Epistle To My Paedophile
Doubtless you won’t comprehend
my writing you this way;
for you are harmless
in laboured rasps, your body
by the karmic stroke
of luck which all the girls
you might have met
don’t even know
they should be glad of.
I was not so fortunate.
I knew you when your limbs
still had the power to insinuate
themselves into Christmas lunch
and re-calibrate the trajectory
of uneventful lives.
(Strange, I never thought to tell,
the chest of smut beneath your bed,
the dancing doll’s skirt, lifted to reveal —
Or your pudgy hands which turned like moles
in the incestuous burrows of their pockets,
jingling coins that lured, and repelled…)
What a relief it was today to find them stilled.
Pale members, no longer in the service
of the perverse familial compulsion
which thwarted me, as it did you.
Instead, you have become the baby
you once must have been:
helpless (hapless?) in your cot,
as I was, legs akimbo;
and this is perfect, a perfect way of seeing
because the unsullied space of your mute
presence allows me to impute
whatever version of this I want to —
from your side, recognition, remorse;
from mine, forgiveness, love.
But I don’t need that now.
We are at peace, you and I,
our transaction complete.
There is no more fear.
Only wonder, at how one clot of blood
lodged within a flawed man’s brain
can assuage so much suffering:
what a wise solution, so elegant,
the vessels swollen to bursting
with compassion for us all —
surely that drop was placed, just so,
by the delicate hand of God.
Pulled forth by a line
of scent, the dog’s snout snakes
through hissing grass —
I jerk his neck, master
to slave, and drag him
from shit’s wonderment.
On brighter days
he’s free to sniff:
when the wind’s not wet
and the ground’s not mud
and the children snooze
and the drudge is done
and my mind’s been set free —
When my head’s
been buried long enough
in the cool green strands
of its siren muse,
burrowing to inhale
the prized and pungent self.
Pulled forth by a line
of scent, my furtive soul craves
closet verse —
World jerks my neck, master
to slave, and drags me
from word’s wonderment.
on the just built deck
no furniture yet
the kids and I
on a beanbag
and dog bed
kitsch Hawaiian music
scoring the scene
as the youngest dances hula
in inflatable green
and the rest of us bray
unhinged with relief
that our world
has not quite
Your fierce face
on the pillow—
brows spearing down towards
wide bisected koala nose
acute resilient chin.
Tonight you are troubled
by concerns beyond your scope:
pervading childhood’s lair…
Felt inside the strident pitch
of your father on the telephone;
the tremulous tone
of your mother’s lullabies.
Felt in the streak of the cat,
the slink of the dog;
felt in the dangerous pulse
of our home.
the one where the screams
that house is our house now.
We’re the ones the neighbours
talk about/not to; it’s our
normalcy which has rent
under pressure; it’s our truth erupting
spectacularly into the day.
At night, when I descend
to her room, I go
with dread, anger, resistance,
swallowing myself down and down
until I don’t feel those things anymore.
That house is ours.
That heaving house is ours,
tumid with the sickness of minds untempered,
innocents left shivering in their pyjamas at the front door
as they gaze, defiantly, back at the kind lady
who pauses — just long enough — to make sure.
Their father’s breath is foul, like his tongue.
Theirs is sweet and sour, and their mussed heads
smell like musty flowers plucked
from ancestral beds.
I can’t yet leave this world
(I have young in it)
but sometimes I feel myself sliding
sideways into a past of vast possibilities
where hope still grows in gilded sheaves
and Ruth gleans artfully among the corn.
Oh be still, Ruth, I admonish, and do not lie
at the master’s feet — but rise
from your fate and know that you are God!
If you were asked — to turn that corner,
walk into that room, say yes
to that dance — would you?
Or would you answer
(quickly, so as not to wake the unborn) — No!
Then watch in awe as this life slips away.
I wasn’t well. My throat had swelled.
I asked for help. My husband woke.
It wasn’t him; the other one.
My words were choked. His shameful tongue —
Round and round and round we go
(why is it still a shock?)
A petite mort inside each time
but not the death you want.
First published in Michele Seminara’s poetry collection, Engraft
These poems explore issues such as domestic and sexual abuse, family dysfunction, women’s roles in society and the power of creativity.