The Venus of Willendorf

Immodest in broad daylight,
a ruddy-bellied woman bathes
at the public stand-pipe,
jubilant with water laughter
as we all stand and wait
with our buckets and bottles.
No one dares advance
an “Excuse me, miss.”
Rather, we watch soap foams
in her creases then, washed out
clean and black, she shines
like a new tyre tube.
The pipe runs on high,
a stream forms around
her tiny ankles, hidden
like stones or a boy’s marbles.
Not until she is fully dried,
her coarse hair brushed
violently to release water,
and her rag wrung twice,
does she step from the trough,
timidly balancing on
one foot while drying the other,
then shoves it in a push-toe
rubber slipper—she repeats
this, laughing, “O, Jesus, my body!”
Clean as a pimento tree
after rain, she gathers her pans,
paying us no mind, whistles home.

Bryan’s Bay Revisited

It was this beach, a rub-a-dub summer
night, the day-torched sand trampled
into a holy ground of bare feet, in the sultry
scent of herb smoke and roasted peanuts,
my father clung cool-and-deadly to my mother
in a haul-and-pull dance, the first time they met,
not easing off to take a piss or point fingers
at the sky, luminous with gun salutes.
They ended up in his beach-shanty, holey boards
stuffed with sand grains and newspapers.

It is an empty arena today, the fugitive sun
ramboes across the sky, and in the near horizon,
my father is falling into its arc, a buoy bobbing
like a woman forgotten on the dance floor,
sand on her heels, music slapping the leaves
of her hair, and as the breeze combs through mine,
I take off in one brisk gallop into the sea’s mouth,
sucking salt of all I know of the sea, of her wide
skirt, the holes of his merino straining red, gold,
and green, the hot spokes of their love, broken, turn.