Ode to snow falling on the YWCA, Kemplay Road
The first time is rarely so good. In bed
with a book in my warm, clean room,
the paint still fresh and white; I was not a woman in love,
I was someone fallen off the back of the love truck.
That’s when I saw it: snow falling on my day-to-day life.
Nose to the double glazing I looked over the back,
where all the flat conversions in this block
relaxed and took their corsets off—
concrete corrals of rubbish bins,
disused sheds, bags of ancient potting mix.
Each forgotten thing now seemed to glow,
like a scene from an Edwardian Christmas card,
the ones sent by my great-aunts. This is England,
I would think, running my nine-year-old fingers over
white glitter, a horse-drawn carriage dusted like mint cake,
the newly invented middle-class glimpsed though a lit window,
a family happy under their tree. I longed to be inside
that room, no one screaming, no one going under.
Everyone so nicely dressed, their faces raised
to the glass in old-fashioned wonder.
This room was the gift of some distant benefactress.
I wore it carefully, daring to believe the sheen
of it against my skin. I had searched the phone book
for somewhere to live and found, in Hampstead,
a street oblivious with wealth, harbouring this hostel
for young women: newly arrived from the Commonwealth,
like me, or trailblazers from Poland, one girl from Lancashire
and one from Scotland. A double row of doorbells, each one
mothering a name. A tall girl from Jamaica took three stone
steps in her stride and opened the door with her own key.
The morning light strengthened slowly, into something
almost holy; the snow kept falling, coating everything
with silence, a softening. I sat and watched
until all I could see was singing in understated
harmony: rooftops plated with marzipan,
trees in elaborate lace, the path pocked
with a killing cold; so beautiful to be inside.
No roses in my room, I couldn’t afford them, yet.
But the snow was my best advocate, there is beauty in waiting,
it lightly said. Meanwhile, this window is yours.
Lisa Brockwell is the author of Earth Girls (Pitt Street Poetry, 2016). She was born in Sydney, spent a large chunk of her adult life in England, and now lives on a rural property near Byron Bay, on the north coast of New South Wales, with her husband and young son. Lisa has worked as a communications consultant in the HIV/AIDS community sector and for the pharmaceutical industry. She has travelled extensively in Europe, North America and a bit in Asia, for business and for love. Her poems have appeared in The Spectator, Australian Love Poems, The Canberra Times, Eureka Street and Best Australian Poems (2014 and 2015 editions). Learn more at www.lisabrockwell.com.
This poem appeared in Earth Girls.