Acrylics on canvas, P van Rijswijk
THE FROGS SANG ME BACK
Today I let the music in, and remembered
how it softens the cicada-husk of you,
the way sleep does;
how it quiets the circling animal within
the way rutting does;
how music makes the borders around things clear
as though, suddenly, the clumsy hand that colours your life in
learns to stay inside the lines.
Music nectars your half-lit bedroom
until it seems full of an amber chicle.
I recall the first mad months after he left-
my baby daughter would ever so carefully
make up my bed, while I lathered and slathered in lavender.
She would plump hand-stitched pillows and arrange
a sprig of wild fuchsia or a wattle switch, fuzzed with wool,
and when she had put me dumbly to bed,
she would twitch the frog-music on.
My sister had sent it from Rum Jungle,
and to me, it was the tropics,
it was that dry-cleaner steaminess,
and it was those big glycerine drops that slide
off the greasy leaves of rubber trees.
The music was the sound of the little myopic frogs,
like tender jade buddhas, whistling in the dark;
it was the heady come-hither stink of mosquito coils,
and the white fluff left behind in your bed by geckos
that curled up like sardine-can lids from the timber ribs
of a donga built like an umbrella.
Every night, I fell asleep to the mystic drugging of the frogs,
until my daughters could stand the zombie droning no longer.
In that soporific sound, there were the leafy depths of the big wet-
a cyclone-sodden benignity;
the spiraling of a bamboo flute touched with spit;
the dark echoings of a thousand amphibians trapped in the gloom.
Now, released at last from that coma of grief,
I fall asleep to the worry-bead shuffling of the hot-water-heater
and the distant tinkling of tiny temperate frogs,
brown and sober in the sedges.
Now, the night is no longer a subterranean narcolepsy
that fills me with terror.
I no longer wake with dream-tears
on my sleep-branded cheek.
A scrubbed, fresh-painted light washes my room
These days, I sometimes sleep alone
in an empty house
how it rings with the lusty singing of dignity.