Michael Mintrom lives in Melbourne, Australia. He has recently published
poetry in Cordite, Ekphrastic Review, Meanjin, Quarterly Literary Review
Singapore, and Westerly. He is a past winner of the University of
Canterbury's MacMillan Brown Prize for Writers.
Breeze Through Pines
Hiking up the valley, late afternoon,
escaping the routines of the day,
I reach pines marking a minor forest.
There's a hush here. The canopy
of branches and the dim light
create a temple's aura. Could this be
Heaven on Earth? A breeze
funnels through the pines.
The sway and creak of the trees
bring to mind sailing ships,
the risks forebears took
leaving Europe for the South Seas.
The breeze carries folk songs.
But the lyrics were forgotten way back
in the epoch of exodus and fear.
My grandfather spoke with an accent,
hating his mother tongue.
'Useless as a cracked piss pot', he said.
Knowing how things get tossed aside,
I feel the cool breeze on my face.
Even these trees are ghosts.
Constant Cravings, Greenlane
A nun sits outside the café, lost
in talk with a woman who sweats
and then they're lost for words.
The sun's out, the wind's blustery.
Waiting for orders, or just waiting,
everyone's obsessed with what'll come next.
Menus and napkins fly into nothingness.
We notice them briefly. No point
jumping to get anything back.
On Manukau Road,
cars, buses, and trucks
journey slowly into other worlds.
It's sadness that scores lines
on our faces, but sometimes it's joy.
The nun, leaving, becomes a tui.
Our Family, the Rose Period
Those were the years of trips to Sydney
and weddings where my father would sing
tipsy as a fantail in late summer.
All of us had finished school. Such relief,
those perverts and bullies
and sly foot-trippers fading from view.
They were good years too for sailing.
You'd find us on the estuary until late
tacking back and forth, loading boats
on trailers. I remember getting home
finding whitebait patties on brown paper
greasy, ready for lemon juice and salt.
Even now, re-reading To the Lighthouse
thoughts return of my mother at night
sharing a story from the papers, laughing.
Things Passed On
Mostly, you were a suit-and-tie man,
a public accountant, member of the vestry.
Four suits hung in your wardrobe,
a clutch of ties, white shirts in a row.
Remember your Roman sandals,
their leather tang? And the smell of nugget
as fingers traced the stitching
on those black work shoes.
A lacquered box, passed on from
your grandfather, lay in the dresser,
a map of the world etched on its lid.
Inside it held the musk of sailing ships. You kept
your cuff links there, plus a watch you didn't wear.
Our best times were in summer.
Days spent by water. Cathedral cliffs,
woodsmoke evenings. On clear nights,
you pointed out patterns in the stars,
constellations twinkling, timeless, strange.
These days, your knuckles and thumbs
pump tires on a child's bike and your muscly legs
extend from my old gardening shorts.
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