About the poet
Fleur Adcock (b.1934) is a New Zealander by birth but spent part of her childhood in England,...
(i.m. Meg Sheffield, 1940-1997)
Half the things you did were too scary for me.
Skiing? No thanks. Riding? I've never learnt.
Canoeing? I'd be sure to tip myself out
and stagger home, ignominiously wet.
It was my son, that time in Kathmandu,
who galloped off with you to the temple at Bodnath
in a moonsoon downpour, both of you on horses
from the King of Nepal's stables. Not me.
And as for the elephants - my God, the elephants!
How did you get me up on to one of those?
First they lay down; the way to climb aboard
was to walk up a gross leg, then straddle a sack
(that's all there was to sit on), while the creature
wobbled and swayed through the jungle for slow hours.
It felt like riding on the dome of St Paul's
in an earthquake. This was supposed to be a treat.
You and Alex and Maya, in her best sari,
sat beaming at the wildlife, you with your camera
proficiently clicking. You were pregnant at the time.
I clung with both hot hands to the bit of rope
that was all there was to cling to. The jungle steamed.
As soon as we were back in sight of the camp
I got off and walked through a river to reach it.
You laughed, but kindly. We couldn't all be like you.
Now you've done the scariest thing there is;
and all the king's horses, dear Meg, won't bring you back.
from Poems 1960-2000 (Bloodaxe Books, 2000), copyright © Fleur Adcock 2000, used by permission of the author
Fleur Adcock Reading from her poems