Any Minute Now

When I was a child, my mother pointed to the sadness
in the eyes of aborigines. I had only just learned that the girl,
with whom I shared my lunch, had a different coloured skin.

Meanwhile, in Geography, I learnt how laws had banned child labour.
No more children would go blind knotting carpets for the rich.
Never again would a child cough coal dust into his sheets.

By the time I was of age, the sexual revolution, pill, and women’s rights,
had given me freedom and autonomy. Any minute now
there would be true worldwide gender equality.

1975 and one white man poured sand into the hand
of one black man and, any minute now,
the sadness would disappear from their eyes

There was the international year for human rights,
the year for education, the year for the rights the child,
for women, the disabled, for peace, for indigenous peoples.

It was the age of Aquarius and, any minute now,
world leaders would truly begin to care for the least fortunate,
any minute now, any minute now.

 

my first book, at last!

Belinda Broughton: Sparrow, Poems of a Refugee
Belinda Broughton: Sparrow, Poems of a Refugee

It will launch at 3.00 p.m., Saturday 5th September 2015, at The Light Gallery, Centre for Creative Photography, 138 Richmond Rd, Marleston SA 5033, Australia.

Feel free to pop over, all ye other-side-of-the-worlders!

Will post buying details soon. It will be available from Ginninderra Press, (you have to scroll down to my name) The cart wasn’t working but it is fixed now.

Gininnderra advises that buyers outside Australia would do better to order from Amazon or Book Depository, especially since the latter doesn’t charge postage.’

Here is the blurb from the back cover. What a succinct piece of writing!

sparrow-Kate's-blurb

Sleeping in Short Grasses

catkinsThe sun weighs on my eyelids
like night tiredness,
and the earth pulls at my body
like the grave it will become.
Lie on me, it whispers.
Lie on me amongst
the grasses quivering to head,
amongst the vibrant faces of spring flowers,
the bees, the tiny flies,
the blue wren and his wives busy
and gossipping.

Perhaps the earth desires
we lie in short grasses
so that we will know
what cows know
so idle, they can hardly chew
that spring happens at ground level
amongst the musty mulch
of last summer’s bones;
that we open our eyes to it
that we open our eyes
after a short dreaming sleep
of warmth and buzzing things.

 

 

This is not a new poem but I share it because we are still having days like these.

orchids

flower show crowds
but in the face of an orchid
silence

 

 “The Orchid Blossoms “

and while we’re at it, this:

 

Orchids

Talking about sex was something
you didn’t do. That’s why my old aunt
could not abide orchids with their
overt sex all crinkled and fleshy,
their come-hither tongues, their
silken throats oozing with nectar
and open, their scent like seduction.

On my veranda just now
Dendrobium Kingianum hangs out
her many pink tongues, the nectar
of her desire flirting with spring breezes.
Her flowers are so tiny even my aunt
could look into them for a moment.
Or maybe not; it’s a matter of scale.

 

 

Between Us

He was earth to her
the ground, the soil, the fertile land.
And it was true that seeds sprouted in his hands,
vibrating their blind cotyledon leaves towards the light.
To me he was like the sea—the sea on stormy days,
its deep calm centre barely visible
below the fidgeting glossing quicksilver waves.
But he must have been earth
because it took him in the end.

After he died I went with her to his house,
the house he’d built from scrap.
It was filled with art and with him:
the polish of the step from his feet,
the tilt of the lamp above his chair.
I felt like a ghost—as if I was looking
from a long way off at his tangible world—
his bed, his sheets, his pillow.

A small object was in the middle of the floor.
We don’t know how it got there.
It was a gourd I gave him when we were lovers.
I had painted it with fertility symbols:
a red triangle, a little hen and lots of dots.
I stood in his bedroom next to our daughter
and turned it over in my hand and I felt as if
we had spoken of what was important
in the end.

 

 

This poem was written about six years ago. I was inspired to post it after reading  SENRYU — 11022014-3 by Ron Evans. It is sudden and surprising, the feeling when one’s ex dies.

this

.

living as if death doesn’t matter or as if it matters a lot as if each moment each breath is the only thing we can have we can hold this piece of paper in the gutter this tickle of laughter from an unknown child this brushing of elbows this stroke of your face this beer with its sharp taste this thrum of voices this sparrow this pavement this dirt oh lay me down in it let me die to it let me dissolve into this moment of moments this moment of moments this moment this moment this …

weeds-in-crack

.

Bread

(in the voice of my husband) 

IMG_3746

Bread

crusty and warm, smelling of yeast
and earth, accompanied by grapes and cheese
and the soft wild herbs under a tree in spring
with the sun building its strength, warming
the soil, warming your winter bones,
sprouting the seeds of grain, holy, holy.

