Mid-morning sun is thawing the edges of cold.
It comes into the winter of this room
where I sit pondering (not for the first time)
the purpose of a poet’s day.
In another part of the house
radio reports on the killings and protests
in a country crazed with fear.
The news. Sometimes I try to imagine
what it would be like to be cold to it.
Not carry around that impossible feeling
of responsibility for the world.
Is this a lasting legacy
of a certain kind of education?
Or some other impulse?
My mother grew up between two world wars,
displayed no desire to discuss the complexities
of history. She had six children to worry about.
the mineral scratch of pencil on paper grounds me.
My first port of call on the poetry voyage.
A fellow poet said our job is to observe.
Underneath the desk there are boxes of notebooks
crammed with my observations.
Which line, if any, from today’s notebook
will help grow a new poem?
I think about this while the washing machine
swishes the clothes about.
To say I am washing my clothes is a turn of phrase
from a time when women heaved and scrubbed pieces of cloth
with Sunlight soap until their hands were raw.
Before she got her Simpson automatic
my grandmother, a small woman,
lugged hot water–laden sheets
from the copper into the cement tub
for the cold rinse
before grinding them through the wringer.
Monday was her washing day, her sense of routine
founded in the purpose long since assumed for her
after her father went away,
leaving her mother with seven children.
She’d done well at school, would have liked to continue.
Always kept a piano in the house.
The day is warming up. I feel compelled
to go outside to feel its smile on my body
and a surge of cool oxygen in my blood.
At this time of the year the best hours
are from eleven to three before the earth turns
back to early dark. Alone in the house now,
the space around me
has become a large, empty page.
is said by the Buddhists to be our essence.
Will my note books just grow dust in their boxes
become compost, like I will one day?
My friend’s poem is spread across two pages
each stanza a different shape.
The only rules it follows are its own.
Later, I will clean the floor with water and eucalyptus oil.
Look at emails, move them about on the screen
like food on a plate I don’t really want
having already eaten the best bits.
Just when I start to think a line might end
with a question about happiness,
a metaphor for fear comes round the bend,
makes my heart jump.
This time fear was quiet.
I moved off the path out of his way.
The winter sun was in his eyes,
he did not see me.
The pencil continues across the page.
I love that sound.
I love the silence that allows me to hear it.
The sound of a full stop
is a tap on the wooden desk.
The pencil is travelling to that point
when it knows enough has been said.