probably too soon,
though we can’t be sure.
Statisticians mark you off
on a sheet between two dissecting lines.
Between two dissecting lines
he held you,
while his giant hands of flame
went to work.
Only moments before
you had been dancing
around the kitchen,
around the garden,
around the endless hours of your brief childhood.
What do we know,
we the well brought up,
of the secret language you shared
with the other breakable things
of this world?
Large men who assassinate themselves
over and over
with a disenchanted knife,
smear childhood across the walls.
Crumple of young years
in a pile of dirty clothes,
and a terrible innocence
that claws at the survivors.
Somewhere, a brief and sharp cry,
an accustomed outrage.
Somewhere, a statistician duly records.
You are not me, but you were.
Now, your strides find the dark hour of confidence
and the secret that men fear.
Your body discovers a sexual music
and dances alone with itself
in the abandoned salt
and the wreckage of love.
And I have lost the bow to the cello
I once hid in the silent arch of your waist.
Giant and impossible,
you are beyond my small measure of need.
Your loosened hunger
burns the perimeters of my sadness,
because you are not me.
Free of me, you have become
a hurt aimed at my night.
You flirt with other men,
I burn in the pit of my poetry.
In your bed without suffering,
body of nude moss.
You stretch upon the sheets
like a sunrise of dunes,
and your dark eyes imprison the day.
Your smooth breasts invade my
I lose sight of the murdered groves.
Why didn’t I die there?
Why must we live beyond the bodies
we throw off like capes?
All else is suffering without hours,
pursued birds without a sky,
Knowledge of love burns
fevers through our braided tongues,
ruins of thirst entomb our sleep.
We linger beyond the death of nights.
These silences you keep now
grow in my mouth.
I cannot speak the words
that would sleep with you each night.
These fields of toppled storm that you vacated
grow wild on my tongue.
Nothing grows there,
it spreads beyond everything,
and it claims all the temperate cats,
and it knocks in all the red doors,
and every part of you I stole
finds its freedom.
Sands of dusk, the shipwrecked sun,
dunes collect behind my eyes,
giant birds circle with my voice,
lizards burrow with my memory of ruins.
I cannot see you out there alone,
as light as an empty dress embracing the wind.
Violent sandstorms fill the throat of my soul,
a verdant silence grows in my mouth.
I suppose I should forget you now,
like the honey forgets
the labour of the long dead bees
to become somewhere else a sweetness,
a treacle for the tongue of the sky.
The days we’ve burned in the urn of the wind,
the infinitely lost errands
that arrived in a storm of silence.
We’ll forget these two
tending their passionate hours,
as if hours have no departure,
as if lives don’t slowly form their own echoes.
Terminating seeds grow in the core of everything.
Only the honey remains,
sweet and sad,
after a thousand years.
Lonely, the night barks like a dog.
My night, my night alone,
which I prepared with raw fish
and a seasoning of untraceable stars.
I’ll have to sleep here
beneath the city’s blanket of roots,
with the impounded voices of others,
their strange heads rising from the depths of an apple.
Animal heads, heads like domes of the horrible hours
of the early morning that fall from my heart.
Wax domes topple silently,
afraid even to make the noise of their own ruin,
orchards of silence in the harnessed streets.
The revellers return under the acrid lights.
Animal heads almost in human form.
I’m not sure when the face of the land
slid into the sea.
Lonely, like the apple that I cannot taste,
my soul barks with the night.
My soul and the dogs.
I cage a ride out of Africa,
a boat packed with war-torn emissaries,
a crew of blind, leprous kids.
only the afternoon of a broken sun.
Here, the sea alone, is sea,
time alone, can be without hours of dread,
air alone, without the indrawn breath,
and the sky, an arc into all directions.
Out here, what is state,
or territory for the unmoored?
What is symbol?
The ocean takes us all in her abundant folds,
like a flag or a body bag.
Here, at last, we are free.
But my fellow refugees
know no other way
than how to recreate ancient animosity,
and replay the whole hopeless farce
of our scorched memory
on this waterlogged plank.
Already the society of worms
breeds in our midst,
division of skin,
and words sharpened into toads.
Already the new world is old.
Those who die,
we slip into the quiet, waiting water
and watch them float like buoys
marking the failure of our diplomacy.
We could have rebuilt a country of love
on this raft lost beyond the dry earth,
a brief paradise
between the weapons we left behind
and those that await us.
Countries and martyrs revolve
in our starved minds.
We send our dead ambassadors
ahead to shore.
Since you left,
you’ve gained a new sensuality,
your lips full,
like a season of rain.
And the men who circle
like doomed matadors,
would wear you like a pin,
or carry a banner
to your fallen love.
But all this futile lust,
thrust your way,
only plunges you further
into your own voice.
Ah, your words on the dark paper
into deeper need,
for storms and savagery
that will one day love you.
While the men circle,
living their fathers’ dreams,
while their day only returns,
you, on page after page of
your numbered hearts,
plot all the beautiful ways
to exhaust this life.
A horse bolted through the city the other morning
and was hit by a car.
He trailed the cold tail of the night
and ran towards Island Bay and the thin slant of dawn,
like an eye slowly opening.
A black horse, like a shadow fleeing its tethers,
shot past the stunned joggers on Adelaide road,
seeking the green tongue of the hill,
or the unshod sea, or the patience of seasons.
But he panicked at the traffic lights
and bled out, alone with his language,
speaking to no one.
And the people who passed him on their morning commute
were wide eyed, as if a fairy tale had invaded
the grey dawn of their neat, solid little city.
Sometimes we collide with the incomprehensible,
confusion, panic, sharp winter arousal of senseless death.
Anyway, he died with a blanket on his head
under the traffic light still changing,
like nothing out of the ordinary had happened at all.
And nothing had happened, and everything.
One summer I went alone to a festival in Japan.
Under the oppressive evening heat
that rang sweat out of me,
I watched young ladies in their bright yukata
giggling, munching down octopus dumplings
under the striped tents,
and old men scratching their arses, tough as leather shoes,
scowling at boys
who slathered ice cream on their cheeks,
and lovers holding startled fish in plastic bags,
sauntering the long lane between the crackling stands.
I watched them all, strange human lanterns,
floating down to the shrine, dark and quiet against the mountain,
while far above fireworks painted dusk
purple, pink and green.
There was no part for me in this parade of falling lives,
each like confetti, or streamers,
or the bursting brief flowers in the sky,
or sickly sweet candyfloss
dripping through the summer’s hot little hands.
But I was happy there, and unnecessary,
unwanted, unloved, unhinged,
and pleasantly left alone with the discovery of the world.