Two Poems

Bill Manhire

Old Man Puzzled by His New Pyjamas

I am the baby who sleeps in the drawer.
Blue yesterday, and blue before –
and suddenly all these stripes.

The Question Poem

Was there a city here?

We were sitting with friends. It was a sunny day.
We were boasting about the local coffee.
Strange self-congratulations, flat whites.
These were friends we had only recently
found our way back to. For a long time
we were far apart.

Did you all survive?

On that first day of school, I mostly remember
being terrified: the dark interior, the children in rows
at their separate desks, and I was now to be one of them.
In a field by the school, there were bales of hay.
I remember inkwells.
That was perhaps a harder day.

Did you hear the bells ringing?

I keep trying to remember.
Somehow I learned to write my way round things.
The teacher made circles on the blackboard
and none of us said a word. Rubble,
then revelation: inside, we were stumbling.
And at the end of the day we all went home.

Did you all survive?

We will never sit in such places again.
A father chasing his small daughter,
both of them laughing.
The girl, a toddler, was calling out, No, no, Matilda!
Perhaps she knew the song from somewhere
but I think that must have been her name.