Thursday, December 12, 2013

Blackbird - I think



Blackbird - I think

For years I was convinced it was a blackbird.
Now someone assures me it's a thrush.
Oh, what the heck, blackbird or thrush,
this bird sings like no other, no thrush or
blackbird known on earth, his song is
unique, spontaneous, jazz, a riff - or
several dozen of them - or a
street magician’s magic, a
pack of cards pitched through the
air, purloined again.

Of course, now that I start to write
about him, he stops. Only half a dozen
sparrows continue their diminutive
plainsong sans harmony, sans melody,
barely rhythmic. They wait for the master
musician-thrush-or-blackbird that God
invested with this extraordinary
ability to never muck the music up.

For a few seconds he starts up again,
but aware I’m writing about him, he
feels exposed, naked on his branched perch,
and stops. Goes home for tea perhaps.

Flitting past, a rustic sparrow
picks at a crumb or worm and
paraphrases Billy Collins at me:
Mostly poetry fills you with the
urge to write poetry.
‘Put Billy aside,’
he chirps, ‘and let the bird sing, unaccompanied by
your pitiful attempts to describe the song of a
avian whose name you can’t even decide on.’

Monday, December 09, 2013

Small



Small

Small dogs are made to fill the
hollow behind your knees,
the crook formed when you’re
lying down having an afternoon nap.

Small children are made to
lie against your chest, ribs,
midriff, lap, held in the arms,
relaxed, softly snoring.

A dog behind the knees, back to
back; a child asleep in front, both
bodies to body adapting, both
asleep, sotto voce breathing.

The reading of poetry begets more poetry



The reading of poetry begets more poetry – Billy Collins

When I write poetry the words tumble out at a rate of knots,
bumbling over each other, each keen to be stepping into place,
and I tell them it's not a race, that there's no prize for being first,
because anyway, the first word is always first and the later words are
later, unless of course I jumble them into some different order, like
words on a refrigerator door sitting waiting to be sorted into
something that makes some sort of sense, though often humorists
will come by and replace the sensible with the surreal, like
aimless iPods sitting by dancing kisses, instead of man photographs
woman screaming
. As poetry it's not ideal though it has a kind of
counterintuitive subconscious feel.

                                                            When Richard Wilbur writes,
I read, he writes one apt line at a time, each one polished before the
next steps into line. Billy Collins tells me that typing a few words at a
time is the best way to work anyway. I apply this regime with great
vigour, except that when it comes to the point of writing a poem, the
shuffling words don't stand waiting in a queue, like derelict street
people at a soup kitchen, passive, subdued by the pressure of just
making it through the day; rather they surround the helicopter of the
poem like men and women fresh from the terrors of the latest
tornado, people so cut off from the rest of the world that a box
tossed from the sky is literal manna from Heaven, and all good
manners and polite behaviours are pushed aside in the
jostle for something from the providers, the once-a-day
deliverers, the sun-shaded sun-screened Red Cross or
UNICEF or World Vision aid workers, who, hearts afire,
struggle to see these faces individually.

                                                                        See, this is what
happens. The poem was never supposed to bring in people
sleeping on the street, or struggling to feed themselves, or
helicopters flushing out a space in the bush, threshing the
grasses and swishing up leaves and pushing the trees out in a
wider circle. The poem was supposed to mention a little about
words rushing rather than me shushing them, it was supposed to
show that good ideas need space and pressing them down at a
ridiculous pace on the face of an iPad is counterproductive to
properly-formed poems. Yes, I'd agree, but the words in my head
don't heed and come like a young husband on his honeymoon night. 

Leaving the house

There's been something of a hiatus on here in terms of posts. It's not that I haven't been writing poems, because I have. Once you start writing poems there's no stopping; they come out of mid-air, often, and you write them down, intending to come back to them when you've got a minute. Sometimes the minutes never appear. 
Anyway, here's one that's made it off the back-burner. 

Leaving the house



Going out,
leaving the house
shut up in the sticky
heat, seems sadistic,
like stifling someone,
forcing them down
on a bed, smothering
them under a pillow.
 

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Lethal Injection



‘While you’re waiting we can take your height and weight, and your blood pressure.’

I’ve just received the flu vax.  No sensation, no queasiness, as usual, and a wait of twenty minutes out by reception seems a bit pointless.

‘Well, my height won’t have changed.’  For some reason I’m feeling grumpy.

‘We don’t actually have your height on our records.’  Of course -  I’ve only attended this Health Centre for a couple of years.  The nurse’s voice hints that patients ought not to query things.  I ignore it.  She has a smile on, impersonal.  I get the impression that if it was within her jurisdiction she would prefer to give me a lethal injection rather than a vaccination. 

Grumpy.  I need to shake off something: nerves, an odd having-my-grave-walked-over sensation.  The night before, driving to a rehearsal for a play, I breathed in while eating a hard-boiled sweet.  The sweet stayed in my cheek, but some combination of mucus and saliva glued across my windpipe.  I lost the ability to draw breath.  I pulled over.  I thought how strange it would be to be found in a car, sitting upright, not breathing, eyes wide open.  I thought about how annoyed the people at the rehearsal would be at my unexplained absence.  I realised I didn’t have my cellphone on me, and even if I had had, trying to breathe was more important than making a final call.  I thought: this is a horrible way to die.

My brain fiddled with these thoughts, my chest cracked open in an attempt to find air.  No air.  Out of my experience.  

Cough!  Cough!

I forced myself to cough.  The mucus mixture broke.   Life returned to a post-possible-death normality.   
I don’t need a lethal injection.  I can die on my own, quite comfortably, thanks.