Our Times - Poem by Andrew Burke
in memory of Sam Burke (1977-1995)
and my days so far
Our wake shapes our days.
I'm serious. There's no sense in
hanging yourself, Sam. I am
all the more bitter for saying this
after the fact. Family life is a joke, I know -
I lived with your father as my big brother
all my young days so who's laughing.
Now I steer away, little in common
but memories. In the Swan River
at the bottom of our hill, your
grandfather's tender, bought and moored
for membership, sank, tied to its jetty.
'Put it on my tab,' he'd say
in the yacht club bar as
seaweed dressed the mooring line.
At home, we stalled
in the wake of our blood.
Rich, poor, drunk or sober, we have
lost touch. I remember trying to
kill your father with a butter knife,
then, later, a spear
I honed with love and hate,
dark days by the river,
sunlight knifing my eyes.
Now your days have ended, sailing the Swan.
The whys rise up, arguments of our days ...
At the crematorium I watch my brother.
How much older he is now.
He sits straight-backed
in the front pew near your coffin,
and in his neck muscles I see
the weeping he won't allow.
Even before I was a teenager
I was a solitary boy. In our ti-tree hedge
I would sharpen my pen-knife, then
balance it on the edge of my hand,
finding its seesaw spot.
On windy nights
the almond tree¹s blossom
drifted like snow. At first light
my sister, brother and I
walked out and stood in it
barefoot. The cold feet of the dead.
I hugged my knife
in my dressing-gown pocket ...
Who can cut me down now?
I watch the river clear itself into the ocean.
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