poems gigs misc. why don't you EMdC home
What We Know

calibrate and measure it
and mark out the lines
notch up the numbers
like it's nineteen ninety nine
nineteen hundred
what's a hundred?
ninety nine
what next?

I think I knew a million
before I knew a year
in the dawning
days of decimals
my dad my brothers and me
we made a million
a million millimetres
penciled in a square
on the wall
in the hall:
ten times ten
times ten's a thousand
with a thousand either way:
a thouand thousand
seemed a lot
for money
but like not a lot
for people
when I heard
how many there were
in the world

calibrate and measure it
and mark out the lines
notch up the numbers
like it's nineteen ninety nine
nineteen hundred
what's a hundred?
ninety nine
what next?

I think I knew 'year'
before I knew 'life'
and seasons came
to make some sense
as summer dresses
came and went
like cricket on the village green
and I learnt that,
to grown-ups,
eating ice cream cones
looked longing in springtime
nostalgic in autumn
and really quite silly in winter
while birth and death were
vaguely known-about
but abstract facts:
me as the youngest
and no one near me had died

calibrate and measure it
and mark out the lines
notch up the numbers
like it's nineteen ninety nine
nineteen hundred
what's a hundred?
ninety nine
what next?

I think I knew 'life'
before I knew 'friend'
it was seventy seven and at school
we subtracted somehow
the year we were born
from a tricky figure
with too many noughts
nought from nought
is naturally nought
seven from nought don't go
cross out the twenty,
put nineteen and carry one
seven from ten is definitely three
so I got the number thirty
really miss is that how old I'll be
when we're in the year 2000
apparently so
but where I'd be and who I'd be
and who I'd be being me with
God only knew which had to do
cos there was plenty to do till then

calibrate and measure it
and mark out the lines
notch up the numbers
like it's nineteen ninety nine
nineteen hundred
what's a hundred?
ninety nine
what next?

I think I knew 'friend'
before I knew 'food'
and special people came to play
came for tea or came for the day
Maureen, Shona, and Helen
Kitty and Nikki and Clare
shepherds pie and soup with cheese
sausages, beans, and toast
then we'd go into town
& stay up late
or come through to parties and stay overnight
Aidan and Matthew, James and Jane
Rachel and Truda and Bruce
pizzas and parties, discos and beer
lunchtime bakeries and birthday cakes
where it all came from
and what it came to
being less of a question
than whether mum knew

calibrate and measure it
and mark out the lines
notch up the numbers
like it's nineteen ninety nine
nineteen hundred
what's a hundred?
ninety nine
what next?

I think I knew 'food'
before I knew 'love'
studious in the geography class
gob-smacked in front of the telly
grain mountains, irrigation
wine lakes, third world nation
cash crops, dried up wells
price drops, belly swells
come on wise guys make it better
or am I going to have to
write you a letter
and sign a petition
why won't you listen?
how many
million hungry people
does it take?

calibrate and measure it
and mark out the lines
notch up the numbers
like it's nineteen ninety nine
nineteen hundred
what's a hundred?
ninety nine
what next?

I think I knew 'love'
before I knew 'moon'
how we lay there
with hands held
grateful and gazing
our mouths pushed together
and naked all night
and I'd be feeling like
the woman
in all those songs
with the walls of the old days
tumbling down
we'd sense the open spaces
of months and months ahead
then live within our rubble
for the rest of the year

calibrate and measure it
and mark out the lines
notch up the numbers
like it's nineteen ninety nine
nineteen hundred
what's a hundred?
ninety nine
what next?

I think I knew nothing
before I knew Moon
and I shake my head and shiver
awestruck in distance and space
when they ask me whether I believe
that they put a man in the moon
that moon up there
the one we just saw
the brightest that we'll ever see
so close to the sun
on the longest of nights
at the end of a thouand yearyears
the seas the land the trees and us
we all share the same moon
why not let it light our way
we can take it in together
or quietly let it line the clouds
we work and wander under

so let's celebrate
and treasure it
and pass round the wine
the moon has many faces
some are yours and some are mine
while we live in hundreds, thousands
millions, billions
endless time
we'll weave our lives together
out of nineteen ninety nine
what we know
is where we go from
what we hope
is coming next.

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