The Wake

Posted on Oct 30, 2013 | Comments Off on The Wake

We sit around the table pour
another beer or wine
Silent embroidered shawl
on the shoulders of the dead
covers the day. The last child
falls asleep the stories begin –

of Uncle Fish who sighs, drops dead
at his brother’s funeral – a priest faints
a voice from the choir shouts fuck me
pretty protestants cast their eyes
to where angels float and cherubs
aim at the gleaming cross.

Uncle Blue, maker of hokonui, arrested
by cops who drink his whisky, fined
fifty pounds, smiles – it’s a rule –
piddle in their bottles – satisfaction
he reckons, beats money hands down
instinct an investment in certainty.

Cousin Cookie’s sultana brandy cake
has Auntie Lou spit frogs on moonlit nights,
Auntie Cass reads leaves for the Minister’s wife
slips free and fancy in the Minister’s dreams –
the stories godwits searching
a place to rest come to Mum and the bull.

Three kids and Mum cross a short-cut paddock,
I wear a red jersey – yellow makes me dark –
Mum is the knitter so she makes the rules – too late
we see the bull – too soon the bull sees us.
He’s a deliberate drum beat in slow motion –
syncopation our hearts on the snare.

Mum’s a little woman, dark and fierce of eye
Bugger off, she tells the bull, get a move on
she tells us. I tug say Mum I’m wearing red.
Walk, she says, just walk. If anything happens
you see to the kids, be quick. Go on –
She waves her purse at the bull.

We wrestle through the fence and turn
Mum faces the bull full on. Now stay
she tells the bull, shakes her purse, stares
stares with her fierce eyes. When I say
stay, I mean stay. The bull stands still
as if trying to figure something out.

Mum walks deliberate steps, head up
one last look before without fuss
she bends, climbs through the fence.
Sits on the grass and while she finds
tobacco and papers in her purse she stares
at something only fierce eyes can see.

These are the stories we tell each other
when we bury our dead – stories we don’t tell
are those where the bull doesn’t stop
where afterwards, bloodied and beaten,
we drag ourselves to an uncertain safety
and promise the grass we will never tell.