Maire Fisher

An Ode to Corbin Vines – A paradelle

Corbin Vines, his name is in verdigris on a varnished bench.
Corbin Vines, his name is in verdigris on a varnished bench.
Roses bloomed last year, and now, only bronze of petals remains.
Roses bloomed last year, and now, only bronze of petals remains
Corbin Vines vanishes, of last year’s rose, now a petal.
Only his name remains, benched in bronze and blooming on verdigris.

Rows of rough stones edge the uneven path.
Rows of rough stones edge the uneven path
and small leaves lie, underside up, against the coarse ground.
And small leaves lie underside up against the coarse ground.
The small path leaves an even course and rows up rough against edges.
The sides of stones lie underground.

Cracked in black, vinyl tears. A dish of dry leaves.
Cracked in black, vinyl tears. A dish of dry leaves.
The rusted tap drips on, below a white-eyed satellite.
The rusted tap drips on, below a white-eyed satellite.
A White-eye taps on the satellite, a vinyl dish cracks.
Below, rust leaves drips, in tears of dried black.

Rows of varnished benches. Tears drip and a petal
lies on the uneven ground below. Corbin Vines is on the path
of leaving, set alight, a rosy bloom of bronze. Only a small roughness
now, coarse and rusted white under a verdigris dish.
A name’s on a cracked stone, edged in black. Years on,
vines will tap, dry-eyed, up against the side of his last remains.

(Left-over words: On, of, a, a)

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Maire Fisher

Sea and Steps

 

I never knew I liked steps;
the ones that lead up into my house.
The dogs sit there and wag their woolly tails.
I never knew I loved all the steps
in my house,
my crooked house that a father built for his sons.
One step takes me from the level of my study down
to the entrance room – if you can call it that.
There are no passages in this house,
just single steps that lead up and down between rooms.
One step has been trodden so many times
there’s a smooth long hollow
worn into the wood.
I never knew how much I loved the steps that lead down to the bedrooms
beneath the house,
down a wooden ladder
(it came from a barn)
to where we sleep.
Sometimes when the wind is in the right direction
we can smell and hear the sea.

Now that I mention it,
I never knew I loved the sea
Clear and turquoise on a winters’ day
or when the sky is a blank of clouds and the sea gun metal.
On days when the wind howls
the sea kicks itself into a fury.
I never knew I loved the sea.
I know, though, there were days when I hated it.
Out on the ocean, crossing from one continent to another,
surrounded by its unrelenting enormity,
its always thereness.
I hated it then.
But now that there are earth diggers
and men with picks
ripping up the road that borders the coast,
the road I travel home,
I realise that I miss the sea

So many things to think of loving
I never knew how much I liked the idea of listing them all.

 

Maire Fisher

First-ly let me explain the day-to-
day yearning to be heard.
Of-ten this stops me from speaking or – I
spring a leak and can’t stop gushing.
I try to
keep each aching desire subdued,
thinking, sinking into thoughts
about you and how you lit
the taper  until, at the
end, burned down and out
of air, I am doused by
autumn’s falling silence.

Maire Fisher

Pause

I

running through
tangled roads
thunder stones
in my mouth
flashing back
like stars bursting

I pause

coming through fear
into music
listening
to the space
around
the still lake
a quiet word
moves my heart

II

Running down the tangled roads
words thunder in my heart
I pause,
quiet,
and angels move,
flashing through the storm
like stars bursting.

I move through fear
into listening,
my centre a quiet lake.
And in the space around my heart
one word – home –
beams brightest of all.

Maire Fisher

It’s the end of the summer weekend at the shark lookout point on Boyes Drive and the spider is snoring hysterically. ‘Sleep, sleep, sleep,’ she mutters and jerks, ‘weave … tangled web … dream … perchance to …’ She twists and turns and moans and cries out, ‘Penelope, Penelope!  weave … words, web of words, web mistress, me …’ Strands, silver and strong, stream behind her as she swings, leaving hexagons and diamonds of moonweb in her wake. Back and forth she scuttles and shuttles. Down in the bay all is still. Clouds mass on the horizon and under the quiet waters dark shapes glide.

Maire Fisher

Through the  blue

He craves this tomb,
a granule of being around heaven
where nothing is – no body
But looking still
takes an earth-blue shape

And
always the birds by thousands
the world holding its place.
Their music comes down
and round and into the sleepy caves
planting little grains of gold.

