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Cherry

for Peter Munro

The usual is not the usual – you
who didn’t ask to be

here, squeezed between
the Toshiba TV and the refrigerator

leaking Budweiser – you
move as if to retrieve the missing

styrofoam cup branded with one word:
tough.

*

Your caress catalogues that archaeological site, her body:

Under seven layers of skin
dust: under six layers

the fossilised probiscus of a mosquito.
Under five layers

the slave Briseis’ pubic hair:
under four layers

the fingerprints of her captors.
Under three layers

the refrain of a nursery rhyme:
under two layers

the jingle for a cosmetics company.
Under one layer

nothing but.

*

A grass-blade between your teeth
you try to recall schoolbook verses

and the white socks of that novice in the third row
thirty years ago – what was her pet-name?

Your trousers burred with cherry, you know the girl
fell for another the summer after. No matter

the bell-tower rings you both to assembly.

*

That first winter together
windblown cherry. You

raking pack snow to the timbrel’s rattle
and the shudder of (the shudder of)

an overworked mare. Hoar-frost
on her dropped handkerchief. You

chewing sleet, tobacco
and a marriage proposal –

the more you declare
the less you possess.

*

her yes separates torso from shadow
desire from memory

no and then
again – the refusal producing the past

as a bride takes the veil
does she blush? snowdrop

tense as a pool while the stone
descends through air

dead, her face is glazed
stoneware rather than Mosaic

clearer than the call of this boy
falling into remorse

she remembers whatever
she cannot see

before the fact – before
he has made a splash

with one blown kiss

with one blown kiss

Late 1999, Faulder Avenue – early 2000, Kingsley Street, Auckland

 


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