Poems by Cath Kenneally

jump rope for heart

(after Janet Charman: set point)
milk-emulsion sky above
ghost-image sun
strung out, I ride along
flailing, discomposed
I know the drill
one-two-three, one-two-
it’s a synchronised swim
a skipping game, right?
just a few small pricks
keep the ball in play
in the case
of the dog
three yards   over
he thinks it’s curtains
when the gate
swings to
each morning’s desertion unhinges him
his choking howls
wasted                        on no-nonsense Nonna
business to see to            muttering
my old buddy
what do you say?
filling Pappa’s top-hat with seasonal berries
my troll-cup can always force a smile
a moomin lady and her handbag
are never separated
she’s humming
a rosebud
held between her ears
fruit trees and beehives
the moomins make apple cheese
in the autumn air
Mamma keeps Granny’s book of potions
on the cup’s far side
she hurls a ball
clutching her bag with her free paw
less comfortable in this pose
but doing it for Moomintroll, her boy
the cup a gift from my moomin, for the record
what matter if
a grey afternoon takes the boys with it
gone with the hattifatteners
interested only in travelling onwards
over “the absolute and enormous sea”
Pappa will wake
on a stormy island
turn the skiff
plying oars towards “his family
and his verandah”
his Isolde
Hello, sunshine
sit bolt upright, staring
time to give your night-self the brushoff
let her go            the murderer’s
accomplice, swinging from the handrail
of a bus, recoiling
from what Katy did
expunge her
though rags of dream get tangled
in the master-plot            claw their way back
we’re seeking spells
Moominmamma reads:
… Evil Eye.
Colds. No.
‘If people start getting misty and difficult to see.’ Good.”
sheep, sheep, come home
the wolf’s gone to Devonshire
and won’t be back for seven years
 so sheep, sheep, come home
They skive off
over the hill
a little cough-mixture, maestro, please
sun moves up the sky, bellied
on mashed-potato cloud
absent yesterday
and through the gap despondency came in
wrapping your efforts in muddy clouts
weighing up the day’s handiwork
as nothing
urn burial, this way
yet Cynthia at seventy
goes nursing
devotes herself to
spreading ease
her grasp
of tin-tacks
This pen I hold
has journeyed far
beyond where it belongs
Country Roads
Motor Inn
no shit
while Gondwana strains
to stay above the sea
in the heaving southern swell
humpbacks pause for an unscheduled feed
shoot plumes
flick us a wave                        lump-sums
they scoot before we get their number


Island Queen
The bus is for thinking, thinking, or pretending to. I find I’m thinking,
wow, driver, you’re burling along.             Burling?
Jen’s poem’s open on my lap about the sadness of a father’s death
which turns itself into a boy’s illness that ultimately declares its origins
like a path uncovered in digging up the garden
a wonderful cyclical poem that takes half an hour to read
as long as the bus ride, with gazing out of the window at the flying houses
She lives in a men’s house, sole woman among four, who once preferred
boys to girls: “that’s changed, though I still envy them their shirts”
Yes, I try to wear men’s shirts, but they don’t sit well
I envy small-chested women, Jen being one
Burling, burling through the back streets home
The Rocky Shore is what she’s called her poem,             witty, wandering,
“I don’t want to repeat myself but I do,” she says, repeatedly
Jen’s oldest, apart from stepson Jack, Felix, now walks ahead of her and Carlo,
won’t be seen keeping company with his mother and kid brother
She never thought that would happen but it has
Felix still lets her kiss him goodbye
Once, when my eldest was five, his teacher left him behind in the Botanical Gardens, after an excursion, collected the others, took them back to school in the bus
My mother arrived to collect him and discovered the oversight
drove back to the Gardens and found him, a boy among trees
I will never know what he was thinking, a lay equivalent of the moment
Gerard Windsor notes, waiting while his son made his First Confession
I think of Yuri in London surrounded by a forest of buildings
a boy among glass trees, though provided now with a bicycle
to make his own way home along Regent Canal, burling along,
thinking, maybe, of his mother thinking of him
Skirting the rocky shore as Jen’s mob do, going with the flow
making landfall safely, for a waterside beer
in the Island Queen

Notes: The Moomintroll family, created by Tove Jansson, now appear on Finlandia ceramics. “Jump Rope for Heart” is excerpted from the unpublished manuscript
eaten cold, replying to Janet Charman’s poems in Cold Snack (AUP, 2007). “Island Queen” is excerpted from Thirty Days’ Notice (Wakefield Press, 2012).