Diana van den Berg

Veteran Poet - 1,290 Points (4 November 1945 / Durban, South Africa)

Manila Envelope - Poem by Diana van den Berg

and looking for an account number,
I scratched in a manila envelope
from the ceiling high bookcase
in my beloved study,
and time drifted away
for a few moments
as I skimmed
through yellow pages
of snippets
of this
and that
and other things -
thoughts I wrapped
around myself
so many years ago,
a newspaper page
that didn’t seem to be about anything,
until, when opened up,
displayed inside the whole of
which was apparently found
in Old Saint Paul’s Church,
Baltimore, dated 1692,
and a poem I wrote
to my as yet unborn daughter –
I read every word of every draft of that –
and thought that perhaps if I sent it to her now,
she may speak to me again –
though with a sigh and a sad smile,
I realised and remembered and accepted
that that wouldn’t happen,
for her tangled imagination
and the image she projected,
and possibly even believed,
of being an unloved child -
despite everything that negated that -
and her iron will
and determination
to blame me for everything bad
that had ever happened to her
even years after she emigrated to Australia,
would banish the slightest softness
from what sometimes is her heart -
and her volatile temper
that she throws at anyone
who doesn’t agree with her,
would reign
as always,
Rough copies
of letters to my late divorced husband
pleading with him to communicate
with the children
could have proved some points
to my daughter,
but with which I wouldn’t hurt her
nor his memory,
nor would I want my son to read
one day
in this poem.
I puzzled over a page of strange-looking calculations,
in a handwriting that wasn’t mine,
though I guessed whose it may have been,
but not what it was about.
A copy of the letter
to my children
to be given to them
in the event of my death
when I went on a trip to Greece
to enhance my Classical Civilisation studies
as a major when I did my degree
in my thirties,
made me smile,
and again I wished that my daughter
could warm to it...
I scrutinised the handwriting of a passionate, one-sentence
love note to me on a torn scrap of paper, in Afrikaans,
but don’t remember, for the life of me, who wrote it,
though could make a few vague guesses.
A piece of prose
shocked and reminded me
of the intensity of the hate
that I had forgotten I had had, as a child,
for my acidic mother
who ruled me by fear
all those years ago
and in praise of my father and stepmother
before I learned first hand
how icy-cold horror-hateful they were.
A Greek stamp torn from an envelope
probably had enclosed a letter
from that Greek god
I met in Santorini.
There was a poem to a boyfriend
and a very official IOU
in my handwriting
that he signed to me,
though I doubt that he ever paid me back,
on the back of a corner of a French exam paper
I set in November 1975,
a handwritten advertisement
for the sale of his Alpha 1600 GT Sprint
with my telephone number to reply to.
There was a letter to My Diary,
pages long, about decisions I had made,
but I just glanced
through it because
the time that had drifted away,
was tapping me on the shoulder,
as I slowly replaced the bits and pieces
of my life and wishes and heart-pourings,
that I had long forgotten,
I promised myself
and my cat and my dog
some day,
I would return
with deserved reverence
to the manila envelope.

(2 January 2013)

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 5, 2013

Poem Edited: Monday, August 5, 2013

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