It’s not supposed to be like this:
illicit bliss taking you in my arms.
By all sociological decrees we’re incompatible.
And yet we meet again.
You in your faded cotton slip
no longer the colour of marigolds, your old foam padding
edging out like moss after last week’s damp.
So constant, unhumanly uncomplaining – only twice
in ten years have you refused to hold my iron
devotedly, like a hot red rose between your teeth;
only twice have you casually unwrenched your mouth
your teeth chattering silver uproarious onto the tiles
while you, neat as a secretary crossing her knees
tried out the game of passive resistance.
I know you had other plans. Once.
You wanted to be a ballerina but
your feet were too big. Your arms however
are eloquently expansive. They make a flat earth
where the geography of thought is unconfined. At your altar
of heat you steam out my wrinkles you make my mind
spit – you ought to be embarrassed
by that soft hiss of dreams.
But you stand here acceptant as earth,
your feet in a ready position. You could be hearing
music, or discord, of your own. Tell me,
before you were bolted rigid did you learn more
than this one dance, this going down to the floor flatter
than any melancholy day I’ve ever known? Did you steal
a pinup of Nureyev or Margot Fonteyn? Is that the true strength
of your mettle? Oh you,
with your stiff flamingo knees,
contrary as Alice redreaming Wonderland
I tuck you under my arm. Wearied, half-waking
I cut you like a pack of cards. Shuffle you back
to the wall. Doom you, like the factory workers
who made you, to repeat your one sad skill.
When all the world is finally blazed flat I suspect
this is how you’ll be. Amid the ashes,
a burn on the mind.
Still beaming: Watch me! Watch me do the splits
(from Verandahs 1990)