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Eighth Heaven

I open the flyscreen door and slip inside,
Easing it shut. Low voices -- the radio? --
Drift from the dining room, although their words

Are indistinct. A milky sort of light
Clings to the ceiling, showing that the summer
Is well established here and the inner shadows,

However cool they may appear, are tacky
As bare thighs on a vinyl chair.
My mother, at the kitchen bench, is pouring

Afternoon tea, or would be, but I see
That, unsurprisingly, that red-brown ribbon
Is stationary and the steam hangs still,

A Lilliputian fog. Can time have stopped
So simply, in this simple suburb, at
This hour of day? And yet the radio

Is lit up and those voices natter on,
Talking the timeless issues of the day
And advertising their predated products.

The sideboard stands, as ever, well equipped
With seldom used utensils, special service:
The special teapot of white china, capped

With shining metal like a soldier's casque;
The little glasses with their Chinese figures --
Sum Fun Tu, Me Fun Tu, Tu Yung Tu...; plates

Of many colours with their hidden names,
Remembering far better than I can
Their few occasions. And there is my father

Standing in the lounge room, half-turned away.
I summon up some greeting and can feel
The words unbodied, though not a sound disturbs

The house's depth. I walk in and am baffled
To find, however much I move about him,
That that one aspect is still turned to me,

Unmoving, a one-sided hologram.
Net curtains billow at the window, frozen
In air, as though a child were crouched in them.

In the middle of the wall the oval mirror
Declines to represent me, though I come
So close my breath appears on it. I place

My right hand's fingertips against the glass
And feel the surface tension of a pool
Resisting, then reluctantly giving in.

My fingers come away with silvered ends
Which, as they sway, show scraps of furniture
And carpet, flowers in a vase.

Now I am gazing out across the park.
The afternoon is caught among the leaves,
Detained indefinitely out there, and in

My throat. My fimgers are still wet from touching
The glass; I must have brushed them on my cheek.
At the back gate I see that I am leaving:

That is my arm there sliding the bolt shut.
A bowl of fruit is on a table by
A window. On the round face of the apple

Surmounting it is held the light of the world.
It sits there like a globe of crystal, or
A painted droplet -- the Earth that Dante saw

When he looked down at last from the eighth heaven.
Within it, sworn to secrecy, flamboyant,
Swim all the ages and the hours.