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A snatch of memory


Selected poems



Patchwork blanket

You've walked away from your knitted blanket

with its squares of red and grey and green

on the pavement against a shop front

on the corner of Market Street and Castlereagh.

You'll be back now that evening

with all its memories comes hustling in.

Just how much trust is needed

to leave your things unguarded,

to know that other homeless folk

won't souvenir your stuff ?

To be sure that people passing

won't trample on your gear?

So there's comfort in the fact

that the stream of shoppers does veer aside

to avoid what could look like rubbish —

a muddled mosaic that includes a paperback,

some shabby underwear

and a rank pillow of striped ticking

huddled against the worn tiled steps,

this hang-out that is your home.

Even so, it's fair to say that when

you take up your bedding and mosey on

no-one will think to ask where you have gone.



Birch broom

A broom was sweeping steadily back

and forth, toiling over those leaves manoeuvring

in their thousands along the footpath

and gutters near Trafalgar Square.

Our eyes met. I smiled at the street sweeper

whose wide brown face opened and shone.

'I been working here all the week lady

and you the first person give me a smile.'

He set the broom straight, his hands resting.

I felt a mixture of pleasure and shame.

I work with words, not leaves,

but could collect together none

to match or answer his simple statement.

I continued on my bookish way

and the street seemed desolate and long.

Over the years the sound of that broom

with its orderly rhythm still

gathers up my thoughts as it labours on.



A snatch of memory

She was in her eighties then. And I was thirteen.

Now eighty, I've retrieved that memory of hers

and hold it as I would my own.

When young, she'd climb her front gate and wait

to see, like a fairy tale or a fantasy,

two chinamen running into the morning.

They were linked by a length of springy bamboo

that bounced to the rhythm of their jogging.

They kept their eyes to the road

and paid no heed to her friendly call.

They were making for the markets

and on the pole there swung cane baskets of produce,

leeks and peppers, marrows and carrots

mysterious little packets, bunches of green.


A marvel that she recalled that image,

that I could connect with it too —

a pair of figures on Walkerville Terrace,

conspicuous in conical hats of straw,

and each in pale trousers and matching shirt

caught at the waist with a twisted cord.

Their heads were bent, their faces hidden,

their dark pigtails were flicking from side to side.



Elaine Barker is an Adelaide poet with work published in newspapers, journals and anthologies in Australia over many years. She has had three collections published, the most recent of which is High Heels & Tartan Slippers published by Ginninderra Press in 2011. She is currently working on a new collection to be published next year.

Topic tags: Elaine Barker, Poetry



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