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Peggy Marks Wahlhaus

Moka's Utu - Penny Howard
Peggy Marks Wahlhaus was born in South Africa, studied and taught speech pathology there and was accepted into Australia on a  Distinguished Talent visa in 1998.  She has had poetry and short stories published in South Africa and  Australia and a children’s book in verse The Elps of the Airport


I switched off the TV at last at 1 a.m.
put down the newspaper
turned off the radio
closed my book

came to life
came back to life
came to your death
came to real life
burnt with the ice of blood returning
heard my heart beating
knew that yours was still
found the room empty
revisited your absence
found the room cold
bereft, bereft.

We, widows, are awake long after midnight,
we’ve stuffed our scooped-out shells of life
with paper
we’ve stuffed our tired ears with
scraps of electronic conversations, programs
heard on stale air
we’ve filled our dry eyes with
moving pictures, moving stories
but when we turn them off,
and turn off the lights
we lie in the blazing empty brightness of despair.


We, the widows washing up
we, the widows, drying
not a drop left in the cup
tears dried up from crying

we’ll clean up, just don’t you worry
we will be the baby sitter
are we taking space? We’re sorry
crying makes the soup turn bitter

we, the widows, listening, cheerful
we are here, dear, did you call?
always smiling, never tearful,
we’ve been lucky, after all

we’ve had joy, a little sorrow
yesterdays were good to keep
in our minds, although tomorrow
empties waking, draining sleep

we, the widows, never crying
learning bridge, and how to play
all the social games and trying
to fill up each frightened day

we, the widows, torn, bereft
making conversation light,
bringing, where there’s nothing left,
drought and emptiness and blight

soon we will be on our way
to London, Paris , then to Rome
kids say, Go, Mom, make a stay
no incentive to rush home.

Reinvent yourself, they’re saying
can we make ourselves anew?
Contemplate a vicious slaying
making one, where once was two?

Here we stand, the widows washed up 
lonely on the gritted sand,
dried white drift wood, sea-weed crushed up
unwelcome guests in no man’s land.