Esther Phillips: “How does the heart recover from the lives we’ve met and touched?”

Paper cutouts in the snow_February 2015_Toronto Canada

Esther Phillips (Barbados, born 1950)
My Brother
A little boy ran down
the road with a roller,
his magic metal wand
striking mirrored
memories of you,
my brother.
How often did your
bare feet hammer
your frustration into
this hot tar, insistent
hands striking, every
lash echoing your own pain,
willing with furrowed brow
and glinting tears the roller
to go straight, for so might
your own stifled dreams
one day run straight and true?
What gadgets do you play with now,
Time machines? Computers?
Do you drive your high-
powered car with surer aim
down paved highways,
your eyes glinting blood and steel
so that I hardly know you?
For a moment now you’re pushing
your roller back down the road.
But as it swerves off-course,
I rescue it for you
I right it for you
I hand it back to you
and you smile at me.
. . .
Unwritten Poem
You never gave me time
to write your poem.
I needed time to know you:
the fledgling husband playing
his unaccustomed role,
no model given from the past;
your hip-hop scene, what lines
or rhythms hooked your soul
until you felt all that was earth
and heaven pulsed within this music;
what zeal, what rebel songs
ignited you, your manhood,
your secret passions into being.
When should I have written your poem?
The day of your wedding?
when you, handsome in tuxedo,
took her hand and swore
that you would love her always?
Would it have been the day
you placed my grandchild in my arms?
For in that very moment, my heart
would have soared upwards.
Or when we strolled the summer
morning in the woods, and laughed
at makeshift walking sticks,
cleared a few vines, picked
some wildflowers for my daughter,
talked of dirt-bikes, old relics,
nothing in particular;
just glad a woman and her son-in-law
could have no discord.
Should it have been the night
I stood behind your sleeping form
and prayed with all the fervour of my heart,
my right hand stretched towards you?
And deep in your unconscious sleep,
you stretched your right hand out
and held it still, suspended, under mine.
I did not speak for fear of waking you,
nor could you see me in the darkness
where I stood. I never will forget
the strange, transcendent moment.
But now you’re gone,
and all the hopes I cherished, prized,
will flourish in the gaze of someone else’s eyes.
How does the heart recover from the lives
we’ve met and touched? So little time,
so little time, yet loved so much.
. . .
From: The Stone Gatherer, published by Peepal Tree Press © Esther Phillips 2009
. . . . .