Trisha Lord

The Saturday Butterfly
Following a Saturday butterfly,
snaking through the garden towards the sea,
I chanced upon a mountain of flowers, unbeknown to me.
What are these doing growing here, so wonderfully free?
Ah me! I wish that I could be a Saturday butterfly:
What a fine life this would be! On my way across the garden
and down towards the sea.

The snake he does not see either butterfly or the sea,
But he smells those flowers surely,
as sure as he smells me.  A sniffing snake, a sniffy snake,
sneaking down the tree.  I wonder what he’ll make of
the butterfly and me?  Ah well!  What does it matter?
As long as I am free!  I’ve faced that sneaky snake before!
He does not frighten me.

But the shaking Saturday butterfly,
she’s not as brave as me, and she seems to have missed the flowers
and is heading for the tree!  I’ll sit down here and watch it all:
it is not down to me to save the Saturday butterfly
from the snake inside of me.  I’ll sit, and breathe, and wait
and see what happens to the sea, as it laps the shore by the garden
of the snake and his shady tree.

Advertisements

Trisha Lord

Where there are Angels

There are angels in childhood – uncomplicated, and as real as the nose on your face. But they make a deal with you that is impossible to fulfil: keep faith, they say, through every broken-hearted moment and you will always know we are right here by your side. Of course, it can’t be done. On the day your true love turns to you and says she’s found another you know they have abandoned you, and blaming them you take all faith and throw it in the dustbin along with her Barbara Streisand LP’s, and all the photos of your life together with her face cut out.

Like faeries they cannot be photographed. The hole where she once was is like the bright light of the flash bulb reflected back in a mirror you did not know was there. And so you live without them and life takes on an entirely different feel: turns from pastoral green to grey and grimy – rain streaked city streets along which you inch your way, every heavy step an effort of will. And then one day, quite unexpectedly, in the silence that happens when the house is sheltering a dead body, you know them again. With absolute certainty you feel they are there. The span of their wings is breathtaking. As a child they were only adult-sized, but now they are like mountains. Compassionate, protective, a huge relief. The silence they bring with them is the silence you’ve longed for ever since she walked out of the door and left you screaming at being replaced. Just when you had been convinced that everything was complete, whole and perfect, with nothing left out.

All that falls away, now that they are back. You rest, put up your feet, breathe out. You even smile. You realise that they have been there all along, and with a slightly shamefaced shrug you understand: you only had to ask.

Trisha Lord

I

Night wind woman alone in her bed whispers
to the angels: spread your wings and shelter me,
I am done with drifting – lost at sea in a
separation dream.

Night wind woman waits, standing in her garden,
for the wood and metal, glass and cloth to form
in beauty to quiet the rooms of her soul
with its mystery.

II

Morning sun, like carrots cooked in cinnamon
sliding sweetly down to pool behind my knees.
Warm sounds like Sunday sail to a spice island.
I lie in its light.

I stretch out to purchase more fully its heat,
Remembering I am forged from the same source.
In its light I feed the other part of me
hearing the grass grow.

Trisha Lord

The music sounded heavy like an army of jackboots marching around the room, their presence dense and threatening, pinning my back to the cold wall, gluing my backside to the floor as people all around me grinned – gleefully swaying maniacs, blissfully unaware that the dj was masterminding a concentration camp in which we would all be locked up, before dawn could rescue us from the infested night that was swallowing me in bite sized chunks of repetitive beats: “we’re all in it together love, thick as thieves” he whispers, as I plead for mercy, and the music pounds on.

Trisha, Karen, Karen and Linda

Rest at ease and look with faith.
Ropes of reason bind me
in a well of unobservance

seeing escape, but not the path.
Etherial wings floating –
catch my soul with a butterfly net.

Seeing faces, not desires:
pulsating orb, a scarlet bump,
a promise in a word unspoken.

Smiling widely, I show the sun my face,
guillotine sense from nonsense:
I am the queen of the day.

Trisha Lord

Wounding and redemption

Empangeni
Everything about Empangeni felt different.  The sun on a winter’s day was almost balmy, kindly, in complete contrast to how the slim, dark-haired, ten year old girl felt on the inside.  On the inside there was a tight and gripping chill, born of fear and loneliness and the isolation that comes with being the only one who is new at a school where everyone else has found their place and fit.

