The Poet, an abecediarian poem, E.C. Alberts

…another day/ another hour/another step towards closing my family’s bookstore forever/antsy with a feeling like sadness/antsy with feelings I don’t understand/ attempting to numb myself with work/ biting my lower lip until I taste blood/ blinking back tears as I pull apart the shelves…

This poem is an excerpt from my young adult verse-novel, The Notebook of Teagan Trace, which I am writing in a multitude of poetic forms. An abecedarian poem is an acrostic form that begins each line with successive letters of the alphabet. 

 

The Poet: an Abecedarian Poem

another day

another hour

another step towards closing my family’s bookstore forever

 

antsy with a feeling like sadness

antsy with feelings I don’t understand

 

attempting to numb myself with work

 

biting my lower lip until I taste blood

 

blinking back tears as I pull apart the shelves

books of biographies

books of play scripts

books of poetry

books that I’ve looked at everyday, familiar as family

 

boxing away years of memory

 

caffeinated on too many cappuccinos, Mom bounces round the shop

clearing the rusty filing cabinet

clearing the non-fiction shelves

clearing the textbooks

 

cloaking the SALE! EVERYTHING 25-75% OFF sign with a new one that says

closing

closing

closing

 

Dad hiding out in the back office

dazed expression on his face as he stares into his screensaver

Depressed, Mom whispers as she zips past me

 

dictionary definition: dejected, despairing, despondent, dismal, distressed

 

door bell jingles, but no one goes to see but me

dressed in sleek black pants and a red v-neck top, a woman a little younger

    than Mom enters the shop

each arm adorned with wooden bangles

ebony hair pulled back into a bun

 

eyes meeting mine, she smiles

 

Finally found you, she says. I’ve heard you’re one of the few bookshops that

    still stocks poetry. But I’m sorry to see you’re closing

 

fingers fumbling at my sides, I tell her in a

flat-toned voice how all books are 75%, for her to let me know if she needs

    any help

 

folding her hands, she says she’s

foraging for one book in particular

 

Forgetting: A History, a book of poems by Zara Valentine

 

Frivolous of me, really, she says. I gave too many away when it first came out,

    and now I only have a few left

Funny how you never think of your first book going out of print

 

goggle-eyed, I stare at her – she’s the author?

goose pimples creeping up my arms because I’ve never met a published

    poet before

 

gradually I get a grip

guide her to the poetry section

 

hastily, I thumb through what’s left on the shelf – H, I, J, K

head not working, I skip through V straight to Z

heat on my cheeks as I hunt through the stack

 

Here, I say, handing her the shiny black book, edges bent

hibiscus flowers decorating the front cover

 

holding the book to her chest, she breathes out. Thank you

How wonderful

 

I am not able to stand it anymore, and I blurt out, So you’re the poet who

    wrote this?

 

I am, she says, I’m Zara

 

I am fumbling now, a million questions spluttering out

I ask her how she first got published

I ask her how she started writing

I ask her if she always wanted to be a poet

I ask her if she keeps a notebook

I ask her where her books sell, since big chains don’t stock much poetry,

    and independents like ours are closing down

I ask her why, when, how she got published when poetry’s considered dead,

    dead, dead

 

I even start telling her about my own notebook, how I’m always scribbling

    poems and poem-like words and things like cinquains and acrostics

I say I’m sure my poems aren’t as good as hers

 

in the background, Mom flits around the shop, giving me eyes to come help,

    but I ignore her

 

Inexpressible reasons why I started to write, Zara says, telling me about the

influence of English teachers, her insatiable appetite for books, her mother dying

    when she was eight, giving her the constant itch to create

initially working as a secretary, writing poems in the hours after work

innate feeling that poetry is what she should do, money or no money, sent her

    first manuscript to fifty-one publishers before she got a yes from a

    small publishing house, Metaphor

inner strengthening when Metaphor filed for bankruptcy just months after they

  published Forgetting

inspired by her dad to keep writing, who told her not to listen to people who

    said writing poetry was useless

involved in writing a sixth book now

 

It’s great to hear you write, Zara says, Do you have any poetry here I could

    read? And tell me, what was your name?

