Thursday 30 May 2024

Five Poems by Grant Shimmin


Holiday insomnia makes me think of a friend in chronic pain

Not a wink of sleep on the lake shore

after a six-hour drive

With the wind, it seems, trying to rip

our tent open and let in the turbulent sky

I find myself praying you would find sleep

in your tiny apartment, excruciating pain

and the somnolent cat your only company

My sleepless night seems long from here

But there is an end to it, or to the wind

Where is the end to the pain

that is your uninvited companion

through the dark and light hours?

I would gladly forfeit my night’s rest

if cat snores could be your only disturbance

Your first thought (Sonnet I)

Tell me dear kingfisher what you think of

When you rise to the dawning of day

Do you contemplate war, the bombs going off

In far-flung locations, smoke billowing grey

And invading the lungs of the populace?

Where terror and fear are the daily bread

Of those caught in a conflict malicious?

Where all they can fathom on waking is dread,

destruction and death? Or do you look

At the morning with hunger renewed and

Your eye on the waters; lake, river, brook,

For sweet morsels that life will extend

With no worries that evening won’t come?

Is the present the place you call home?

When? (Sonnet II)

What does it feel like, knowing, if you wake

That death will come today, or if not, soon?

Its stench is all around; you cannot fake

a certainty you’ll live till afternoon

When will the next wave come, the bombardment

that may steal your life away in the suck

of an explosion, that brutal moment

that arrives with little warning, come to pluck

breath from your lungs, like picking bloody

berries from a bush of red abundance

Leaving silence; those remaining broody

for the presence blasted into absence

But comforted that you no longer wonder

When death will rain down its savage thunder


        After Rilke

And if you should find yourself where the soft grass

growing by the slow stream bids you pause

do not spurn the invitation to sit

If the questions you are living weigh heavy

lay them down beside you

Perhaps fashion them into a pillow

to cushion your head while you luxuriate

in the lush softness, and listen

to whatever accompanies the silence

And if, while you are pausing, eyes,

ears open, there should be

a heron in the shallows, watch it, or a

kingfisher on an overhead wire.

Taking care not to intrude, observe

their shared practice of patience, how

the answers to their days ’few questions

may arrive as its reward. Then, when you

are ready, test the weight of your load

Mind the gap

The gap is 20-odd metres of love and deep concern. I’ve seen the woman I’ll pass when the green figures appear on our respective lights. But my emotions are for the happy black Labrador strutting, tail whipping the morning air, around a square patch of tarmac beside the yellow light pole. There’s no leash in sight, and my waiting mind wanders to imaginations of motorised mayhem on the crossing. She calls the dog closer. It sits, adoring canine smile on the face watching hers. And reassurance finds me. But at green, the black bundle of barely contained joy is on a collision course with me, two lanes of moving traffic a metre to my right looming noisily. Gap closing, she taps her leg, speaks a soft command that draws her faithful sidekick closer, and we pass, pristinely untroubled. I should have had more trust in their relationship, the unquestioning kind they share. There’s a lesson in every ordinary moment.

Grant Shimmin is a South African-born poet who has lived in New Zealand for 23 years and has a passion for humanity, the natural world and their intersection. He is an editor/reader for Does it Have Pockets?, where he was also previously published, and has work published/forthcoming at Roi Faineant Press, The Hooghly Review, Bull, Dreich, Querencia Press, Amethyst Review and elsewhere.

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