Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lost Property

To be alone in the wide room                                                                     
In the house’s crooked elbow, turning point                                                
For extensions as the family grew                                                               
And grew – and grew – to be alone in the one room                                     
Nobody needed now, though it might be resumed                                       
Like land, for guests or blow-ins, at any moment,                                         
Without notice (and that was part of                                                           
The appeal, the very tenuous feel of the place), to play there                        
At five or six to be immersed though not safe among the things                    
That proceeded you, immediate and limitless,                                             
Everything already there, the way the world went on                                   
Before you were thought of, the flux, and your small-child                            
Leisure for introspection while others shinnied trees for the same                 
Sense of endless outlook, here,                                                                  
In this would-be attic brought down to earth, whose breath                         
Was frosty on Mother Shipton’s well, holding the tossed refuse                     
Of older siblings, stages shrugged off: limp tutus, ping as dropped               
Gum blossom, too big, though you stepped                                                
Into them and stood, as if in a fairy ring you might animate:                        
Satin and tapshoes, toe-shoes from a sister’s long gone bit-part                   
In Hans Christian Andersen, poems called Off the Shelf                               
That you avidly grabbed for your own, puzzled                                          
At faded marginal doodles in real ink:                                                        
Dark ocarina whose holes you could never master,                                     
Bakelite cracked, spookily fake-organic,                                                    
As if a new kind of reptile had laid it,                                                         
And a distant, shadowy instrument, lipped, where fingers should sit,            
With verdigris your father later chastised you for rubbing –                          
An oboe perhaps – resisting your grip, but venting                                     
A slow corruption in you as descant,                                                         
Its distant kin in this vast orchestral silence:
Strange octagon you toyed with that would never quite close or open,
Squeeze box, little lung resisting pressure, push and draw, your hands
Impeded from fully parting or meeting, stretching
In musical secretion, cat’s cradle ectoplasm,
Crimped membrane so vulnerable to puncture,
It made you wince, lantern-thin but giving sound
For illumination. At last: harmonica, cupped, bracketed but not
For all that an afterthought, heart of the whole unpeopled
Space, for the way it moulded to your own small wheeze
And gave it a different life, if a pleasure to the player only,
Pleasure to make your mouth water, metal, felt, and papery
Velvet, though your brother might shudder
At the old spit he imagined pooled there,
To your it was honeycomb,
Striving to isolate each note, then giving up,
As if you had many voices at once, speaking in chords,
And could make yourself heard.

- Tracy Ryan



Published by Australian Poetry Centre, Melbourne

of Arc & Shadow

of Arc & Shadow
Published by Sunline Press, WA

The Joyous Lake

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