 

jack-in-the-box in my chest, I tell her Teagan, Teagan Trace

jittery legs

jumpy

 

knowing my notebook’s on the floor beside me

 

lapse of time before I reach down and pick it up

leaking sweat as I hand it to her

 

letting Zara leaf through my notebook

letting Zara – someone I just met – read poems I haven’t even shown my best friend

    or my parents

 

looking at her face as she reads

looking hard at every blink and lip twitch, wondering what it means

 

lunacy

 

millions of moments march by before Zara looks up

mouth moving slow motion, she says, Your poems are strong, Teagan.

     They’ve got great energy.

Must say, I think your cinquain sequence is my favourite

 

nervously, I start to say that my poems aren’t that good, they’re just silly things

    I write to pass the time

neurons neurotically flittering, I realize I sound just like my grandma

 

now she locks her gaze on me

now Zara asks, Have you ever thought of making poetry your career?

 

o yes I’ve thought of it

of getting books published

of spending every day writing at a desk

 

only I have always thought I had to be something else – a lawyer, a stockbroker,

    a dentist

only I think of Grandma saying poetry’s dead

only I’m packing away books in my family’s shop that’s closing down

 

ooh but my heart sings yes, yes, yes

outlandish to think of doing anything else

 

palimpsest of my heart

palpable

pervasive

 

poetry

 

quaky-legged, I ask Zara, But how do you make money?

 

Quite a few people still read poetry, you know, she says with a wink

 

really honestly, though, Zara admits that she

receives little recompense for her work

rectified her finances for awhile by waitressing part-time

reduced her spending

resolved her situation by starting a small online business, so now

    she can write all day and fiddle with her business at night

Risky? she says. Perhaps. But I know I wouldn’t be happy if I couldn’t write

 

she tells me I can do this, too

she tells me I should follow my gut

she tells me not to listen to people who say poetry’s dead

 

somewhere behind us, Mom shouts my name

 

Think you better go, Zara says

 

throat closing up, I nod

together Zara and I wander towards the door

 

tongue-tied

topple-toed

tripping over my words, I tell her not to worry about paying for her book

 

unexpectedly, she says, I’d actually like you to have it. And here…

unfastening her purse, she digs out her card

urging it into my hands with the book

 

verbal functions no longer working

verging (stupidly) on the point of tears

Very nice of you, I splutter, thank you

 

Where are you, Teagan? Mom calls

 

whirling around to go, Zara says, Keep writing!

 

writing

writing

writing

writing already in my head

 

writing poems

writing poems

 

writing Zara an email: I can’t say how much I loved meeting you

xoxo

 

yelling to Mom that I’m coming

 

Zara’s words

zigzagging

zipping

zooming as I go

 

Download a pdf of The Poet

 

The Citadel, Melissa Farrell

…The behemoth towers/ A fractured edge of the city/ Forged in its rows of sightless eyes/ And as darkness smears the day/ An elevator grinds and rumbles/Fills its belly with humanity/Radios and televisions fuse/In a babbled soundtrack/
From a selection of poems titled The Citadel
 
‘Whilst the night deepens/ The mortals within/ Fortify against the incubus of the dark’
 

THE TOWER

The behemoth towers

A fractured edge of the city

Forged in its rows of sightless eyes

And as darkness smears the day

An elevator grinds and rumbles

Fills its belly with humanity

 

Radios and televisions fuse

In a babbled soundtrack

With the crackle and spit of pans

That dance and leap in ritual

Above the fetor and clabber

Of yellowing stoves

 

Somewhere a baby cries

Dogs bark

A plane whines overhead

 

Whilst the night deepens

The mortals within

Fortify against the incubus of the dark

And when heavy muses surface

The dreamless and the empty

Fill in a chimera of icons.

 

UNIT 3

There is one within who sits

A reluctant companion to the night

Circled by cobras of smoke and regret

She rolls another cigarette

Dwells on her creaseless face

Her adamant and tight body

Plundered by the years

The hands of time dragging

Straining and stretching her

 

Into another shape

She no longer reads time

In the faces of people or of clocks

For time is no longer on her side

 

She waits for him

He who is plunging his memory

Into a bracing splash of the past

Whetting dry frustration

With the potent promises of youth.

