I am delighted to share fellow Tuesday Poet Leah McMenamin’s poem ‘Under the House’ this week. Leah is a talented poet and poetry editor for The Open Road Review from Wellington, whose poetry I have been lucky enough to publish in The Typewriter (Volume IV) (see here for her Typewriter poem, ‘Acclimatising’). This week’s Tuesday Poem was first published in Takahe earlier this year, and Leah was kind enough to allow me to reproduce and share it here. What I love about this poem is the surrealism that it commits to – there is an expansiveness and a wildness contained within it that is enigmatic, intoxicating and enabling.
Under the House
There is a house across the road from me.
It is old, but nothing a fresh lick of paint
and a gardener couldn’t deal with.
But that is not our concern.
I crawled underneath the house as a young child,
and I found a subterranean heaven.
Past the fungi growing in the damp soil,
I put my hands on hot sand
and there was an orange sun glowing on me,
I crawled further and I was beneath
a molten sky which smelled of moss.
I could almost touch it,
but it seemed too fragile.
I was scared of the Chicken Little story.
I lay flat on my stomach
and heat rose against my cheek,
I felt the weight of gold
in my stomach.
Strange animals passed before my eyes,
flickering of the fragile but tangible,
like the animal shapes my nightlight made
when mother turned it on at night.
There were miniature oases
and I was a giant.
I splashed my hands in the water,
disturbing tropical fish.
I was the wind
and I could topple the palm trees.
I was powerful.
Further in a wooden face spoke to me,
his features distorted by age
so it appeared as if he had only one eye
and a mouth slashed to the side.
He told me about the stars
and the correct handling of a pineapple.
He spoke to me in soft, soft tones
and then performed a magic trick.
He told me to clench my right fist tightly,
so tight my knuckles were white,
and then release it.
He told it me my hand was a rose
and it was,
blossoming before my eyes with colours ranging from
curdled milk on my knuckles,
apricot across my palm,
to the sofest pink in my fingertips.
He told me to go home afterwards,
and I crawled back outside.
It was dark, and my mother was calling.
She was angry,
and I felt she was jealous of my kingdom.
She banned me from returning,
she exiled me.
I dreamt of the wooden man every night
but he never spoke again.
Even when I begged him
not to leave me alone under the harsh moonlight here,
he never came back.
I never found him again.
Leah blogs at Orange Afternoon Lover, where you can find her Tuesday Poem pick for this week, as well as all sorts of other literary gems. Please do check out the rest of the Tuesday Poems on offer this week at the hub and make a little time for some New Zealand poetry from Fiona Kidman.