On Her Ninety-first Birthday
My mother was sudden on slugs and slaters,
Those seed-box dwellers
And fearful deer of the tulip woods
Laying down white paths of moonlight.
She loved birds so shot cats.
When my greyhound ruffed-up her
Two woolly yappers she
Said I ought to put him down
Which I neglected to do
So she bided her time and picked him off,
A long bead from the back verandah.
You were never quite sure
Which heroine ruled the day:
With cryptic dreams from grandfather
Or the one who complained of the work she made.
Seedlings sprang from her fingers, cuttings
Pressed in, put down taproots,
A bed of dead gloves
In a week was rioting.
Roses, tiger-lilies bowed to the lady
With the green hands and loam
Under her fingernails,
Reserving their hour for her
Of scents and waterlights,
Intimacies. She'd little time
For humans after childhood. But children came
To eat her brandysnaps and hear
The lady call the thrush up.
Pearl grey from mountain creeks
The thrush came to her garden stump
And sang. The rifle hung on the wall.