Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

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.

Our flight to London leaves tomorrow afternoon, which means that today has been spent, by and large, in a haze of Doing Things: wrapping gifts, packing bags, putting bikes in storage, sewing the ends into Toby’s new Dr Who scarf, doing tax, buying travel insurance, finalising the return of our bond, photocopying passports, purchasing books and so on. One might reasonably expect that this anticipatory bustle was the highlight – and, indeed, the be-all, end-all – of the day.

One would, however, be wrong.

In the course of stumbling upon my computer’s text-to-speech function and making it say swear words (which was a subset of recalibrating my cursor speed, which was a corollary of trying to fix my recalcitrant USB ports) , my loving husband discovered a similar facility in his own laptop: viz, its voice recognition software. Had this program been given a more specific nomenclature – such as word recognition or sentence construction software – I would be perfectly poised to denounce these labels as both false and misleading. However, after listening to almost two hours of a grown man patiently endeavouring to coax sense from a machine, I may safely vouch that the voice recognition software does, indeed, interpret his voice – albeit with a complete and utter lack of accuracy.

Fixing these many defects is an ongoing process: for one thing, the software seems categorically incapable of comprehending Toby’s pronunciation of the letter F, with humerous results, while attempts at associative spelling (C for Clive) have frequently devolved along the lines of P for Pisshead, F for Fuck, and S for Stupid. Nonetheless, he persists. Fifteen minutes alone were dedicated to teaching it the name Frege, which his laptop interpreted as ‘radio’ – an amusing misapprehension which Frege himself would have doubtless been well-placed to appreciate. With each sternly reiterated command (Go To End Of Document!), I find myself envisaging his computer as a disobedient puppy or head-tilting parrot. Bad software – go to your cage!

In which context, I am delighted to offer the following garbage – a word for word transcript of today’s efforts at voice recognition turned into existential poetry by judicious use of the space key (Toby’s doing). I can’t provide a comparative record of what was actually said to elicit such nonsense, but I can assure you that it in no way resembled what here follows. It’s my belief that his laptop has a secret penchant for Vogon poetry. I’ll let you judge for yourselves.

Vogon Voice Recognition Poetry

Gus that it is now a girl

from what you’re doing

what you listen to

what lined up

can’t say how your right mind dog

could revenge on his knees and at least try another

down missing so I cent gas

is now back

is no gas

there is now a girl

what you’re doing

what you listen to

what my now can’t say how

your right mind goal remains

them unused needs at least try another her and her are

How hotels urinal I give you

realise that your hotel one listening

usually listening to them

in writing things down

Maxwell’s quoted no

and what was that I can do little

but not mostly to what I’m saying

issue a real Secretary

are beginning very angry

that it can honestly start looking

at receiving the and the long-haul dark

or her who are already

some other blacks were not mostly

to what I’m saying usual real secretaries

bearing a finger again

reader can honestly start looking at receiving B

and a long haul are all looks a Milan

to have a better known by her

you are oracle is our way

and I for every year

you will rely on they are there is a

Up, you are knew what you’re talking about

his a limousine as growing very room,

and only three creating

I’ll walk towards more on her

who are all middle of his indulging

quite the here and there are other people on,

and already some other blacks were not mostly

to what I’m saying usual real job

has bearing asking you again readers are,

they start looking at receiving B

ally our phones and other nine

took them known by her

you want oracle is it,

why and I walked in reunion

will run like one day I’ll bet he is

the in up of I-the the who had.

Poem/Friday Day

Posted: August 14, 2009 in Ink & Feather
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Consider this day: shinyfaced,

rambunctious as a spring lamb, it

walks jauntily, whistles, tips its cap

at pretty girls in voluminous

red skirts; winks

 

at the youngish nun

whose covert wimple does not quite disguise

her blush;

 

buys a round of drinks at the pub; laughs

uproariously at the middling jokes

of aged professors (thereby making them all

wits)

 

& now it stands, straightens

 

its festive, peacockesque bow-tie 

– a gift, no doubt, from some glorious

conquest/colourspangled dawn –

 

strolls, nonchalant as a cowboy cat,

into the sunset

 

& sleeps, wrapping itself

in the wide white stars:

waiting, watching,

ready.

