroes! No, Mummy, I want a story about you...
Yes. The secondborn agrees, nodding her heart-shaped face vigorously.
We want to know about you, Mummy. When you were young, like us.

Well, then. When I was young like you ...
I had another brother, you know. Two brothers I had.
I remember a New Year's Eve, I must have been 7 or 8 -
and the story emerges
teased out slowly
retrieved from long-term storage
the dust blown off it as the words unfurl
a sepia memory, this one
as much pictures as words
freeze-frame images, bright as paint
of a New Year's picnic under the stars
of home-grown fireworks dancing in pink, orange, green
of lemonade and pears, redolent with summer, juicy and fresh and huge
of a little brother who was not supposed to ever be able to laugh
chuckling enormously at a pear-wet chin and a sister pulling faces

the two small girls are sleepy now, relaxed
ready to bid the year farewell and slip the moorings, to slide out to the nightsea
Mummy did he ever laugh again? - from the younger
as she pensively strokes her toy cat
worn thin from many passes of her fingers

No, sighs the mother, kissing her, I don't remember that he did, really
but now it's time for sleeping, baby
I love you so
when you wake it'll be a whole new year!

The storm is rising, outside. But we are inside, and safe
The old year is dying. Bring birth to the new
Our arms are wide to catch it
Every year a benediction
Every new year we are vouchsafed
Every one.

- Kathy, 31/12/09

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