FIVE POEMS. ELA 30-1. the poems. Guilt – Leona Gom. your mother giving you a set of dishes and all you said was but I move around so much and you can never forget her hurt face turning away. the best friend you accused of flirting with your boyfriend when
your mother giving you a set of dishes
and all you said was but I move around
so much and you can never forget
her hurt face turning away.
the best friend you accused of
flirting with your boyfriend when
all the time you knew it was him
you just couldn’t face it.
the argument with your father about
not having seen his damned magazine
then finding it in your room
and never admitting it.
telling your office mate you
agreed with her motion then
voting with the others after all.
thousands of them, little knots
you can’t shake loose from your memory
it’s too late now to say you’re sorry.
they contract along your nerves
to consciousness, whenever you think
you are not a bad person, there
they come, little lumps of guilt
making their daily rounds,
like doctors, keeping you sick.
I remember this woman who sat for years
In a wheelchair, looking straight ahead
Out the window at sycamore trees unleafing
And leafing at the far end of the lane.
Straight out past the RV in the corner,
The stunted, agitated hawthorn bush,
The same small calves with their backs to wind and rain,
The same acre of ragwort, the same mountain.
She was steadfast as the big window itself.
Her brow was clear as the chrome bits of the chair.
She never lamented once and she never
Carried a spare ounce of emotional weight.
Face to face with her was an education
Of the sort you got across a well-braced gate –
One of those lean, clean, iron, roadside ones
Between two whitewashed pillars, where you could see
Deeper into the country than you expected
And discovered that the field behind the hedge
Grew more distinctly strange as you kept standing
Focused and drawn in by what barred the way.
Where there’s a wall
there’s a way through a
gate or door. There’s even
a ladder perhaps and a
sentinel who sometimes sleeps.
There are secret passwords you
can overhear. There are methods
of torture for extracting clues
to maps of underground passages.
There are zeppelins, helicopters,
rockets, bombs, battering rams,
armies with trumpets whose
all at once blast shatters
Where there’s a wall there are
words to whisper by loose bricks,
wailing prayers to utter, birds
to carry messages taped to their feet.
There are letters to be written –
Faint as in a dream
is the voice that calls
from the belly
of the wall.
Always a third one’s there
where any two are walking out
along a river-bank so mirror-still
sheathed in sheets of sky
pillows of cloud --
their footprints crunch the hardening earth
their eyes delight in trees stripped clean
with only the rose-hips red
and the plump fingers of sumach
And always between the two
(scuffing the leaves, laughing
and fingers locked)
goes a third lover his or hers
who walked this way with one or other once
flung back the head snapped branches of dark pine
in armfuls before snowfall
I walk beside you
a shadow’s shade
skating on silver
singing under ice
No Madonna and Child could touch
that picture of a mother’s tenderness
for a son she soon would have to forget.
The air was heavy with odours
of diarrhoea of unwashed children
with washed-out ribs and dried-up
bottoms struggling in laboured
steps behind blown empty bellies. Most
mothers there had long ceased
to care but not this one; she held
a ghost smile between her teeth
and in her eyes the ghost of a mother’s
pride as she combed the rust-coloured
hair left on his skull and then –
singing in her eyes – began carefully
to part it . . . In another life this
would have been a little daily
act of no consequence before his
breakfast and school; now she
did it like putting flowers
on a tiny grave.