Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

Poem/sugar-gem girls

Posted: June 29, 2013 in Fly-By-Night
Tags: , , , ,

under the sun there are girls who wear

their hearts on wrists like confetti chains,

red and flaking away like stars;

.

as children they gave us

.

candy bracelets, necklaces, and we

would beautify ourselves in sweetness,

eat those sugar-gems, those jewels

.

until the hard enamel of girlhood cracked

our teeth like tortoiseshell, biting

down on the moon, our wrists

.

grown fat with blood, as pale or dark

as areolas under the harsh white light

of boys’ eyes, blinding as car headlamps;

.

we were does, our unantlered heads

lowered for combat, raw velvet scraped

into bleeding, butting against those sharp tines

those white knives, and we

.

would buckle at the knees, we would

string ourselves out on candy-wires,

our skin embossed

.

with eat me, drink me down, until

one by one,

they devoured

.

our sugar-gem selves; until

our empty, naked heartstrings bled

.

like cavities.

A poem inspired by this amazing tumblr of people reading on the subway.

underground books

.

hands more varied in colour than

the pages they turn pause,

spread into lectern-cradles for words

 .

as open-edged as breath, whose authors span

cities, countries, centuries more

varied than the scintillant plumage of birds;

 .

each face unguarded, caught engrossed

in worlds-that-are-worlds-that-are-not (that are nonetheless

temporarily more real than

 .

the darkened tunnels their carriage crossed

before this; may each voyage bless

them – eye, heart, ear & tongue) – and

 .

when they land, bookblinked & isolate

on concrete sands,

let them recede gently, like seafoam;

 .

let them be slow to close the cover; let them be late

for work; let ink & stories stain our hands

like henna, honey, loam.

So, in keeping with the feminist themes of my previous two flarf poems (Is She A Whore? and Women Can’t Write), here is another. This one was inspired by Catherynne M. Valente’s excellent post on the Christopher Priest scandal, wherein she points out that women are not generally allowed to get as angry as men without suffering worse social consequences.

Angry Women Are

What to do when a woman is angry?
More than anything, it’s time that we answer.
Women usually get the message
that anger is unpleasant and unfeminine.
(Women are often ashamed.)

.

The angry women
are sitting in Encorpera cubicles across the nation,
seething with rage
that following feminist directives has turned them
into control freaks, looking for an alpha male.
(Anger is unacceptable.)

.

Angry women screech about equality,
and ensure it is only you
who may one day be drafted.
(Anger hurts a female candidate.)

.

An angry woman, a she-monster melding
images of Medea, the Furies, harpies – see,
other women hate her. They see her as a threat,
a great big husband-stealing threat
in a semi-permanent state of panic.
(She is rarely welcomed.)

.

Angry women are angry.
Since when were artists,
especially female artists, required
to prostrate themselves and allow
people to verbally ejaculate on them?
(Don’t be angry.)

.

Why do women feel so angry?
Angry women are powerful women.
Angry women are sharpenin’ their knives.
Welcome to the age of female rage.

.

Angry women are right here and
we’re not going anywhere.

 

Trigger warning: rape themes. 

Feminist anger happened today. I am sick of victims being blamed for rape. I am sick of victim-blamers moaning about how unfair it is that rape victims aren’t willing to rationally discuss the possibility that being raped was their fault, thereby forcing the blamer to conclude that it really was their fault, and all because people just won’t explain it properly. GAH.

So instead of screaming at the internet*, I decided to lapse into poetry.

This was the result:

A Woman Speaks

My sexuality is not
a red rag waved at a raging bull,
my breasts are not bread to be pulled apart
by your starving hands;
I am not responsible for the way your gaze
rakes over me like a plough through soil:

I am not here for you.

Being female is not
a challenge
a threat
or an act of lunacy
when committed before some miser of skin
who’d deny me the right
to deny his entry:

I am not meat or an unlocked door;
I am not treasure, I am not silk or porcelain;
I am not the sum of the things you want from me, stranger
who judges my shape like the hooves of livestock:

I owe you nothing.

I do not care
that you saw me pass on street or bridge
and thought that day I was just for you,
the flavour of girl you’d craved all week
like a boutique beer or ice-cream cone:
I am not your sweet; I am not your lost resolve.

My body is not a provocation.
My skin is not
the threat of aggression
that intimates violence, blood-knuckled and raw
as a gutted fish. My naked legs
are not a pair of middle fingers raised
to some vile enemy in whose lands I walk –
my arms, my thighs, my stomach, throat and mons
are all my soverign territory;

my clothes are not mouths that scream abuse
at passers-by, forcing some archaic choice
of redress or dishonour;

nor am I prey, a girl-made-doe
whose life is lived with the threat of jaws,
whose survival is luck, and whose gore-streaked death
is predicted by animal nature, Darwin
or some other magic eight-ball – listen!

My flesh and blood are not the Eucharist:
consuming me will not absolve
the act of consumption.
I am not Andromeda chained to the rock,
a virgin sacrifice sent to placate
the sea-wreathed serpent of demanding lust:

I am not a house
that begs to be broke-and-entered, and if you insist
on using your wants
to extrapolate mine,
then you only succeed
in destroying yourself.