Morning break.  In the time-honoured tradition of school children everywhere, the bell was greeted with a cheer, a scraping back of chairs, and the stampeding of feet heading for the playground.  This was the part of the day she dreaded the most.  The time when her tormentors were unavoidable, and no teacher ever seemed to notice her plight.

‘Don’t dawdle in the corridor, child,’ said Mrs Williams.  ‘Go outside and enjoy the sunshine, it’s a beautiful day.’

Clutching her lunchbox, she headed out into the bright light.  In order to seem like she had something to do, somewhere to go, she cautiously approached a group of girls, shouting and calling out to each other, playing hopscotch.  A heavy, leaden sensation filled the pit of her stomach.  Could anyone looking in from the outside have any notion of how sinister this scene actually is?

‘Oh, look who’s heading our way,’ the tallest of the girls said in a voice thickly smeared with loathing.  ‘Miss Prissy with her lunchbox!  Don’t think you’re playing in our game, new girl – go find some poor fools to play with, we don’t want you here.’

Can you imagine what it feels like for the hermit crab when his shell has become too tight?  Can you imagine what it’s like to need to escape and to know that there’s no way out?

The tall girl was blonde and prematurely buxom – everything the shy new child was not.  She held sway over her little court of admirers who would never dare to contradict her, knowing as they did the whiplash effect of her acerbic tongue.  They laughed in unison, and repeated their leader’s taunts: ‘yeah, go away skinny balink, we don’t want you around.’  The girl stood frozen in the sunlight, a rabbit in the headlight glare.

‘Hey, hello there, you’re new aren’t you?’

The voice behind her made her jump.  She dropped her lunchbox, and bit down on her lip to stop the tears. 

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.  Here, let me help.  I’m Joe.  What’s your name?’

As she crouched to rescue her sandwich and apple, she looked shyly from under her fringe at the boy who knelt by her side.  He was heart-stopping, older than she by a year or two, gorgeous in every way.  A loud hush had descended upon the group of hopscotch girls.  As they stood up together, and her knight lead her away to join his group of friends, she could feel the wind on her back as it deflated her tormentors’ sails.

Trisha Lord

The Dress

It hardly seems possible, now that I think about it, but that dress grabbed me as I was passing by.  London is overwhelmingly grey.  It’s beautiful, it’s exciting, loud and lively, but it is definitely and interminably grey.  Pavements, roads and buildings, and the lowering sky, that feels as though it is sitting just inches above my head.  Into this monotony inserts the penetrating red, yellow and green of traffic lights, and that’s it.

The English wear black.  They wear white, and they wear grey.  Oh sure, occasionally some irrepressible Senegalese matron sails by, full blown, in Kitenge, vibrant in purple and gold.  So, unbelievable as it may sound, that dress pulled me up short, stopped me dead in my tracks.  From inside the shop it shone, sending out shafts of light that pierced my skin and left the hairs on my arms pricked upright.  I turned towards the shop door.  Life slowed down.  My hand reached out, connecting with the cool, round, satisfying brass of the doorknob, and I stepped inside.  A light and airy tinkle announced me.  The shop door swung closed behind me with a pneumatic hiss of breath and the expensive silence of the place filled my ears.

In slow motion, almost with stealth, I approached the mannequin.  As always, she was much slimmer than me.  Already my brain was working overtime, calculating, weighing up the odds, sizing up her waist against mine, assessing her slim arms, marble shoulders, haughty neck.  The dress shimmered in a haze of autumn hues, beneath which shifted something else, a colour almost impossible to capture that moved in time to the deep rhythms of the moon.  I sensed that laughter might lie there in the lining, and I longed for its feel against my skin.

My reverie was broken by the plummy tones of resentment that so often emerge from the mouths of shop assistants who sell clothes they cannot afford to buy.  She was dressed like a man.  Her short hair made me think of Adolf, the way it was parted and oiled, lying flat on either side of a face cut with high cheekbones and slashed with an unsmiling mouth.  Can I help you?  It always amazes me how those innocuous words sound on the lips of someone who has no desire to help.   I’d like to try this on, I said.  It’s beautiful isn’t it, don’t you think?  Something in her softened then.  The threads of the silk shift, like connecting threads of truth, set us both free: our fear dissolved by its beauty, by the laughter that lay under the surface of its design.   What size, madam? she asked. 12, I hope, came my reply.

