Kate Waterhouse is co-editor of Motherlode: Australian Women’s Poetry 1986–2008 (Puncher & Wattmann, 2009). Until 2010, she lived in Sydney with her husband and three young daughters. She is currently living in Auckland, working on her accent and two poetry collections—one set in Australia and one in New Zealand, and on a second editing collaboration with Jennifer Harrison.
Cups (what is the sound of a mother breaking?)
all this mothering fills mine up but what about those whose cup got broken / no fault theirs / some damaged / father / mother / uncle / other trusted figure / institution (choose one) / cocking it up before the girl got her own shot at it / who comes in the night when she’s all done with pouring to lift the sob / howl from her throat / let it go like a wing and her baby with it / only a light space left / a feathered echo / where’s the compensation at 2am for theft of a good role model / who turns up in the place of a missing mother / grandmother / sister / functioning family unit / a class action’s clearly needed / think of the damages / diy security’s a difficult business / always demand outstripping supply / there you are carefully filling the cracks/papering over / three coats of the right paint / when the baby arrives in a jugful of milk and under that cup of yours there’s a dark pool and a suitcase waiting / my grandmother gave me a matching cup / saucer / plate set / fine bone china / she knew a thing or two before she laid all thirty of hers out on the stainless steel top / don’t cut on the bench / and fresh lamingtons waiting for the gang to come around before they went out on a boat long sunk / aunts and uncles ought not to fall out at times like that but grandma’s cup had a crack and some of my uncle was lost there in the first few flights of the mothering jug and it went the way of leftover milk at a tea party / I’d rather be the Queen of Hearts than Alice with a broken cup so next time you’re thinking / not thinking of her children / think of the cup and piss off to a cave / choose another portfolio / get some professional help / whatever / she’ll thank you for it
After the drought, a week of rain and the ground gives up its water. Obviating sleep I run alone through deep pools that bathe the roots of trees. Cloud, close like smoke, amplifies the whine of a 747 hulk ghosting in over Callan Park. Here clouds of leaves lie down on the past but a flaked sign speaks: You are now entering the grounds of an acute psychiatric hospital. This morning troubling no one – runners, cyclists, dogs all absent. Around King George Oval tall turpentines incline towards the north, the queue of planes immune to rain, lantana prettily strangling the undergrowth. Past Leichardt pool where the track breaks out to open ground a Noisy Miner hunches disconsolate in the casuarinas – a grove of them that twins this cove of idle fishing boats to a small Italian town; the rowing club locked, skiffs pulled out like prosthetic limbs, the persistence of water. Red-eyed, a gang of crows shadow a magpie chick abandoned by the path; anxiety, such a human concept, as in: the magpie waited anxiously while the crow looped across the grass sours the world that is, festers in what’s to come. My feet skim sunken ground, overhead another jet engine grinds through the rain, that crushes us with love.