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.
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,
Then the lack of her presence.
Memory locks into memory.
Her face, an affirmation
Of my past.
Source: Heard Singing – the cycle of poems “Maroubra Cycle” by Libby Hathorn. Out of India Press, 1998