Stranger,
I name you:

bull and beggar,
miser and thief – a covetous, angry,
superstitious fossil:

a self-made beast.

.

.

*There was still some screaming at the internet. Just less of it.

NASA's photo of Diwali Night fireworks in India

- reblogged from here.

Furious refugee groups have questioned how long the federal government will continue mandatory detention after the suicide of another refugee at Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul today slammed the government following the death this morning of the Tamil refugee known as Shooty to his friends.

The Immigration Department has confirmed the man was taken to hospital earlier today but died.

Citing poisoning as a possible cause of death, Mr Rintoul said a number of approaches had been made to DIAC to have Shooty released into community detention, but they had been unsuccessful.

He said the man’s failed bid to be released to attend a Hindu festival may have sparked his suicide.

- Patrick Lion, Refugee advocates slam mandatory detention after refugee suicide

.

Diwali

.

The lights are lit

to welcome a goddess.

.

Good has won, and nations gleam

with rainbow lights

as evil is driven out by love

and families meet

and laughter is shared

and just for a night

the world is remade –

the stars are rivalled

by earthly brightness:

billions of hearts

and billions of candles

blaze like auroras

and banish the dark.

But elsewhere, as always,

evil endures.

The cell has no candles.

It punishes hearts

by denying them hope

until life is a box

without doors or space

and the whole world hangs

from the tip of a key

whose name is release

that is rarely spoken

and seldom used.

And into this dark

comes the rumour of light

that is called Diwali,

and all good things

are remembered again,

 .

and the promise of love

is music in ears he thought were deaf;

and the promise of kin

is touch to a body long denied;

and the promise of free

is bread in the mouth starvation claimed –

.

but at the last, the man in the cell

remains.

Despair is his poison.

Darkness wins.

He swallows it down

and the lights go out,

for the key called release

fits a second door

whose name is death

and whose lock will open

even when cells

will not.

A billion candles

to welcome a goddess –

and yet we could not light one

to welcome a man.

- also posted here.

I just took a photo of a photo

of myself.

 .

In it, a twelve- or thirteen-year-old me

sits on a wedge of carpeted stair,

a GameBoy in her hands as a fixed stare

rearranges TETRIS blocks, with her gold hair

lopped at shoulder-length, tan arms bare

and noticeably darker than a chest more fair,

a pale slope yet without cleavage; and a still air

of concentration. I doubt she knew the camera was there.

 .

My mother sent me the photo. A friend of hers

dug it up, then passed it on.

None of us can recall where it was taken, or why:

the steps are unfamiliar, the occasion itself, if there was one,

lost to history. Still, I recognise things:

the green shirt, favourite, acquired at Christmas – my best friend had one, too;

the black crepe skirt I wore to the theatre;

the sandals, as yet new, which I wore and wore

until they fell to bits.

 .

The GameBoy isn’t mine, though.

This one belonged to my godmother’s son,

a special clear case with black and white graphics

made (or so I can Google now) in 1995.

Mine was yellow, a colour model

not released for another three years, at which time

I saved my birthday money to buy

what my parents wouldn’t. Either way,

it dates the photo: December ’98, I think,

or early ’99.

 .

And now I hold the image twice: once in the print

propped up on my desk, the physical copy passed

from hand to hand, plucked from some album

and mailed overseas; and now, again,

in digital form. I pull out my camera

and suddenly, I’m sucked through time and space,

back to that unknown date and unknown place

to take a photo of my younger self

with a camera more advanced than the game she holds

by a full decade –

 .

And then I’m back, sitting at my rented desk

in Scotland, staring at a tiny screen

and the unblinking face of the girl I was,

wondering what else she knew, and did,

that was never seen.

The dreadful ease with which a fire starts,

that match-head flick and short, sharp scratch

that brings the sparks like shrapnel shards

and sets the world ablaze.

  .

We choke on smoke, the London sky a failing lung

consumptive with the greed and deeds

of men who run, and men with guns,

and humankind who, hungry, hunt,

and wanting, wreak

 .

but do not speak

a language easy on the tongue.

 .

When rhyme and reason mount the curb

and see their foes, and will not swerve,

and better men who stood to save the things they loved

are knocked instead to early graves

we ask ourselves where parents were –

what bridles checked might otherwise

have reined the rage and spared their lives –

 .

when everything is going up in flames.

 .

Elsewhere, a po-faced banker knots his tie

and strangles like a Tyburn son

in auto-erotic ecstasy; but then he kicks the chair away

and jerks and spasms in the throes

of sex and death and – look, who fucking knows?

But that’s the joy of double-dipping, chaps:

the money breaks, and and then its spenders snap.

 .

And everyone is asking why,

as though some word or magic curse

could tell them how to steer away from worse.

But in the rubble, born and grown by greed

that burns both ways, and fear, and hurt, and need

Dame Trickledown is turning deadly tricks

for stolen gold

 .

and newly-bloodied bricks.

Provoked by this news article.

