Fiona Ritchie Walker

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Poems

The first poem was published on the Diamond Twig website to mark International Women's Day 2011.

 

Evaluation

When I ask her age she shrugs.

She is very old, her neighbour says.

The translator raises the palms of his hands.

 

Maybe we can calculate

using dates they remember.

A flood, fire, even times of violence.

 

So I sit while they discuss

happenings in their village and country,

then write in my notebook

about 50.

 

Jackfruit

 

On the first day of the honey month he buys me jackfruit,

places it on the ledge of our bedroom window.

 

The same day, while he is working, she phones our home,

says his name, sweet like his mother's tea.

 

I hear her breath draw back sharp

through her reddened lips as my own voice replies.

 

On the third day of the honey month I wait for him

to tell me of the letter but his voice stays silent.

 

The jackfruit sits like a green spiked pig, watching

his empty side of the bed. I count minutes towards daylight.

 

In our room the smell begins to change. From the ledge rises

the warm decay that signals ripe fruit within.

 

On the tenth day of the honey month he tells me

I am lazy and ungrateful. I have wasted his generous gift.

 

Its soft, milky moons, fragrant like the nights he promised,

are now rotting round their slimy stones.

 

 (First published in New Writing Scotland) 

 

 

 I Loved the Old Festival Hall Toilets

 

Because they weren't well sign-posted

so there was never a queue.

 

Because of their honeyed wood walls

scented with Max Factor compacts.

 

Because I warmed to the pitted taps

that scalded my winter hands

 

and learned how to make the toilet chain

begin a reluctant flush.

 

Because of the mirrors,

jewelled by generations of lacquered perms,

 

their dull fluorescence

never reflecting wrinkles.

 

Because of my mother's voice

when I told her where I was

 

and found her stiletto imprints

in the dark linoleum.

 

(The renovated Festival Hall is nice but it's lost a lot of its charm, and the downstairs loos were like stepping back in time - fabulous.)

 

 

He Tells Me

 

Dream yourself back before birth.

Reappear as a kite

reckless with harlequin colours

and a ribbon, slippy with unravelling.

 

Live in another language.

Translate the past

and arrange by syllables.

 

Even the smallest word

has its own hue,

a place within the rainbow.

 

Memories lie

like seeds in cold earth

with no set time or season.

 

Remember how you taught yourself

to love the taste of olives.

 

Published in Rowing Home, an anthology in support of Cruse, and Ten Years On, by New Writing North.

 

 

Wedding Anniversary on the North Sea

 

You were ill in the Commodore Suite.

The wind outside was a violin.

I took a book and your coat

to the top deck bar.

 

The wreath sat on a chair

like a sailor's hat

until the singing started and

I followed the crowd outside.

 

Someone handed me a hymn sheet

in a language I did not know.

Next to me a man wiped his eyes,

a woman cried.

 

Someone rang a bell,

one note, repeated into the grey,

that carried the wreath

to the white-flecked sea.

 

I was veiled with spray

by the last amen,

returned to tell of my morning,

while you kissed salt from my hand.

 

 

This was one of the "also placed" poems in one of the Mslexia poetry competitions.