 

UNIT 8

He lies

Bible pyjama’d close

Dreaming of knock-knocking

Peddling his brand of religion

On glossy pamphlets printed in China

Converting his way to paradise

While Armageddon looms

 

She summons him now

Through the screened door

And the deep bee-drone

 

Of a distant lawnmower

Provides background harmony

As her weeping hair

Sullies his body

With wanting and pain

 

His sin sputters and spills

Into the yielding mattress

That holds him tenderly

Under a heavy crucifix

Rigid against the peeling wall

While in the kitchen

The obscene dishes nag to be washed.

 

UNIT 4

She drifts

Creamy and bubbled

In his party-hatted

Hip hip hooray love

 

He suspends her

Dulls her senses in fairy-floss solace

Pads the enormity of hundreds and thousands

In soft white bread

 

Still she yearns for the cut and slice of life

The ache that scratches pen to paper

As words come serrated and sharp

Stained with reality

 

In the slumber before dawn

She dreams him away

Before sweet-toothed and longing

She calls for him

To float once again

A lounging marshmallow

On the hot chocolate of his love.

 

UNIT 13

A shrine of burnished trophies

And effigies suspended in frames and time

Conjure a haunting apparition of her daughter

One year in the ground

 

Her dreaming moves with a moaning wind

Through the graveyard until she watches herself

Dusting the plastic flowers that hold their shape

Against the hard glint of black marble

 

The polished surface interns her

In a back to front present

Where time twists and contorts

Uncanny and out of order

 

Crumpled and invalid her will lies

In the bottom drawer of her being

While her empty womb

Frets for the forsaken babies

 

This grave calls and claims her

Yet she must linger until her name

Lies in the hollows of a headstone

To be uttered in silence by a passing stranger

 

Enshrouding her is a vision

Of the ground taking her under

As her daughter holds wilting flowers above

In the melting colours of a sinking sun

 

She grieves for the earthbound birds

Whose feathers send the dust skyward

Summoning mirages of ghosts

In the clear morning light.

 

UNIT 12

Through the back door of his mind

He seeks to read the shifting signs

Of her artistry that lies in covert stains

Or inscribed in the soft sands that surround him

 

She is the black ink of his secret imagery

Indelible marks smudged in his unknown

Surging now as dancing signifiers

In the bewitching hour of his dreaming

 

When the day slides through shallow curtains

His thinking slowly rises

While wheelie bins

Sprawled open-mouthed

Like fat ancient Greeks

Purged of night-time ritual

Lie dew splashed and winking

In the sane morning sun.

 

Download a pdf of ‘The Citadel’

Learning and unlearning songs, Liz Hughes

F R E E D O M

when I go I’ll go alone/ he will be free/ give me to the father sun/ the weight of heat upon my back/ when I work I’ll work alone/ he will be free/ give me to the mother earth/ the weight of wheat upon my back/ when I sleep, I’ll sleep alone/ he will be free/ give me to my bed, the rocks/ the weight of rest upon my back/ the sky so full of stars for the taking/ sun for my waking/ the woods so full of shelter for the making/ wheat for the shaking/ for my freedom/ if I’d go, I’d go alone/ oh, to be free/ the father sun reveals my skin/ the weight of light upon my back/ If I’d go, I’d sleep alone/ oh, to be free/ the mother earth condemns my skin/ the stone that bruises black, my back/ the sky was full of stars for the taking/ sun for my waking/ the woods were full of shelter for the making/ wheat for the shaking/ now for his freedom

 

 

