Remembrance of things past by Libby Hathorn

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Maroubra Cycle

 

Remembrance of things past

 

Left the old car spangled with raindrops,

stationary, marbilized with dust

and vapours on the wet dark tar,

and walking through the mist

of day long rain thought of her,

the dead friend. A flash to the past.

Vivid, shocking.

Her face.

And then to a time she did not share.

To the flat concrete road of a suburb

she did not know. The place

of my childhood rising up again.

 

The sameness, brick neat rows

red tiled, brown walled houses

with their dreary oblong gardens,

soil too sandy for much variety.

Two dark pencil pines like

a child’s drawing, placed either side,

straggly fuschias bravely flowering,

dumpy pomegranates, the wonder fruits

split for touching but not for eating.

and a line of heavy lemon dahlias

crazed on their leaning stakes.

Fat hydrangea escaping corners

with their stolid pom-poms pale blue.

(My mother loved them, showed us how

you singed their stems to blackness

to make the flowers last and last

in the squat, cut-glass vase she favoured

before the coming, to Maroubra,

of the new Venetian glass.)

The bulging rosemary bush,

centrally placed, of cool green,

with its surprising silvery underside

and rosemary sharp smell.

(For remembrance, they told us at school,

you wear a sprig, for remembrance,

for a war we did not remember,

for remembrance of things past.)

 

The squat, brick front fences

that we lay on to take the trapped

late afternoon warmth of a dying sun

inhaling the sweet, faint, reassuring smell,

constant by the gasbox in those tiny gardens

of the past. Or that we sat on

in a noisy companionable row

legs swinging, watching others play

on grass verges between untidy oleanders.

(If you sucked the thin bitter leaves

of an oleander bush, you’d be killed

stone dead we believed, plucking at

the lethal leaves, tempting one another).

But death seemed so remote an act

for all of us who played so hard

among the poisonous oleanders.

 

In the flash of her eyes,

My past.

Her presence.

Then the lack of her presence.

Her face.

Memory locks into memory.

Her face.

The rain.

Her face.

Her face, an affirmation

Of my past.

 

Source: Heard Singing – the cycle of poems “Maroubra Cycle” by Libby Hathorn.  Out of India Press, 1998

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