I have an almost-finished novella lying at the bottom of my desk drawer, and it rarely sees the light of day. This week I dusted it off and plucked from it one of the occasional poems which lightly pepper the text. Here Pip, the protagonist or main character, is reflecting on the life of her mother who had died the evening before, leaving a secret. The poem also serves to sketch a little about Pip herself ...
The musings of Pip My mother died last night, Secrets in the palm of her hand.
She’s gone. And with her the blue eyes Which could be icy Or take on the hue of a summer sky Or cloud over Milky weak with memories, and mystery. As a child I’d read her eyes And know when to steal To her lap for comfort Or leave her alone to her sadness …
And without living full.
Oh yes, when she was young I’m told She lived it full. Then. But something happened. Her secret. Her secret happened And she died within.
My mother Selene Of the beautiful long limbs And the wheat field hair Wound round her head.
Of the stutter, The frightened look And the deep voice Sunk to a whisper.
And with her the recipes, The way to make apple pie. Where to buy Our favourite tea … Little things that mean too much.
And without being truly loved … She’s gone.
She didn’t tell me who my father was … I asked often enough But her lips seemed sealed, The knowledge lying there A lump in her throat, Threatening her breath Should she let it loose.
Selene wasn’t spiteful Although she must have known What her secret meant to me ... I just wanted to know. That’s all. So simple.
The secret strangled her spirit, Sabotaged her life And cut it short.
Do I look like him? In my mirror … Are those eyes his eyes? With their curling lashes And button shape Are they his legacy? The nose I’ve always hated With its aquiline hook That some call noble And which I abhor. Is it his?
I need to know!
I’m a runt … Can’t reach the hanging straps in buses. My toothpaste splatters The mirror I leave hairs in the basin and squeezing pimples is my thing. I shave my legs But not My underarms.
I don’t do drugs. I do pump iron. And grow vegetables For their juice. Each night I run miles And top off my dinner with Sticky date pudding And runny cream.
I’m a woman and proud. I am a writer — Freelance.
My mother … tall and golden … Angular. Me … small, pale And round.
The phone: ‘Pip I’m so sorry to hear the news. So sorry …’
‘Aunty! I’ve wanted to talk … To ask … Now she’s gone it seems So important Somehow … I want to know About my Dad!’
A gasp And Silence At the end of the line. ‘Oh my sweet I don’t know myself … It was her secret.’
‘Please Aunty Please!’
‘Oh dear … I always felt … The answer … Lay in that wretched town. I’d help if I could.’
Selene had A strange fascination For outback towns. And loved driving. But there was one place Where she refused to go. Is that the key?
I'm past my 70th birthday and undaunted.
So far I can look back on probably a dozen different phases in my life, all producing deeply felt experience:
- A barefoot carefree childhood in an Australian seaside town
- Work as a young journalist in the days of hot metal and male chauvinism
- Dipping my toe into real life in Sydney the big city
- Marriage and precious motherhood
- A second career in corporate public relations management
- Another marriage and disillusion
- Battles for financial justice in the law courts
- Re-jigging a career
- At 60 my first university degree (Creative Writing and Australian History majors)
- Fighting sometimes lost causes
- Sneaky aches and pains of the approach of age
- Living on a pension.
All fodder for writing and a valuable background for the development of what could become one day an incisive point of view.
My blogs may become a way of answering the question: 'What's next?'