States of Poetry 2017 - ACT | 'After Reming' by Merlinda Bobis

After Reming

Super typhoon 2006

‘Purple.
Unlike any that I’ve seen,’
Mother says.
‘Behind an iron gate
beside an immense hole
on the ground,
but no house.’

She pauses,
and I’m suddenly
beside the purple
behind the gate
in the hole
in the house,
led by the definite article,
thus definitively placed:

it is no accident,
this urge of composition,
as in the writing
of a poem
when I compose myself
into the loss of strangers –
as if there was this hole,
this space reserved for me.

Around it,
the presuming poet builds:
it’s the purple of bruises
after the boulders
the purple of the drowned
after the mudflow
the purple of death

after the storm conspired
with the surge from the Pacific
the lahar from the volcano
after the earth became a whirlpool
that smelt of sulphur.
And so I fill the hole,

I frame it,
lay out the scene,
line by line,
body by body
in that disappeared house:
a father, a mother, a daughter, a son
turning purple underground –

but I am halted,
as Mother resumes
her awe. ‘A purple
hibiscus, a new bud
behind a gate beside a hole
that used to be a house.’
Her whisper is deep,
unreachable.

Then she returns,
frames me in the evening light.
‘I doubt if you’d believe it,
you were not here.’
She pauses again and smiles,
‘But I’m glad you had a safe
trip from Australia.’

Merlinda Bobis

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