How It Strikes a Neighbour
Down here is where the poet lived;
white-roofed now, but blue in her day.
She used to sit on the car pad,
staring across at Somes Island
where her father, Johnny (Johann)
was interned during World War 2 –
an alien ever after,
she always claimed; her hare-lipped smile.
No, you can’t go down. The current
owners tend to be, shall we say,
unfriendly. The sloping garden
is just as she left it: dwarf daffs,
the lemon trees, random pansies.
Stella was what she called herself.
It’s rumoured a leather notebook
of unpublished poems survives.
A niece or a nephew has it
and occasionally puts up
odd lines, phrases, on a website:
“The natural architecture
of trees”, for instance, and “I hold
your body’s soft against the cold”;
“Grey warblers practise their brief turn”
– like that one just now down the street.
“Unheimlich”, the title poem
of her single slim collection
(Longman Paul, 1975)
remains her anthology piece,
mostly for its final couplet:
“Love, so unheimlich in each part,
the true Voynichese of the heart” –
although what that means goodness knows.
That’s all I can tell you, really.
We were neighbours but never, shall
we say, friends; more on g’day terms.
Her body wasn’t found for a week.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Harry Ricketts teaches a creative nonfiction course (CREW 257) at the IIML. He has published around 30 books, including his Selected Poems which appeared from Victoria University Press in July 2021.