LEAVING MAPS

THE EGYPTIAN ROOM - THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM

 higher up then it all seemed      somewhere above the narrow
 dark stairway to the small room our childhood
 somehow depended on      standing on our toes
 our noses barely at the glass      we understood

 even then      and felt the edges of something
 difficult      that afterwards troubling our dreams we would
 not put words to for a long time      coming
 in from the winter's city streets dripping with cold
 
 with mother      to this private place      where so many years hung
 on the faces of the dead      and in the deep glass cases
 of green painted wood      things folded away for so long
 still mattered      it was the closest

 we had ever come to death
 knowing little then of even pain      standing afterwards
 somewhere within the warm deep folds of her dress
 losing later at lunch in Woolworths amidst the noise and fuss

 things I think I went back to show them yesterday
 on the train      through a wet and winter city
 clattering up the noisy stone stairway
 to the same room      after so many years to see

 that nothing had changed      only what I
 couldn't hold back      standing where she once stood
 for us      beside King Khafra's cast      seeing with different eyes
 in this small dark old room      crowded

 with a class of kids no less absorbed with that same strange
 spell and sorrow      clutching always at the heart of things
 here      where it will always be a kind of summer      along
 the banks of a green Nile and in the Valley of the Kings

MAKING SINKERS

 
my father
would always let me spill
the sputtering lead
from the small primus burner
into his thumb prints
in the sharp wet sand

                                 spoon sinkers

for the dragging surf
off Christmas beaches

                                   and I had thought
that none came back
that I had lost them all
from the long lines
between his own forbearance
and the restive sea

                             snagged
on rocks
or the deep dark floating weed
beneath the glaucous waves

                                          one got through
I turned it up
years after the firmness of his hand
upon my own uncertain
twitching line
was gone

                a small dulled pendant
it stood for something more now
the alchemy
of all that I once had from him
poured
without my knowing then
and found
with some surprise
when I first needed something to hold me
cast off from an altogether different beach
without warning
into a strange and difficult sea

 
 
 
© 2020 Jeff Guess