Robert Smith Month
raised itself up, black and barbed.
Lips curled at one edge
and bled Ruby Woo red
and Roberts jaywalked like crows
in the back streets
in closed jackets. When we called their names, sheet lightning faces
looked back over shoulders, eyes questing; looked away.
Robert Smith Month had come too soon.
to understand — to get under the creaky leather jackets
and into the creaky hearts inside
to kiss better the open wound that was a mouth
to warm the skin
but they always looked away and walked on,
devastating the streets
casting bitter cabbage tree shadows.
except spring. We lay awake
at night, our hearts
crouched like cold bulbs in the dirt.
Robert Smith Month had only just begun
and the birds wouldn’t sing.
Five O’clock Mum
when a schoolbag’s strap caught her ankle
like a lasso. She went down fast.
Yes, she remembers opening her eyes
when struck down:
those boys’ hanging faces
rokku and ojiisan, a drawing of a blue dog, and a photo
of some girls in Nagasaki, their sister city.
Three grinning boys had made a crane
and winched her to her feet.
To get up is a triumph, she says,
to be upright is to be the tallest person in the room;
to move is to make anything in the world, if it were a classroom, possible
you’ve grown: the business of having legs and feet,
finding your head among paper horses and fish
drifting on strings,
and being supposed to tell people
the words for rock music and granddad.
rests upright in her hands. Her face is full
of lines today; a smile keeps catching on them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashleigh Young is a writer and editor who lives in Wellington. She is a contributor to the New Zealand Book Council quarterly Booknotes and a poet in fits and starts. ‘Robert Smith Month’ was written as an ode to the frontman of the band The Cure. ‘Five O’clock Mum’ was written after falling over in the street.