It will not gleam

The fitful flap of sheets pegged on the line
is a kind of sadness, like desultory applause
that starts only to fail, all decrescendo,

for the stand-up comic whose routine
trades in all the ways a man walks into a bar,
all the reasons, the sad old reasons. 

In the crazed porcelain of the handbasin,
with its thin green smear of algae that grows
stubborn and small, there’s a dullness.

It will not gleam. A smell of almonds
and camphor, of bitter dust, the dust
that collects on top of books you are reluctant

to open for all the sadness that waits there.
This is what becomes of our human traces,
the sloughed skin, the nameless hair. 

Sadness in the static of the radio, wandering
from its station, the voices tiny, overwhelmed;
in the potted geranium, its hopeless

red flare, its unanswered call. The sadness
of punctuation, its hesitations; of correct
grammar, its syntax winding to inevitable

conclusions. The sadness of loss, and most
of all, of the unthinking, ordinary moment
when sadness is forgotten, the good joke

that’s on us, in the end, when the moment slides
unnoticed into elegy, the sheets hanging
now, caught as they are in grey stands of rain.

Published in The Infinity We Swim In, NZPS, 2007