Here Lies a Bird
He glimpsed the sky reflected upon our living room, recognised
the clouds as places he knew well on his journey home.
So he tried to reach it. Perhaps he was on his way out anyway –
they can always tell – but wanted to be remembered.
Like people do. The glass didn’t break his skull enough
to kill him instantly. He reverberated and fell, a scared bird,
falling instead of flying, and when he hit the ground,
the physical thmpf of his hollow-boned body accompanied
a last push of air from his lungs. He wanted our attention.
He wanted us to notice. He fell fast, without grace and without
sound, because nothing dies in slow-motion.
Like people do.
Despite my suggestion, you didn’t move him before
the maggots flowed out. Instead, you squealed and gagged,
made a fuss and dragged the parasol stand across the patio
to place over his body, where it became an accidental gravestone.
I began to feel like the mother, and you the child. But then I
wouldn’t stop staring and you had to turn my head away,
walk me back inside for juice and cake. That is what he wanted.
He wanted a grave beneath a parasol stand and the quickest funeral
with the fewest guests. He wanted the shortest moment
of morbid excitement, then to be left alone in the dark.
He doesn’t want us to check if his stripped skeleton shines
white when it rains. He wants me to write this poem.
He aimed for a flash of sky between cushions on our sofa.
He knew he’d miss.
The memory comes back as pain, as the shock
of being pushed, and water grabbing her
young legs first. In 1986 the whole family took a trip
to Bel Air where grandma and granddad have a house
and a big, cold pool. Someone on the patio waits
to wrap her in a towel but she sulks on the lounger
and listens to traffic through the hedge. Betrayal burrows
through her breastbone; she catches mom and dad
laughing, blowing smoke from their noses towards
a sky that’s too blue. The small lies hurt the deepest.
The water’s lovely, baby. Even now, turning the album pages,
to see that towel again, a strop, thrown down
on the grass. To remember the argument between
the lounger’s hot plastic slates and the damp skin
of her back. It’s enough to not want to forget. Holding on
to the betrayal counts as pay back. How could they
have been so mean? When she gets married, they’re banned
from the church. She’s not coming downstairs
for dinner. She’s not wishing them goodnight.
Discovering she hasn’t forgotten will hurt them,
somehow. The sight of the garden in the picture offends
her like the taste of cigarettes will, stolen
from her dad’s pocket, just a few years later.
The House Cat
She noticed me there,
the same time I noticed her
waiting on the second to top stair,
with this gunk in her eyes.
After she blinked the gunk spread
back over her eyeball and I thought of
a gardener, made stupid by time
and no one to spend it with,
dragging a rake to pull all the algae back
across the surface of his pond.
And sometimes the sunlight points out
scales of fish through the purple water and I imagine
that while he does his chore he hums,
as though he doesn’t care or remember
that what he’s doing is wrong.
That was her blink, on the second to top stair.
Her disgusting, futile, blink.