The wallet

He is alive. And some structure
of hope insists that he keep on living

just as he is – in the middle of his life-web.
But there, nestled like a cat among clothes

I have taken to wash, is his old brown wallet.
Nudged to a near white at the edges,

it gives up nothing but a few coins.
I don’t look. I am his sister.

Though I stand for the moment
in some instinctive temporary relation –

half parent – to him and an old wallet
bled of its red cells.

Diana Bridge was born in England in 1942 and brought up in New Zealand. After university she worked as a diplomatic trainee in the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She has lived in London, Singapore, Beijing, Canberra, Hong Kong, New Delhi and Taipei – on the coat-tails of a diplomat husband. She has a PhD in Chinese classical poetry from the Australian National University and has taught in the Chinese Department of Hong Kong University, the first foreigner to do so; also, on an occasional basis, at Victoria University. She started to write poems in India, where work opportunities were limited and the stimulus to do so irresistible. Her poems make frequent use of Chinese and Indian locations, topics and artistic repertoires. In this, they also affirm some of the stories, themes and values of two of New Zealand’s largest minority communities.

She has had three collections of poetry published by Auckland University Press: Landscape with Lines (1996), The Girls on the Wall (1999) and Porcelain (2001). Two years ago she returned to Wellington to live with the same, now retired, husband.

Bridge comments: ‘This poem was written when my brother was undergoing chemotherapy for leukaemia. The central image of the wallet is unstable. Familiar and discovered comfortable as a cat among washing, it is shown to be worn, almost empty and bled of its colour – just as the illness it stands for is depleting the strength of the brother in the poem, causing the equal relationship of siblings to collapse into something closer to parent/child; and placing the triumphant cry of the beginning in a more ambiguous perspective.’

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