Cows in a Paddock

Someone once told me you can tell what the weather

Will be like by studying cows in a paddock.

If they’re standing, she said, there’d be

a good chance of rain, whereas if they were lying down,

you could count on fine weather. Or it might have been

The other way around. What a load of bull, I thought.





What if half were standing and half were lying down?

Would that mean a 50% chance of fine weather, or to put it another way,

A 50% chance of rain, depending on whether you were

A glass half- full or a glass half -empty sort of person? It seemed a little dodgy.

What if, for instance, in one paddock all the cows were lying down

while in another, they were practising synchronised standing?

Wouldn’t one cancel out the other?





And why cows?

What about prognosticating pigs, soothsaying sows, auguring alpacas?

The list goes on. I decided to go back to the Bureau forecasts.

At least they get it right half the time.

My Sliding Doors Moment

Not ‘the last train to Clarkesville’.

Nor ‘the midnight train to Georgia’

Not even ‘the downtown train’ that Tom Waits

and Rod Stewart rode on vinyl

but that old steam train that took me all the way

from the monastery where I was sequestered

to be a priest, on the verge of making my final vows

to a life in the ‘real world’. where I met the woman who would be my wife.

and the mother of my three kids,

a career as a teacher, a writer, and the grandfather of six more kids,

the apples of my life,

a sliding doors moment:

the most momentous train ride I ever made.

Tricky

Not ‘selfish’, she says. more ‘difficult to get on with’.

Ahhh, I say, that’s code for ‘tricky’.

I know I am. My best mate is too.

Human beans are ‘tricky’ all around.

They don’t grow straight. They grow with all sorts

of genetic quirks; there’s always something askew,

that rubs people up the wrong way, that chafes.

How people live together, I don’t know.

Sometimes I have trouble just living with me.

I’m not a one trick pony, but I am tricky.

pic courtesy of Pinterest

One Special Place

I thought about what Fiona had said,

the female lead in ‘The Bear Came Over the Mountain’

about her developing interest in Iceland,

how she looked at travel guides,

read accounts of famous writers who had visited,

Auden, William Morris,

but didn’t really plan to travel there herself.

There ought to be one place,

she said,

one special place,

‘you thought about and knew about

and maybe longed for

but never did get to see’

*have you a place like this?

Bridges

Not Katherine Anne Paterson’s Bridge

to Terabithia,

the one that Leslie and Jess cross

to get to their magic kingdom.

Nor that bridge too far.

Not the one Over Troubled Waters.

Nor that terrible one on the River Kwai.

Not even the bridges you burn

so there’s no turning back

but that rope suspension bridge

dangling high over the gully

that me and my faithful mutt, Salem,

can’t bring ourselves to cross

photo by Andre Amaral on Unsplash.com

Backs to the Sea

People who live here, he said, live with their backs to the sea.

And I said, how could anyone turn their backs to the sea?

And I thought of mum, before she was hauled away, saying,

I want to go back to the sea again,

how she sounded like Miranda the mermaid who had strayed

from her home

but when she got her wish, when we got her into a retirement home

on the esplanade, she grew jaded.

What’s wrong, mum? we asked.

I want to go home, she said. I want to go back where I lived with dad.

But you’ve got a ringside seat, mum, to the Southern Ocean. A view to die for.

It’s not the same, she said, not when you see the same thing day after day.

But we sat with her, watching the red sun sit on the lip of the horizon like a wafer,

the seabirds flying home, and a kind of calm settled on her.

The Sad Podiatrist

Lauren Williams wrote a poem about the sad anthropologist

spurring me on to write one about my mate, Arthur,

the sad podiatrist I see three times a year. We’re like mates.

When someone’s been intimate with your feet for such a stretch of time

what else can you call the relationship?

Usually he’s perky, upbeat but today he’d downcast even though I praise

him for finishing my feet in record time.

Just think, I say, you earn more in three minutes than most people earn in an hour but he protests that it’s not about the money.

When I ask him what it is about, he blurts out the old abstracts: Recognition, Glory, Adulation.

Wow, I thought, where’s this coming from?

And he says: “When did you last read a best seller about a podiatrist? Watch a Reality Show called, ‘The Good Foot

Doctor’. See a film with Tom Hanks, Chris Hemsworth, De Niro playing a podiatrist?”

He has a point. I sympathise with him, then he shakes my foot — he always shakes the right one — and I head out the

door, hoping he pulls his socks up before the next patient comes in.

pic courtesy of Wikipedia




Certificate

I’m hunting for my birth certificate

once again

to prove that I exist.

They seem to need convincing.

Isn’t it obvious? I ask

but obviously it isn’t.

They need that slip of paper.

In fact they insist upon it.

Doubting Thomases! I think

almost inviting them to touch me.

But I hold back

almost afraid to touch myself.

What if ….?

Perhaps I’ve gone around kidding myself

all these years.

Yes, I think, that slip of paper would help.

I hunt for it furiously.

If only to convince myself.





Caravaggio's 'The Incredulity of St, Thomas' courtesy of Wikipedia

She Needs Cheering Up

I need cheering up, she says. I work better when happy.

A shared laugh would help, she adds.

So it’s down to me. What am I? A stand-up?

I can’t think of anything funny to say.

It’s a lovely sunny morning in spite of the forecast

so that’s something to be happy about

but happy isn’t funny.

I riffle through my corny joke book but she’s heard them all

even the good ones, like what do you call an Igloo without a toilet?

An Ig !

I thought that was pretty good but all it elicited was a groan.

And anyway, how necessary is it to be happy when you’re working?

Take art. Some of the best paintings were birthed in rage and fear.

Think ‘The Scream’ by Munch, Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ or Bacon’s ‘The Screaming Pope’.

You don’t read ‘In Memoriam’ for a good laugh or listen to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ for a bit of a lift.

These did not come from a happy place.

Sure, being in a happy place helps, but you’re not going to get the dark matter, the weight if you’re buoyant as a balloon.  

pic by John Currin on Pinterest

Okay, I looked but I didn’t stare

On a road trip the other day

we got talking about birth defects you don’t see

any more

like hunchbacks, birth marks, cleft palates

though Simon

whose father was Lord Mayor of Mars had one

and spoke with a lisp.

Then at this café in the mountains

we were served

by a barista

with a raspberry stain on his left cheek

the shape of Africa.

Is that a birth mark, I asked him. We were just talking about them.

Yes, it is, he smiled.

It was just another feature on his face, like his nose.

or a mole

It was nothing special.

Yet it had a strange sort of beauty.

He poured me the greatest cup of coffee.

I was glad that I had asked him, that I didn’t wuss out.

It’s okay to be curious.