T I G E R                                        Tiger Song (mix 1)

tiger, tiger on your toes/ tiger with the dusty nose/ sitting all day, silently/ on the mantelpiece/ peacefully across the floor/ a piece of fur at my front door/ I pick it up, pocket it, and I leave/ I’ll find her by the river/ the water black as ink/ the tiger fills her paws/ up for me to drink/ everything here is hers/ now my mouth is stained black/ now I follow blacker tracks/ she turns to make her way, back/ to the mantelpiece/ I’ll find her by the fire/ the flames as white as paper/ give back what is hers/ you need not repay her/ everything here is hers/ tiger, tiger on your toes/ tiger with the dusty nose/ sitting all day silently / on the mantelpiece

 

S I N S

way up in that building/ they’ve got DNA from your skin/ they got records of your good deeds/ and all of your sins/ photos of your past/ stuck to the office walls/ a person with a clipboard/ another making calls/ they have more memories of your life/ than I ever did/ and they all look like you/ move like you/ speak like you/ I almost believe that it is/ and they turned up on my doorstep/ after a week away/ there was nothing I could do to stop them coming in/ no nothing I could say/ be careful what you wish for/ the elixir of life / ain’t that hard to find/ and doesn’t taste as sweet as you might like/ way up in that building/ that’s where I now live/ you and I/ on the walls/ in the calls/ of all of their mistakes and sins

 

 

S U G A R

sugar, times are dark but you’re sweet/ let me take you up to easy street/ if you want sugar/ I’ll find a farmer/ he’ll be yours to keep/ sugar, times were dark till I saw you/ let me take you away / if you want finery/ I’ll find a tailor/ he’ll be yours to keep/ don’t you be hidin’ now/ come on out/ sweet Jesus I’ve never heard such beauty/ you’re voice like honey in my ears/ If you want stars/ I’ll find an astronomer/ he’ll be yours to keep/ Mary could have been your mother/ I’d follow stars just to hear you sing/ I’ll do anything for you, sugar/ till I am plump and the soil is thin/ who gave you food to eat?/ who gave you clothes to wear?/ who gave you a home to fill?/ who gave you songs to share?

 

 

L I E S

what a joy,/ what a joy/ what a joy, joy, joy/ to lie upon a leaden bed/ and dream of softer places/ you might rest/ rest your head/ lonely as a lover giving lies/ what a thrill/ what a thrill/ what a thrill, thrill, thrill/ to wade in waters brackish, black/ and think of better places you might wash/ wash your back/ lonely as a lover giving lies/ all this dirt/ and all these bruises/ like the hands of a child/ when the sun sets/ she still chooses/ outside, outside/ what a joy/ what a joy/ what a joy, joy, joy/ to hear a bird call and call/ when the darkness seems to/ have it all/ have it all/ singing through the darkest night/ the darkest kind of lies, lies, lies
Download a pdf of creation/chaos song lyrics

Ascent, Jeremy Page

A suite of poems inspired by the seven Biblical days of creation:

Monday – Heaven & Earth, Light & Darkness  /  Tuesday – Sky & Sea  /   Wednesday – Land & Vegetation  / Intermission  /  Thursday – Stars, Sun & Moon  /   Friday – Sea Creatures & Birds  /   Saturday  – Land Animals  /   Sunday  – Rest

 

 Monday          Heaven & Earth, Light & Darkness

 

Waking Life

In the dark, God leans over Life and stares,
She’s curled in a blanket, breathing in sighs.
Grey eyes trace her outline; long back, short hair.
Lips fallen open, arms slumped to the side.

He smiles, goes to the corner of the room –
The window. He slides his thumb on the sill.
Through the cracks white slits of light breaking through,
Like a pillar of salt, I’m frozen still.

She rolls over gently, scratches her cheek.
I imagine her eyes, the deepest brown,
And wonder how long she has been asleep –
Curled up in darkness, not making a sound.

He whispers ‘…let?’ I can’t quite understand,
Then grins, the thoughts ticking over his mind.
Rolling around in the palm of his hand
The long string of beads to open the blinds.

‘Let there…’, he breathes out deep into the dark.
God dammit. Why not let the poor girl rest?
‘Let there be…’ I stumble, clutching my heart.
What horrors we might avoid if she slept?

As the last word drips like oil from his tongue
Chaos rushes in and shatters the peace.
My mouth dry as salt, bedroom drenched in sun,
All hell broken loose, life flung from the sheets.

