Jane Simpson

Finding him

after the call from St John to say the alarm round his chest
has been activated and the ambulance was on its way

after the call from Meals on Wheels about lunches untaken
from the crate by the front door

after the no-response when I drop in, ring the bell, 
wonder if he has heard, remember
the security code and let myself in
and I see him in his bed
just the way he wanted it to be
so he would never know
it had happened.
Finding him.

Death will silence my scenarios and release 
the music of the profoundly deaf
shutter his paintings on the living room walls 
and flood the house with light.

After death has come and the quick burial he wanted
I will sit among his papers
see outside the bedroom window
the roses he tended, watched grow 
and wrenched
with a sharp spade.

No easy peace

(Christchurch, New Zealand, after 15 March 2019)

The widower leads from a wheelchair. 
Little children follow him on bicycles
festooned with streamers and flowers
under the arches of bare trees.

A hooter sounds opposite the Al Noor Mosque.
Massed cyclists jostle at the start,
a shared pathway down Hagley Park. 
All aboard the Peace Train Cycle Ride!

A small woman in brown robes stands
on the steps of the restored Buddhist Centre. 
The abbess speaks noble words – 
distorted by a megaphone.

Cyclists in the sun, cyclists by the fence,
cyclists straddling their bikes,
some leaving helmets and gloves on – 
are still.

The Peace Train heads off, 
weaves through suburban streets.
We stop at the city’s seldom
-visited sacred places:

the Hare Krishna Temple, Synagogue, 
Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals, Baptist Church 
and at the end to the second place
of slaughter.

We listen to speeches, prayers 
and karakia, shift from foot to foot; 
thoughts drift
away from peace 

hope, love, 
forgiveness and trust –
words I want to anchor,
turn into concrete nouns.
Cyclists – faith and none – 
arrive at the end, the second mosque,
on bikes festooned with streamers, flowers 
and thorns of peace.

lockdown walk

with a lope
with a twist
with a spring
with a scuff
with a bounce
with a stick
with a jaunt
with a thought
with a song
with a pet
with a single

Outside Ballantynes
(the oldest and most exclusive department store in Christchurch)

I stand on the final yellow cross
of waiting, 
lean towards 
the inviting dark,
to figures camouflaged,
their uniforms not quite

I have observed the 2-metre 
Brace myself to disclose
name    address    phone    email

knowing if I wished 
I could scan the lives 
of customers before me
squashed between lines,
tracings on a sheet.

The doors lumber open. 
A woman greets me from within
her bob, smiles from behind
a lectern.
She is elegance and silver 
smoky    pink    soft    power

asks for my name and number
as if she is asking for nothing
touch    types    strokes     keys

nods and smiles
and I am in
– no signing out –
unhurried elegance
and silver.

Jane Simpson is a poet, liturgist and historian. She has two collections, A world without maps (2016) and Tuning Wordsworth’s Piano (2019), published by Interactive Press (Brisbane). Her latest book is The Farewelling of a Home: a liturgy, and her website is www.poiema.co.nz
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