The Holding

Graphic by Kaethe Kollwitz

[A poem from my just published second collection: 'Requiem', available via Picaro Press (on Blogroll) for $15. Enjoy.].

The Holding

There is no such thing as society.
- Margaret Thatcher

a mother strokes the hair
of her asthmatic child at 3 am
her nerves silently screaming
pain, love, bone-deep exhaustion
to a pale indifferent moon

a rain-soaked father turns
moth-soft eyes
& a smile of welcome
to his nine year old
dragging slow defeated boots
back towards him through
the football field’s sucking mud

a circle of twenty women
from under-funded welfare agencies
in a dingy church hall
blaring missionary posters
quietly report on business,
buttressing lives
on shrinking budgets,
sustaining each other
with soft voices
weaving silent nets of holding

the two men I greet
each early morning
carefully sweeping Corbett & Bong Bong
among bin-marauding currawongs,
the men who build our houses,
drive the community bus,
fix our cars, fight our fires,
repair our roofs & dunnies:
the heavy invisible work, deep
soil of the community tree

or: Penrose community hall, packed
to the rafters, anti-mega-dump,
sweaty words, pollies eeling their way out,
concerned residents fearfully
half-opening to a new threshold,
active citizenship, before the snail
pulls in its feelers again
& democracy back in its shell

or: the environmentalists, activists
standing concerned & forlorn
in rivers of rushing consumers
holding leaflets no one reads,
the public tree planters, green guerrillas,
the willing tools of our common future’s
mighty trees, crystal air, sweet birdsong
breathing through our children’s smiling
drawings & desperate, deadly dreams

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~ by peterln on June 5, 2012.

7 Responses to “The Holding”

  1. Great reading. Seeing and hearing you speak brings back memories of my English classes in Hofheim in 1983-5. I like to think that you’re one of those very few teachers who managed to influence my life way beyond the actual schoolwork. Take care and keep up the good work.

  2. my partners mother lives in Bundanoon.
    Just think she lives next to a talented poet and possibly doesn’t know it!

  3. that was a great poem Peter…I think I am the type who likes them read aloud!

    • Thanks Jonathon! I’m sure you’re with most people who prefer the readings, or readings along with text or readings, then look at again at home in a quiet moment. After all we’re human and respond to all the beautiful complexity and meaningfulness of body language before all linear print. A million years of watching and listening by campfires…I feel it in every public performance I do… Just a bit hard to post videos for everything… Thanks again.

  4. One of your best, Peter – poignant, vivid and essential. Billy Bragg would be proud of you! Looking forward to reading the new collection. ‘The Holding’ is a great title, a bit Tim Winton. Cool photo of brave New York construction workers on the cover, I’m guessing (they remind me of woodswallows on a branch). My God, further evidence of community! Catch you soon, Lorne

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