 

Looking for God

as a boy with a bible
‘let there be light!’
a booming voice
from a white beard
flashing silver
then stillness; a quiet day,
a bubbling stream.

now that tired imperative
sets my thoughts off
tilling the void
in a black sea.
look for a pier
we might find him,
that sandal-clad swindler,

waiting somewhere in the dark.
calm, collected.
handsome devil!
hand in a loin cloth pocket
by a lamp post,
the other hand flipping a
silver coin in the dim light.

 

 

Tuesday          Sky & Sea

 

Blue Planet

Naturally blue is a popular choice
with connotations of cleanliness, purification
one imagines the sea reflecting the sky
(even vice versa if you prefer)
they say it slows the
metabolism
it has that much of a
calming effect, almost cathartic in its
reassurance, soothing, particularly light blue,
which is more a health or healing colour; rejuvenation.
for you we’ve moved to the darker side of the spectrum,
strong contrast against the white means precision
knowledge power integrity masculine yet
not too strong or overpowering.
we like to think of it like
afternoon sky
meets
afternoon sea.
further, we propose this scheme
with just a brief flash of silver on print collateral
spot foiled with a matte finish on all stocks.
strong yet subtle; enough (we think)
to set you guys apart.
let’s be frank
green’s been done.
we live on the blue planet.
moving forward, apply this branding
across your entire print and digital collateral
and you will effectively establish
So & So Petroleum
as the future;
the market leader
in your industry on this
blue planet
of ours.

 

Explore

underneath it all
are we all explorers?

I’ve a poor sense of direction.
asked to locate Iceland would
no doubt send an index finger
hovering awkwardly
somewhere over Europe, yet

staring at the ocean
still makes me hate the familiar smell of us
caked in sheets I can’t quite remember buying

standing there
staring at the horizon
the tangy smell of salt, the whitewash
popping and fizzing on the shore like an aspirin

makes me crave some sweet sandy distant nowhere
cheap jewellery, a stranger’s perfume
around my neck like petrol, suffocating

like a lost explorer,
legs swung over the side of a ship
staring out at the sea, craving something

somewhere hidden in that fold
between the sky and the sea.

 

 

Wednesday          Land & Vegetation

 

Sour Fruit

there will come a day when
the last fruit that will ever grow
hangs, an apple perhaps
from a fragile stem
on an unremarkable hill
littered with debris
cigarettes, chip wrappers
when all is still
the fruit, its stem thin
will drop thud in the dirt
flesh seeds core skin
laid on the earth

a creature that remains
perhaps a rat
will dart out from a rock
and somewhere in its veins
greedy cells once in man
will turn its eyes head
spark desire in its brain
have it scan
see, find, devour
bite by bite
down to the last morsel
over a day, a few hours

until just the stem is left
to rot into the earth
and the rat, over time
like all, meets death
a scavenger, perhaps a crow
will find it, and eat
grinding bits of rat and fruit
and us within its beak
no doubt it won’t help but note
when on those cells of ours
that in every body mostly sweet
there’s a couple bites of sour.

 

 

Intermission

 

Wednesdays

wednesdays are nothing days.
intermissions, white clouds,
that awful dark orange that tries
so hard not to be red;
that ice cube tray that
refuses to crack when bent.

no one ever suggested a date
for a wednesday evening,
dinner from that place
you thought you wouldn’t
order from again – but did
on a wednesday.

wednesdays are beige,
lukewarm moccacinos;
they are those brief moments
every second line in which one is
neither inhaling nor exhaling,
that pause soon forgotten
like love, half embraced.

 

Footnote*

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

1 Poetry is in the footnotes. Not the main article.
2 It’s between the lines (crumpled paper in a waste bin).
3 Discarded, dusty. Beauty is shy
4 Hides, in creases.
5 Swells like a headache
6 Is skimmed over like a stranger.

 

Looking Back.

Thinking back’s always a bit like
staring down a cobbled road
that kinks and jerks back down the hill
and spills like ink into the damp valley
just out of focus
that wayward track with the brambles
you ended up on
somehow,
that jagged rock you stopped to rest against
where you were bitten by a bull ant
you grinded with your thumb against the rock.

