The Hokusai tree

A painting by Hokusai, the ragged tree
curves out and over the water, dipping the tips
of its long fingernails. Beneath its elegant gnarl,
night rain has wet the riverbank. I can’t sit. I squat
then stand. It’s hard

to have a routine, walk, contemplate, what
with children, friends, the weather, the screaming
of power tools, the hammering machine
in my head

This morning’s light is filtered by cloud
but the Hokusai tree is silverlit
by a thousand tiny moons. At the tip of every needle
and the lowest point of every twisted twig
is a round tinkle of rain

The Hokusai tree sings with tinkling moons
of spent, gathered rain
I was going to say it sings
to me, but it just sings

The river is molten glass, scattered
with froth-bits and flotsam

Later I’ll get into my little car
with its ‘No jobs on a dead planet’ sticker
and drive along bare new highways
past bare blocky new houses
to the Christian school
where they’re waiting
for poetry

They’re still building suburbs here
According to the billboards, every family
should own a little estate
even if they don’t
grow any food

My ex installs curtains, primps and paints
the house that was once half-mine,
that one day he hopes to sell

I rent, move when I want
The thin curtains let in the light
Nothing matches, everything’s old

My ex works overtime to pay for the house,
the curtains, TV, pizza maker,
Ipad, pool pump, outdoor setting,
eleven rooms of toys and chairs,
shed of dusty power tools

if I get here
I’ll bring a mat to sit on
beneath the Hokusai tree
by the riverbank

First published as “power tools” in Poetry Matters