Shutting away from breathing now
the air moves back.
The eyes, looking through the blue
speak silence – that’s all.
The heart opening and shutting
unlooses the centre and collapses.

In this time after visible present,
he stands in the nought and  owns nothing.
All soul now, walking,
walking the eternal eternal.
Eyes opening – and look.
The past, the world –
everything fits in it and  fades away.

Maire Fisher

Earth 2009

‘Think of the earth as a place of stillness,
constantly receptive, carrying all.’
Do you think then, it could cure this illness
filter and cleanse and purify this gall?
It rises to meet me in the morning
and stays beside me eating at my day
refusing to heed all  flags of warning
and waving arms and shouts of ‘Stay away!’
I have no wish to emulate the earth
except to clench into a tight bound sphere
shake off the dross, keep only that of worth
by simply holding close what I hold dear.
To heal my earth I have to hear it plain
and gather in before I give again.

Maire Fisher

Let her be lettered

She letters her days with layers of sincerity and deep feeling, but that’s all it is – a lettering of emotion. Pretty words lettered with pretty letters, with curly loops and Is (me me meeeeees) littered with hearts. I letter have it. I let loose with a blowtorch. I letter her surface with heat, branding her pampered skin. She lets her fingers loose through her alphabet and r+u+n+s out of the room, literally trailing a mess of  oos and aas and ees  and How could  U U Us  behind her. I let her out. As she lets open the door she lights upon a letter on the mat and lets herself down to pick it up.

Poor girl – letterbombed to smithereens.

She flies apart at her conjunctions, into a smattering of  petites belles lettres, her epsilons and upsilons, alphas and omegas all afloat in a gloop of alphabet soup. I’ll beta hasty retreat now.  Before she rewrites herself into a froth of scatology.

Maire Fisher

Charmed

Róisín, Róisín.

The day after the fair, I began my search for you. Gone, they told me, an Irish visitor, roped in to help raise money. Leaving Jane mystified and only slightly tearful, I followed your tracks, from friend to friend, from home to here.

I hear the low murmur of your voice and a giggling girl pushes her way past me. And I know that whatever it takes, wherever you lead, I am in the right place. A place that has been waiting for me ever since I saw that sign, in another field, another country a few short weeks ago.

***

Madame Róisín
Fortunes read
R20.00

‘Come on,’ Jane begged. ‘Just for a laugh.’

‘No,’ I answered, ‘it’s absolute nonsense.’

‘You know, Simon – I knew you’d say that – and I’m no fortune-teller.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You’re bloody boring, that’s what I mean.’ Her voice rose. ‘You never want to try anything. And you’re so predictable.  I even knew what clothes you’d be wearing today, the usual cotton shirt and ironed jeans. You could be really handsome if you’d only loosen up a little.’

‘What’s wrong with ironed jeans?’ I was bemused.

‘Oh! If you don’t know, how am I supposed to tell you!’ And with that, Jane turned and stormed away. Leaving me alone and feeling rather foolish outside Madame Róisín’s tent.

‘I say,’ I found myself muttering to her departing back, ‘that’s a bit unfair.’

‘Are you next?’

Her eyes were green and penetrating, the rest of her face hidden behind a diaphanous scarf. Her hair, tangled red curls, was drawn back from her pale forehead, and large golden hoops dangled from her ears. I’d always imagined fortune-tellers as wrinkled old crones, but Madame Róisín was tall, lissom, and very beautiful.

‘No, no I don’t …’  I stammered, like a 14- year-old school boy.

‘… like to do anything unpredictable? Your girlfriend doesn’t mince her words, does she?’ Her amused manner nettled me. I opened the curtain and entered the tent.

I sat and Madame Róisín sat opposite me. Her long dress, deep purple and velvety, shimmered against her creamy skin.

‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ she asked. She laughed gently. ‘It might change your life.’ Her voice was low, with a soft burr. I stared at her stubbornly. Predicable? Boring? I wasn’t leaving that tent until she’d told my fortune. I opened my wallet and placed R20 on the table.

She shrugged, floated her hands above the ball and peered into it intently. Her lashes were long, thick with mascara. A musky scent rose and my head began to ache. Her hands moved in slow swimming movements, and then she drew a sharp breath.

‘What is it?’ I asked.

She looked up at me, her eyes softer, questioning.

‘I see nothing,’ she said.

