For Nerida O’Hare
In the night I hear, or sense
the whisper of the rain, skittering across
the grass, pinpricking the dusty leaves.
Impressions of the golden afternoon
glide into consciousness –
the sky glazing with apricot
beyond blue hills and khaki trees,
the heat still beating on our backs,
colouring our lips and cheeks;
Sylvie with a hoe and rake,
me watering the garlic beds,
the spinach, basil, baby lettuces;
petunias, unacclimatised, swooning
in their fragrances… The she-goat
bleats entreaties like a human child;
two roosters expostulate
while pale Brahman beasts look on,
their faces elongated, lean,
between ears like propeller flukes.
I thought of Monet then,
his vision of the waterlily pond,
Giverny’s nuanced palette
paying homage to a gentler sun,
far removed from Capricorn,
different from our childhood home.
He lived according to the light,
was said of Monet.* So do we,
though in another hemisphere and century.
Russet termite mounds on gums
glow vivid in declining rays.
I see us, ageing children
in our vintage innocence of days,
tending the same garden
for an afternoon that time elides,
rehearsing fractured schoolgirl French –
our high-school souvenirs rephrased,
syllables as tokens in a nursery game:
your move, my move; we lose, we win –
who knows if we shall meet again?
* This quote is attributed to James Priest,
head gardener at Monet’s garden at Giverny, France.