how much women chase
in search of an image.
She looked deep
deep into the mirror
to where her mother lived.
Inside her fading hair
from where that ghost slept
as if she heard an echo
laugh into eyes
that list their way
long ago before her self
wobbled step after step
away from a haunting house.
She looked deeper now
past the past
into the conundrum of being.
It would soon be time
for her to teach
the metaphysics of daily repentance.
You don’t have to like oysters,
there’s nothing wrong with you
if caviar and truffles turn you off.
Though some will look down their nose at you
if you decline champagne,
it’s not a sin to spend your life
without a diamond ring or stud.
As for grand opera, Wimbledon, Ascot
and the Royal Tea Party,
you’re not alone in preferring to dunk
ginger nut biscuits in Earl Gray
and nibble soldiers with soft-boiled eggs
I met one honest man who ate puffer fish
before his wife – with their Johney in mind.
He founded a not-for-profit that cared
for orphans in Somalia or earthquake
victims in Katmandu.
There are bungie jumpers, macro-biotic vegans
and others devoted to saving earthworms
from global warming,
before the bees run out.
You don’t even have to be like any of them,
if you want your tombstone to be admired.
Your legacy may not even be on your agenda –
and who cares if no one remembers
your greatest achievement?
No one teaches children to stand out from the crowd,
to plant their own standard
and translate their imaginations
into language you can use for talking to yourself.
Few parents instruct their offspring to ignore
advice from elders and betters –
which may be why I’ve yet to see
a mother feeding oysters to her darling
and a father making sandwiches
with earthworms or dead wasps.
You don’t have to have a religion
or vote for a political party.
You don’t have to love your teachers
or thank them for their work.
You don’t have to drive a car
or send Christmas cards to say you’re still alive.
You don’t have to eat too much
Or donate yourself to a worthy cause.
It’s not even compulsory to re-read this poem.
As we say in Ireland,
“You’re one of us Mary,
you’re a chip off the old block.”
I came across you recently
when I was looking for something
– like a better life –
(not even sure what it was).
Not even sure what it felt like
the day I opened the door to you
and you came into the kitchen.
Almost certainly, it was raining.
You see, I’d never have written
“You don’t have to like oysters”
if it wasn’t for the sound of your voice
– the way you didn’t just sit in the chair
opposite me, but got out of the chair
and sat on my lap.
Every now and again, daemon-like,
you’d change form (not substance).
You’d hop on my shoulder.
A whelk, a blue iris, a river, a goose
(Oh no, not a river, another creature.)
Not only was this a new experience for me,
it was an old experience, returned
to poke the cinders
to see if any of them still glowed.
We are humans
I am your soul Aylan
your true humanity
I did not die with you
sinking in Bodrum‘s sea.
Who do you think washed you ashore?
Who painted your t-shirt red?
To Kos the adults took you
‘We promise home’ they said.
Who do you think will lift you now?
Who’ll cuddle you warm and true?
Who’ll bring your people safe from war?
Who’ll bury your shorts so blue?
I am your soul Aylan, your true humanity,
I did not die with you.