That year we lived in France
I nipped home in July, the cold
set of winter, to prune the roses,
or so I said, although there was
other business too. I oiled
my shiny shears and set upon
the annual task, slicing
clean on the diagonal:
they're a semi-circle of white
Icebergs planted in friable soil
stretching beneath the green native
trees surrounding our house.
There were four of us there
on the day of their ritual
planting: my daughter, her daughter,
her brother's wife and me.
We hummed wedding songs
in soft anticipation of the first
buds and then when they came
you wore a scarlet dress
and married your love
and we danced on the lawn.
Pruning Roses is one of my favourite poems in Dame Fiona Kidman's collection Where Your Left Hand Rests, published this year to celebrate her 70th birthday, and already in the Top 10 of the Bestsellers' List. Like many of the poems in this gorgeous book, Pruning Roses is about family and the stuff that binds. Fiona writes simply and powerfully of family history and ritual and strength and love and joy.
She also writes about what it is to be a woman who writes, and takes us from a bunch of poets in Thorndon to meeting a son in Greece to the year she spent in France as the Katherine Mansfield fellow. That's the year Fiona Kidman sat down at the writer's desk in that small important room and decided she'd worked hard at writing fiction for so long, and now she would work hard at her poems again.
For those overseas readers who are new to Fiona's work - she has published eight novels including the award-winning The Book of Secrets and The Captive Wife, many collections of poetry and short fiction, and her non-fiction includes a recent two-volume memoir. Fiona has been awarded a Damehood, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and the French Legion of Honour, and yet the last lines of her book are typically modest: ' ....My epitaph may be that she was a small woman/who spent her days in small airports flying/on very small aeroplanes to middle-sized towns.'
As I said in my review when Where your Left Hand Rests was launched - some books fill you up, and this is one of those: its exquisite end papers and illustrations using vintage fabrics are just a start. The poems nestle inside - small treasures.
For more Tuesday Poems click on the quill.