Monday, May 3, 2010
Her proper name is Elvira but it just doesn't adhere. She is Ellie mostly, but will answer to Elwood, Elephant, Elton and Eldorado. She had a brother Thor but they don't keep in touch.
Ellie was one of four kittens left in a carton in a car park in western Sydney. A kind person turned the homeless family in at a local vet, and he sent them to the Unwanted Cats Unit at the local council. They in turn farmed them out to the Co-ordinator of their Look After Ill-treated Cat Families department and she advertised Ellie and her siblings on the Internet.
Clickety click and she came to live with us. For her first three days she lived on top of the skirting board in the dining room behind a huge cupboard. I don't know how she did that except she was very small. At any given time of day I could walk past and find my sweet spouse or Kate sprawled out flat, peering in under the cupboard, trying to coax Ellie out. She took her time, adapting to her living environment inch by inch: first she slunk out and sat near the leg of the cupboard, then she extended her patch to include the dining room table, soon after she walked around a chair and a month later she ventured into the lounge room.
These days Ellie's quite the traveller and also, I suspect, a pervert. She spends a lot of time on the front verandah hiding behind pot plants, ogling passers by. She is not a big cat, her legs are quite short and her nose is the colour of a pencil eraser. If Ellie were a person I suspect she'd look a little like Sherilyn Fenn in Twin Peaks and a little like a lady who works in a cake shop, all perma-wave hair and a full pouty mouth full of lipstick but not suggestive and not, well, sex-kitten like. Ellie would wear floral shifts and kitten heels, a pinny when she was in the kitchen and a scarf around her head, knotted under her chin British Royal family-style when she went to do the shopping. She'd carry a hand bag and not a shoulder bag. In her purse there would a be a lipstick - probably Max Factor - and a clean hanky.
She'd volunteer at the local Church too. Church of England, possibly.
I used to write poetry. This is one of them.
1. Your Last Letter
It said you’d arrive on the twenty sixth
So we got the room ready, the wine,
The loaves, washed the dense cream cotton sheets.
I bought fresh flowers.
On the Sunday there was a picnic for you with
coloured cupcakes while the leftovers from Mass
headed home, children rooted by silence
In that clear May day that stretched across the park.
Everyone was glad to see you, thrilled by your
outcomes, arms outstretched, the gaudy icing,
admiring the baby.
I left early to walk home around the ribs of a bay
filled with fat fish tense as fists, tuning their
colour to the pumice grey of the silt
in the oddly clean salt water.
When I stopped they flicked away but if
I made my observations walking they ignored me.
I was their landscape.
All the way home it bothered me that I’d
come to your party laden with cheer and cakes
but no children, nothing to offer but
an opportunity to hold and observe that
loathsome vulnerability. Then I decided those fish,
they could swim out to deeper cold water
but they choose not to, or they can’t.
2. Checking the Future
My Tarot reader dealt the Empress
and crossed her with a Knight
then asked me, nervous, was it possible
I was pregnant from that loaded winter night?
All afternoon the cartoon images are with me:
crossing calm waters, nine empty glowing cups,
the holy glitter of the moon, a pretty woman
with flowers in her hair turning her sad face
Ffom a decent younger man.
Death, the Hanged Man, peals of
flames ringing from the Tower,
a thousand shiny grubs weaving
sticky strings around my womb. My tarot reader snaps
The last card , says the produce is spoilt.
Ditch it, she advises from her shrivelled mouth.
The waste, that waste, ditch it.
3. The Contract
For the last time, it makes no difference.
Phrase the question any way you choose
and the answer is still the same.
There are no children and there will not be.
True, we filled our lives with other things
but some ugly nights I lie along
your heavy hot back and think of all
the things I deny you. You don’t stir
from precious private sleep as I drag
my nails tenderly down your spine.
If I die beside you, drinking your scent,
cooked in your heat, basted with oils of your skin,
our friends will perform the autopsy. They’ll
scrap you from the rubber of my lips
and find your perfect cells under
the horns of my fingers. That’s love,
they’ll say. I’ll stink of it.
4. The Birth Notice
We’re due for a baby in our family soon.
No blood relative of mine but bonded by law.
Still, I see your skin in his skin
your eyes confuse me, you laugh his way.
Such a simple thing. It’s in all the books.
I’m contemplating your growing dome and the
fast slick cut with opiate as I wander the graves.
In the corner the pinwheels spin.
St Gerard Majella takes benign watch
Over scores of small tended plots. I’m in the
burial ground of another culture, cheerful slaps of
colour and epitaphs that read like pleas,
pinwheels stuck at random like wild flowers.
St Gerard has a prayer for desperate women to
beg for strength in the pale hours of birth but there’s
nothing he can do if no one hears. So the pinwheels spin,
False buds hopeful amongst a yard of unanswered prayers.
In the awful silence of the eerie crèche everything
recalls the first cry that couldn’t be crushed from the tiny chest -
the closely cupped head flushed with lustral waters,
the tiny who stayed for six weeks or nine days
or three hours, the pitiful bleak who never stirred.
The parents made ink marks of their cold feet and
still hands, gave them names, rocked their cribs, visit them yet.
Summer’s coming, you’re thinking of trousseaux.
You show me the small knitted jackets you made
with sugar coloured wool. I pray to St Gerard
as I walk away from the pinwheels
and praise your skin and laugh, how it will live on.
How powerful blood can be. How lucky and blessed
You are to bear your first baby in a hot Australian Christmas
when the flannel flowers bloom and cicadas shrill in the yellow heat.
copyright baxter 2009
copyright baxter 2009