Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Conformity be Damned - Mary T McDonald

I have spent my life trying to cheat conventionality
to escape the accepted sanctioned behaviour,
like the time I was called to the principal's office
for allowing one of my students
to dress at Halloween as a bum with an empty flask in his pocket.

At 80
I decided on a senior's lodge.
It was inhabited by mythical figures
who sat on guard in easy chairs
at the wide entrance
and pushed their walkers in and out.

The surrounding formal gardens
seemed to be picked
from pages of the summer seed catalogue;
circles of nasturtiums
triangles of snapdragons
rows of marigolds
all stood stiffly
hemming the board boundaries of this edifice.

I want wild!
Give me a field of bent grasses
with the sharp odour of leaf and earth
where I could discover purple shooting stars
and buttercups,
maybe wild violets
and a robin that doesn't fly off the fence
until you get right up to it.

One day
I entered with my magnetic card
stood in the lobby
criss-crossed by moving walkers
and felt an uneasy awareness of being adrift,
of being perhaps
a thought.
Was I living a real life here?

I needed proof
that I occupied space
that I bled, I breathed.
I took myself to the stairwell
with its island of light
to find if I had a shadow.

I did
and I am here,
here where nobody else reads -
who tell me they are saving their eyes.

I have made the decision
to take up unorthodox haunting
as a vocation
in the afterlife.
My bag will be packed,
I will not go home at first,
become the holographic swivel of my den chair
or the pale light you think you see in the upstairs landing.

I shall drop
in the shape of a slug
on the lips of the smiling evangelist
who will speak loosely in tongues
and confound the network.

I shall hang easy on wind swept Mount Everest
against a face as clammy white as my own,
halloo to other challengers:
"Look no piton, no oxygen!"

And should my new country
be tragically empty of books
even words
then I must haunt
like tides
the libraries of London and New York,
stream through the 88 miles of shelving
wriggle out each book that beckons
curl in a fan-backed chair in the great foyer
and ghost read.

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