Monday, January 9, 2012

Children in an ancient world (Month of Poetry #9)

Sea full of lovely chaos and crusted zinc
a cacophony of children spray shouts
in a wet garble of sound: they are a TV
turned up too loud; an audience of cockatoos.
No voice cuts out of tune, they are harmonised.

Three boys gesture a game of thrones and swords
'Aye, my lord,' bows one, with all the regal
purpose of an ocean. A shell in one hand,
he kneels in the shallows, is knighted with
a strip of kelp. And dunked for good measure.

A mother's voice rings out like a flung quoit
sweeps an armful of triangle sandwiches
bright buttered pinwheels of Vegemite,
ham and pickle, egg and lettuce. The game halts
the knights slough their armour: there will be no conclusion.

They take. They eat. A jumble of towels drapes
along shivering shoulders. I distract downwards,
stirring the sand with my finger, dragging my eyes
to notice a welt, bulging against the grain.
I smooth it clean: a white disc of shell.

We used to call them 'back doors'. Sea snails
hold them tight against their soft jelly feet,
protection against sharp beaks and rough swells.
Younger-limbed, we'd duck our heads down
underwater, let it seal over us in silence.

Occasional stingrays wafted past. Like fainting spells
we sank down dimly, peeled open our eyes:
children in an ancient world. The weight of water felt quiet
and dying. Unnerved, we popped like champagne corks
roaring in relief back up to light and speeding time.


Today's poem is based on suggestions from six people:

@timsterne: "my finger dragging my eyes" (Penni Russon, Only Ever Always)
@KarenCollum: "stingrays wafted past like fainting spells" (Sonya Hartnett, The Ghost's Child)
@ernmalleyscat: "a TV turned up too loud" (MJ Hyland, How the Light Gets In)
@astarlia: "aye, my lord" (George R.R. Martin, Dance of Dragons)
@greenspace01: "They take. They eat." (John Ajvide Lindqvist, Little Star)
@matchtrick: "There will be no conclusion." (Peter Hoeg, Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow)

Being underwater in the ocean is always strange, like going suddenly deaf or stepping out of the world. And then you come up for air and it's all kids shouting and lunches and mothers, like no time has passed while you were under.

1 comment:

greenspace said...

gorgeous language, beautifully evocative, a sensory delight