The vines twisted around the pergola
in my grandmother’s backyard
were gnarled and old;
the afternoon heat unbearable.
But when evening came
the sea breeze wafted through
and we’d sit outside drinking beer or wine
until darkness fell.
Inside the bluestone house,
the temperature never rose;
afternoons I’d fold
into a comfy chair,
frosty Southwark Bitter in hand,
and watch Test cricket on TV.
Or else I’d lounge in the parlour,
on the carpet, near the piano,
leafing through sheet music like “Ramona”,
a South Sea maiden on its sepia title page.
On the wall was a hand-tinted photo
of my step-grandfather in soldier garb,
blue-eyed and full of vigour,
taken before New Guinea.
Now he’d be coughing
in the next room, battling
emphysema and losing.
That summer at my grandmother’s,
I’d bought Kate Bush’s Lionheart LP.
Flame-haired English beauty Kate
posed on the cover in a lionsuit,
a pantomime lion head nearby.
A song on her record
was the summer’s refrain:
“Oh England, my lionheart,
I’m in your garden
fading fast in your arms …”
(First published in Platform, Issue 6, June 2010, Victoria University; then in the book-length collection, Lionheart Summer, Picaro Press, 2011, now available in reprint, Ginninderra Press, 2018)