September 2020

Back to Issue 8

A Poet’s Day

By Anne Collins


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.