the Poetry kit

Poems 1998

Marvin Bell Janet Buck Ted Burford Chris Byrne Jon Corelis Peter Davis Gerald England Coral Hull Peter Howard Larry Jaffe David Kennedy John Kinsella Thomas Lynch Fiona Robyn Michael Rothenberg Ernest Slyman Barry Spacks C K Tower John Tranter

Jon Corelis


Maria I want your bitter mouth
Maria I want your breasts of dank loam
your breasts of sullen ripeness
your breasts of childbirth

Maria I want the narcotic orchid of your tongue
I want your eyes of treason
your eyes of attack
your eyes of the moment of death

Maria I want to be washed up shipwrecked on your shore
I want to be buried in your blood
I want the venom of your passion to sear my veins

Maria I want to be a universe unborn kicking in your womb

This poem was originally published in Isibongo

Gerald England

Drowning by Degrees

for Stevie Smith

Shrewd secretary secretly smiling
in your white socks and unfashionable shoes
you were never understood
by those who would flee suburbia
never taking the tube
to an office in the city

You were always Peggy from Palmer's Green
to your authoritative aunt
living in nomansland
well removed from that sea
where the father you hated
waved in the salty water.

John Kinsella interviewed

Wild Radishes
from The Hunt
Across the dark fields the family is spread
While overhead the sky is haunted,
In the dull light they scour the crop
Never looking up as the day seems to stop.
Wild radishes missed will destroy the yield �
Bills to be paid, deals to be sealed.
But the plover's refusal to lift and drop,

And the absence of crow and parrot talk,
And the immense racket as stalk rubs on stalk,
Registers somewhere deep in the soul.
And as the sun begins to uncoil -
The deep green of the wheat uneasy with light �
The golden flowers of wild radishes bite
Just before they are ripped from the soil.

The Tower
from The Hunt
When the late-summer sun was fused overhead
The Witnesses arrived at the long southern fence
Parking their car on the road's edge, gingerly climbing
In ankle-length dresses, the deep vermilion
Of their Bibles glowing like stray swamp lights
Caught in the unrehearsed steps of an awkward dance.

The dogs chained beneath the water tank began to dance
Crazily, grinding gravel throats, tugging at the rotten posts - overhead
The wooden tower swayed and shimmered while the lights
Of the sun whorled magnetically over the long southern fence,
A twist of wire leaping up and cutting the skin, vermilion
Blood spilling down into the soil, parrots' calls climbing

Indifferently. He walked out to meet them, a piece of climbing
Ivy twisting absently in his hands, watching dragonflies dance
A dazzling techno-mazurka over the exotically vermilion
Waters of the algae-infested fish pond. High overhead
A flock of cockatoos rolled ramshackle towards the fence,
Their pink underbellies counterpointing the Bible's dark lights:

The bodies of their fallen comrades dim spiritless lights,
An outbreak of psittacosis thinning their ranks, the climbing
Mortality rate bringing scientists from both sides of the rabbit-proof fence.
Meeting the Witnesses halfway he noticed the blood and the dance
Of flies about the draining fluid. A dry thunder echoed overhead
Though there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The flies fled the vermilion

Stream as a hand swept down onto them. The vermilion
Covers enhanced the canine vision and the dogs yelped louder, the lights
Of the three figures reflected as one in their tortured eyes. Overhead
The tower expanded with the heat, the temperature climbing
Rapidly, by the minute - its atoms trapped in a dance
Of increasing excitement. As they spoke he glanced at the fence

And noticed that it needed straining, a loose fence
Being the sign that something's amiss, that the vermilion
Gawps of howling dogs are symptomatic of an unsynchronised dance.
Noting the change in his demeanour the Witnesses held the lights
Of their Bibles close to his face, thinking the colour climbing
His skin was a sign of faith. But calling out he motioned overhead.

The dogs broke free and made for the fence as the lights
Were extinguished, their vermilion glows washed by the climbing
Waters, the dance of iron as the tower came crashing from overhead.

from Syzygy
1 Apprehension

And how did you feel
the surface too close
and the flappers fizzing
at your tender
and vulnerable
loaded with misgivings?
Swift overload catapulting
the largess culminating
cinema papers boys-own-annual-ing
from post office to mailbox
and bicycle-clip braces
on the maligned bull terrier's
teeth: an island of green
reticulated sucked into the soft pink
of the suburb, insurmountable the ratepayer's
anguish and bravado! the house a kraken
or bathysphere undercutting the plane,
adjunct to surface, one dimensional
suction. O fear ripples evading
sonar buoys Blue Gum Lake
receding as bores suck effluent
from beneath the arses of ducks.
Paperbarks turn black
water soils over
banks of sodden bread
and soft drink cans
this is popular viewing
medium small frame minutiae
chronic screen or inhabited pasture,
pointillist and contentious
cartooning serious ineptitudes
hatchback unravelling a bend
the lock-stock
barrelling it into sticky drink
at the bottom of the can: sure,
we feel strung up and depleted - light
even heavy and darkness uplifting,
necessitating remission into screaming
as the engine revs the flywheel
seems not to move dear o dear
love's texts spread haphazardly over the bucket
seats - and don't we know
they're braggarts! denying fusion
and invading asteroids, deploying
consumables and calling
it art.