The following poem is all Nick Harkaway’s fault.

wine & wildness

Poets are creatures of wine & wildness,
rose-wounded, briar marked by their
insatiable insensate longings: let them
go forth & craftily beggar the branches

of Idun’s gold tree; let them ferment
the apples of youth & drown in nepenthe,
crossing the Styx with four cold coins
for a return journey. Moon-touched

let them howl at the atoms of sky
and the jaws of surf; let them be wrecks,
mahogany bones jutting skywards
through a billion billion grains of desert

sand; & while they have strength, let them
bear that rage, that terrible sharp love
from which we shrink, until it silences
their music, blood, hands

Poem/Fingers

Posted: April 7, 2009 in Ink & Feather
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I seem to be in poetry mode at the moment. Weird. But also fun.

fingers

when precisely was it that my

fingers (scrap-nailed, bent)

 

became

 

lined with use, adult tools that do not

resemble those slim fronds

with which I learned

to grasp crayons, doorhandles

 

firmly, with a child’s sense

of seriousness in such simple tasks; when

 

did the callous below

the ring-finger of my left hand,

flesh-caramel dot beneath a silver band

form; or when

 

did the sharp creases of

my palms first tar

in lines of life, heart,  mercury

 

the hidden onwards road,

the wandering star?  

Another poem for the wondrous oracle meme.

last night

restless, sweating at the touch of old gods, I
lay tangled in the dawn of sleep, fretting
my pillow, dreaming of places where the wind cries
through the open arms of broken statues, seeming
 
insubstantial, shaking with fear
at the saw-blade terror of avatars
walking like madmen under foreign stars
uncomprehending of what loas rode their hands, breaking
 
glass eggs, world eggs, cracking the gold yolk
silver-limned on the table-top, 
unable either to falter, choose or stop
the terrible march of their red guns, blackening
 
the sky with stone towers, falling like tears
or waterfalls, down
the deep gullies of our throats and eyes
to mark the ruination of these years
 
and on waking
 
I was left whole but altered, hollowed out,
the inner spiral of a nautilus shell
behind each gleaming eyelid.
all was well.

A poem for contribution here, and learned of here.

Nine Things About Oracles

 

first, there is blindness. like the white moon

in her witching sky, this oracle is prone to concealment.

lidless, pearls

 

scale on her milk-eyes, iridescent, each blink

sharp as an oyster shell.

 

secondly,

 

note her childish hands, slimwristed, fair,

ravelling the unseen silk. third is her voice,

keening like a lost hawk,

 

wild as a rose-wind. fourth, fifth, sixth:

count the nubs of her curving spine, warped

under salt. a sulphurous ocean

blooms in her, firebright anemones cling

 

to the tight-lipped carapace of her soul, waving

their soft fronds.

 

seventh is a mystery

as in the deeps of ancient caves she stares

at the blank wall, scratches darkness, weeps.

 

eighth is a syllable, sibyl-tongue

stuck

to the mouth-roof, breathing

the thick air, sighing go from here,

 

question the night sky, demand answers of the owls

and rivers, go,

 

but at the last, the ninth bell

 

wisdom is lacking. we stagger out,

clutching a small death over our hearts,

snared by a net of tears

 

but do not learn.  

Fire/Poem

Posted: February 12, 2009 in Ink & Feather
Tags: , , , , , ,

1.

just a spark. a tiny star,
winking in dropped glass
beside sticky tarmac, or else
an ember squeezed from a cigarette,
a sharp red dream in a firebug’s heart.
what madness, pain, will it impart?

2.

roaring gold, the maw devours
homes, lives, plants
as easily
as terror, longing, grief
steal hours.
a cancerous lung, the smoke consumes;
pauses, gathers strength
& then resumes.

3.

the wind is wild as a witch’s curse,
stinging with scarlet thorns
its Phaeton-mares, frenzied,
pulling a charcoal hearse.
sun’s chariot falls like a hammer-blow,
a wall of burning grief,
a searing loss, & while the anguish lasts
it will not cease.

