Back from the grave my mother chills the air
as she used to. “It wasn’t like that at all,” she says,
speaking from a frosted pane on the stairs.
She shakes herself into her shape – quite
a feat after nineteen years below ground:
“You know I did my best for you, despite
the sacrifices – which I gladly made,”
almost as if now dead she spoke her mind,
who in this life left much she meant unsaid.
My childhood passed as if she wasn’t there.
What I remember most was her blank face,
turned to the window, empty as the air.
There are many things I am tempted to say
like: “Yes, but you always lied” or “You never asked
what I felt and wouldn’t listen anyway,”
but I half believe the claim because I know
how tenderly I felt at first for her flesh
that winter underneath its ice tattoo.
But now it is the season of the stone-hard ground
and she is back again in modern dress,
a new lilt to her voice, more refined.
“Give me what I never had,” I say, and love’s
blast furnace barbeques my ribs. It’s still
not what I want but I can’t get enough –
I’m skewered on a spit and arguing.
It’s what we often used to do.
You could almost say we wanted to.
At first light this one shimmers in a veil
of corrugated air, its apron spread
with dust and rubble where the ghost of oil
fades from the forecourt; silhouetted sheds,
abandoned drums, old tyres in dim relief
against the shoulder of the city’s rim
reflected in the puddles left by brief
before-dawn bursts of rain, their rainbow skim
like breakdown products of old promises;
all quarantined by wire mesh from the sprawl
of suburbs which would once have fed off this,
a mocking echo of the water hole.
If you have walked this way among the parts
of Earth no one will own an interest in,
where logos vanish from the public charts,
and tanks begin their rusted weeping in
the water-table where the toxins flow,
or strolled among the jetsam from a vast
and cumbersome machine, then you will know
our sense of unbelonging is the cost
of all our man-made wildernesses and
why unadopted places seem so fit,
as if a soul instinctively will find
a landscape which it knows resembles it.
Orphan Site Anvil 2006