Saturday, November 23, 2013

The beginning of the holiday (Poem)

This is a poem I wrote back in February, but have never published until now.

the usual series of minor crises to get out the door.
the dog's food - oh, the washing, get it out of the machine -
did you cancel the mail? no! did you?
the kids keen to go, tripping about underfoot
til, goaded, their father roars at them to JUST be still, for God's sake -

but, finally, away. the road unfolding, a blank, smooth-faced curl of tarmac
running straight through yellowed fields, dotted with lean-limbed cows.
here come the ABCs! sings the stereo, as one child sinks without trace into her book
another ignores the world with her iPod, and the third
regards the passing landscape with unfocused eyes.

lunch in a country town, at the RSL, clustered around a formica table
overlooked by sweet-faced legions of boys in sepia, their uniforms tight
is that the Queen? says the eldest, and yes, with the King man, her husband -
says the middle, when she was young, you see.
(Both are confused to learn that Elizabeth's man is Prince, not King,
until they remember their Horrible Histories, and recall
newly-wedded Victoria letting Albert down gently into his Princehood).
The old man at the next table, smudgelines of tattoos seeping from his cuffs,
glances at us as he drains his beer.

are we there yet? the youngest asks plaintively, five minutes after lunch.
not yet, not yet, soon, I say, then and every four minutes thereafter,
until - here we are, here! and like picnic ants we swarm maniacally
sniffing out the corners of this temporary base until we have infiltrated it.

later, at the beach, the bigger kids run into cold surf with their father
I paddle in the shallows, swirling my toes in the suction of the sand,
as the little one digs for shells and makes angels in the wash.
another mother, watching a toddler screech with delight in the water, says:
you on hols, then? down from the smoke?
I nod, and she says, bet the beach is a bit of a novelty for 'em!
I want to tell her no - we live near the bay, our beaches are quieter than this -
but it seems rude somehow, so I shrug and shift my weight
deprecating myself like the sand crab that flinches away under my foot.

assailed by headache, I feel the world slowing down and losing colour
as dizziness ascends and shakes the clouded sky.

later yet, the kids sleep, too tired to fight it
and we sip tea and talk of cabbages and kings
and fish, and horses.
small fates gibber at the glass.

- Kathy, February 2013

This is post 23 in NaBloPoMo. 23 down, 7 to go!

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