What had allowed us to become friends? Unlikely, I know, but it’s true: that dress enveloped us both in its joy.  Like a lover’s, her hand touched  the small of my back as she guided me towards the velvet-curtained cubicle, and with a conspiratorial wink she pulled them shut leaving me to raise my arms and let the cool smooth silk slip down over my yearning hips.

Trisha Lord

I’d rather catch a canoe filled with hulls:
Take seeds dropped by the birds of the underworld and grow plantations.
They walk in legions in my dreams;
They come to fetch me to myself.
Canoes filled with those on the verge of existence.

Consuelo Roland

Worlds 

Vast forests, thick and dense, are   
left on the other side.
Profuse their perfume in the fragrant air.
Who knows what lies beneath? –
Movement is slow, go with care.
I long for a body of water
from the forest to the edge:
I’d rather catch a canoe filled with hulls.

This is a precise journey:
I need a guide.     
Take me to them, help us talk, –
find out what they know.
In the centre of the forest world
my guide would speak for me,
ask for me the greatest favour:
seeds dropped by birds of the underworld.

There are these other worlds
for which there is no explanation:
the veil that separates is thin.
They are beside us, shoulders touching,
our hands are always held.
Between these spaces lie the others,
walking in legions in my dreams:
they come to fetch me to myself.

They are on the verge of extinction:
men of power tell us so.  
The actors who applaud can all afford
their tickets to the moon.
Look up with shiny eyes –
I am a believer too.    
The eagles soar by my front door:
on the lake there are canoes
filled with those on the verge of existence.

Trisha Lord

View

The first thing she noticed as she walked through the door:
the windows at the far end of the room opened out onto the view. 
It’s a funny notion, that of owning a view, wanting to possess it, but she did. 
The immediate response she had to it: I want this for myself. 
She knew, in the midst of all the chaos of change,
the ground being pulled away beneath her feet, that knowing .
This view was hers, anchoring her to a dream somewhere –
home cooking and the smell of basil.

Home cooking and the smell of basil.
This view was hers, anchoring her to a dream somewhere.
The ground being pulled away beneath her feet, that knowing
she knew, in the midst of all the chaos of change.
The immediate response she had to it: I want this for myself.
It’s a funny notion that of owning a view, wanting to possess it but she did.
The windows at the far end of the room opened out onto the view:
the first thing she noticed as she walked through the door.
 

Trisha Lord

Lucifer’s villanelle

It’s damned suspicious if you ask me –
known through all the ages:
the sneaky snake and that apple tree.

The Devil is dramatic, sartorially
And his first chapter repeats on all pages:
It’s damned suspicious if you ask me!

Fear’s more sophisticated. It’s plain to see
it’s pleasure that pays sin’s wages.
The sneaky snake and that apple tree.

Gold medals for religion, I’ve got three:
Not tickets to freedom – just cages – 
It’s damned suspicious if you ask me.

Blonde, blue-eyed Arab?  That can’t be!
What’s in the shadow of these images?
The sneaky snake and that apple tree.

I’m fumbling and stumbling towards being free,
There’s a need in me that rages.
But it’s damned suspicious if you ask me –
The sneaky snake and that apple tree.
 

Trisha Lord

“To Hear The Sound of a Poem……..” (Antjie Krog)

To hear my sound emerge: let it
unfold, turning me inside out
as it struggles to come up

for air, from dark meaningless,
unformed depths.
searching for the light of day.

I hope for it, for elegance that elicits
the inward gasp, the outward sigh.  Then
I  know I have struck gold; found the vein

that travels through the rock face.
Does a bird care
if its voice is heard?

Is a thing of beauty whole, complete
of itself?  I complicate my self-
expression, long for it to end

connected to another’s experience.
My voice feels free to sing
itself out into the still morning

when done for its own pleasure
alone, not caring who listens or
who hears.  I want to move

towards something mysterious, the sound
of which catches me by surprise,
startles me.  The sound of

myself as a poem.
 

Trisha Lord

He Felt His Difference

Although she was obviously the appealing one, who had taken the leading role, defying all expectation, I kept finding myself drawn back to him; feeling sympathy for his sidelined position, playing back-up to the chubby heroine she had become.

