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Friday, 23 August 2013

Found Poem (Derwent Valley, Tasmania)


 

A place called ‘Fatigue Can Be Fatal’;

Sleeping Beauty from the ugly side;

we sang ‘Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah!’

with harmonies;

deer antlers for sale;

old postcards;

a roadside paddock full of lupins…

they smell like peas;

‘Swallow’s Nest’ right next to the river;

briar roses;

hops;

a hopfield called
 
‘Jungle’.   
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Li Ayyi Sabab Uhjar أمينة العلوي - لأيّ سببٍ أهجر


Your virile poison has almost drained away

from my swollen veins;

the fat red cushions on my wicker chair

are red once again;

the ripped leaves of the monstera plant over there-

heart-shaped and green;

this sultry music – daf, zarb, ud and violin-

pleases me once again;

my morning coffee is strong, sweet

and bitter, as it once was;

dear Saturday is just Saturday;

the sky is merely blue;

time is kind and gentle;

the shadows of leaves flicker on the ceiling-

(those changeable cherry leaves that I cherish).

 

Your twisted poison has drained away

into a blue and white bowl

and good blood flows untangled in me, at last.

My heart is pure

(just as my friend, Ali Qarandari, wished for me,

touching his breast)…

my heart is pure and all else is flowing sweet

from that.

My heart is pure again,

and Amina Alaoui soothes me,

as a mother or a sister might soothe,

pressing my face against her resonating breast

and stroking stroking stroking my hair…

stroking stroking stroking my hair

  
Amina Alaoui

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Jäegermeister


A bedroom full of seagulls,

and my reclining nude

is a white gull

with a broken wing.

 

A room full of white,

and the white breast of the woman

looks like a disjointed pinion.

- It is the Jaegermeister painting, I told him…

 

..and it was the truth-

the background colours:

Tarkovsky green and a deep scarlet-orange

both taken from the label and the glass.

 

That was a day to remember,

when I showed him the bottle.

He climbed onto the bench

to reach for shot glasses

 

I squeezed his tiny arse cheeks,

and the smallness of them

nearly broke my heart.

That was the day, alright.

 

Afterwards, I felt like 100% Irish linen

and crocheted lace.

I felt like my initial was embroidered

in my corner.

 

I felt blessed, cleansed,

starched, ironed,

folded and put away

with dried rose petals.
 

 
 

An Ordinary Apple


If I were a ripe fig

and you split me open with your delving thumbs

to see the sweet and sticky flesh inside,

and feel the grit of seeds between your teeth,

 

could any of the those spilt ever swell and sprout

to grow a big, lolloping, female tree,

like an old grey aunty with flabby arms?

I can’t figure out what fruit I am to you?

 

You halve me like some desert pear.

To you, I’m the fruiting body of the monstera plant

with stinging spikes hidden

in the fuzzy folds

 

that paralyze your tongue with a tiny, perfect pain,

though I always dreamed of being more like an

ordinary apple, that, cleanly dissected,

reveals a star.

 

Blanco, blanco, que te quiero blanco…


White, white, how I love you, white:

puffed breast of white gull,

smooth feathers,

white scraps of flight flung

like discarded letters

across the waves.

White foam scraped edgewards,

hemming the selvages of the waves.

 

White sheets, white cotton,

white gauze curtain

hanging motionless

in a breezeless hour.

White silence, white singing of the stars.

Off-white paperback mended with tape.

Yellowed pages, re-read and mended-

 

a gamekeeper, a lame creeper,

the same weeping woman;

green woods, purple shadows,

newly-hatched pheasant bods

like sparks of life:

 

She’d rather be caught by the wild hound of Pluto,

than by the speculative spaniel of Plato…

 

(The First Lady Chatterley, DH Lawrence)

Albinoni: Adagio in G Minor


Sometimes, life is unbearably sweet,

when the shadows of a Moorish lamp are spilt upwards

and blotted into bedroom walls;

when morpho butterflies nestle bluely on a canvas,

and brandy burns like petrol in your gut.

 

Sometimes, the death-keening of a violin

makes me sick to the stomach

with melancholy.

Once, when I was just a child in patent leather shoes,

a madwoman raving in a red train carriage

 

made me feel the same, and almost holy.

Even now, I’m confused by my own secret Maria Goretti;

by my own secret murderer lurking nearby.

I suppose it shouldn’t have fascinated me:

the story of the fourteen-year-old peasant girl…

 

(or was it fourteen stab wounds?)

and the father’s long cart ride over a rutted road,

with Maria jolting like a sack of spilt meal

on boards strewn with straw.

