Author: Claire

Diamonds

I talk to doctors about medicines

and hippies about herbs

talk to mothers about bedtime

children about worlds

hit up activists with rhetoric

throw strangers with kindness

and if we’re talking

fake news,

what about

vitamins?

exfoliation

or diamonds?

I mean

are things just real

when we believe them

I miss

friends

and real conversation

 

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@mahkeo

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The year the solitude went away

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Looked up one day

it had gone away

the miasma of nothingness

not nothing: thoughts, private, personal contained

in heads and held stiff in upper lips

worlds secret and interior

projected now on screens rectangular

become

the same, shared, cyberflung

enmeshed sudden, and

unexpectedly

irreversible?

a sunset in London

as I wake to a West Virgina morn

while the sound of

flight 370 ruptures

our membrane of hubris

reminding us

we’re still trapped in beingness

and the addiction, the pornography

in the idea

of post geography

 

This poem was inspired by a wonderful interview with sci-fi author William Gibson “On technology, science fiction and the apocalypse” that I watched yesterday. In it, he talks about witnessing the advent of connectivity – being on a train station in central London where everyone was just standing around in their own thoughts, then, only one month later in the same spot, suddenly every person was  staring at their new smartphone. I’ve borrowed some of his lines, including the title. 

 

Photo: by me, it’s Swiss national day! 1 August.

PLANETS

Photo: by NASA @Unsplash

 

circling in our solar system

competing gravity

can be

 

so disruptive

knocked out of orbit

ecosystem’s off

where’s the off switch

life, I need to pause, regroup

oh, you just spit summer  

and say: here!

this is your holiday

enjoy me

so I lay my bronzing, once-pale body out

a sacrifice of sorts

to Greek gods playing with fire

and nothing

is permanent

they say they found water on Mars

 

we are the ants of ants of ants

playing in a cosmic sandbox

 

Glimmers

keep getting glimmers

of the before feelings

I can

double take

recall

somethinglike

the way

it was going to be and I thought

thoughttried triedthought so hard

didn’t I

I guess that moonflower

still exists because

look

they’re still reaching for it

fishing line

listen to the wind

restless, tepid, tossed free

the babble of summer parties

floats by

I

throw myself like a fishing line

into darkness and back, back

in time to back-lane bins and jasmine

scented evenings

encasing friends

warm drunkeness

bottoms dimpled by

milk crate imprints and the tiny

gravel of old cement

crumbing bare feet

swished aside

long cotton skirts

eyes glance up

that window high

mine

that window high

eyes glance up

long cotton skirts

swished aside

crumbing bare feet

gravel of old cement

milk crate imprints and tiny

bottoms dimpled by

warm drunkenness

encasing friends

scented evenings

in time to back-lane bins and jasmine

into darkness and back, back

throw myself like a fishing line

I

float by

the babble of summer parties

restless, tepid, tossed free

listen to the wind

 

 

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@ross_sokolovski

Bye Bye Baby

I don’t want another child. I was never especially maternal. So I never thought I’d be someone to mourn the passing of the “baby years”. I used to read stories of women’s sadness at saying goodbye to this time with, if not scorn, then at least bemusement. But you had those years with them, what gives? But now, I’m here.

My youngest child turned three near the start of this year, next August, he’ll start school. I went back to an office job at the beginning of June. It’s a seismic shift in my life, after 4.5 years of being a freelancer and stay-at-home-parent.

This week it’s been hitting me: the baby years are gone.

I thought I’d be pleased, entirely. I have tried to enjoy each step of my two children’s development and I’ve always relished the next stage, skipping ahead, looking forward without regrets. I don’t want to hold them back, or fix them in time. I love seeing them grow and become more independent. I see my biggest success as a parent displayed in their increasing ability to do without me.

And yet, and yet…

I find myself tearing up with regrets. Yes! Me! Maybe it’s a natural backlash to major change to glance back over one’s shoulder as your train leaves the station, wondering if you should have stayed one more hour, one more day.

