1 July 1998

That spring we lived in Canvastown
there were mushrooms the size
of dinner plates in the fields,
frayed at the gills with lice.
My mother wore a feather in her hair,
naked, in profile, always painting.
My father, stringy pony tail,
pink shirt, threw pots in a cow shed.
I half wanted to be the neighbours’ child.

She, fat and breathless would seat me
on top of their enormous freezer,
a mortuary of animal carcasses, feed me
bright yellow pickle, doughy bread.
The odour of Basset hounds,
mutton gristle and hot vinyl.
She created nothing, sat indoors eating
melted cheese from a dented frying pan.

Furrows on her husband’s brow
ploughed deep, skin red as raw beef.
Yet he could listen with the trees,
make a willow stick dance
to the song of an underground stream.
The flick of my mother’s brush on canvas,
buzz of mason bees building white clay houses,
the dull roar of my father’s kiln.
Across the road the weaver at his loom,
weaving a poltergeist’s footfall
into a vermilion carpet. Sound gradually
drinking in all its listeners.

The fat woman and I didn’t listen.
She was bored with the water diviner,
resplendent in a green chenille housecoat
she turned afternoon into evening
by watching Bewitched on TV.
I liked to lie in her overgrown garden,
watch crab apples pull malevolent
faces from the tree, poke out
their wormy tongues at passer-bys

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