Familiar


It is hard to know what is innocent, 
	and what is ominous.

The black cat with an eye no bigger than a penny.
A tap left running for days on end.
There is no such thing as ethical leather.

A woman of the church laughs behind her broom
secretly, 
as she spies the dog with three legs only.
His chequered coat is so very quaint,
as he hobbles like a lamb shank.

And days pass by that toy shop window, 
With wooden tracks and paper dolls to excite the child.
I see bin lids rattle by the back door,
as the toy-train painter stumbles sheepishly.
	One loaf in his pocket.

Until the day he tips turpentine instead of milk,
into his morning coffee.

The glacé cherries the girl eats straight from the jar;
unaware of her mother returning home.
	Laughing at her hands
In nothing but a coat.
She rolls marzipan on a plastic table.

The playing cards I burned in my room.
But was too afraid to show anyone.

© Eve Redwater 2012

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26 thoughts on “Familiar

  1. Once again, a wonderfully sustained, unforced yet poignant mood, and some beautiful lines, ‘no such thing as ethical leather’ to name but one. And yes, I agree with MM above but I think I have read most of your poems and this is definitely one of my favourites. ‘hobbles like a lamp shank’ – like that too!

  2. Eating cherries, I was wondering what the relevance of the mother returning home – until she’s eating them in nothing but a coat – love the twist and turns all the way through. Poor chap – I’m often without milk for my tea but terps ?!?! 🙂

  3. Hi Eve. This poem reveals and keeps us honest. Like the first part of your first line says: “It is hard to know.” So much is beneath a lid or behind a door to a room, or under a glaze or a coat or a coat that is paint. A leg missing and water wasting, but no one to explain. So much is kept from us. And so much we hide…All that’s in there, but i think your poem mostly speaks to what we’d rather not know. Again, this time in a different sense: “It is hard to know.”

    Thank you for writing and posting this.

    • Very true Kathryn, your observations are concrete. “I think your poem mostly speaks to what we’d rather not know.” – is right on the money. Thank you for your lovely comment. 🙂

  4. The playing cards I burned in my room

    I love how this line encapsulates the contrasts within the whole poem. Cards meant for play that turn deadly, or are violently destroyed by the player.

  5. The everyday is laden with all sort of dark recesses and swampy grounds; the way that those closest to us sometimes seem the most alien, so the familiar has this other, strange face. Your contrasts are sharply drawn and disturbing. – Brendan

  6. this is a wonderful verse…lots of great textures…the turpentine in the coffee was a great touch and nice coming back to the persoanl with the playing cards as well…it is hard to tell you know…smiles.

  7. I read this poem thrice: The first time, not knowing what you would be writing, I read all the way through, to absorb it all. The second time, I imagined every image as innocent. The third time, I imagined reading every image as ominous. What an experience! ….This is the first poem I’ve read of yours, but I’ll be sure to return again!

  8. The scene with “nothing but a coat” seems to me powerfully ambiguous, I picture perhaps the mother coming home in only a coat (as though she has some odd kind of sex job) or the daughter, who then would seem quite abandoned, in a house with a fridge holding only cherries. I imagined the cards to be used in fortune-telling with terrible results. It’s amazing how quickly all the characters in this destabilized world demand (and deserve) our sympathy.

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