Three Poems

Perhaps They’ll Listen Now

It is June, 1889, and Vincent Van Gogh
is painting ‘Starry Night’, the view from his
sanatorium room. When I think of him,
he is drinking mugs and mugs of coffee,
smoking copiously and muttering
that his art is nothing but swirly crap.

Fast forward to June, 1971, and Don McLean
records ‘Vincent’, an soft acoustic number
for a starry, starry man. Don finger-
picks his guitar and recites the words
to a empty studio, later an eager audience.

February, 2014, and Mrs Mitchell’s P3;
some on their chairs, some on the floor,
delicately sing McLean’s song,
their tiny heads cocked up at the screen.
These cannot be the same voices
who made that racket all morning.

Vincent van Gogh will never hear his song,
will never know how these children sung for
an artist they will soon forget.
Still he paints at his window,
smoking copious cigarettes.

Primary 3 Reading Book

Squinty eyes narrow and a little head
peers close to the page, before
a jolt! – The reasonably long word
spits from his lips, ‘pa-pa-pationic!’
I give him the ‘not quite’ eyes,
which encourages the other children
to guess their variations on the word –
‘pantomime! panorama! paratrooper!’
I don’t think I knew patriotism at that age, either.
I offer a brief definition, something including
Djokovic failing to return Andy Murray’s forehand.

A Hot Summer’s Day

I step into the long grass
of this shining field and wade
through green shallows,
my arms splashing against the tide.
I dislodge a halo of sweat. I take off my hat
and fan cool swoops of air into my face.
Crickets converse incessantly,
even as the sun tells me it’s okay to sleep
in the middle of the day.


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