4.

they hide in the earth,
seek sanctuary
that Dresden’s force denies.
above, dams boil & hearts explode
& weep as dogs lie bravely down,
a sea of guardians who will not rise.
they could have strayed,
but faithfully did not:
their masters stayed.

5.

trees shatter into swollen skies,
bursting like ripened fruit
in the fire’s hard hand. we knew the risks;
we understood
the perils of our lovely, sunswept land.
they were not this: to stay or go, but burn
without a choice. birds died aloft:
small angels, lacking voice.

6.

now only ash remains, & twisted shells.
where once sang lyrebirds,
we sift the wrecks, the dark, unlovely hells
of loss. such wounds run deep,
& still the fires burn.
we dare not sleep.

Whenever I listen to music, I focus on lyrics. The feel of a song is important – whether it tugs at me, what mood it evokes, how well it flows – but the relationship between that feel and the lyrics is paramount. Fundamentally, I’m both a words person and a poetry nerd, which means that not only am I unable to tolerate bad lyrics, I can’t block them out. This means, somewhat aggravatingly, that I end up learning the lyrics to Delta Goodrem songs purely through chance exposure, like skirting the perimeter of Chernobyl frequently enough to incur radiation poisoning. By contrast, my Long-Suffering Husband has the opposite reaction: being a musician, he finds it extremely difficult to listen to lyrics at all, simply because his attention diverts automatically to composition. This means that despite ‘hearing’ the same information, we process it so differently that neither one can register the source of the other’s interest.

Being word-oriented means I tend to gravitate towards individual songs rather than particular bands or artists: I’m not after melodic replication or common themes, but some kind of subjectively-approved symbiosis between music and lyrics. I don’t mind simplicity, brevity or repitition, provided they work – which, particularly in fast-paced songs like Moby’s Bodyrock – they often do. I’m also a sucker for dual interpretation, wherein the same lyrics express two ideas. My favourite (geeky) example of this comes courtesy of Joss Whedon and the Buffy musical, as Spike, a vampire, sings his love for Buffy: called Rest In Peace, the song weaves between typical love-ballad and specific references to the fact that the singer is undead. Similarly, I love lyrics that tell a story, a la Don MacLean’s American Pie and Vincent; these examples are classic poetry in their own right, while more recent songs, like Release by George, are very much in an abstract, e e cummings oeuvre (although I have to be in the right mood).

Like most people, the music I dance or exercise to is beat-heavy, if only because the necessity of volume tends to drown out the lyrics; a few of these songs I’ll listen to for pleasure, but generally, there’s a difference between music I play when I’m walking, cycling or cleaning the house, and what I prefer in the background. Otherwise, I tend to like soft music: songs like Love A Diamond (Tonic) and Mad World (Gary Jules), which I listened to compulsively through school, or new obsessions like Set Free (Katie Gray), Shipwrecked (Shane Alexander) and Fault Line (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), all of which I’ve gleaned from watching Bones and iTunesing appropriately (which is , coincidentally, a great way to find new artists).

Still, it’s interesting how different the addition of music makes, such that most lyrics, no matter how powerful when sung, would fall flat if anyone tried to read them as poetry; and yet some manage it. On that note, I’ll leave you with the lyrics of another Bones song I’ve taken a shine to – it’s my transcription, as there doesn’t seem to be one available online, but the song is readily downloadable. So:

Tears and Laughter

(Tall Tree 6ft Man)

No one’s going to come along and line your palms with gold,                        

And if they did, you would unfold;

And if they did, you’d be wrong to take it.

After all the tears and all the laughter,

Your happiness is a string of disasters –

Oh, what more could someone ask for?

No one’s going to say it’s wrong to set alight your soul,

But if they did, where would it go

With all your home in ashes?

After all the fear of showing ages,

On your face like the heavy scent of time

When time is all we’re after.

Step away, stay in the light,

Then we’ll watch them all walk by

To the waterside.

After all the fear of showing ages,

On your face like the heavy scent of time

When time is all we’re after.

Still, on all the walls we have reminders

Of the times we left behind us,

Now all your words are silence.

Step away, stay in the light,

Then we’ll watch them all walk by

To the waterside.