I had hoped to be a much-desired saint.

 

I had hoped that Our Lady might appear to me,

like Serena Couchi, who fell into the flames of a bonfire

when she was only small, wearing a Blessed Scapula

around her neck.

But she was just a potato-farmer’s daughter, and Maltese,

 

with dirty cracks around her fingernails,

whose sister sold pink lemonade in wax cups at Woolworths.

I always liked the story of how Jesus would not be tempted

by the devil, and shouted: Get behind me,

Satan!

 

I always liked Jesus when he shouted.

Once, I did get behind you,

though it was no less sinful than in front.

My hair hung between your buttocks

and down your left thigh.

 

I felt like the Magdalene,

and my hair seemed to fill the room.

My combustion seemed to fill the afternoon,

and you can’t deny,

it was a miracle, of sorts.

 

Albinoni adagio in g minor

A Savage Orthodoxy


Mercedes Sosa and Misa Criolla;

the wind outside frigid, blustery.

Pan-pipes bring the Andes into my

high-ceilinged bedroom.

The front door rattles.

Good Friday is roaming outside

my house.

 

Once, when young, the poultry farm shriekings

on Good Friday morning

were the howling ghosts rising up from their graves.

 

At my First Communion breakfast,

I vomited saveloy and raspberry fizz-

why wasn’t it the body and blood

of little Baby Jesus?

The hymn they sang made me sick inside,

it was  so beautiful,

and life so transitory,

the light on our mothers’ faces

supernatural- a chrism.

Though, now I understand,

it was ordinary motherlove,

not the Transubstantiation.

 

Misa Criolla fills me with the same fearful beauty-

reminds me of the six-inch spikes on the grille

that we saw my sister’s best friend behind

when she became a Carmelite.

 

Beauty and cruelty,

compassion and ugliness,

mixed together to create una mescla,

a misa criolla!

A savage orthodoxy.
 
 

 
Mercedes Sosa "Kyrie"
 

Saint Joseph of Cupertino


My coloured tumblers are fading on the window-ledge;

my aspidistra has grown too leggy for its plastic pot;

the leaves on the cherry tree have turned yellow

and they hang like yesterday’s dirty socks;

the birds are not really singing,

they are mumbling about moving on.

 

One of my curtains is missing a ring-

it hangs drunkenly from the window’s bony shoulder blade,

and it is probably too late too late for love;

it is probably too late too late:

my wicker hamper overflows with matted cardigans,

my red sheets hide the stubborn stains of poems,

my nights and mornings are filled with delusions.

 

My mother, at this age, fell in love with dark-eyed priests

with French names like Fillipe;

her favourite saint was the one who laughed so much

he floated to the ceiling;

his levity a kind of grace.

My mother once slept, crumpled,  in the front doorway in her nightie-

she lay behind the screen door while the mosquitoes

batted their blunt heads against the mesh.

 

She also climbed into a backyard pool

fully dressed and heady with chlorine

on New Year’s Eve 1974,

besotted with a young monk with an eye for little girls.

When it is like that-

when they say things such as mutton dressed up as lamb,

there is no sense in the analogy,

since a woman is not meat.
 
The Reluctant Saint
 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

NON OMNIS MORIAR: On Love, Brutality, and Death. A bloodshot review of Philomena van Rijswijk's Bread of the Lost

Purely Phenomenal. Purely Philomena.

... Reading this book institutionalized my eyes. Bemused by van Rijswijk's poems, I imagined a series of photogravures of the corpses, black birds, dying swan, spoiled bread, and wounded wombs against the polaroids of the flowers, lazy mornings, lips, fingertips, the sailor, a mother, and a coffee cup.
The surprisingly dark qualities of van Rijswijk's poetic expression and her brutal take on the theme of suffering and death are not stagnant and breathless. Rather, she is a poet who deconstructs the imagery of death:
that even death has to die;
that death, after all, is not death in itself;
that death cannot hang around the kitchen
or else it will be cooked.
Through a highly texturized composition, van Rijswijk's poetry has no traces of lexical loitering and aesthetic voyeurism. Each poem incarnates a raw-meat vision that is not poised yet focused; a magnified memory that is not tangible yet solid.
Without a doubt, Philomena van Rijswijk is a poet, an artist who has a profound understanding of language. Language as a human being-complete and completing. Language as a woman, a mother who doesn't stop being a mother after giving birth. Language, not merely as a tool or means, but also a fruition, an actuality yet imprisoned by the contrasting realities of life.
The emancipation of language is greatly achieved, if not painstakingly, by the gradual moulting of the penumbra of human experience. And it is every artist's vocation to translate human experience into a transfigured humanity. In experiencing art, when a person forgets the images, words, forms, and sounds (how they breathe, and how they move), one comes closely to that which is divine. In truth, Bread of the Lost reveals the poet's truest self and her arrival to the purest creation and we partake of that one bread.