I cut bread as my grandparents did
by holding it against my heart and slicing
the knife in and around. My wife complains
that the end is rough. She slices it on a breadboard
with a serrated knife like a clinician, straight through,
as if it were not a body. Sometimes she even leaves it
the wrong way up. I turn it over patiently.
It is an insult to put the body of Christ on its head.

Old habits die hard, as they say;
I wouldn’t call myself a Christian
but a loaf of bread is a loaf of bread
and Jesus was a man in the line
of enlightened teachers. He made
some mistakes and the church many more.
It’s ironic that Jesus stood pointing the way
and everyone is still looking at his finger.

He said, ‘Cleave the wood
and you’ll find me there,
turn a stone and there I’ll be’
or something like that.

Christ in the wood, in the stone,
in the soil that grows the rye,
in the muscles of the baker’s hands,
in the sweet yeast smell in the darkest hours,
in the shy girls in aprons counting coins into your hand,
in the sparkling tiles underfoot,
holy, all holy.

And the hand that holds the knife,
the hand of my wife passing a slice,
neat and straight and perfect for toasting.
It sponges with the life of yeast and rye,
with sunshine and the minerals of the earth,
holy, holy, holy, holy.

 

from The Sparrow, by Belinda Broughton

Searching for Things

In the cut grass a bird
is searching for things
perhaps a bracelet or a gem
more likely a worm
maybe something he put there yesterday
a memory
or a previous incarnation.

I used to go out and lift rocks
out on the red ridge where
nothing much grew but spinifex and tea tree.
I’d lift rocks to see
what was underneath: a centipede, an ant
their chambers—so neat and hollow
then I’d put the rock back.

There are things you’ve lost
things that linger in the half-remembered
the reason behind an action
a treasure or a gift
most often teaspoons and clothes pegs
something you overheard
hiding behind curtains in your parents’ room.

Sometimes I can almost make out
the things that I’ve lost.
They are puzzle pieces or clues
and if I could just grasp them
they would complete something or make sense of it.
Then I’d understand what’s underneath
and could put back the rock.

Great Bowerbird's bower, North Queensland. Belinda Broughton
Great Bowerbird’s bower, North Queensland.                                                         Belinda Broughton

The Great Bowerbird deserves a poem of its own. A nondescript looking bird of grey, the male builds the bower to attract and mate with the female. After which he takes no further part in the care of her or her young. She builds the nest and looks after the young completely on her own.

He is too busy looking after his creation: adding new objects, shifting them around, protecting it from other males. He collects red, green, white and shiny things and arranges them together in groups. The white things are mostly sun-bleached snail shells. This male has put a few shells inside the bower itself, purely for decoration. Another day they wouldn’t be there. He will steal anything that takes his fancy, including from other bowers if he finds one unattended. In fact, he will completely destroy another bower, scattering the objects and tearing apart the construction.

This bower was near my sister’s house. We were doing the rounds that day looking for lost cotter pins from a vehicle being serviced in the maintenance shed. There were clothes-pegs, lids, and various bits of plastic, glass, silver coins, aluminium foil, and other metals. And the cotter pins, though we visited four bowers before we found them all.

Other things my sister has searched for over the years include a dental bridge, eyeglasses, and jewellery, including a diamond engagement ring belonging to a visitor.

The bird is also a consummate mimic. Once when I was staying with my other sister in Townsville, we were searching for a lost kitten. I went towards a mewing kitten sound and found instead a Great Bowerbird giving voice. He mimicked a number of other birds, various ages of cat, dogs, human whistles, and the most amazing sound of someone shovelling gravel. Apparently they also do car alarms, static, and radio noise.

years later
turning it over in my hand
a shell from a bower

Mother and Daughter Collect Stones

stonesIn the dry riverbed we collect stones,
each a jewel or a small world
mother and daughter
ambling like cattle.

The wide riverbed is bank-to-bank beauty of red, white,
green stones, black and yellow, veined and ribbed
quartz and sandstone, basalt and granite,
all tumbled smooth by the long time of the world.

I find a few treasures and my daughter, who is five,
comes and stands under my stoop, pounces
on stones at my feet, her eyes scanning, scanning.
If I move sideways, she moves sideways. If I turn, she turns.

All this space and she stands right here,
shadowing my shadow, seeking treasure
at her mother’s feet, seeing through
her mother’s eyes, stealing her mother’s vision.

It’s what our children do. It’s what
we give the world — their greed
for life and it’s ok that they
look through our eyes for a while.

But Daughter, in that far off story of snow
and sadness, the little match-girl died.
She was fiddling with flames, dreaming of mother
when she could have been collecting wood.

Daughter, I am only a dreamt mother. I can’t save you.
I can’t give you the world, though I’d give
each stone in this riverbed, I’d give enough beauty
to sustain you in your ever-after life.

But in the end, I’m as impotent as the match-girl’s mother.
And you can steal from me, my eyes, my very breath,
but sooner or later, you will have to find
your own stones to whisper your secrets to.