Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Tuesday Poem

cigarette smoke in the rain
We were together two months; May,
June ‘73. He was funny, could be 
tender, boyish, but felt the misfit

of islands, culture, climate; and his eyes
after drinking became bloodshot pokers,
his guitar-picking hands, hard fists

to fling a kitten against a wall, bash 
taxi drivers, me. Even now, just the smell 
of cigarette smoke in the rain is enough 

to jolt me back to that bus-ride one wet day 
out to St Clair beach for him to find some familiarity
in the sea’s lap. As always, people looking at us 

as we got on the bus, this Maori boy from Auckland 
with the Southland blonde. He hated it, 
the surf’s cold spittle, its frosty haze. 

And even as he said he loved me, hated
my advantages of freckled skin, of place, 
of peace. He wore a light-blue, woollen hat 

pulled hard down, jeans tucked tight 
into rugby socks and black, laced-up bovver boots. 
We caught the next bus back. Hardly said a word.

Kay McKenzie Cooke


Unknown said...

I'm with you all the way. Wonderful writing.

Unknown said...

I'm with you all the way. Wonderful writing.

Helen Lowe said...

A very strong poem, Kay. Ah, and how I remember the chill and haze of St Clair beach, although I have always loved it ... but then, my mother's family is from Puketeraki so it's in the blood and in the bones, ay.

Penelope said...

Strong, yes. I love 'the surf's cold spittle, its frosty haze.' Thanks, Kay.

Kathleen Jones said...

Really liked this Kay. What you don't say is just as important and 'present' in the poem as what you do. Great!

richardg said...

Kay, i can feel the tension between the two of you.
Brilliant images and brilliant ending.Keep it up.

Catherine said...

I think you've posted this one before? I enjoyed it just as much the second time round, if "enjoy" is the right word for a recounting of what must have been painful in some ways.

rel said...

Sometimes love isn't quite enough.
And then just the smell of cigarette smoke in the rain is.

Di said...

Exquisite! You capture, describe, present, portray, gift us the idea and the feeling of it, so deeply.

Kay Cooke said...

Joan- Thanks very much. It's a poem from my book 'made for weather'.

Helen - Thanks.I must look up Puketeraki - never heard of it but I am presuming it is coastal? Once the coast is in your blood it's there for life.

Pen - Thanks - St Clair beach in winter when you are young and going thru a very bad time (or not!) is certainly memorable.

KAthleen - Thanks so much - I am pleased you can sense that in the poem.

Richard - Thanks very much. There was certainly tension - and a certain amount of bewilderment on my part. (I was very young at the time that I write about.)

Catherine - To be honest, I can't remember what I've posted now. But I have a sneaking feeling that I might have posted this one before, yes.

onblacksheep - Thanks for the award!

rel - Yes that description about sums it up - I like your summary.

Di - Oh thank you - I love how you put it.

Becky Willis Motew said...

Wow, powerful stuff, Kay. I have it here. Thanks for it again.

harvey said...

Magnificent word picture.

Lydia said...

Here via Di's blog...

I'm shaken by this poem. From the first I sensed a similarity with my ex-husband, who, when I met him in 1973, seemed funny and boyish in spite of just completing a four-year tour in Vietnam.....where, on board a Navy ship, he taught himself to play guitar and where he stuffed a horrid anger deep inside him that emerged twice that I personally know of...when he killed our twin polydactyl kittens by throwing them at the walls and stomping them to death. I was not home either time and he said these were accidents, but later admitted to what he did.
And a few years later when we moved to the Pacific Northwest, oh, how he hated it: the rain, the fog...talking incessantly about going back to his home in Texas, which he did after our divorce.

I don't think I could write a poem about him and that awful time, although I did write my only short story about it. You see, you wrote the poem for me. I am awestruck by this synchronicity.

Kay Cooke said...

Becky - Thanks! (You know, I have a yen to re-read 'Coupon Girl' again too - just because I remember it so fondly and I love the humour in it. Can't wait for your next novel!)

Harvey - Thanks. I'm glad.

Erin Davis said...

This is such a strong poem. Lydia recommended your blog to me, and I'm so glad she did. Your work is wonderful.

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