‘I don’t believe you.’

‘Nothing you would be able to hear.’

I held her stare, and to my surprise, the cheeks above the shawl reddened. ‘What do you see?’ I repeated. She sighed and again her hands moved, flickering white and thin in the dim light.

It might have been a trick of the eye, but the crystal seemed to glow from within.

‘I see a woman, tall and slight.’

It was my turn to smother a smile. Jane was short, and, to be absolutely honest, rather dumpy.
‘She will take you across the seas. You will follow wherever she leads. You will abandon everything, for without her your heart will know no peace.’
The scarf slipped fractionally, and I saw her parted lips. ‘No peace.’

***

And now, here I stand, in a green field, drawing curious glances. Perhaps it’s the idiotic grin on my unshaven face. Or my dirty jeans and rumpled sweatshirt. I haven’t slept or changed since setting foot on Irish soil. I part the curtain and step inside. My heart leads, and I follow.

Maire Fisher

The wind flings a magpie
high and flings me too, skyward through
the green trees to the blue.
The wind flings me up to the stars
and beyond, beyond far
and unfamiliar to face
the darkness of this place,
these silent gathering shades. Unlit
by bright-faced  moon they flit,
content to prowl, to sit, to lie.
A candle is not bright
enough to scare, to frighten back
the waiting, wakeful pack
of those who watch and track  my breaths.
A candle’s not enough
to scare, to frighten death. A beast
unleashed, unchained, released
it calls its throng to feast on me.
And I too scared to flee, can’t fly.

Maire Fisher

Like flying

My writing this year has been like flying. The question is, do I fly with it? Do I settle on its back, grab handfuls of feathers and ride the currents of winds I don’t know and can’t trust? When I think of flying, I don’t think of machines: aeroplanes, microlights, not even kite boarders or kites. I think of being lifted, floating, spreading myself onto the wind – open to it.

But the currents aren’t always tropical breezes that carry me dreaming – placid, complacent, content – to a place of palm trees and sandy shores.

Storm petrels fly too, on hard shafts of air. Their wings are wide, their bodies muscular, they scream into the wind, dive from it into icy waters for food. White scraps against a cold white sky, they survive.

My writing – the thought of my writing – flies on different currents. I’d like to set it on course for the tropics. I’d like the gentle balm of soft winds, easy currents, gentle uplifts. But I can’t choose the air that chooses me, can’t stop thoughts from flying in squawking on icy winds.

Polar reaches, dark choppy seas, birds screaming into the air. Flying isn’t as easy as it looks. But I’d still rather not buy the plane ticket. I’d still rather wait to see which wind will lift me up.

Show don’t tell – about the Bhodi Khaya Poetry weekend

Here – at Bodhi Khaya Retreat

by Maire Fisher

Nothing bruises the eye
No blocked headlines scream from lampposts
Here, curve gives way to curve

Nothing bruises the soul
Easy accommodation between space and space
Here, only the edge of the wind is hard

Nothing bruises the heart
No hurrying, no worried talk
Here: an abundance of round-bodied turns

Nothing bruises the mind
No grabbing at ends, begging them to meet
Here, in the space between leaf and sky, a bird calls

Nothing here bruises the spaces
between me and the grass and the hills and the trees
When I leave I will remember the soft lines
here, with eye and soul and heart and mind.

Maire Fisher

Angelwing

There are angels. Mom told me, so I wasn’t going to listen to Aunt Zenobia with her skinny hands and her stick legs and her slippers that she wore all day long unless she had to go to the shops. Then she put on her slip-ons. She called them that. So she had slippers and slip-ons and I wished every day that one pair of them would make her slip, bang her head and she’d have to go to hospital. And leave me and Dad and Georgie alone. We were coping fine before she came. But they had a family pow-wow a few weeks ago. Aunt Zenobia called it that. A pow-wow. Just the sort of stupid word she would use. They decided she’d come and stay with us, ‘just until you’re back on your feet again, Ben.’ Georgie and me kept Dad on his feet. We got supper ready for him and always did our homework. And I didn’t care if they thought we were too young, ‘poor little mites; they’ve got enough to deal with.’

