Paul Maddern was born in Bermuda and lives in Co. Down. A winner in the 2009 Templar Poetry Pamphlet Competition, with Kelpdings, his ensuing collection, The Beachcomber’s Report (Templar, 2010) was shortlisted for the 2011 Eithne Strong Award. For his PhD at Queen’s University Belfast, he created the Seamus Heaney Centre Digital Archive, an online
resource housing recordings of writers reading their work in public. He will be Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Leeds in 2012.
At the height of the lazy season
when there was only the will to observe —
and I first asked how the sea conceived
and contained all of its varied blues,
if waves blooming silently off the reef
were the frills of Gabriel’s petticoats
of which the old families spoke,
how you could doze in such heat,
distant, secure, no trace
of last night’s domestic disturbance,
or if your eyes were wide open
beneath that eccentric sun-hat,
and was it you who hummed the ex-pat’s
Calypso tune, knowing this wasn’t the day
the tropical rock could equal its promise,
a day when yellow bird high up in banana tree
sit all alone, like you and me —
was it then you devised our escape route?
Lydia – i.m.
1: The Opera Season
As you’re no longer here to contradict me
memories can be embellished.
Robert practises his flute,
the sleepwalker’s trills and arpeggios
from Lucia di Lammermoor.
He’s note perfect, but only in my mind
do I provide a counterpoint à la Callas
and admire the responsive embouchure.
And you are there, Lydia: hip Mother Cool,
setting your table for my sixteenth birthday request,
the famous lasagne and the promise of a beer.
My mother keeps busy close by,
unfamiliar with the music
but nonetheless in tune with its fragility.
She’s been woken rudely from a dream.
So far, the indifference of youth has been my cover.
Outside the dining-room window
crimson hibiscus folds in
and might weather what looks to be a storm.
You wink and return the metaphor (Only a squall)
and offer grace for families, my mother—
who adds a coda by squeezing my hand.
I don’t pray but watch the flower heads shiver
as the sleepwalker passes.
I’ve embellished only the last detail
but cannot think to contradict it.
2: Mid Summer
You will question the memory
but it’s the day after and before
I disappoint you more.
You’re with Lydia, in her garden.
She listens kindly as usual.
Jamie and I are in the glassed veranda
on the edge of the burnt lawn,
rattan blinds failing to deflect the heat.
I rest my head on a bleached window ledge
as I can’t pay attention
to the umpteenth screening of Mr. Roberts,
known so well that Jamie absently duets
with Cagney or Lemmon or Fonda.
Raising the corner of a blind,
I look past poinciana
to the mosquito net pergola
where the two of you share a chaise-longue.
I might be forgiven for thinking
Mothers Risen from a Peaceful Siesta.
You will question the memory
but as you lift a dripping tumbler
and sip iced-tea, the splash
of a palm tree thrown overboard
provides the only punctuation.
©2012 Paul Maddern
Paul Maddern at Templar
Poetry Proper: magazine edited by Maddern
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