Hailing from Manchester and having lived variously in Sheffield, Thailand, Australia and Singapore, Ruth Taaffe is now settled in the south of England. She writes about her experiences of living overseas, the idea of home, and how the natural environment finds its way into our identity. Ruth has taught English internationally for more than 20 years, and has a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poems have appeared in such literary journals as The Poetry Village, Acumen and One Hand Clapping, and her debut collection is Unearthed.
Driving Over the Snake
Pass Under a Shed with
a Goldfish on my Lap
These were the final items to repatriate
taken over the hills to my first home –
the cats had gone ahead two weeks before.
Young enough to still depend on parents,
we knew the baggage that we did not take
could be left at their door and kept for us.
Tied to the roof rack like a tortoise shell,
the shed, unconstructed, was just boards of wood.
I peered skyward as you drove, for any shift
in light foreshadowing some avalanche
of splinters. We kept the radio off,
tuned in to creaking and the steady slosh
of fish water that I was powerless to stop.
We had no idea how our life would be
rebuilt a thousand miles away, or why fish,
when moved into some larger water, grow.
He toes the wire which sways like a hammock,
outstretches his knotted arms of rope.
Ears ringed gold as a sailor of air.
His back and chest inked by compass,
star. Fixing his eye low on the horizon
where he’ll land in time with our ovation,
he climbs the unicycle, inches backwards,
slowly unwalking the plank.
We buoy him up with our applause,
become his crew, his wave and tide,
life vest of his triumph. And he ours.
Four clubs fly like seagulls
mobbing a fish, or words trying to land
on a line. Each catch sharpens our awe.
Then, he’s passed a fifth on fire!
We stow the clapping, trade in calm.
For this moment we anchor him
with our belief, as the solo drumbeats start.
He catches in time, leaps to land,
and signs a charter of hope on our hearts.
Squat like a knot of dark
upon dark at the edge of dusk.
Folded blades of downed chopper,
landed mound of bark and leaves.
Your snake eye opens up like a moon
glassing the night. Bug-eater
lacking fangs to pierce
the nocturne skin,
only your baleen beak
sifting plankton from the sky,
flat as an unsent valentine.
You shoot soft tuts of fireworks
cluck up Morse code.
Heart monitor for the forest,
it was told that you stole milk from goats,
but you preserve such sweetness, Chupacabra.
Open wide, let the world pour its song
back into your throat.
Driving Over the Snake Pass Under a Shed
with a Goldfish on my Lap: 192 Magazine
Acrobat: exclusive first publication by iamb
Nightjar: Finished Creatures (The Poetry Village)