My name is Leah. I live and write in Wellington, New Zealand. Welcome!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'I Taught Myself To Live Simply' by Anna Akhmatova

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster drops
I compose happy verses
about life's decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

- Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1960) was a Russian poet. Her work was censored and destroyed by Stalinist authorities, and she is particularly noted, not only for being a strong female voice in a world of men, but for choosing not to emigrate from Russia during the Stalinist regime.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Fire Bug'


In the pearly afterbirth of morning
she burnt it to the ground;
watched as the matchstick house
dislocated like an injured jaw;
stood as the birds fled in clusters,
black as pepper kernels.

He came to her later
and they sat in the sooty remains,
stacking ashen wood,
and she watched his face,
his eyes set like currants
deep in his doughy skin;

gingerbread man,
slow-rising lover.

The fire still smouldered later,
ripe orange blooming in oily black,
stringing their words out between them
like drying laundry flapping above the ashes.

A prayer for the lost, he suggested,
and they closed their eyes,
imprints of light smudged rose against their eyelids,
their capacity for destruction
an inherited gene,
their prayer one of sympathy, not apology.

- Leah McMenamin 

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Flowering Cherry' - Janet Frame


These cherries are not wine-filled bowls for thirsty birds
nor ornaments of the house where sky’s the ceiling.
These are the pawnbroker tree’s discreet sign,
the wine, tear and blood drops of bondage,
the tree’s relentless advantage
taken of the poverty that came when, warmed
with familiar memory of what had been
and had been and would be but is never known
entirely or believed until it is born,
we saw the cherry tree in flower and at once spent
a life’s rich astonishment.

‘Why should I be bound to thee?’
Blake asked of the myrtle tree. Why?
He killed to escape. Blood flowed beneath the tree:
a father’s blood, an old man’s, who must have known
how to bargain with all possession
that makes a tree, a house, a sky into a prison
and each man see the marks of chains upon his skin.
The cherry tree flowers earlier than most,
falls as snow while snow is falling,
sweeps into us and through us and we taste
the flower as fruit, we eat the first
full-blown light unfolded out of winter darkness.
Then, as if the bloom were gone, the tree will hide
in wine-coloured shade and pawn signs to pursue its trade.

And we are prisoners then, borrowing wonder
to redeem the pledge; or too poor, too ill,
too far away to make the necessary journey,
we plead in writing for the tree’s mercy. Why
should a lifetime of marvelling be spent
on this first view of spring light, this burst of cherry snow?
Why should the tree house our treasure in blood?

When next you pass the flowering cherry now, in September,
look closely at the cool dark wine house
where the blackbirds sing for their supper
where the human senses sing for their survival.

'The Flowering Cherry', from The Pocket Mirror (W H Allen, 1967), and in Storms Will Tell: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2008), © Janet Frame Literary Trust 1967

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Carnation Days'


There is a plastic flower you keep -
blood & cream -
resting in an empty vase
for days like these,
where the blankets stay on
and the blinds remain closed.

It balances the room
a point of bright meditation
for your fearful days,
just so,
until you open the curtains
and the light through the vase
fractures the stem into
a hundred jagged pieces
and you put it back into
the drawer
and make breakfast,
even though it’s noon.

- Leah McMenamin





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