2 poems Catherine Gander


The Refugee's Garden

for Anna


The old lady died and her estate went up for sale.


In her garden a persimmon tree offered its fruit to anyone who’d take it.


The clouds passed noiselessly.


The sky was piercing blue.


The tree was a house.


The tree knew its days (like its rings) were numbered.


When the tree fell, it fell in pieces.


Its shadow lay scattered on the dry grass.


The ashes of the old lady were interred in marble.


The sky got bigger. The sun got hotter.


The picture changed.


Sap and yolk drained from the garden like running paint.


Rose beetles struggled through sawdust until the heat turned them on their backs.


Swallowtails spiralled from the wreckage like flakes from a burning document.


A stillness came. There was no swaying.


There was no corresponding dance of leaves and limbs.


The wind swept through the garden like a broom through a vacant bedroom.


Starlings sang bitterly of the shape of absence


for as long as they could remember the tune.



On Balance


The goldfish looks dead again,

resting its head on the multicoloured

substrate beside the sunken pirate ship.

Yesterday it was floating

downside up, the water filter wimpling its fins like


a summer breeze would gently

lift the gauze at our kitchen window in Cortona

years ago.


I’d hear you arriving, feet crunching the gravel path,

hands full of harvested persimmon,


washed with sunlight,

skins still warm,

our bedsheets rippling the floor.


Without a refrigerator, I’d overturn

the fruitbowl to keep the sweetness fresh.


I know by now not to worry that inversion equals

death, the bulbous flesh

of our pet’s belly tipped skyward

still abides by the stubborn symmetry of life.


It breathes its liquid home delicately

in & out, sways its veils in burlesque parody,

its eyes swivel at my looming hand.


I like to think its brain has started to retrain itself

to accept a life capsized,

that it has stopped wondering how

it arrived at this configuration


of water, glass & air, of scales tipped

along a lateral line. That it believes now—can’t remember

ever thinking otherwise—that the gorgeous

flare of its fantail is

the torch of its beginning.


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Catherine Gander is a poet, critic, and academic. Recent poems can be found in Poetry London, On the Seawall, Bad Lilies, Palette, and more. Nine of her poems are in the 3-poet collaborative anthology Sea Between Us (Nine Pens Press, 2022).