rattle

rattle

in a summer switched on too long

dull yawning
drowsy procession
of intermission limbs
thirsty
for motion

I see a gap widening
and we leak ourselves in,
fish in our hips for overheated

phones — there and then,
that’s when I catch news of you, feel
something in me
rattle

like a loose filling
falling out of the mouth
of the day.

surely you still burned
in that curious comet way —

your mood whipping out of the shade,
a scorpion circling your lip,

recollection
looking for you now in the tail of the crowd
looking wryly at me

but the ushers curve us away,
back to door three; candles blown out
to a rusty volcano glow.

we have boxed ourselves in our seats,
desperate gravity beneath us
my battery close to draining

these spots in my eyes dancing,
white dwarves climbing back
into the jaws of red giants

and already you are cooling,
a thin smoke memory
wisped between and beyond our palms.

we throw them together at the end,
hurl our enthusiasm over
a balcony’s edge

to where I imagine your wax
running away in ribbons

and I begin to spin,
I feel myself
rattle

and fall in

This is my last one I think – o/

stranger twice

stranger twice 
  
I saw you through glass 
late for a train, or so it looked: 
your face like the morning star
  
given good news, knowing nothing 
of night’s approach; of the shock 
of violence soon to be unleashed 
  
just moments from when 
moments would become 
      moments, 
  
before I turned fitfully out of sleep
and in the glow of the late night news 
      your face, 
too distant now like the morning, 
  
your stars raining glass, 
the last train dragged away
into the bewildered dawn,

horizon collapsing
on new honeyed earth.

rue de varenne

rue de varenne

taken back to the secret place,
that corner of Rodin's woods
where statues begin to thin out

or were swallowed by moss,
cooled by an absence of tourists
who never stray from the path

or their first language.

whatever was forged there
is frozen; why dig up the
heartbeat of a distant day,

buried with his ceramic
in the phantom fossil record?
the original still thumps in me.

felt as though left long enough
alone and they'd chain the gates,

lock our fate in some
out of hours embrace -
room for two more here,

you said - already your roots
unfurling around ankles
into the discovered earth,

Balzac bodies burning,
busy like new bronze.

8am at melbourne pathology

8am at melbourne pathology

and already it's over,
the nurse and needle withdrawn,
your forehead hot with foreboding,
a whisper in your ribs that
something has been forgotten,

and though you tell yourself
'don't look', you spy the vials.

and you know of no-one
who can say with certainty
that they've ever seen a thought,

who can prove without doubt
that thoughts might be borne not
by brain but by blood;
the sort of temporarily rich

blush of thoughts that could
be drawn out of you and
           might look back - 

might breathe fog onto test tube
glass, as if to savour the impossible
sight of you fading into life,
before you escape August

and ward, wander
into unimaginable
season

 

An unpublished poem from 2015/16

common tongues

common tongues


A day somewhere in my twenties. We are
cocooned for a brief moment in a lift shaft
yet somehow the call makes it through.

I know it is bad news because it is midday here
in Melbourne but my father is speaking French.
In this sense I understand without comprehending.

He joins his brothers and sister and mother
in their timezone soon after.

We return years later. My cousin laughs at my
accent but has no English. My father is jetlagged
but fully immersed: he accidentally translates
his mother’s tongue into itself.

This is one of the few times he has even used
it with me. It takes several more trips til I can
visit without him.

My grip on the language improves until people
figure I learnt it from him and not novels.
He learnt his English the same way. I think it’s

ironic that the modern Australian assumes things
should come easy instead of through hard work.
Sometimes I dream in my father’s tongue
but never with him.

Today my father is waking from a long dream
in hospital. He speaks instinctively in Australian
with an accent I can’t hear. This surprises the
nurses but to me it’s just his voice. His brothers
say his French now has an Australian accent. I

hear this better because I rarely hear it.
My mother’s French accent is perfect but she only
learnt the present tense. I don’t think this prevents
her from dreaming about the past.

I send an email back to his mother and his
sister and brothers. For me it is always easier
to write than to speak, no matter the language.

I see a tiny grammatical error after I hit Send.
They understand entirely. I have learnt to speak
with enough mistakes to make myself clear despite

them, or clearly enough about them. In the end
that is all a voice is. And in the end there is no
voice, just common tongue.

 

Alhalkere

Alhalkere

it's dusk that plunders the day of gold,
   sets your shoulders square over Alhalkere
country

so hot even dried flowers dream of their own
rain gods flooding the cracked and heaving

               earth that beds us both,

yawns open ancient boundaries
            invisible to me

to let in glimmer as bird wing,
    rare beauty of a bee sting,
  from seed to bud to bursting    until

all flowers become fathers: thirsty 
                 for the Now; for shadows
on the surface between waking

and cooler, deeper sleep.

 

Ekphrastic poem based on the painting ‘Drying Wildflowers’ by Emily Kame Kngwarreye

the writhing

the writhing

on this island, weight and loom springs
up around you.

grey gives way to black pitch

you could assemble enough pencil shavings
and there would still emerge city -
carnacs of light sprouting from outcrop,
crossed lovers or polar opposites

moved in and thrust upon each other.
in the whip of such instruments
        there is always collateral,
always a night spell.
assign it a name, incant until

        it casts your mother.
this is the blank and heavy spot
where the dancers in your doubt
congregate, implicating
themselves through ink

          - here they come!
electric arms flailing from the sky.
you let out anxious rain

watch it steam
under the hot writhing of gods

Unpublished ekphrastic poem from 2016, based on the ‘Field Lines’ exhibition at MONA by Cameron Robbins.