Poetry

Andrew

Their house has the taste of salt

Pictures framed for satire

Balsamic vinegar ripening

Offset with olive oil

They know themselves

What they love

What they take seriously

What they scoff at

Or dismiss

They laugh well, between themselves and their close circle

It’s almost its own world

An earthy prism

Rich with time

Sunshine intercepted

By curling vines and herbs

Lemon trees

And lattices

There is an old bathtub outside

They fill it up from a hose attached to the kitchen sink

For rusty bubble baths under the stars

Hot and cold

Beers and lamington tea

He has prepared some rollies

Having quit over a decade ago

He said he wanted to buy tobacco one last time

I like the look of the filters in his top pocket

I’ll remember him like that

I’m remembering him even while he is still in front of me

I find myself memorising things I never noticed before

I don’t see many books at all,

But there is a model of a ship, and an old compass

I imagine him looking to them

Navigating his fictitious children

On a furious sea

Playing God

Their cats weave around, and look at us directly

Why are you here?

We are here to mourn something that hasn’t happened yet

Dad says that the visits are his living wake, in a way

Dad holds his brother’s body in the hunch of his own shoulders

Perhaps it is his responsibility

Why do we find it so hard to say any of the things

That will be said once he is gone?

I swear for him, to show I mean it

It’s so shit

This doesn’t land – how can it?

He cannot carry our projected burdens

When he still has heavy gifts

Three glorious, painful months to fill

He must deflect my words

And yet he does not deflect me

He holds me in his attention

Each of us, in fact

And assures us

He has wrapped his head around it

He’s not stoic, Mum says

He is full of grace

I’ve never heard her use that word before

Liesje cries in the laundry

To Mum

But I am there

With my baby

Watching

She’s angry

At the system

Angry at her own anger

At her inability to heal him

She is a vet

She has seen death move

And stall

And speak

She has lost people

Suffering their absences

But she has survived

Held by him, in his odd and sideways gaze

Kept alive by their gentle symbiosis

Their hours in that house

Shared and apart

She grips his presence

Both surrendered and unwilling

It’s not about having an audience

It’s having a place to be afraid

How she will be seen

Once the witness to her life

Has lost that vision

We watch her

Arguing with the circumstances

And not with him

Outside, in the winter shade,

He says

The only drug he never tried

Was cocaine

I’ve read a couple of his books, and I believe it

Mum jokes that I could get him some

And you know, part of me wants to

Part of me would do anything to be a part of his life

Before his death

But I’m distant, feeling useless

One of twenty-three nephews and nieces

And not one that ever loved him with expert intention

Before now

Now

I must watch

And I must give my baby to Liesje’s trembling arms

Like lavender to a dark room

Holding is sometimes better than being held

This pain is not about us

But

I am afraid of the wave

The wait

Reeks of inevitability

Freedom

Cinnamon

And salt

The roaring silence says

Do not leave us

He hosts us

In the open doorway

With the tender breeze

Letting us have tea and small talk

Letting us look at him

Letting us memorise this

He does not need to remember

But he does not avert his gaze.

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