In her eighties when she died
    I found no grief evident
    in my father’s face, his hands
    solid and square as garden forks spread
    unwavering over the coal range
    for the warmth to infiltrate
    from fingertip to heart.
    His love for his mother then, just a fact
    not able to be proved.
    Like Good Friday's sky

    remaining its 3.00 p.m. blue
    or grey, not the black I expected
    of God’s old blood
    and despite what Father Casey said,
    nothing either in the shallow cave
    in the clay bank down by the culvert.
    No stone rolled away,

    no angels bright among the gorse
    and on the day after the funeral,
    my father back driving the tractor
    and whistling through his teeth.

    shadowed veins

    I watch as the mountains
    become bearded with shadows

    and a wind on all fours
        scatters the lake before it.


    After death, there is a measure of solace:
    a pinch of memory.

    Like my memory of you,
    your amused eyes

    under a brow I thought was marble
        yet became dust.


    This table engraved
    with a tree's shadowed veins,

    reminds me that time does not

    but in the end will always turn
    wood to stone.


    Through rain the falling scales
    of a grey warbler’s song,

    forms its familiar, mournful weave
    of monotony and grief. Yet listen again

    and it is the song of a bird
    no bigger than an egg cup.

    side by side

    On a day in midsummer he’s buried
    in a cemetery the sun falls down on
    in grey sheets or so it seems,

    the breeze lifting tendrils of grass
    and hair and moving the bright leaves
    of the boundary hedge to twist and crane.

    The coffin where he lies emptied
    of presence, hands strangely still,
    face unlit by awareness,

    is first carried then lowered.
    It’s been a long battle, just one
    of the many clichés; too young, another.

    My sister doesn’t want to hear any more.
    Mourners shuffle by, grim-faced
    they cast small fistfuls of dried clay,

    then turn their backs. Earlier,
    back at the house, his brother-in-law
    dug a hole for the magnolia,

    measuring the exact spot,
    watering the hard earth
    to soften it. Through the open door

    of their bedroom, a glimpse
    of their bed, dishevelled as always,
    the clock, his side, still ticking.

    wild mint and cutty grass

    In the gully
    we see the impaled skeleton of a cat

    spead-eagled in a thorny bush
    and recognise it
    as our pet that had died in the summer,

    its body tossed by our father
    into blackberry autumn has undressed

    to reveal its bones and grimace
    from under threadbare fur.

    When I tell my sister the fragrant green
    under our feet is wild mint, she cries.

    She is afraid of mint that might snarl
    or suddenly leap. But it is the cutty grass,
    its neat accuracy,

    we must be wary of. And
    this sluggish bog reluctant to help

    that sucks and slurps at our gumboots
    as overhead, an unseen skylark
    wrestles with the sky.

(c) Kay McKenzie Cooke. All rights reserved.

The bottom half of an image of a flax frond.