Tuesday Poem – My Old Man by Barbara Strang

Sky Father
however they name you,

when I was small you had ice blue eyes,
your hair was red, your skin tinged
beetroot from the desert sun.

Your voice reverberated, you rubbed
an emery cheek on mine,
saying it was a “dry shave”.

Yesterday the garden was serene
when I saw a cloud up north
swelling to a goblin shape

only to disintegrate
in strands, blow back
like an old man’s hair.

I didn’t notice other clouds
muttering, amassing—I forgot
your sudden rages—

just as in the old days,
when I thought I was in the clear
you unleashed the works—

the radio fizzed, lightning
snaked across the sky,
you flashed your knives and forks,

flung down raindrops heavy as pennies,
pelted tender leaves with hailstones,
and you flapped the thunder board,

but the bolts slithered sideways
cloud to cloud, didn’t strike home,
the thunder was muted . . .

it was a fireworks show, Sky Father,
a fairground distraction so children could shiver
deliciously, and good for the garden.

Barbara’s Comment:
This is one of a series of poems, written at various times. They are a sampler based on my childhood in the far south of Aotearoa. There are scenes, characters and stories which demand to be told. 
Helen says: I am very pleased to start my fourth year as a Tuesday Poet with Barbara Strang. I first met Barbara during my few years in Christchurch when I joined the longstanding Airing Cupboard Women Poets. I was impressed by her meticulous editing and her easy grasp of words. Barbara’s poetry is trim and spare. She often combines her keen appreciation of nature with a human conundrum. This leads to an uplifting clarity even in her more serious poems. For example this extract from ‘Scrap’ (The Corrosion Zone, 2011)
standing under
the soft blue sky
my head ringing with
the ‘not coming back.’
Fresh summer leaves
curve towards me…
Barbara under the Cretan skies, on a visit to a Minoan site, "Chamezi Minoan House" near Sitia, on the NE coast of Crete, 2014.
Barbara under the Cretan skies, on a visit to a Minoan site, “Chamezi Minoan House” near Sitia, on the NE coast of Crete, 2014.
My Old Man, was one of thirteen poems by Barbara published in Takahe 83, their 25th anniversary edition. Barbara was the featured poet, a well deserved honour.
Barbara Strang is a poet and editor with an MA in Creative Writing (Vic). She was brought up in Invercargill, (the eldest of ten children). These days, she lives at Mount Pleasant, Christchurch. Barbara edited Moments in the Whirlwind (New Zealand Poetry Society, 2009) and Across the Fingerboards (New Zealand Poetry Society, 2010). She has won the NZPS haiku competition’s  haiku section twice and also been its judge.
A selection of haiku which have inspired Barbara along the way is a feature on the NZ Poetry Society website. Read ‘My Haiku Journey’ here.


Main Publications:

Duck Weather (Poets Group,2005).

The Corrosion Zone (HeadworX, 2011).

Her poetry, haiku and other writing has been awarded and published in New Zealand and overseas.


For an excellent interview with Barbara published by Tuesday Poet Tim Jones see here.
You can read a selection of her own haiku here.
Do check out the Tuesday Poem Hub where Helen Lowe is the editor with ‘Breathing You In’, a poem by David Gregory. And while you’re there, browse through the rich variety of poems chosen by other Tuesday Poets.