I’m really getting into flarf poetry, and particularly the idea of writing feminist flarf. There’s a terrible sort of zeitgeist to typing provocative phrases into Google and boggling at what comes up, the things people write and the views they hold. Which isn’t to say I’m still not being selective about the lines I choose, or even that I don’t, from time to time, take only part of a sentence, so that it appears to laud what it formerly criticised: the point is that someone felt the need to rebuke that position in the first place, because someone else suggested it was true.

This piece was inspired by VS Naipaul and his spectacular literary sexism.

.

Women Can’t Write

.

According to baseline research, women can’t

create. It would be funny

if it weren’t so sad.

.

It is so much easier to type

using a penis –

no woman can compare to him.

.

Women can’t write good slash.

Women are not passionate enough about sex

and concentrate too much on feelings

to be able to write raunchy stories:

women think that the Kama Sutra

is an Indian takeaway.

.

Women can’t write emails for shit.

They send them back and forth all day

like they’re shopping for useless junk,

each one more useless than the last.

.

Women can’t write hardboiled crime.

Women can’t write hard SF.

Women can’t write fantasy books.

Women can’t write effective horror.

Women can’t write poems.

Women can’t write comedy.

Women can’t write believable male characters.

Women can’t write for anyone but women.

.

My lady sensibility is limited

to menstruation (hilarious),

babies (adorable),

and unicorns mating (adorably hilarious).

.

Drowned in oestrogen,

women can’t write for shit

so it might be nice

if there was an award they could win

without needing help

from affirmative action.

The damage begins with thought

And all flows out from there:

It’s not about brains or brawn

Or who has the greater care

When it comes to rocking a cradle;

Somewhere, somebody thought

That half of all children born

Across the face of the earth

Were less than the other half

If one day, they could give birth.

-

Strength doesn’t lead to intelligence,

But that’s where the fight ends up.

Inside, out and back again:

All of history’s well-heeled gents,

Passing the brandy, swilling the cup.

Surely the differences of flesh

Would matter less, or not at all,

If we understood what they really meant;

Two separate halves of a whole;

-

The having of thoughts, and their worth

Are disconnected from tasks

To which our bodies are suited:

That nude electricity, the driving spark

That fuels us – that is the point.

Peel off the candy-wrapper skins,

The weight that asks

We all be store-bought mannequins

And study the pilot-light:

Humanity, always sculpting fire,

Brave in the sentient night.

-

The directions we forbid ourselves

Through fear, not love

Are made in monstrous shapes:

We try to draw

A smile on the wreck of centuries

And make it a jackanapes

But even greasepaint rebels

At the push-and-shove.

We are not fools

To fix what was wrong before –

-

Now step aside, you ancients.

Open the door.



Note: The above was roughly inspired by this hideous article in today’s SMH, wherein columnist Bettina Arndt worries that Australia’s unmarried, female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will corrupt the Youths Of Today with her de facto lifestyle. Clearly, I was not impressed.

I found out today that Thora Morris, a woman who was once a second grandmother to me, has been put in a nursing home because of dementia. This poem is about her.

Thora


Rose-thumbed, green to the elbow,

you smiled wide to see

a small girl in a flower-print dress,

barefoot, poking her head through the gate –

.

frowning, as children do, at the mysteries of rich soil,

bright violets, lush carnations –

.

you invited her in, down the dim hall

behind the screen door, past the old photos, out

to the veranda, sitting her down

beside the typical crocheted rug, the bowl of home-grown oranges

and told her stories.

.

Once, your hair was princess-red, burning a bright fire.

You rode a Clydesdale called Jack, whose broken gallop

threw you clear over the paddock fence. At school,

you were Puck, laughing as a stubborn boy vowed

that he weren’t sayin’ any thees or thous

when after almost seventy years, you still remembered your closing lines

.

and said them with me, word for perfect word.

.

Grown up more, you loved a man

who went to war, piloting the high skies. His name was Bing

and though you wished him home again

even his body never made it back, buried instead

with an English squadron, name marked up

alongside English dead.

.

I said, when I grow up, too

I’ll visit at his grave for you, or else

find his name on the memorial, so that one of us

could say we’d been. It’s not too late. I’m here, visiting the right soil.

I can still do it.

.

But your memory has betrayed us both.

These last few years, the older me has wilted away,

browning at the edges, peeling back like a dead petal,

falling aside; but there is no new blossom underneath.

.

Last time we met, your eyes wavered through me.

Here was some strange impostor, far too tall

and far too old to be Mary’s granddaughter –

Where is Philippa? you asked, and though I answered

here, I’m here,

.

you didn’t quite believe.

.

Now you’ve been taken away

to where the dementia can be kept at bay, ministered

by careful hands and careful minds.

I imagine you in a small, grey room, your tiny frame dwarfed

in a wooden chair, your clever hands idle, twitching for a trowel.

.

There will be no more gardening.

.

What will become of your roses? I try to imagine

the nurses will give you a plot of earth, some seeds to sow,

but in such institutions, life either visits, or fades;

a temporary gift.

.

It does not grow.