[Poem] Soap Rhymes with Hope, by John Eppel


             Evening cestrum comes to mind: honey about to ferment,
             to become mead, an intoxicating brew; bauhinia
                   comes to mind, synchronising its perfume with the rotation
                   of my bicycle wheels, on my way to teach willing children
                   that nothing in nature dies, that process is a conversion
                   of one form of energy into another, that tinder
                   turns to fire, thence to ashes, thence to a sweetener of soil.

                   Once, when I went down to Kew in late spring, the scent of lilacs
                   made me weep for home, for the syringa blossom that transformed
                   September to a drift of skirts eddying, pony tails
                   swishing. But winter’s best fragrance was the sage leaf buddleia
                   that prospered in our neighbour’s garden; and summer’s was plumeria,
                   its common name suggested by a famous scent invented
                   centuries ago by perfumer, Muzio Frangipane.

                   Now, the mounds of household rubbish dumped along our public ways,
                   on verges, in storm drains, rivers, ponds, or set alight to stink —
                   a toxic, nauseating horror that rises not like incense
                   but settles for the nostrils of the devil. Now our houses
                   reek of “war vets’” armpits and other effects of soaplessness:
                   poverty, anxiety, trepidation, even terror:
                   a ferment that manufactures, not bubbles, but hopelessness.

(c) John Eppel, 2008

About the author

John Eppel is an award-winning poet, novelist and short story writer. His books include the novels, D.G.G. Berry’s The Great North Road ( Carrefour-Hippogriff, 1992); Hatchings (Carrefour, 1993) and The Giraffe Man (Queillerie, 1994). His latest novel, The English Teacher (extract) is due out shortly from amaBooks.

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