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On becoming a housewife for the first time

Lisa Brockwell |  24 February 2014

Slitted watermelon















This is no place to bring up a child, no
wonder you look hysterical. But I judge
you feckless, too. Why is one of you
crashing through the reeds while the other
hovers helpless on the far side of the road?
When my car rounds the bend your chick,
a downy pellet, is beside herself,
feet frozen on hot asphalt. Lucky
I'm not running late, lucky I'm driving my
'mind the poddy calf out looking for trouble'
best. On the way back, later, I brake hard
before the body of one of you, a mangled
mess of feathers, guts and gravel. The other
parent at your side now, and frantic. The chick,
your dappled culmination, nowhere to be seen.



When your head, a black seal, bobs under the hob,
when your starfish hands roll out the pastry,
your torso flat and taut under your apron
like the flank of a horse lifting his feet
through a doorway; when the caramel sinews
of your legs bend at the oven door, your
back, still warm from bed, curving while the dish
hits a high metal note as you push it in,
that's when I feel replete. Woman at rest,
man baking apple pie, woman is blessed.
I watch, book in hand, my own tools downed,
your labour the gift, to my oyster, of sand.
This is our dominion, we have been restored
to that cumbersome garden, rich and flawed.



Where is your motorbike?
You look like you should own one.
Snuffling around the edge of town,
leather jacket, spiked hair.
A lift of your head at my car radio:
biodiversity, two speed economy.
You get on with your business
around the rubbish and gravel,
too shy to chat and too tough to run.



Where is the honey? You asked me
that morning, wide awake to the menu
of the world. I hadn't seen the honey
in years — the jar a harem of sun,
radiant and louche, perfected by a city
of drones. Too much to ask, a little wanton
comfort? We did have some once.
Now probably overturned at the back of the pantry,
candied and frumpy, the lid's thread
arthritic with crystals. Our breakfast was over,
I could not contain you with the butter instead.


On becoming a housewife for the first time at the age of 41

I learn to cut up a melon, though remain unable to bring a knife to a whole chicken. I save small lizards from the dogs. I find myself on tuckshop duty with my dearest friend; we didn't see this coming at university. I inspect a snake carcass with the boys at the bus stop and deliver a short safety lecture. I learn more than any woman like me needs to know about slashing paddocks. I watch the school terms march across my body and face. I stand at the sink and cry when the kitchen radio tells me yet another small child has drowned at sea. I wake with a start — counting loaves of bread in the chest freezer. I construct elaborate fantasies about a business trip to London wearing a suit. I choose the shoes I'd wear on the plane; I ponder which handbag I'd take. I visit the vet at least once a week; the animals seem to take turns, patiently. I wear gum boots for seven months straight. I picture my husband dying in a car crash; this dark bubble rises out of the mud of me much too frequently. I know the gecko on the veranda is a gift. At the school gate, I learn, the hard way, to avoid the mothers even crazier than me. I smile when I see the old man in town unwrap his every Thursday chocolate heart. Shouting at my five year old I want to bang my head against the wall, hard, to teach him the lesson my mother taught me. I stop myself. But even so, my punishment comes later. I cannot believe it is up to me to keep this baby alive when I am all heart, all naked flailing heart: no skin, no ribs, just this. Everyone, please, avert your eyes! I cope by doing more exercise.

Lisa Brockwell headshotLisa Brockwell lives near Mullumbimby with her husband and son. In 2013 she won second prize in the Byron Bay Writers' Festival Poetry Prize, was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize and Highly Commended in the Bridport Prize (UK). Her poems were also published in The Spectator and Australian Love Poems 2013. She is working towards a first collection.

Melon image from Shutterstock


Lisa Brockwell

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Submitted comments

I read every one of your poems published here this morning. That's a BIG compliment! Keep writing about those everyday reflections and gifts.

glen avard 25 February 2014

I wonder if those who read Keats' Ode to a Nightingale when it appeared in 1819 realised how blessed they were to enjoy an experience that would never be repeated.

Frank 25 February 2014

Refreshing, delightful. Savoured, each poem gave me the gift of a smile. Thank you!

Kay Bushnell 25 February 2014

Oh Lisa, Your poems ring such a bell for me, especially the prose poem at the end. it is exactly as I experienced it in a small country town, the teacher's wife (too many kids to work then) and stranded for a like-minded friend. 40 years ago but you brought back all the conflicts and love. You write so well! Thanks.

Pauline Small 25 February 2014

Poems about the things I care about. Thank you. So original, yet evocative. Great writing.

Laura 25 February 2014

Beautiful. Beautiful. Thanks.

Jesse Blackadder 26 February 2014

Lisa you write so so beautifully. It is such a delight to read your poems.

Robin 26 February 2014

Really like Echidna. Now to go back and read more!

Marissa Treichel 26 February 2014

Lisa! How beautiful your poems, so savage and heartbreaking.

Anna 27 February 2014

Such tender, playful, refined and yet unconforming poems, Lisa. Thank you. Mark

Mark Tredinnick 02 March 2014

You build such wonderful and sensitive images that say so much more than what appears at first. Pleasure to read them again and again! And I do.

James Walton 03 March 2014

Your poems are amazing, I love your work. We went to school together I am just sad it's taken so long for me to discover what a incredibly poet you are

Rachel 19 September 2014

Lisa - Congratulations! I have enjoyed reading your work. I could really relate when I read the part about the vet and the gum boots. I can remember fantasising about getting back into a professional outfit as a Mum.

Margaret Sutton 12 January 2015

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