Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Bubbles, by Siobhan Harvey


Buoyant and with breath enough
to blow out two candles, you
purse lips, expel air, create a rainbow-
coloured world for the first time. Like you,
it dances, fat bee, around spring garden
bright with early stargazers. Afloat,
it anchors you before it, a deity, so in its skin
you discover yourself turned topsy-turvy,
and the world at your back upended also.

Then it vanishes, just as you, my little atom,
will vanish in time. Suddenly,
when you’re big enough, you’ll drift away
to new worlds, spinning stories home
about pearl-diving off Isla de Coche;
night-watching the Golden Gate’s glassy lights;
hot air ballooning over an oracular el-Colossat;
lazy Sundays playing boules in les Tuileries
and sightseeing L’Orangerie and Sacre Coeur.

My heart releases any pain
it feels at the thought
of ever losing you, for I see
now that we’re floating, you and I,
towards that future even as you lift
the wand again, birth and set free
more bubbles. All I need remember is:
the breath I’ve given you carries you onward,
and that breath always belongs to me.

Siobhan Harvey is an enormously busy person - among other things she is the poetry editor for Takahe magazine, the national coordinator for New Zealand Post Poetry Day, teaches creative writing at Auckland University, and is the mother of a young son. Among all this, she has found time to publish her own poetry. Lost Relatives was published this year by Steele Roberts. It explores issues of immigration, identity and family. Siobhan had planned to hold a book launch for Lost Relatives in Christchurch on March 8th. Unfortunately the February 22nd earthquake caused a cancellation of the book launch, but I was able to order a copy direct from the publisher's website. (No book shops were open in Christchurch at the time, or at least, none that stocked poetry - but the service direct from the publishers was excellent and the book arrived within a day or two).

Siobhan says about the poem:

'Bubbles' was inspired by the smallest of acts. My son, who was 18 months old, was blowing bubbles. I loved watching him do this - his sense of accomplishment; the aesthetic beauty of bubbles floating in the sun; the simple act of creating something such as bubbles which were often dazzlingly beautiful. Yet, it struck me, that each time my son blew bubbles, this simple act was framed and, in turn, acted as a frame for far deeper, universal issues which he and I, as son and mother, would have to negotiate in time - such as his growth through childhood and the experiences of motherhood this would bring to me. There was my young son with and close to me. There was I, parentally watching over him achieve a small milestone in the blowing of a bubble. Yet, like the bubble he birthed and let float out into the world, all too soon my son would drift away from me, travel overseas and explore everything the world has to show him. In this sense, the bubbles my son blew were like mirrors which unfolded his - and my - future. Once I'd perceived and considered these issues, the poem came to me. Eventually, it was selected as runner-up in the Inaugural Bernard Gadd Memorial Poetry Prize. Later, the artist Alby Yap selected it for a piece of work he did which was entered into and short-listed for the 2010 Bernard Gadd Art Award. To me, the poem plays a crucial role in the third section 'My Son and I' of my new collection, Lost Relatives.

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