He was still tall.  Age had not caused any stoop.  Military bearing you would call it, to go along with the bushy, though now white, moustache.  He had grey eyes, hooded like a bird of prey, and a beaked nose to boot.  Some kind of stubborn impulse, I imagined, some cocking a snook at vanity, prevented him from tackling his nose hair which vied first for attention when you met him.  It bristled, also white, protruding forcefully – pointing down to the moustache as if in competition.  He had on him the brave face of someone who had felt his difference all his life.

I wanted to know what he thought about that night: the one that would now define them, that had come along so late in life.

“Well, I reckon it was shock more than anything that got me moving.”  A thick Lancashire brogue seemed paradoxical.  I expected something more rounded, like plums.  “Ever since it’s been over I’ve been furious with ’er, I don’t mind telling you – bloody heroics at our stage in life.  Don’t get me wrong though, I’m proud too you know, but she didn’t half give me an awful fright going off like that.  ’Owled like a bloody banshee she did.  She’s lucky I didn’t die of an ’eart attack really.  I bumped into ‘im like. It was really one ’ell of a kerfuffle.  Winnie took off down t’stairs, like, and I was stumbling about, looking for slippers would you believe?  It’s mad what ’appens to your mind in moments like that – shock I reckon.  Anyhow, next moment ’e was on top of me and I got really mad, ’oppin mad you might say.  Winnie said after I kept yelling at ’im: ‘bloody cheek, bloody cheek, this is our ’ouse’!” 

Trisha Lord

Escape Artist


The woman often escaped by gardening. Early in the day, as the sun rose refreshed from the other side of the world, the silence, broken only by birdsong, would find her in her lakeside sanctuary. Here she ducked the deep drive for connection, the passion of being a compulsive friend and reveled in the luxurious freedom of being alone.

In her imagination she longed for another life: the life of an artist, where sweet music, soft and low, would replace the monotonous demands of a married and maternal life. “What would happen”, she would wonder, “if the self I encountered every day was not one that was waiting to begin, was one not longing to escape? I could do it you know, now, in this moment. After all, where else does life happen but here and now, in this moment? Before lunch, before they get home.”Before she knew it she was moving, up from her knees, scuffed by dirt and early morning dew. The house was quiet but as she moved, trance-like, in between bedroom and bathroom, a loud hammering pulsed in her head, a heart bursting with fear, with excitement, red with shame, burning with feverish, anxious flight. She could not think. Her hands lifted clothes from her shelves. “I will not think”, the mantra accompanied the task.

As she headed for the door clasping her suitcase the tears began to flow. Her heart was a bird holding itself aloft with quick wings. “I’m doing it”, she thought, “I’m running away. I must be mad, I must be strong, I must hold on to myself, I must forgive this self of mine that has being waiting so long to begin.”

The path through her garden brought her home again as though a full circle had been described, a labyrinth walked. The central design revealed itself. She did not know how she had arrived back in her bedroom, face wet, knees weak with relief.

Slowly, she unpacked. “No-one will ever know this”, she thought. “No-one will ever guess how close I came to becoming myself.”

That evening she sat by the fire and stared out over the heads of her beloved boys, out at the moonlight on the lake. They nestled in her arms. “ All the roles of being a woman are mine, inherently mine”, she thought. “I know myself, the daughter, sister, wife, mother, girlfriend, me. And today, I met the escape artist: a secret self who will only ever be known by me.”

Is there a sound to a smile? Can the breathing in and out of life’s unerring beauty be heard?

Trisha Lord

Contained

It’s dark outside, inky and impenetrable. Inside the kitchen is bright with the bustle of early evening routine: everyone engaged in something, disconnected from each other. She grabs at a moment to fulfill a duty. A heavy sense of burden encroaches on the diminishing spaciousness with which she returned from holiday. If we could hear beneath the level of sound we would hear her sigh her acceptance of the loss. She dials a new number. It has been a long time since she has had to learn a new number for her mother, and she wonders how long it will take for this one to become a reflex for unthinking fingers.

She sits at the kitchen counter in a pool of light. The vase of flowers in front of her needs throwing out. She knows she will be the one to do it and feels faintly annoyed. Like a moth’s flight a small, wistful smile passes across her face as she remembers her friend living so far away and their shared, rueful motto: “why am I surrounded by idiots?”

