stayed obeisant to
The Spring 2019 Showcase at the zen space is now published. Go. Read. Like.
eep in the Murder Wood is a bank of quietness, and out of it there’s a tree growing (in the only way it knows – straight out and straight up) that she calls the Love Tree, positioning Murder/Love Love/Murder; this tree she salutes on her run, or stops by, touches two fingertips to her mouth and then to the tree, or two hands on her bust and then to the tree, and sometimes braces her back against it, looks out, and thinks about you, whilst gazing ahead at where three unrelated branches make a rough triangle; within that triangle, other limbs born of trees make other shapes, and it’s her business to look further and further into them to see how far it is to the furthest visible point; she waits there to grow cold, or to catch the quartered, quartered, quartered sunlight, wondering who holds the world record in woman/woman kissing and who held the stopwatch, but in all this gathering of dross wool again she thinks about you, can’t help it because of the pressure of the tree on her back, her breath slows, she can hear every sound in the Murder Wood above the blood in her ears, it is all a way of happiness
When we practiced our cursive, the sea
was white and the wave-caps were blue,
the ocean effectively in negative; Ws
were shore-break ripples, while the run
of lower case Rs were Triton’s anger.
I refused common Es and Ss, became
alone a celebrant of rollers, breakers,
priestess of the breath of endless brine,
I knew only the hiss and heart, the salt.
Teacher told me in fact I wrote nothing;
page by page, I wrote till I drowned her.
I love – how strange for me to start a poem like that – macrozoa,
those hostages to gravity, those generants of levity, possessed,
though the mockers would not have it so, of the greatest dignity,
belied by our obsession with whether their forward-faced elbows
are the three and four of knees, the ace of individuality, singular
to them, oh how we wrangle about do they walk on their fingers
or is any limb of ground-propulsion ipso facto a leg, its terminant
a foot; can we not grant peace, for once? They’re pachydermata,
but – hell! – does that mean they’re all totally thick-skinned?
Think, for once, and respect all the bygone woolly mammoths,
the mastodons, and, more modern, those parlayed into our ivory,
and know that even as they are big each one was once so little.
Each patient elephant – I once saw one waltz – was an erst idea
conceived between (what we call) its bull and its cow, gestated,
birthed, and cared for by a herd of aunts and uncles, a caritas
despite the harsh hair of its back, ranging in the pull and pluck
of each moment, whole, irrevocable, blissful, blessed elephant,
the joy of its being young untouched by our anthropomorphism,
though we bestow the word “baby” in our careless sentiment;
I could, if I wanted to – and I once had the notion – make them
into my heraldic achievement, or situate them in a frieze, there,
just below that cornice that coves my bedroom walls, cozy them
to my sleep-pattern, but that appropriation would be a big diss;
I’d rather celebrate them, their simple littleness that’ll one day
grow to Mughal grandeur, never haul a howdah, be left alone
without a mahout to goad them, Ganeshas, little god Ganeshas,
divine offspring, diminutive, our heavenly Lord/Lady, becoming
– what? – whatever the road from bush to the river will make,
whether the flow be the Ganges or Limpopo, there they learn
the art of jetting with their proboscis, while our own juveniles
point with excited indices and cry in joy, “Tembo! O Tembo!”
* I promised someone a poem about baby elephants.
Who but Pharaoh would order bricks to be made
without straw? History doesn’t record his next order,
which was the simple “And bring your own mud!”
In the history of bricks, she is quite the rare one,
taking down my English bond and reassembling me,
chequering Cheshire red with Staffordshire cream.
I’m now Flemish bond, a true wall without bows,
but with the occasional projection (a climbing wall
I may be, but they stop so far, no thieving vantage),
she laid me, boxed me, set me around with a broad
come-to-it as if to say you may look, all may look,
but this wall marks someone’s say-so, so no beyond.
Happy me to have such construction, bricks without
straw, or mud, made only of magic by someone with
a history of magic, taking my own bricks of being.
As if anything beyond could be worth the thieving!
That was the thing, you see, that made a braw byre
out of my boxing-up; and everyone saw it but me.
I asked her what it was for. “To keep you so safe,”
she said, and I thought “Liar! If it’s byre, house,
box, or doocot, I prefer freedom to safe promises.”
And so I effected my exit, leaving only bricks
unbroken, though bereft of straw, my own mud,
a no-deal Brickxit, just the outside walls intact.
he question of her hearing voices: no, not the whole Dauphin issue, but the sense that everything she met head on, or brushed by, or stopped to stare at, had, in its own damned way, something to articulate, that it did not keep these secrets to itself but revealed them, if only to her, though why she had been chosen was a deep, dark, oh how delicious mystery; that sense of selection – until she explored it wholly and found it blind chance, and even after that – made her feel special (how special? “I’m an ant carrying a diamond,” that special) and therefore obliged to poetise; but what she had imparted by these voices was the isolation and grandeur of buildings, to look up at each from flagstone level, as if each stood in a broad, flat desolation and rose in a harsh daylight to impress her with a strange geometry, each as if there were no ‘each’ but only one, each devoid of the come-and-go of people, not purposeless but a shell that signed its own purpose and had within it a labyrinth of meaning which, if she put her ear to this door or to that low casement, would whisper if not of the sea then
hen it seemed to her that her face began to be chased with a little age, she took to walks on the broad, long beach, to feel the wind-whipped sand take its tax of her bare legs, thinking that if she stood there forever, for ever, four (because she declared with stubbornness and against the weight of mathematics that eternity must be composed of equal and measureable segments, and even though she had been condemned wrong time after time she never ceased to employ this falsehood as a metaphor) ever, the process by which a grain took away a morsel of her and another clung to her meant that she was becoming less and less a carbon life form and more a silicon, and that a moment would come somewhere before oblivion when she would be totally transformed, would hang between the two, something between a being and a stone, and would have a deep truth if only for that sparking-point of transformation; thus only, it has to be said, until she felt cold, or the tug of obligation, or the shout of an impatient familial, or a dozen other banal discomforts, and went to find the shelter of pines where wind dropped, sand dried on her