Helen Hagemann has poetry published in Australian literary magazines and anthologies. In 2009, her first collection, Evangelyne & other poems, was published by the Australian Poetry Centre in their New Poets Series.
Perth Zoo Carousel
In a cross-section of fairy penguins & café,
a merry-go-round, creaking in the wind,
surges under a crackling switch.
Black & white horses, two abreast, dip & rise
as marionettes might do when pulled & released
from a platform of strings.
This merry-go-round is an instrument of grace;
a diorama of pastels, cut glass, carved figurines.
Music chimes from gilded mirrors, from fresh
blooms of art deco that move with you.
Appalachians in pine twist on brass poles,
gallop towards horsehair tails & stirrups ahead.
At the bottom of the garden, in a final clown roll,
my son wanders to the carousel. His tiny legs
like clappers in his sailor suit, held high
in the turning of this enamoured toy.
At twelve months, he can only watch boys & girls
on the oom-pa-pa saddles, some peering round
mirrored corners, let loose in whinnies & neighs.
At twenty-eight months, we deliver him again
to the roundabout’s ivy mirrors, egrets in paint,
theatre platform, the first white horse he sees.
He will not let go, blazing his boots in the saddle,
my palms resting on his hips. His face pink & close,
he chuckles at each turn, at the fairy-floss man,
says ‘horsey’ & ‘duck’, riding the familiar.
In the final chorus of brass cymbals,
& Wurlitzer, my son clutches Silver’s neck;
his warm tracksuit in a voice of love,
and jockeying devoted hands into place,
whips up the story of a boy riding.
Grandmother & Granddaughter Poem
When my grandmother was frail,
not knowing it was cancer,
we’d sit in bed, facing each other;
two pillows at cornered walls, a toddy beside.
Gran would lift the lid of a brown suitcase,
where apart from a silver wink in her eye,
she’d show fifty-percent of her life.
Nutmeg, cinnamon & ginger bartered in Malay stalls
at Paddy’s Markets, their spicy air arriving.
Tucked in newspaper: textiles, tablecloths, napkins,
slippers wedged together, a finery of nylon hose.
We’d go deeper & deeper, down into the suitcase,
Gran’s fingers tinkling glass buttons, pins, cotton reels.
Unpacking a day’s shopping, she’d lift my lips to sparkle
them candy-apple pink, round my cheeks with a light
touch of rouge; us mouthing ‘O’s’ like clowns in glass.
Gran just had her pills, so she prided herself with a new perm,
how her body warmed under a flannel shirt of her making.
Like those clowns we’d laugh at Gran’s bedside teeth,
coming out like stars. And she’d bequeath me
more of her life. I knew she was happy, passing me
spindles of Ric-rac, ribbon, guipure lace; our hands
aglitter in bells & reindeers woven into braid.
She eased paper patterns from covers, kept material
when a bride. Citron pillow slips from her marriage bed,
now smelling of naphthalene, frayed at the edges;
her pale fingers, lucent as ice, shaking on the perfect
blue satin stitch of forget-me-nots.