2 Fallout
A refugee from contention I load
stills into the projector
taking the negative impression
expression prising anger
out of its folds
the damage budding retentive
small experiment releasing heat:
remember looting these impressions?
machinery expressive and light-
conscious love scarifying poise
the tractor rocketing the clods of loamy earth
bootlegging frustration mudbrick and fencewire
circular-saws threatening Robert Frosts
and doorpost jamming two years too old
and rotting, the sun orange plastic,
perfect, the film was black
and white and the sheep gurgling

3 Self-regard
-ing homonculous metals chambers
tinfoiling exclusions like humidicribs
wheeling slick asphalt deletions
and stripping film, dust water licking
axminster carpet spreadsheets - what shows
in the headlights or pinheaded
spotlight? Crunch. Synthetic victims.
And the frogs croak politely
in their ditches. HALT! Good year
wet weather halts the death of a zebra
just outside a butcher's shop. Can't read the signs
good who gives a damn anyway?
Needed, inquire within: good management
and sensible market indicators.
Those who leave anything up to description
need not remote opinions. Morality
stinks, we keep it in buckets.

Thomas Lynch interviewed

three poems from "Still Life in Milford"

Bishop's Island

Two holy men came out here long ago
and prayed against the ground that bound them to
the green mainland and their prayers were answered.
Thus, from their rock in the North Atlantic
they watched for God among such signs and wonders
as sea and sky and wind and dark supply:
fury and firmament privations
enough to dull the flesh, and beauty too,
to break the heart. They wept with gratitude,
kept silent, built an oratory. There,
you can see the ruins of it from the coast road.
Sea birds brought them mackeral it is said.
Fresh water sprung from the rock. When one died
the other buried him and cut a stone
then died himself some few years after that.
And everything was swept - his hut, his bones -
into the vast ocean and was forgot
until some bishop on a pilgrimage
centuries later, as bishops often did,
declared them saints, proclaimed the holy island His.

One of Jack's

The body is that of a white female,
sixty-eight inches and ninety-six pounds
appearing well-developed and poorly
nourished and appearing consistent with
the stated age of thirty-nine years.
The body is cold with full rigor mortis
and posteriorly distributed
widespread fixed cherry-red livor mortis.
The body is very emaciated
with loss of body fat and muscles.
The scalp hairs are brown and long. There is dried
vomitus on the face, around the mouth
and on the neck. Natural teeth are present.
The pupils are dilated. There are
no conjunctival petechiae or
haemorrage. There is no visible injury
on face or head. The neck is without injury.
The chest is symmetrical. The breasts are small
and symmetrical. There are no palpable
masses in the breasts. The intercostal
spaces are retracted, making the rib
prominences visible. The abdomen
is scaphoid. Evidence of previous
surgery is present over the abdomen.
The genetalis are that of an adult
female type without injury or
abnormality. There is mild
oedema over the legs and ankles.
The upper extremities and back are
unremarkable. There are two patches
on the upper back, one on either side.
On the right side the labelling on the patch
reads '100 mg/h Duragestk (Fentanyl)'.
The patch on the left side has a hand-written note
indicating '9-30 Tuesday'.
The index of the right hand has a small
white string which measures ten inches in length.
At the end of the string there is a metal clip.

Still Life in Milford - Oil on Canvas by Lester Johnson

You're lucky to live in a town like this
with art museums and Indian food
and movie houses showing foreign films
and grad-students and comely undegrads.
Years back I'd often make the half-hour trip.
It was good for my creative juices
to browse the holy books at Shannan Drum.
Still, life in Milford isn't all that bad.

We have two trendy restaurants and a bar
well known by local s for its Coney dogs.
We have a book shop now. We even have
a rush hour, art fairs and bon vivants.
And a classic car show every October -
mostly muscle cars - Dodges, Chevys, Fords.
No psychic healers yet or homeopaths.
Still, life in Milford has a certain ambience,

more Wyeth than Picasso, to be sure,
more meatloaf and potatoes than dim-sum. Fact is,
at first I thought this Lester Johnson was
a shirt-tail cousin of the Johnson Brothers -
long-standing members of the Chamber of Commerce
in Milford, Michigan, like me. In fact
his only connection to these parts was
Still Life in Milford, gathering dust here

in the basement of the art museum.
His own Milford's somewhere back east, near Yale -
the day job, teaching, he could never quit
the way that Robert Frost taught English here
and Donald Hall before the muse in them
escaped their offices in Angel Hall.
They were last seen running and maybe running still.
Life in Milford, Michigan is similar.

I have steady work, a circle of friends
and lunch on Thursdays with the Rotary.
I have a wife, unspeakably beautiful,
a daughter and three sons, a cat, a car,
good credit, taxes, and mortgage payments
and certain duties here. Notably,
when folks get horizontal, breathless, still:
life in Milford ends. They call. I send a car.

Between the obsequies I play with words.
I count the sounds and syllables and rhymes.
I try to give it shape and sense, like so:
eight stanzxas of eight lines apiece, let's say
ten syllables per line or twelve. Just words.
And if rhyming's out of fashion, I fashion rhymes
that keep their distance, four lines apart, like so.
Still, life in Milford keeps repeating. Say

I'm just like Lester, just like Frost and Hall:
I cover the moment in which nothing moves
and crave the life free of life's distractions.
A bucket of flowers on a table.
A vase to arrange the flowers in. A small
pipe - is it? - smouldering in an ashtray to
suggest the artist and impending action.
Still Life in Milford seems a parable

on the human hunger for creation.
The flowers move from bucket to vase
like moving words at random into song -
the act of ordering is all the same -
the ordinary becomes a celebration.
Whether paper, canvas, ink or oil paints,
once finished we achieve a peace we call
Still Life in Milford. Then we sign our names.