Tuesday Poem: ‘picking up feathers’ by Kay McKenzie Cooke

You want to make things
- sew a home-made skirt
from my green pinny, make me
a herb garden – which
you achieved on one of our more
windless autumn days
before you both left, you and my son
pushing the plants you bought
into earth – corriander,
parsley, mint and one
you didn’t know the English word for

until we got out our English-German
Dictionary, discovered it was rocket;
in German, Rucola. You make a chain
of daisies for the van, for good luck.
You want to make feather earrings.
You want to see all
of New Zealand. You were eight
when the Wall came down.
You tell me bits
about your childhood
on the Baltic coast,

about your parents’ old car
a Trabant. A Trabant? I said,
Funny – my Grandad’s car,
the one he owned
just before he died,
I’m pretty sure was a Trabant.
What colour was your one?
Light blue, you said. I said, Same!
But they were all that colour,
you said, light-blue
and made from paper.

You walk as light as a bird,
as strong as a lion. The morning
my son and you leave in the van,
I heard your voice as if I was hearing
the voice of a daughter and yesterday
while walking, I started picking up feathers
lost by seagulls in the grass
of playing fields. Only two days
away and already
I have forgotten your voice
how it sounds. How kiwi

your German accent is becoming.
For example how you say ‘bed’
the way you hear us saying it.
“I’m off to bid now. Good-night”,
you say. Ready for you to make
into earrings, I place the feathers,
soft, grey and white,
on a windowsill where they float
weightless, full of the light
and the distance
of a home away from home.

*

This poem was inspired by and written for a young woman in Germany, and it was recently published as a Highlight in the Aotearoa Affair Blog Fest, with Author Commentary.
Kay McKenzie Cooke is a writer who lives in Dunedin. She has had two books of poetry published: Feeding the Dogs (OUP. 2002) and Made for Weather (OUP 2007). She is in the process of compiling her third poetry book, called Born to a Red-headed Woman. She is also writing a novel which is very loosely based on her family tree.
You can read Kay’s blog here.

*

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4 Responses to Tuesday Poem: ‘picking up feathers’ by Kay McKenzie Cooke

  1. gurglewords says:

    It’s lovely. so true of the situation …the mother, the girl, the son …the lightness of feathers…the culture of vans. Thanks Michelle and Kay.

  2. I really enjoyed the tenderness of this poem – the tentative beginnings of a friendship between the narrator and the girl. Gorgeous.

  3. Helen Lowe says:

    A gentle beautiful pen portrait… thank you for posting.

  4. Kathy Sewell says:

    I am not a very good poet, but I know when I enjoy a good poem. I love the simple emotion in the mother’s memory. tHANK YOU FOR SHARING IT WITH US.

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