A passage in a novel described a new mother “kissing every inch of her baby’s body” and had me welling up in tears. Did I ever do that? Did I stop, and take the time to explore his skin, lip-print by lip-print until I’d covered it with an invisible velvet of love? It wasn’t the author’s intention (I suppose) but, like all the bestworst parenting articles I read, it had me questioning myself.

Because maybe… I just got through? Maybe I didn’t stop and simply exist in love. Maybe I didn’t even feel that perfect, gentlefierce babylove they describe in stories. I am not doing mum-guilt here. I honestly do not remember.

I do remember feeling anxious, feeling the need to get things done. Being miffed by the books that said “leave the housework!” because, what is worse than sitting, pinned to the couch by breastfeeding and contemplating a huge, dusty mess? Ugh. I got things done, I met my friends, I did the grocery shopping, I went for long walks listening to music and exploring the suburb while the baby slept. I walked an hour a day, easily. I read books and newspapers. I produced a 48-page quarterly magazine for the local NCT branch. I cooked food and kept the baby fed. I went to the pub occasionally. I organised minor repairs and renovations on the house. I went to the park, to baby swimming, to coffee dates and tea with mates. Did I ever just kick back though, suffused with joy in my small perfect creation? I don’t know.

Probably I did? And maybe I still do. We’re all attempting to be more mindful these days after all.

Perhaps it’s that the moments of quiet joy are just that – so quiet and humble and unmemorable. You can’t recall them, much less write a whole 750-word column about them, unless you’re really smug?

In another novel, the mother regards her newborn as “the most perfect thing she’s ever seen”. OK it’s another one of those clichés, but I don’t know if I ever felt this either. Others must feel it, I believe that. Was I too busy, too sensible, too practical, too nervy to have allowed myself to feel that pure love and contentment? Did I have postnatal anxiety? I do remember describing that first year of maternity leave in London as “the best year of my life” and it was. I went back to work, eventually moved countries and had another baby, then spent another busy “maternity year” and beyond. In many ways, things have just got better and better.

But I can’t remember. Maybe it doesn’t matter. But now, I never will know for sure…

So I’m mourning a little. And it’s somewhat unexpected. Goodbye baby years and all your chaotic, scary, busy intenseness and boredom that means I can almost only remember rushing about and enjoying myself, sometimes frustrated and upset, other times happy and occupied but almost always with something-to-do rather than sitting in a post-natal haze of rosegold glow. Ahh, maybe that’s just my own version of it.

Whatever it is, or was, I find myself surprisingly sad to say farewell to that bright pocket of time as my life moves, ever swiftly, onwards.

Dragon Breath

 

And I thought about what someone far away was doing

imagined

a length of yellow-white fabric with words printed on it

fluttering near a bedroom window

 

Someone flying long-haul in a plane through dark sky

right now, that twilight world of

stale-cold air, engine hum, the fittings’ faint rattle and the rustle

of other people

 

A view over the rooftops of buildings

(see the city’s ripped back sides)

 

Stepping alone into an early-morning kitchen

he puts on the light

feeling the unheated floor and seeing crumbs on the benchtops

makes no move to clean them away

 

The pattern: blush of bright pink, royal blue and orange

imprinted behind closed eyes

intersected with black, it’s a piece of clothing

that existed cheaply, wonderfully, in a previous decade

 

 

Bigger than Texas

the earth will take back

in heat and ordure

the shredded plastic bags

and bottle caps.

 

unbeautiful bits of nature

pond dust, saline scum and

damp piles of leaf and blossom scrofula

look like horror

brown-shiny beetles and chokey cockroaches

creep slow on sickly stick-legs

 

they take back the dirt

one insect footstep at a time while

seahorses attached to Q-tips

and seagullpigeons in rubber bonnets

are not raging like us

no

they merely persist

hoping to discover

that rubbish-island in the sea

the size of New South Wales

(because it’s bigger than Texas now)

– must be terra nullius for them

 

 

This poem was inspired by the novel Arkady (need to get back to polishing up my own dystopian story one of these days!) And also somehow by Singapore (pictured), a place where the lush fecundity of nature mashes with the nasty detritus and pollution of human industry.