Clara Elizabeth Lampe was not married to my grandfather,
I found this from her death certificate 30 years after she fell backwards
Into my mother’s arms while putting a jar of Vegemite into an ice safe.
She slept in my room for 6 months each year, a snoring
Farting belching hump in the centre of an old iron bed:
At night the ghosts in the corner whispered her name,
& I hid beneath the sheets & folded myself into the dark silence.
When I hit the spoiled son of the local stock & station agent with a stone
His parents came in their suits, confident & sure of their punitive power.
God was with me, or rather Clara Lampe, whose name meant lamb
But she was a lion with a broom so they retreated & never returned.
On Sundays she never went to church but took me walking
So I followed her expansive buttocks out past the iron mosque.
As we climbed the hills she swiped the air to break the spider webs.
We sat on the white rocks chewing cold dumplings
& staring down the sneering crows.
When she was around, my mother had a migraine & my father stayed out,
While my sister remained in her room or sought escape at the movies.
When her body lurched onto the train to travel to my aunt in Sydney,
They suppressed a cheer because I was there & she would be back.
When she died I was the last person left on earth who loved her
But I was not allowed to grieve the cold weight of her remains.
At school I watched the light glide around the empty sky.
Today the light danced again & I write now for her nameless grave.
Rae Desmond Jones
Steel worker, jackhammer labourer, crane dogman, student, employment bureaucrat, high school teacher, community activist, local government councillor and ultimately Mayor, Rae Desmond Jones (1941-) has had a life parallel to poetry like very few in Australia. A major player in the 70s, after publishing two novels he returned to poetry this century with his New and Selected volume It Comes from All Directions published this year. He may write in a realist tradition but one very much on his terms.