A Minor Key

(Listen to poem here)



IMG_0604.pngWhen looking back, I found my days
lay tangled in untidy heaps,
like unassorted clothes,
just washed but with the colours run.
As when there’s one thing
which turns everything to pinks or blues
my wednesdays, thurs and fries
looked just the same as all my tues—
a slush in retrospect,
perhaps a glimmer here and there,
but all the rest unfeatured, unremarked,
an epidemic of unending undays.
So, on the first day of the year,
upon a shore,
I found a stone and threw it in the sea
and told myself that each day I would
take one picture in my head
and keep it polished
so that they’d all shine bright
as markers in the fog between my nights.
And now you ask what did I do
this first month of the year.
Well, I suppose I would have said
that mostly I recall
I slept and ached
and pined and worried,
tried to remember
and fretfully attempted to forget.
But then
I stumble on my picture treasure chest.
It starts one winter noon—
the Adriatic green, a thickly newly poured and
frozen paint. Above the line the sky
starts from
three clouds, identical
in shape,
like corncob pipes.
In size, one large,
one in between, one small.
Below, almost about to disappear,
a ship and, flying out to it,
swaying inside a
quaking carpet of unrolling wind,
a train of birds.
Next come some rusty pears
and apples inside a wooden bowl;
a Rothko painting, only red on black,
the paint which somehow moves
from place to place;
a calendar which read December 39th;
a dog obstructing flow,
stranded in halfway street
between two billowing smells;
the travelling sky at dawn
outside my window only
minutes from my bed and sleep;
a girl upon a bridge shaking her worries
from her head into a spray of auburn hair;
a photograph from 1938,
ten gazes, none the same,
intense enough combined
to keep the future hovering, still
an inch beyond the frame.
And then,
my newest friend
a demoiselle of ten, aglow with smile
as she ran up to say her first hello.
A downsideup bird in a tree.
A waterfall I stared at long enough
my mind just turned to drops.
A greeting which was honey for my soul.
A Dayak hornbill carving, like
a shriek of wood.
A seagull landing on a car just next to me
to wait together for the fishmonger to start his day.
The dance and song of rain
upon the roof tiles over which I
swung my feet.
And last of all a boy from Africa
spinning a pirouette so
sudden and so
bold it stunned a room
and made us catch our breath,
like when you accidentally realise
you’ve seen a month of minor miracles.

                                                                Phillip Hill 2007

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(This poem is included in my book The Observation Car which is available from

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