Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Victory


Warm still from hot water and lavender soap, from a clean dry towel,
from a new lace bra, but losing heat fast in a grey room, on a cold slide
with a Velcro tag  for ‘right breast’. The nondescript woman in a denim
skirt slides across the lino to click the button and start the scan. She returns
to turn me over like eggs in a frypan. Firmly, gently, so as not to break the yolks.
She sees my hand go up, flap the air and drop again. It’s a new machine, fewer
handles, she says, you feel like you need something to hang onto. In case I fall, I 
say. But of course I can’t fall, I am clamped like the mouse in the pantry last week
with its nose in the trap,
and in a blue apron, with onions frying, I was the nondescript woman, crossing
the room, calling my son, grabbing the soup ladle, the pestle, the heavy knife,
anything to still the terrible panic, the frantic warm caught body. But nothing
would do. Not squeamishness but violence pushed us back from the pantry door:
pulsing from the concrete floor, ricocheting off the shelves of tinned tomatoes
and packets of flour and nuts, smashing up against our shins. Hot. Angry.
Incandescent. Nothing timorous or cowering about it. No flapping in the air
trying to hang on to something that wasn’t there, no meek waiting while the skin
cooled. We dropped our weapons, quit crying, canned the obscenities, and in the
sanity of silence, simply pressed a heel on the tip of that stupid plastic trap.

And it ran from us. Crookedly, but it ran. 

                                                           Mary McCallum

Thinking of the people in Canterbury in the aftermath of the terrible 7.1 earthquake - not least our southern Tuesday Poets - no poem seemed right for today's Tuesday Poem. But I looked again, and up popped this one. It speaks of that glorious thing they need down south right now.

And from the stories we hear, these Cantabrians certainly have courage in abundance, and are fighting back against this natural disaster, 'nothing timorous or cowering' about them. Victory in sight, although it will be a long haul. 

I love the story of the dairy owner who's opened up his dairy to people saying they can take what they need and come back and pay him when they're able to. My heart goes out, especially, to parents of young children trying to cope in damaged homes with restricted water supplies.

Here's a report from Kathleen Jones - UK poet and Mansfield biographer visiting her daughter in Christchurch; and one from Christchurch author Rachael King who has two small children to care for and, after a few sleepless nights, plans to Keep Calm and Carry On

At least everyone is safe. Crooked but safe.

For more Tuesday Poems click on the quill in the sidebar. 


Catherine said...

Thanks Mary.Here's a link to my daughter's livejournal:
I think she writes rather well! She works in the university library, you can imagine what that looks like at the moment.

Rachel Fenton said...

Best wishes to everyone in Canterbury - you're made of strong stuff.

Tim Jones said...

I couldn't see the connection at first - but it came into focus for me when I re-read the poem. A fighting response - is that the right word?

It always seems to be last lines that I respond to most: and so my favourite part of the poem was "Crookedly, but it ran."

LentenStuffe said...

Fighting spirit, yes.

New Zealanders have that spirit alright. I believe it's written into your constitution, as an old friend might've said.

Nice work, Mary.