School of Grace
Australian International Academy
Yes, I remember them well, those Muslim folk,
On that unpretentious northern Coburg block
Helping to bring down deep mysterious grace
Into their lives and those of visitors like me.
Such a peacefulness as staff and students stepped
About for their daily tasks and quietly talked
About matters for the day. In shimmering modesty
The girls and womenfolk glowed like stars.
The noisy, brutish world outside was quenched
By calmness, joy in mercy, readiness to love
Nobly and with an ancient dignity. The tree of life
Rustled exquisite leaves as we passed along.
I will never again walk amongst their forms.
They, for their part, have heard how I am sick
And sent flowers most carefully arranged
And greetings to proclaim supporting love.
May the Lord of all protect this hallowed place!
May he keep its people free from every ill!
Benign is he, full of compassion, care,
Shining upon us, as they well proclaim, each day!
So here I am on the eve of a great day—
Our fortieth wedding anniversary—solitary
In an old Sorrento garden, under moonah trees,
Whose twisted, leaning and eccentric postures
Seem to speak to me about our mutual ageing.
The neighbours here are very quiet too.
No shouts, communal babble, ugly songs.
Just a declining silence into dusk’s embrace
And a sense of much living having blessed the site.
A union jack flutters in a nearby garden
For Prince Philip, gone eight days ago.
This sign of ancient loyalty is heartening to see.
Hard-pressed our people now, imperial
No more, struggling to keep foot in the sun.
I’m reading An Imaginary Life, Malouf’s
Account of Ovid’s exile to a wilderness
Far from an earlier empire’s bustling hub.
Like me, his father loved the ancient ways
That made Rome great, as Britain also was.
We have to live our way into a future
More puzzling than we ever thought to find.
Under the moonah trees I watch as Ovid
Learns from a Child come from far away
That there’s new insight just at hand,
Even as our lives’ dusk steadily falls.
I watch him walking to and fro outside
From the comfort of my couch, where, low on energy,
I help to babysit Jemima and Penelope.
The day is cool but not without warming sun.
It’s time to read. The girls array themselves
On either side of me and hear of Harold,
A rabbit far too big for his own good.
The fence-maker stolidly walks past
The wide window shouldering a bunch of palings
Nonchalantly, as if he is just going
On a garden stroll. An easy balancing of weight.
The time for lunch arrives and soup and macaroni
Hit the table thanks to Helen’s oven toil.
Another warmth is shared. The fence-maker
Is heard tapping in nails with automatic tools.
His long fence rises like a revelation.
Later we chat as I bring him a well-filled
Mug of coffee. I hear the accents, as I think,
Of rural man and marvel at his skill with wood
And application to his job throughout the day.
His fence protects the home. Perhaps I, too,
With Helen, build another sort of fence
For our two grand-daughters, also steadily.
The man outside has calmly shown a gift
Of making and held a mirror to my fence of love.