Sue Wootton is an award-winning poet and fiction writer whose work has been widely
published and anthologized. Her work includes three collections of poetry (Hourglass,
Magnetic South and By Birdlight) and the children's book Cloudcatcher.
'my father said to me... you can't be a poet. I was crushed, utterly.'
- Charles Brasch
His aunts beneath the flagpole in the sun shake out their hair
and sing and gaze. The salt-bright world spins blue
around a grassy hill. Strawberries plucked by Grandfather from dew
pop in the mouth all day sharp fresh: tiny, scarlet, wild.
He, the toddler Charles (not Charlie, never Charlie)
brushes past geraniums and poppies. He hasn't words. He's
skin; he's eyes and ears and limbs and nose and tongue. He's appetite.
Sun and breeze and song; the constant sea; the sudden sweet
release of scent from flowers: it enters him, a tang.
An old Marechal Niel rose in a glasshouse behind a holly hedge.
Everlasting daisies dressed like a Grandmother in ivory silk.
Daphne mezereum. Boronia, lavender, japonica, columbines.
Rhododenron, azaleas, laburnum. Flax, kowhai, cassinias, broom.
He sails for wide well-anchored continents: on Hymettus
near Athens a field thick with grape hyacinths. White ranunculus
and freesias on Crete; in Syria, pale blue desert iris, budding asphodels.
Each flower unfurls a fragrant startling poem. But every garden ends
in the sea. Susurrus and underthreat: I surround you I surround you
(maybe I will never let you go). His coast is
never quite assured against the storms. Islanded. A pale pink
scribble in an erroneously named ocean. Erased, erased.
Gale-blasted ngaio stunted on the headlands. Tide-wrack
wrecked high in the dunes; a sandbar cleaving, chunk by chunk
while snow whisks the inland peaks. Any wind-etched rock
might teeter, fail and — abyss-kissed — might vanish, utterly. Such
narrow land. What can he say to out-insist the southerly, the cold monotonous
grinding sea? How stand, a shifting archipelago at ease in cut-light language?
Jeweled strawberries in Grandfather's gentle thumb-and-finger vice;
sway-stem poppies; red-flannel geraniums wrapped in aunt-soung on a hill —
seeded, stubborn, the roots dig in. Day and night wind cloud and star.
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