Stick Woman

By | 15 May 2023

In the park next to our block,
on a floor of dry twigs and leaves—
Grace and I, on low striped deckchairs,
a flask of water and some dates between us.
The little ones run rings around the trees.

We are drawing Port Jackson figs, you see.
My daughter says it’s harder than you think
to capture trees, to get them down.
Their bodies don’t have endings, she says—
they’re wrapped around themselves.

That’s the trouble with too few dimensions.
I tell her you can trick the eye: draw the gaps and shadows,
and the tree reveals itself. The artist too—
my fig has buttress roots like dragon’s haunches,
its branches curved and lush as daikon.

The little ones creep up behind us.
We can feel their hot breath.
They steal the dates, gulp the ice water.
My son makes stirrups of his small hands,
helps his sister get a leg-up to the lowest bough.

She scrapes her knee, curls on my lap a while.
Beads of blood appear on her dark under-skin.
I dab them off, streaks of red sap on a tissue.
She takes my charcoal and loose paper,
draws a stick woman and three stick children.

Later, I’ll pin her drawing to the fridge, next to Grace’s,
and my turgid tree. I’ll rinse the lettuce,
top-and-tail the radishes.
I’m no longer lush. I am a stick, a twig,
kindling for their fire.

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