The Pinkish Wine
from Hands on: a handbook for parents
Grandma was sick as a dog. Ruby said, I’ll go.
A supermarket bag ticked with
six cakes. You think, said Mum,
I’d let my only daughter walk those woods alone?
A spare daughter
might have fared
differently if she’d
existed. Mum put in a bottle of Chablis no Rosé on second
Grandma’s afternoon tea.
Sure enough on the path, a wolf.
Sick too, as it happened. Sick as a human.
A morsel, he whined, a drink, not too much to ask,
is it? Mum
scared him off with her famous fireplace snarl, white dust
on her tongue, evidence of something
lacking. A letter.
The wolf slunk off with his tail between
a broom, a boy’s
pocket-knifed toi toi.
Mum called after him, Don’t think you’ve got the monopoly on
warm-blooded and furry!
To Ruby: I can play the female-defending-young
card quite well. Mum and Ruby
continued on their way unhindered by anything apart from
Ruby’s MP3 player. The Ramones
on a leash, a tape-loop
the brain as an avenue
and light slatting in through the young pine trees
which made you think of all the previous occasions of sunlight.
Good thing I came along, said Mum. Considering
history. Ruby oblivious. Mum was
a film star with music tapping her on the shoulder
if only she could hear it.
It got annoying after a while
for Ruby (and for us).
Insects under Mum and Ruby’s feet flew up from the forest floor.
This is Your Life, a billion
episodes. Then fell gently
to biting. There were fantails following like paparazzi
that ate the insects that swallowed
the blood. Ruby and Mum walked on towards Grandma’s house
swatting the things and the things
on the soles of their shoes.
The path. The path!
her collection of fine dusts.
A bad habit, all these years.
Never you mind how I am, said Grandma. I just am.
Nothing you can do about it.
the visit, the cakes, their faces (all the round things).
Well all right I’ll drink to that.
And they drank
when Grandma asked her to go and get the whisky she had
a walk to the cabinet to get the whisky.
The prime minister is coming this afternoon. Helen.
Mum clicked her tongue over and over, a twig
Jesus (in fact talking to Ruby)
delusions of grandeur again! Grandma was
Did I Ruby?
No, said Ruby.
Mum looked sly. I thought you said you were sick.
I was but now I’m better.
Ruby said, Mum, don’t!
No really. All the way through the woods.
Fine fine, pines. Pines.
to the Christmas tree company? Can I
help it if the closer it gets to December the taller the trees are
sleeping under them.
Mind you who
It’s only the wine, said Ruby.
Thank you. I’ll thank you to keep out of this.
Fine with me. Don’t meet the prime minister.
coming back. We’re leaving this
Back through the woods. Mum on alert: watch out for
the wolf won’t you.
this is the Pacific. It’s bush and pedophiles.
Oh I know, don’t think I don’t read The Herald.
an anthology, the canon
even more reason.
but you know your grandmother
That’s all right.
What I was going to say, so damaging.
can talk about damage, utter the word
damage. At least you’re safe.
A high level of safety. I was never this safe. A miracle
I’m here to tell the tale.