I want to write a poem about gardening, watering the veggie patch & how it reduces things down to a manageable size. To write a poem about putting on another load of washing, taking the rubbish out, catching the bus home. I want to cut a word here & there: trimming flowers before arranging them in a vase. To write a poem about yoga: feeling vulnerable, inflexible, briefly graceful. A poem that tells you to be gentle, that there is time. I would write it on a Sunday while the bolognaise for the week ahead simmers, while the neighbour’s opera floods through the wall and the children across the road have a screaming contest. It would never be published & wouldn’t be recognised in either edition of The Best Australian Poetry. Yet I want to write this poem because although I don’t think of you every day or even every week – there are others who knew you better & feel your absence more keenly – I know it’s the kind of poem you’d like & I want to thank you. For that time I rang you in the middle of the night raving about my father & you told me to light a candle, say goodbye, then blow it out. Thank you for showing that these small tasks can be enough & that it’s okay to write a poem slowly, especially one about family.
Elizabeth Allen is a Sydney poet and bookseller. She also works for Vagabond Press and is undertaking a Masters of Teaching (Primary) at the University of Sydney part-time. She is the author of Forgetful Hands (Vagabond Press, 2005) and body language (forthcoming in 2011).
© Elizabeth Allen
Overland 204-spring 2011, p. 122
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