And then she was here. Here, there, and everywhere. Listening behind doors or hovering over us. Not like angels hover. Which is what I was telling Georgie, last night. She sneaks into my bedroom and we lie on my bed and whisper about how we hate Aunt Zenobia. We talk about Mom, the things we remember. The things she told us. Like about how there are angels. Special angels who know who we are and what’s important. ‘And the thing is,’ I was telling Georgie, ‘they might be hovering just out of sight, but they’re always ready to come if we need them.’ Mom said that when she was gone, she’d make sure our angels were extra-super-vigilant. ‘Maybe the angels had a pow-wow,’ I said in Aunt Zenobia’s voice and I was glad to hear Georgie giggle.

And that’s when Aunt Zenobia came slippering soundlessly into my room.

‘I couldn’t help overhearing’ she said. That’s what she always said. ‘I couldn’t help overhearing Savannah telling Georgia she needn’t eat all her dinner, Ben’ … ‘I couldn’t help overhearing Savannah this, Ben’ … ‘I couldn’t help overhearing Savannah that, Ben’.

‘Now, Savannah. Georgia is having a hard enough time coming to terms with the reality of your Mother’s passing.’ Passing. That’s another of her words. I find it hard to say Mom died. Died. Dead. Such short hard words – they hurt my throat. But they’re better than the words Aunt Zenobia uses when she talks about Mom dying.

‘You don’t need to be filling her head with nonsense about angels and the like. The trouble with you girls is that you watch too much television.’ She stood inside the doorway and watched us. Her smile was one of those ones that you really have to force onto your face. I wondered for the millionth time why she had to come. Why not Aunt Jocasta, or even Aunt Bathsheba? My Mom had no shortage of sisters with interesting names – she was the baby of the family, and her sisters, all six of them, were much older than her. But Aunt Zenobia was the oldest of them all. And the one who had never married so she had ‘no obligations to worry about’.

‘Poor Zenobia’ they all called her when she wasn’t around, but that wasn’t what I was thinking when I saw Georgie’s lip begin to wobble. Aunt Zenobia was going to say something to take our angels away from us.

So I did what Mom had told me to do. I closed my eyes and I called inside my head – really loud, really urgently to my angel. We need help, right now! I called.

By now Aunt Zenobia was next to my bed. ‘Savannah,’ she said, ‘I thought I asked you to tidy up in here? Why can’t you listen to me once in a while? And as for you, young lady, I think it’s time you started to sleep in your own room.’ Georgie clung on to me and Aunt Zenobia leaned over me and tried to pick her up. ‘Come along now, Georgia,’ she said.

Right now! I called again. I felt a touch on my cheek, like Mom’s eyelashes when she used to give me angelwing kisses. And then Aunt Zenobia’s slipper got tangled in my rug, which I was sure I had straightened, and she was cartwheeling backwards, her mouth a small O of surprise.

They say she’ll be fine. A few more days in hospital to get over the concussion, but after that she’ll need to rest and she certainly won’t be up to looking after two young children.

There are angels. That night after the ambulance came, and after Georgie had sniffled herself to sleep next to me, I lay awake. Thank you, I said. And I leaned over Georgie and softly, gently, so as not to wake her, I gave her an angelwing kiss.

Maire Fisher

Eriam – the beginning of the beginning

There are places beyond worlds, places beyond dreaming, far away places in lands seldom heard of. My name is Eriam, and it has been my blessing and my curse to travel  beyond mountains high, down rivers rolling, through forests deep and thick. I return with stories. Poets compose epic verses of my exploits. I see in their eyes the glint of scepticism.

Do I speak the truth? This is for you to wonder and me to know. As I tell you the tale of ‘Tyranna the Troubled Troll’ and my part in her travails.

It happened in a land of searing heat, where colour had leeched from the sky. A merciless heat, a fierce heat, sent by one more malevolent than any I have encountered before or since.

I had but recently returned from an underwater odyssey, and I was fatigued, damp and shivering. I heated some butternut soup, made a mound of toast and stretched out in front of the fire delighted to be on firm land again. (Terra firma, as they’ll no doubt say when the latest broadsheet is circulated.) I crunched my way quickly through two pieces of toast, then cradled the steaming mug in my hands. Sip by sip the rich golden liquid revived me faster than any magic potion could have. I shook my head, the water in my ears still gurgling and buzzing, and gazed into the flames.

I should have known better. Chatting to me from the chimney is one of Dorma’s favourite ways of communicating. It seems as if all I need is to be nicely relaxed, my belly full, ready to drowse off, and she’ll call me.

