Margaret Clough grew up in Wellington. After studying at the University of Cape Town, she worked as a science teacher, soil chemist and food technologist. She has been published in Litnet, South African Writing and Carapace. Some of the poems in At least the duck survived (Modjaji Books, 2011) have appeared in Difficult to Explain (Hands-On Books, 2010), edited by Finuala Dowling.
“Funny, true, pellucid … At least the duck survived offers a series of lyrical observations about old age, retirement and approaching death; about Tai Chi classes, dogs, lesbian aunts, grandchildren, bicycles and symphony concerts. In its unassuming charm, perfect understatement, succinctness, attentiveness, generosity and wry humour, Margaret Clough’s poetry proves Virginia Woolf’s dictum that “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his work”. Irresistable reading.”
– Finuala Dowling
It’s Difficult to Explain
Why was my car standing as though abandoned in Waterford
road, you ask?
It is difficult to explain; it’s a long story –
because my grandson drove it home,
because he took it to his work
because it had to be repaired
because it had a nasty dent
because I ran into the gate
because the gate began to close
because its motor didn’t work,
because the remote was bust,
because it got wet in my jeans,
because I fell into a pond,
because I tried to catch the dog,
because she tried to catch a duck.
(At least the duck survived.)
Reunion at the Tearoom
The last time we were here there were five of us.
Five old girls playing at being wild,
letting our gray hair down,
wiping the tears of laughter from our eyes,
shouting each other down with bawdy reminiscence,
disgraceful and rowdy, seventeen again and tasting
Today we sit here, you and I, with nothing left to say.
Our tea gets cold, Our scones lie on our plates. Our fingers
tremble, joints are stiff with pain.
Dry-eyed we hold each other’s gaze.
We do not want to look to left or right
and see the empty chairs.
Luck is a lady
With a questionable taste in clothes
accessorising with mouldy
and smelly crow’s feathers.
She has a weakness for
coats put on inside out
and vests worn back to front
But with this lack of care
in her attire,
she is very fussy about
spilt salt, cracked mirrors,
and the way the wind blows.
She sits on my veranda
with a mangy black cat on her lap,
watching me out of one squinting beady eye,
that I don’t step on cracks in the patio pavement
or start anything new
on a Friday.
Against Symphony Concerts
You have to be so careful not to cough
or let your programme rustle.
However moved you are, you mustn’t wave your arms
or ululate in that rude township way, and please
remember not to clap between the movements.
However much you hate Shostakovich
you must endure him first before
the orchestra will let you hear some Bach.
Does anybody really like
solos for bassoon or double bass,
even when played by visiting celebrities?
Isn’t it much nicer here at home
where we can loll on easy chairs
sip Merlot and enjoy our own CDs?
from At least the duck survived (Modjaji Books, 2011).
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