Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Orphans by Michele Amas

We are losing our parents,
3 mothers of friends
this month, like a middle-age 
phase we’re going through. 
The aunts and uncles
too, my name I see 
beside the telephone
of one,
I’m down as next of kin 
beside the lawyer
Mr Dick Crush, 
I don’t know 
which is more ridiculous. 
Under the blankets
I calculate the cost 
of death and travel. 
You are in the wardrobe
trying to trap 
a mouse with your shoes. 
It’s hopeless I say
where are the adults 
when you need them. 
I’m still standing on the beach
in my togs and bermuda shorts 
waiting for the parents 
to find
a park 

You can hear Michele read Orphans here. She is an actor and director as well as a poet, so this woman knows how to read a poem. She did the MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters the same year I did, but Michele's collection of poems won the Adam Prize for best folio. It is a damn fine collection published as After the Dance (VUP 2005) and shortlisted for the Best Book of Poetry at the Montana NZ Book Awards. She's just returned from Menton where her partner, Ken Duncum, was the Katherine Mansfield fellow. 

Here's an earlier post on Michele's poetry, especially her marvellous Daughter.  

One very good reason for posting Orphans: I have a good friend who has just lost her father, and she's not the only one. We met up with another friend in the same position when we were having coffee, and she said straight up: 'We are orphans.' They talked about the strangeness of not having parents in the world, now or ever (something that hasn't yet happened to me). That feeling of wondering where the adults are when you need them. 

When I read the last five lines of Orphans, I am immediately at Scorching Bay the summer I was 11. Radios. The smell of sunblock. People on towels. Feet burnt by melting tarmac. Waiting for Dad to find a park. And when he does Mum will plaster us in sunblock and open a book and read until it's time to unpack the picnic. Dad will let us three hang onto his broad back, and he'll take us out past the rock pools into deep water. 

Dad, don't let go. And looking back there's Mum safe on the beach, waving, and here's Dad, his big hands pushing the water away, oblivious to my brothers trying to shove each other off. I'm hanging on as tight as I can. Everything right then seems immense and good. 

This poem is posted here with permission of the author - thanks Michele. Do check out another wonderful poem at the Tuesday Poem hub by award-winning NZ poet Brian Turner. Just click on the QUILL in the sidebar. Then from there, there are 30 poets with Tuesday Poems .... 


harvey said...

What a lovely evocation of childhood. And ageing.

AJ Ponder said...

This poem is so perfectly fitting to the Tuesday Hub this week. We all seem to be struck by a vast melancholy, wanting things to be different, to be better. Obliquely facing the events of the week.

Elizabeth Welsh said...

Thank you for posting Michele's poem, Mary! I haven't encountered her poetry before, but am now drawn to seeking it out. The sparse almost prose-like quality is stunning, and I particularly adored your commentary.

Catherine said...

A lovely poem. And your comments too - they took me right back to Scorching Bay, although we used to walk there, or to Karaka Bay which was closer.

T. said...

Ah yes, the disappearance of parents/aunts/uncles. This poem so accurately captures the duality of being the adult as well as the every-present child. Thank you for this!