She listens to the ringing tones down the line, and wonders if she has it right, wonders if there will be a reply. A click, a pause, a voice: she speaks into the receiver ‘Hi Mum, it’s me’. Her hand twists a strand of long brown hair, restlessly coiling it around her fingers. ‘ I’m fine. I finished the workshop today, so that’s good. How’s it going over there? Are you unpacked?’ Taut moments start at the tops of those fingers and find their way through her shoulders and chest, forcing her to stretch her spine and shift on the stool. ‘I know, yes, I will. That’s why I was calling actually. I’m busy all morning tomorrow, but I could come in the afternoon. I wanted to find out what your plans are.’

Flashes of animation light up her face in between the passing shadows of tension. ‘Oh! Well, that’s wonderful, I didn’t know she was here. When did you last see her?’ There’s relief too. Her mother has a life of her own after all.

Around her, the activity of the household continues. A bowl of steaming couscous sits precariously amongst piles of paperwork and unpaid bills, and a platter of salad, its bright colours breaking the dull monotony of manilla envelopes. She’s distracted by it all. Her husband is frying lamb chops. The boys are egging each other on to a point where someone is going to have to intervene. Darkness gathers, the fire burns, the guilt swirls in ancient patterns around her waiting to see if it can settle.

The firm set of her shoulders fights to ward it off. She replaces the receiver in its cradle and straightens her back in a valiant attempt to slice through the old blueprint. Facing supper, she contains the familiar tightness in her chest for some other time when she might briefly let it go in a wash of tears.

Trisha Lord

Desire Is What Happens

There can be nothing softer than your cheek nor bonier than your limbs: “string beany boy” I call you and I whisper my love for you in these soft, luscious moments at the start of our day. This is my daily yearning: that I might never have to leave the warmth of our early morning ritual embrace and face the days filled with people whom I love a whole lot less than you.

The Hadedah shrieks its raucous caution to my dawn-break reverie, warning me lest I should lose myself and let myself stay here with you. You wrap your insistent arms around my neck and pull me down into the pillowy depths as if you’ve read my mind and know with the penetrating wisdom of a child that the necessity of my day is already calling me. Desire is what happens when I know I have to go and yet I want to stay, all day, here with you. I know it is a fantasy. You too will wake more fully and follow your stomach to the breakfast table.

Maybe it is because this is an already-ancient repetition in your still brief life, or maybe because it is a continuation of my own pain, but we are now both an upset that is waiting to happen as the day unfolds. So much of morning is a mundane affair – of showering and teeth, bathroom habits repeated in their billions the world over. Although neither of us know it, we are both aware that an outlet will have to be found – a way of releasing the growing pressure mounting in our bodies – mine in my neck and shoulders, yours behind your eyes.

My head is already filled with all I have to do and yours is grappling with the empty abandonment of the encroaching day. How on earth can we meet again now that the spell has been broken? How can we find our way back to the early morning un-brushed breath of that bed and the easeful loose-limbed embrace with which we start our day?

I know you are beginning to mount your case against the armies of activity that prepare to take my attention away from you. And I am preparing my defense: the long list of logic that is aimed to bribe you with the threat of present-less birthdays and a future with no Christmas in it if I do not sit down to work.

How can I expect you to really buy this paltry, unfelt justification when in my own heart I know there is nothing more pressing or more precious than giving you my wholehearted care?

So, my sweet, what will it be today? The refusal to shed your pyjamas, the refusal to come and eat? You have already learned from me how to make your displeasure known in the slamming of the door.

I’m the grown up here, I think, and I could either laugh or cry about that, but I know it’s going to be me who has to turn away from this unfolding Greek tragedy and set my shoulders firmly to the plough. Resigned I press the small round button that will flash blue light at me and drag me into that outside world of people whom I love a whole lot less than you. And no, it’s not to play computer games of Dr Seuss with you. A part of my mind has eyes in the back of my head, half expecting those clinging arms of yours to thread their way around my neck, in a bid to turn my head away from the screen to face you and your need.

I hear your bedroom door open and then the front door. I stare at my inbox as it fills up with messages to further distract me from you. And then, here you are, as I knew you would be, at my elbow, bearing a white flag from our garden in the form of a small yellow flower and your eyes shine their understanding and forgiveness as you plant a kiss on my cheek and head for your playroom to construct legends of Lego from your wild imagination. Wide ocean eyes, you are my secret, my most exotic choice.