Geri Geda
See more

Friday, 26 April 2013

...and on the third day...




A BRAVE AND LOVEABLE MIRACLE

 

Returned to that hut by the rust-painted rocks

where, once, I saw the sun set, veiled in her

contrived modesty and blushes, and later,

where I saw the sun rise erect

in his fantastic oriental pride.

O, lovely show off!

 

I saw you lift up from underneath the night,

from underneath the tousled bird-blue bedding

of a crumpled sea…

Such a rising up of the day, it was,

appearing, engorged, from under the gently rippling

raw silk of the sea…

 

The conceited peacock,

standing to attention outside my window,

guardian of the liquid light,

wearing his ludicrous little crown,

craned with admiration at the regal uprising

of the day…

 

The sweet applish leaves of the cider gums,

busy in their soft chatter,

were suddenly hushed and suspended,

alert to his salt-stung breath…

and the rowdy authority of the rooster,

watcher of the long grey hours,

was held at bay by the morning’s inflamed glory-

the miraculous resurrection of the day.

 

And O!  my lovely! what heavenwards delights

ascended with the pulsing incarnation,

the blissful optimism,

of that day!

 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Death Poems (Just a Light)


1. THE DISTURBANCE

Frogs chant,

way out in the night,

like the old lady called Millie

who paces the corridor and cries

“Help me!  help me!”-

a plover disturbed from the tussocks

at midnight.

“Nurse!  nurse!” she wails,

day and night,

her voice reedy and rusted.

She is as fragile as a dogwood skeleton:

dry and brittle, and fine as tannin-stained lace.

 

2. DEMENTIA WING

Once, she almost flew back to her room-

glided on an arabesque of flamenco,

lifted on a warm updraft of memories of Rio Tinto

with her wild boy cousins in hot pursuit;

told how the gang of cousins had daily pushed

her wicker baby carriage around the old headstones,

so that she had learnt to read in a cemetery.

She would coach me to say:

Soy guapa!  Soy linda!

and I went along with it,

just to make her smile her beaky smile.

 

She broke her pelvis, they said, and

during the night, no-one could sleep

for her screams.

I heard it some days-

like the sound of a seagull

high up on a cliff-face

being buffeted by a westerly wind.

 

I would go to her, when I could,

and marvel at the unnatural fragility of her wrist.

I’m so ashamed of myself! she once said.

The day they moved her,

I heard her wailing like a banshee

in the corridor.  They pushed her bed along;

it was covered in a nest of cardigans and scarves

and it looked like a drowned albatross corpse

tangled in flotsam.

 

We found her room- she and I.

I put her to bed

and pulled the vinyl armchair to the window.

You’ll be able to sit here, I told her…

you’ll be able to see that patch of sky

and those two trees,

pointing hopelessly to the crowns

of two peppermint gums in the distance.

 

They told me she fell.

She broke her neck.

She’s sedated, now,

and her hands are trussed

to the sides of the bed.

 

3. THIS IS DEATH

Home again;

the place stinks of dead.

I discover a rat

under my bed.

It is light as paper

and leaves puffs of soft fur and skin

strewn around the floor like bulrush fluff.

The cast has been cut from my arm,

the limb a corpse belonging to someone else,

the muscles wasted, tendons rigid with a kind of dying.

Layers of skin waft through the stale air,

like desiccated snowflakes, defying gravity-

a waterless snowstorm in a dry and airless globe.

If this is death, I tell myself…

then it is as weightless as a dandelion clock;

as painless as a dead bird’s flightbone,

hollow and full of sunlight.

 

4. THREE LITTLE GURUS

I picked up a cicada with one skew wing-

it was not an empty cicada,

but a full one;

something inside it was as dense as a sugar-pea.

Its eyes, I noticed, were brown glass beads,

and behind its transformer-like head

there was a velvet band, lichen green.

Its willow-veined wings

were filled in with isinglass

that crackled like paper when you poked a bit

and rearranged to see whether anything

was breaking out of that small crack at the tip of the tail.

