8 o’clock. I’m sitting here in my trackies with a cold beer and watching Vikings with my husband while the last of today’s sunshine fades from the sky and the last hours of 2020 dwindle into darkness as the calendar shifts to 2021 and sporadic fireworks begin to crackle.
I’d like to see the year out with a poem. It’s one I wrote a few years ago in a writing workshop where we were asked to write poems from the point of view of a child living a very different life to our own. Try it yourself – you can be whoever you want. As a kid, I enjoyed reading ancient Greek myths and legends, and this poem is a response to one of them.
The Chrysos Spell
The King wished to hug me once.
He was a whisper away.
I could smell his metal breath.
His fingers stretched out to me,
long and brittle as carob fruit.
Did I really hear his knees creak
like timbers swollen by summer?
His eyes sought for mine, brassy
with a sheen of old coins.
Every pore in his skin glistened
like sand under noonday sun.
Yet his breath was as cold as Medusa.
He was young by the seasons, my father,
but a wizened, olive-husk of a man.
We lifted our palms, closer, closer,
until just an air-ribbon lay between.
My name was a ghost in his mouth.
And he turned away, left me besieged
by the screams of our slaves.
My mother touched every inch of me,
but I was still all flesh, bone and beating heart.
I watched him from my window that night,
pacing the olive grove in moonlight.
His sandal broke – he stumbled, barefoot,
and I saw the grass he touched with his sole.
It glowed: as hard as diamonds, fierce as flames.
As gold as his crown.
Commended in 2012 NZPS international poetry competition