March 2020

Back to Issue 7

A Life in Gifts (Poème sur le Don)

By Lesley Carnus


a miniature baking set, too precious to ever use

an Annie Oakley cow-girl suit with gun holsters but no guns

a brownie box camera to take             photos of four grave children leaning

            against an FJ Holden

a squeezable doll smelling of savon de bébé that would bleat Mama like a forsaken lamb

when tipped up-side down and shaken a little


a tall glass Chinese lantern, lugged up stairs by Billy’s best friend

            whose hands now tremble as he smokes his last cigarettes

un portrait de famille    painted in kindergarten, blotches of primary colour on a swatch of

calico, kept for thirty years in a bedroom corner

a Picasso lithograph of the Dove Of Peace     left at an art restorers for seven years

two Dylan T-Shirts-    one received and the other given to a brother on Christmas Day

a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream bought late Xmas Eve: an extended family joke

fluorescent, wooden earrings in the shape of parrots    tipsily threaded

            through reluctant ears

an origami sail-boat filled with hashish

a money-box in the shape of a crazed clown’s head that still sits

                        grinning on a dressing table


turquoise earrings from Saks Fifth Avenue       given by a suitor

            met at a luggage carousel in Tokyo;               a gift-debt still unpaid

a boxed set of perfume –Romance– at the end of ours

un collier en or           dropped on the office floor when we undressed

   a red Santa soap on a rope

silver earrings in the shape of tiny figurines left abandoned on the table     at Bay Tinh

herbal salts for sweet bathing

a jade-blue ceramic bird on a spring – that fell and broke its wing

Essential Poems – the Staying Alive Trilogy from a lover who wakes despairing at the      

          magpies’ welcome chorus

an i-pod to listen to Icelandic harmonies

no coffee spoons.