The tan, articulated limbs flexed,

like the furry legs of a guru, in fact,

three little gurus

sitting in each others’ bony laps.

 

One morning soon,

there will only be an empty cicada shell,

crunchy, like a gum leaf;

its legs, splayed twigs.

Meanwhile, we wait.

 

5. IN CASE OF FIRE

Yesterday, Mrs Roberts said goodbye to her husband,

after forty-six years.

“He was my best friend,” she said.

Mrs Roberts had to say goodbye in a makeshift chapel

at one end of the big dining-room;

the chairs were the sticky blue vinyl ones

that scream incontinence;

and there were two big ugly vases of fake flowers

scrounged from the corridor.

A plate of yesterday’s scones were iced

with a jaundiced yellow

and served up for afternoon tea,

and the undertakers greasily eyed the staff

who came to give their condolences,

for what they were worth.

Two of the ladies appeared and sat through the fifteen minutes,

but they didn’t really know whose coffin it was.

 

There were just Mrs Roberts,

and her daughter from England,

the only two touched by any grief.

Having knocked back some instant coffee,

the slitty-eyed priest explained that the two mourners

could follow the coffin as far as the store-room doors.

After that, the undertakers would continue on alone,

across the gravel between a blue shipping container

and some wheelie-bins and builders’ utes.

 

Mrs Roberts’ daughter walked with her,

as far as the double doors.

The undertakers slipped through,

with Mr Roberts draped in the Union Jack.

I watched the backs of the two women

as the double doors closed.

IN CASE OF FIRE, KEEP THESE DOORS CLOSED,

was announced in duplicate,

as the heavy doors met and clicked shut.

 

6. JUST A LIGHT, NOT GOD

Too early for work,

I drive to the esplanade

just to watch the waves.

Part of me thinks this is a waste of time-

not going for a purposeful stride

along the hard, wet edge,

but just sitting in my car for five minutes

with the window down-

watching the water breathe the air.

 

There are no waves.

There is just the faint swell and shrink

of the water’s breathing.

It is even too early for the seagulls.

All there is,

is the bright silver-white resting on the surface;

the silver-white glinting.

 

I let my eyes open to the silver-white memory-

the silver-white shifting god-thing.

No wonder people talk about God as a pure light, I think.

Separate sparks of growing-shrinking light

reach toward me,

like the burning phosphorous spittings from a sparkler.

 

Finally, I turn the key in the ignition to leave for work.

It is not God, I know that.

It is just a light.

I am glad.

 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Bishop, the Gypsy and the Dancing Bear

In response to Magdalena Ball's meme:

1. What is the working title of your current work-in-progress/next book?
The novel I'm working on is called: The Bishop, the Gypsy and the Dancing Bear...It refers to a little story at the heart of the book,about the last of the wild bears......

2. Where did the idea come from?
The idea...well, I guess it came from a gzillion places.... But way back when I started, I wanted to write about wildernesses inside cities and other places where you wouldn't expect to find them.  I really can't remember the process that made the jump to the idea of the Insiders and the Outsiders, but I have been acutely interested in the story of asylum seekers for more than a decade....

3. What genre does your book fall into?
Reviewers etc. have referred to my novels as Magic Realism, but I'm not so sure.  This novel, anyway, is a bit different, so maybe I could call it Speculative Fiction slash social justice......???? Maybe it won't fit a genre.  It will be about 100,000 words in length.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Interesting question...To me, of course, the characters are already played by themselves!  Because I haven't quite finished,I'm hesitant to try to think of actors who might play their parts.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
This is a book about the universal truth that, when we fence our world to keep the Outsiders out, we are actually fencing ourselves in....
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I will have to try to find an Agency.  I don't know where to start with that, to tell the truth, because with The World as a Clockface, Ann Summers recommended me to Penguin.  They asked for it 3 days after I put the last full stop.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Oh, don't ask! I started writing this novel when my youngest daughter was 11!!!! She is now 22!!!! My marriage broke up and I had to start working full time etc etc since then, so not much time for writing.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I really haven't read anything like it....It's not even a lot like my other books.....Maybe Ursula Le Guinn would get it????????
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Well, it's a book about all kinds of marginalized people...... asylum seekers, the ïnsane", orphans", the poor...........I think that's who inspired it......
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
It is a very complex book, with mythologies, cultures, back stories, unexpected connections....It is very strange....I don't think the reader will have ever read anything like it before.