‘Eriam, come.’ Her voice was as deep and commanding as ever. (Personally, I think she practices in front of a mirror.)

I sighed and shifted away.

Eriam come!’ I shook my head again. Perhaps I could blame it on my water-logged ears – say I hadn’t heard her.

You want the truth? The real truth about Eriam the Exceptional (one of my many sobriquets)? All I wanted was some time off. I wanted a small taste of a nice, normal, boring life.

‘Eriam! Enough of this!’ (A slightly peevish tone now, and I knew I shouldn’t push my luck.)

I sighed, hoisted my rucksack (always packed) onto my shoulder, and stepped reluctantly into the flames.

‘What is it this time?’ I asked, (my own voice equally peeved) ‘and what will I need?’

‘Look down,’ Dorma instructed.

Suspended from a gossamer thread around my neck I saw a small vial.

Another potion?’ I asked.

‘They come in very useful,’ Dorma snapped. ‘Of course, if you’d rather go without one …’

‘No, no,’ I said hastily. ‘Just fill me in quickly. What’s it for?’

‘Oh, you’ll know soon enough,’ said Dorma, her voice fading away on a chuckle.

‘Dorma?’

But she was gone.

Exasperating, her habit of throwing me into the thick of things where I hadn’t a clue what was going on.

I looked around.

Hmmm. A crowded bazaar, people calling their wares. And yet, there was something strange about it. I stopped, breathed, and tuned my senses (for which I am rightly renowned).

The voices were subdued. People moved slowly. There was no hustle, no haggle, no shrill calling of wares.

And it was hot. So hot I could feel the sand burning through my plimsolls, the heat scorching my lungs as I breathed. The sun shone down from the white sky – a spiteful eye. I put out my hand to stop a woman passing and she flinched.

‘Good woman. (My innate knowledge of all tongues came to my aid as it always did.) What ails this place?’ (The formal tone always works well with strangers.)

Her eyes darted from side to side, and her tongue flicked between her lips. (Positively shady I’d have said, if it weren’t for the stark fear on her face.)

‘You do not know?’ she said.

‘No,’ I said patiently.

She leaned towards me. ‘I should not tell you this lady, but you have a kind face, and Aquaneaous knows, we see few of those around these days.’

I smiled, and waited.

She breathed the words, her mouth barely moving. ‘He calls himself Sol, and he has harnessed the power of the sun. Soon he will burn us out of our village; already he has reduced our fertile land to sand.’ Her voice broke. ‘My children starve. My husband is dead. None can conquer him. None can get past the creature that guards the entrance to his lair.’

Too hot to sweat, battling to breathe, I sighed.

Oh Dorma, Dorma. What have you got me into this time?

Maire Fisher

Reality Road

She walks the hard road, wary of rabbit holes, of hurtling without handhold to places where what is is not and the ridiculous commonplace.

She holds the pen in a steady hand, fills in details on dotted lines.

She signs an indemnity form – absolves the keepers of the road from any responsibility. ‘It’s a hard road,’ they warn. On this road you abandon imaginings, hope and mystery. Are you sure you want to proceed?’

‘I must,’ she says.

And a small voice inside her cries, no no, no.

She plods on.

She walks the hard road, one careful foot after the other. She is glad to be here, where trees are not whispering leaves; glad to walk where no heartstones crush beneath her feet.

Nothing shifts, but a child, squashed down and down and down, to a hidden room. She locks the child away. She locks the child away, in a room filled with stories and myth, fantasy and dreams.

She walks the hard road. She does not smile. She does not sing.

Maire Fisher

She is here

No screaming, no kicking,
no bloody birth
She is born of my soul,
she is part of my earth

She is here, she is here

My still space invaded,
I cannot blockade it

‘I am here, I am here,’
she breathes in my ear

I open doors wide –
‘Go! Go, please!’ I cry
But she is here, she is here

‘Come with me, run with me
I am here, I am here
Walk with me, talk with me
I am here, I am here

‘Slip into my skin,
feel my within,
I am here, I am here’

She is here when I wake
She is here as I dream
She’s a heart-seated ache,
an unspoken scream

‘I am here, I am here,’
She waits for me
– ‘I am here, I am here,’ –
patiently

‘I am here, you can’t shoot me
I am here, so unmute me!’

No calming her down
She is fact, she is noun
Her hand guides my pen
sends it flying and then

she is here …
she is here.