My mother’s history excluded me. But it wasn’t all bad.
There were bits and bobs of pity and kindness tossed
like old bread to a starving street dog.
Now they dot my mind. Fugitive stars on a moon-bright night.
Green-white was the colour of her favourite flower,
turned waxy yellow when ripe with perfume. It hid
itself among the leaves, letting its secret out only
through its jackfruit-scent in the gloaming.
I caught the heady whiff, and lapped it up
like a thirsty but alert rodent before the shattered jug.
That flower never bloomed for me. It never knew me.
I knew it though, like I knew the distant sun.
A strand of sunlight combs my salt-pepper hair. I close
my eyes and reach out for a pair of hands. My heart
inhales from its cup. The bustle of academia fans the air.
Nothing remotely floral here. Except for this tenderness.
This ease of ownership. Stolen flower-scent fades
into mist. “Let go,” the hands say. “Let go. Let go.”
A helium-filled balloon lifts up, and disappears
into the deepening blue. The evening star gives me
its unblinking stare. The bell-chime
of a now grown-up child’slaughter settles around me
like a doll’s crinoline skirt. The dust of the past
blows away like smoke through the window.
All is quiet and in repose, except for the coiling fragrance
of a flower clotting into a bead of blood in my heart.
A moth shares my table, roosting
between the water jug
and a cutlery stand full
of mismatched forks and spoons.
Tiny feathery tufts on the back
of its head rise like airplane vanes.
The slow fan’s greasy blades sift
dust, shift air, a ladleful
at a time. Sunlight riding on dust
small parts of this room. But the moth
needs shadow with just a frill
of sun. Somehow this day will
pass for it. As it will for me.
Maybe today is the last day
of its life. What has it achieved? Does it care
like I do? I am wary
of shadows. As moths are
wary of light. But that never
stopped one from rushing out.
We are a pair of strange room mates
sharing a newspaper and a coffee,
united by solitude.
An hour later the moth is dead –
a piece of broom sweep, adrift
in a corner where dust bunnies graze
on more dust. The moth is now nothing
but an exaggerated dust mote. And, I am
here. Exactly where I was before. Still
unable to claim my day.