His mother was the Wing Commander’s wife.
Had some ladies for high tea. She had brushed
and straightened him to be presentable. What
are you going to do when you grow up,
they asked between their sips from china cups.
The question and its demand for answer
to the high bench of grown-up is all that he remembers
of the conversation. When allowed, he escaped
from the drawing room, running, to a shed outside,
unlocked. Inside he found a dead rabbit,
meat to supplement the wartime ration. Shot
and hung up on a peg upon a wall. How the blood
glistens on the touchable fur! The craft
of the creature spread in death’s still life.
He must unpeg it and almost unaware,
such his absorption, fondle it taking up
the blood and stench to hand and face and clothes.
Unknown to himself, he holds the answer.
He enters the drawing room to show the wonder,
dangling the dead rabbit from his hand.
A fuss, a dropped cup, cries of accident.
The bleak anger in his mother’s eyes.
The world’s perfect soirée lies in ruins.
“The Rabbit” by Peter Rawnsley is reproduced by permission of the author and the publisher, Mākaro Press, from Peter’s new collection Light Cones
(Mākaro Press, 2017).
Peter tells me: “This poem is autobiographical and truly happened as described, or at least as I remember about 75 years after the event! The locale, as I recall, is an air force base near Blenheim during WW2.”
Tim says: As Cyclone Gita approached, its outermost rain bands already darkening the northern horizon,* I made the long and perilous journey to Plimmerton for the launch of Peter’s new collection Light Cones. I wasn’t sure about making the trip, but I’m very glad I did, because it was an excellent launch and this is a fine collection. Following my usual practice, I have been reading a few poems at the time, and of those I’ve read so far, “The Rabbit” is my very favourite. There are so many wonderful lines here, but what resonated with me most of all is that remembered sense from childhood of being arraigned at the high bench of grown-up expectation and judgement.
*Cyclone Gita actually took another two days to make landfall… it’s a fair cop, guv.