The dull chock of carrots, free-wheeling
turmeric circles on the chopping board
say I am home again. The creaking of the eaves
against the retreating sky speak of cold windows,
the eyelash-and-louse tobacco loose
in the top-right-hand draw smells
like my father’s office, half a world of time away.
In the garden a lemon tree entwines
with my old cat, locking familiar elbows
with his grey bones. If time was a constant
and a life was a sausage, I would stretch
down the street where I have banged
shopping trolleys home with melting ice-cream,
to the lake where the rotting gums of the shore sprout
moustaches, across the ocean to grimy blue-ceramic alleys,
lipstick flowers, arched bridges, and back to the dark furls of the city’s
nightscape, flickering reptile tongues of light on the water.
But the knot would be thickest here, the house at the focus of this warm
borrowed intestine, protuberant with memories, this pretzel
of animal sacrifices.
…………………………………………………for Gwen Harwood
My favourite hausfrau,
you are richer than the amber fruits of morning
scented with pumpkins, violets
and the cream-and-honey
of Tasmanian gum-blossom.
Hope is what you trade in:
Soft mist. Memories playing by the hearth.
And in that warm room
friendships with the timbre of aged wine.
with the rumours of your courtly loves.
They recommend to me your character.
Like me, you need
zephyrs of music, mythic maidenhair gardens
conversations with Donne
and Wittgenstein and other wits.
You know by sight
the lion-grooms, the cobblestones
hobbled in blood, the dim red glow
of sunsets which throw
the shadow of the scythe
on everything beautiful and brief.
Even with this rich tapestry
woven at your fingertips, you are
………………………The tincture of night is regret.
There is hope in your voice;
a twin note is doubt. I hear “Is this enough?”
ripeness is saccharine. What if you died lonely,
disenchanted, as I might?
The world is not ready to feed
a woman with appetite.
Mother who gave us life
forgive us the wisdom
we would not learn from you.
………………………….after Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘The World’s Wife’
It’s true what they say:
you can’t keep a good woman down.
I know I can’t keep up with her –
governessing is a fast-growth industry.
She’s always running
her immaculate glove over potential-dust-mite-caches
analysing cough syrup, or deconstructing
the menagerie in her suitcase.
Saturday, she and Mrs Banks
Take Back the Night. Monday
she minds a Punjabi Sikh’s daughter. The first half of Tuesday’s
the boy with two daddies. That afternoon
is the lad with autism. When I quiz her
about the rest of her week
about linear Western thought –
pats me on the head like a kid.
Don’t get me wrong –
we still have the occasional tea-party
on the ceiling. But if I suggest
jumping into a chalk picture
for old time’s sake, she sighs:
“So retro sixties passé.”
Gets me nowhere.
I’ve tried to commiserate with Mr Banks,
but he doesn’t like to mingle
with the help; grudgingly hands me a cigar
through the veranda door.
Most evenings I go home early. There’s no button
in the elevator for our floor,
something about the poetics of space
– we had to pay extra for it.
Our apartment brims
with IKEA flat packs: ALӒNGS,
KARLSTADS and HATTENS.
She leaves them for me
to piece together with an Allen key.
I can’t complain.
With the money she’s earning,
I haven’t been near a chimney for years.
When the lady of the house returns,
she puts down her Louis Vuitton purse, fluffs out
her umbrella. I take her coat,
shake her a dry martini.
I say “Do you remember dear, that song
about feeding the birds
you sang when we first met?”
She eats the olive, drains the glass and tells me
“Cryptococcus is spread by pigeon shit.”
ABOUT THE POET
Tegan Jane Schetrumpf writes poetry, essays and creative non-fiction. Published in Wet Ink, Swamp, Theory of Everything, Southerly, Meanjin and Antipodes, she was shortlisted for the 2013 Jean Cecily Drake-Brockman Poetry Prize and will be included in its upcoming anthology. She has a Masters of Letters in Creative Writing and is currently undertaking postgraduate research at Sydney University into the turn of the 21st Century and its effect on Australian poetry.