The season of waiting

The summer we waited for the boy to slip away
was a sweltering dampness that held us
somehow out of place.
A pocket of temperate tropicality about a million miles
from any meaningful equator.

That season was a succession of thunders
and exquisite light displays,
with never a let up in the sticky heat.
Uncomfortable itching days and hot drowning nights,
while the gods toyed idly with us, and threw dice
to determine his fate.

It was not all bleak, no. The garden throve
in the humid embrace and vines slithered relentlessly
into and out of each available crack and crevice.
Fruit appeared, minute on one day,
grotesquely pendulous on the next.
Radiant colour seemed to erupt from the flowers
and yet, with each storm front that built
and sucked the air from our atmosphere,
the feeling was that of a brooding hulk bearing down
with an indifferent determination, arisen from somewhere
above and beyond this minor playing board
and these minor pieces.

In our different ways we shared a sense
that this season would be the culmination,
and that both trivia and meaning should be set to one side,
could wait for another turn,
yet only incessant heat and the oppressive thunder,
pressure and portent, lingered for day after day.
with no relief through rain.

A thin-waist wasp spent her days busy, building an elaborate
multi-chambered nest, bigger than my opened hand.
Each chamber filled with a stunned spider
and a voracious grub. All the time she added:
new chambers, new spiders, new grubs.
Life and death lying, side by side but invisible,
plastered over by the shaped mud of the wasp’s work.

Of course, he wasn’t really a boy.
The term was just a hangover from long-ago habit,
but in an odd way the stricken don’t seem to age
in the same sequence that others of us do,
they become instead chronologically frozen
at the point when youth was taken from them.

There was no ease to be found that summer.
We, all of us, felt the sticky discomfort every day
while we waited on the random cast of a die,
and for the rain to fall.


© Frank Prem, 2009

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