Thursday, 11 February 2010

Like Smoke into the Air - Dianne Hofmeyr

Yesterday, after 6 weeks away, I was catching up with ABBA and discovered your poems. Coincidently I’d written Like Smoke into the Air in the early hours of the plane journey home.
Like Smoke into the Air
Up the steps to the harbour wall fish scales trail.
Gills and gut clot.
They stand – a small group – four figures against a steely sky.
Two daughters, two granddaughters and now I
the youngest sister walking the long aisle
to where the port light guards the swell,
clutching a scarf that reflects the sky.
They’ve brought flowers. Well chosen.
Crimson, fuchsia, purple,

set off against sunflowers
made iridescent by the filtered light.
The box is simple. Plain cardboard.
The packet plastic.
Humble containers for so fragile a mix.
We dip our fingers. Lightly at first.
As if in holy water, or soft palm ash to daub a forehead.
But this is dry.
Flecked. Gritty.

We take fistfuls.
Our fingers grow familiar with the touch.
Cast it like smoke into the air
where it glides and is taken on the breeze.
There is no rhythm. No plan.
Flowers fall where they fall.
Ash drifts. Dissolves. Disappears.
The sea, liquid pewter, rises to receive.
A vast sighing swell that dips and lifts and breathes.
My own breath dips.
Lifts. Catches.

The flowers are borne Millais-like.

A raft. A bier.
At the port light they slow
as if to gather strength,
then slipstream a silver current
to trail across the bay.
Two oyster-catchers salute,
sharp against the sky.
And we… two daughters, two granddaughters and I…
walk back along the wall.
Hands darkened. Nails stained.
Whorls ingrained.

Dianne Hofmeyr 10.02. 2010


Katherine Langrish said...

Oh Dianne.
Brought tears to my eyes - and memories.

Lynda Waterhouse said...

a beautiful and wistful poem that lingers like smoke in my imagination. Thank you

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

thanks Kath and Lynda and to others for emails as well. One feels a piece like this might be too private but this morning I watched Christopher Reid on Youtube speak about poetry. He suggests our job as writers is to communicate the unspeakable.

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

Beautiful and poignant, Dianne.

Leslie Wilson said...

It's wonderful, Dianne, and very moving.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Thanks Nicky & Leslie. It was along the harbour wall at Kalk Bay Nicky... which you'll know well... on one of those middle of the summer absolutely quiet clouded- over Cape days.