NOT KEEPING MY NOSE CLEAN Poem by Valérie Rouzeau


i.m. Fernande Zang
From this day on no sky a granny's rag a ghost
A cotton phantom you could say a faded holey cloud
Could call it crying in the great big handkerchief it makes
God can't see through it we all know he didn't never exist

There are daisies and emptiness in this scrap of cloth
One day it graced gran's shoulder when she was young
The next it's part of the time before the dreadful time
I can see brothers' heads in the bushes with thorns and bindweed
And further on I see the horse's ears sticking up
The little sister sulking somewhere in the three-leafed clover or under the big shed's growly corrugated roof
And where have I left my head

Not in the kitchen with the scratchy very green-backed sponge
The saucepan-handles like the ears of horses careful how you touch
The father christmas letter in the cookbook recipe a day
The note from father flog we finally made mincemeat of
Rags and napkins slipping like a knot
My headpiece gone as an under-the-table duck
While in this childishness you find it all by heart
So why not under the drop-leaf table while it takes its leaves

The ducks were true or false
And never an unwanted head
Even in the lav with the newspapers crickets bobbing turds
Hardly ever a severed head

And I won't lose my hand in this cloth
This drying-up nappy-it's-not
Though it'd be fine in a song
A little household song of fast-dissolving bliss
For a nappy to flap in

Tea-towel nicked from the cupboard for memory's sake and not
An oblong of fabric you use to wipe the crocks
Or a Belgian mop a sloppily written text
And if it burns there's water in the gas

A cloth like a guitar
A wonderwipe, a star
Of water-lily tiny impromptu table laid by chance
(Luck rhymes with the radiance
Of moonshine and the violin's not envious)

This may not be exactly what we mean
By poem but I was wondering why I'd whisked this cloth away
From grandma's wardrobe yesterday when she died
The pattern isn't daisies but two ducks
Two big fat ducks twelve oranges
And let them roll away the oranges and let the heavy ducks
Rise up for ever to a paradise that's lost
Among the pelicans the cranes the Père Ubus
And everything mislaid with my loose screws

We are the skyless we soak up
Let them rise to their oranges ducks the thing that counts
These days I understand a tiny nothing bit of something
I've secreted this
To find my words
I know my gran forgives me my sense of fun
With some serious stuff thrown in

She's glad for us gran to laugh at her for having put
Both of her husbands in the selfsame vault the same infinity
Grave is a tomb across the Channel differently pronounced
I've found my head again all in one piece it's in the hanky
Giant's hanky tea-towel of time past
And it's turning surely.

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