Afraid of falls?
We spent our childhoods upright. We rose asleep.
We rose silent, when our breaths were taken.
We sat on the mat, and were told to sit up.
There was so much to learn.
In the weekends, though, my brother
went into the bush behind the house
and he came back talking of the waterfalls.
Oh take me, take me to the waterfalls,
I promise not to fall.
Fruit fell. Whole lawns were carpeted!
Fell, and rotted where it fell.
In the end, we rose apart.
But I remember the waterfalls,
and I remember how the world was so much with us.
© Anna Jackson I, Clodia, and Other Portraits Auckland University Press, 2014
Anna is the Programme Director in the English Department at Victoria University. She has published five poetry collections, including Thicket, which was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Book Awards in 2011.
When I was little I found it strange that you could “sit up” or “sit down” and the sitting would still be the same either way. I’ve also always loved Chris Price’s poem “Rose and Fell” and how its title makes such a strangeness of the phrase “rise and fall” by placing it in the past tense. So this is a meditation on rising and falling, and on childhood as a time before a fall, when instead of falling asleep you might rise asleep, and keep on rising.
We lived in Titirangi until I was seven, and my brother did go into the bush, and he did come back talking about the waterfalls.
This poem is like a little sonata pivoting upon the word, ‘fell.’ Then again, it is as though a word, ‘fall,’ is elbowing a pinhole in the dark expanse of memory to let the light of childhood through. Playfully. Childhood becomes a riff on falling (and rising), and there is a delicate, addictive humour in the overlaying words (‘oh take me, take me to the waterfalls,/ I promise not to fall’). The image of the childhood wonder is made more pungent by the carpet of rotting fruit, the stench of abundance and plenty (time, dreams, play).
The book that contains the poem, Anna’s latest, lifts from the previous collections. It is a book of portraits, and here, in this example, the portrait of a child(hood) might be invented, misremembered, once lived, fleetingly real, achingly so. It was no easy task picking a poem that stood out for me in this book (I am waiting to get a copy of Catallus so I can follow Anna’s reading map as I reread the poems to review). The lift and play of each line is glorious, the image equally so. I have donned the cotton dress of my younger self and the lift and fall moves beyond the gold nugget for ear and eye to that of elusive self. A little sonata that haunts and plays again.
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