Poetry ~ Rachel J Fenton
When I go there, I am ten.
I am forty-three, when I go there
like playing hopscotch;
I cast a thought back and skip
all the way to the start.
I went for real in November,
and before that Spring –
there behind the wire
fencing, I’m in; the hole
big enough to fit a saddle
through. The earth,
hard at any time of year.
Galloping memory, I am ten
again. Wearing big cousin’s
new-to-me shoes, peach
colour is soft contrast
to the heels I dug
into hard clay to get my footing,
though they were the reason
I’d been unable to run
away from the two young
men. Young but years
older than me. Boys, the policeman
described them, about to leave
the school I was about to go to.
The New Zealand lit scene
is a playground. See?
Like that, I cross oceans
as well as the field. I have PTSD
and my therapist
sends me into my past
like Knight Rider
following a light
from left to right; a Kit
to get me in and home
where definite article
is as absent as my father
and linguists come on field
trips to research our language,
and back to Aotearoa,
to cauterise the trauma
here. My therapist grounds me:
You are in the present
moment; you are safe
now; how old are you?
It is written in my body before I write it. Already a page, earlier thoughts
weighted like hoofprints in snow, lies on the bathroom floor.
When I lean to touch it, crowns of water sink. I revel in the ink’s bleeding, distant rain
from the mechanical cloud edge. I have been soaking for above three hours.
From the wall beside me, a tap protrudes like the muzzle of my favourite hound,
produces a convenient waterfall that can be used to curtain my thoughts from
the body’s outer reality. It is in my nature to imagine
things are not as they appear. And comfort takes many forms.
Various outcomes materialise around me, I their Frida Kahlo; tender
renderings of possibility appearing like imagery in a darkroom. But these
cannot be lifted out to dry, pegged on a line or framed. As the only
remembrance of tears is the taste of salt, so too the heart’s food leaves a
bitterness though otherwise no trace.
Listening now to the clever whispering of the fan, know I am reminded
of the last words spoken by the mistress who for three years has hidden
inside me, a hypocritical twin; the monotonous functionality, an annoying
accompaniment I am only aware of in the instant after it is switched off. Drip,
drip, drip. Like Alice Oswald’s “Swan”, I am lifting from the wreck
myself. Unlike the dead bird,
I have left the lead weight of the water’s skin. Hush.
As the drips fold in on themselves like poisoned robes, I sing.
How to Care for Orchids
Although it is winter, inside the glasshouse
orchids in full bloom have sent long stems,
like wash-lines hung with exquisite laundry
such as only babies wear, ruffled with broderie anglaise
trims, that curve as shoulders
might from the weight. From the tops of tropical trees
to English bogs and chalk downs, these are not flowers
native to New Zealand, yet my friend’s daughter names
each species with the care of a child writing her first party
invitations. Her enthusiasm is endearing, her memory
endures despite its encounters. Poisons
occupy many forms and cuttings cannot insure
against losses, even water
given in too great quantities can kill; flood
must be avoided in favour of letting these exotics
take moisture from the air
when left completely still.
Carnival of History
descend from high pine at the far end of the field. I want to feel; I call them family. Two parents, one child. But without proof they are as variable as the purpose of shame.
How many times
if a polecat could count; she returns to this field where her kit-self hid. She has come again to rescue her. She has gone to the place she was last seen. In her wild state, she was claw and teeth and dull fitch. In her winter prime, she gleams shiny as anger for what she has lost.
That winter day you bore witness
the stoats split from under the sleeper on your end of the crossing, their colouring an embodiment of snow on wood, as you watched, electrified, their sparking gambol over the road, jack and jill through the hole in the wire gate entering the field, their prints warranting execution.
You saw the mist first
last night, called it fog, pointed out where it was forming around the old lampposts alongside the motorway driving back from early dinner with your friend, a softness that turned my thoughts to a dream I shared about a house shingled with the scales from moth wings. Write that down, you said. Now, I think of masked lapwings, the other name for spur-winged plover, and their downy brooding feathers gently tinged like winter sun, like lamp-light diffused through mist I cannot get near enough to touch.
Mist appears solid but disappears from the place we should meet; I walk through
it, empty as a promise.
Rachel J Fenton is a working-class writer from South Yorkshire, UK, now living in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her poems have appeared in English, The Rialto, Overland Journal, Magma, Landfall, and various anthologies.