Thinking forward’s always a bit like
standing by the side of a highway
in a dry heat, mouth parched
staring into the white sun
shielding your eyes with your hands
waiting for a break in the traffic
that never comes.

 

 

Thursday          Stars, Sun & Moon

 

Sapere Aude.*

Setting down an oil lamp
on a desk damp with the cold,
the darkness retreats in the glowing light
swims into the loft.

He looks around with his wide oak stare.

Through the window a streak of light
catches the instruments in the corner
(to be sold by the docks)
a glint of gold; flashing silver.

Under a pen,
edges curled like a sail, a sheet reads
The phases of Venus
things do change!

Things must change.

Adjusting the axis with his cold bare hands,
the telescope is thrust in the night air like a spear.

* ‘Dare to know’ – Kant’s motto of the Enlightenment.

 

 

Friday          Sea Creatures & Birds

 

Frauds

Flying Fish are frauds.
I’ve seen them. They don’t fly.

Nor are they entirely right
to call themselves Fish proper

with their cocky aspirations
of something more,

their pathetic leap-and-land, dive-and-dip,
thrashing their wings in a panic.

Slippery, quivering at speed they
slide beneath the surface then
pop
they arch through the air
caught
suspended as a still pendulum
stuck
silenced
acquiesced
a hated job
gritted teeth
love unspoken
a pen in the drawer

like Flying Fish
we live our lives.

 

 

Saturday          Land Animals

 

You’ve Got to Live

You’ve got to live
man said, his dry bare hands clutching
the jittery hind legs of a large bird
steady steady now
quick as possible
clop, boil it whole and I’ll take the leg.

root veg, honey glazed
sweet and sticky pork bits
crackle crackle bit of fat’s good for a man

you’ve got to live
man said, his dry bare hands round
the ear of a bleating cow
steady steady now
keep it moving
zap prod no no calf that milks not for you

serve it bleu, cream jus
thick rich pouring dish
pour pour of course dear eat until you’re

full cream milk you’ve to skim
the fat off gravy churn churn
heat cool firm rich sharp steel
razor sharp wire parmesan bite sharp
seared sharp beaks crackle crackle prod prod
dry bare hands grab
cold flesh shrink wrapped special 3.99
you’ve got to eat.

 

 

Sunday          Rest

 

Rest

Roses, Only by other names:
Perfume. Desire smells so sweet.
Dove. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Double strength, tough on stains.
Sleep. Eat. Feast For One.
Microwave. Tasty treats.
Sleep. Fuck. Breakfast in bed.
Grease like sweat between creased sheets.

Wash. Repeat. Tough on grease.
Two for one. Linen fresh.
No more tears. No regrets.
Get out. I need some peace.
Please eat. Polished silverware.
Steel forks scratch at flesh; lust.
Somewhere in a room beneath the stairs
Books like ballgowns gather dust.

 

Sabbath

BREAKING NEWS
the violence continues
Live
see it first
More riots in the streets of
We go LIVE
because you’re worth it
this morning
several bomb blasts
We are unable at this point
Audi Pepsi Ralph Lauren
to confirm the exact location
identity of the perpetrator
his whereabouts
are still unknown
police are advising
Covergirl Stayfree McDonalds
if you do notice anything suspicious
call this number
CALL THIS NUMBER
Toll-free
Free Quotes
We go live
LIVE
more riots in the streets of
back to you
because you’re worth it
back to you in the studio
lights fade
Roll credits in three two
one
Oh my
god
slumped in an armchair
crumbs in his lap
and he saw that it was good.

Ouroboros, Charlotte Goodwin

A collection of poems inspired by the chaos that is the creation of life:  my child/let me/tell you/a story/the butterfly/a young mother/lays the eggs/ and flies away/round, white eggs/become green grubs/with tiny feet and feelers/searching for something/one day, one strays/and looks around/she is the only one left/hides away, up high/wiggling and wriggling/until her skin peels away/floating to the ground below/she shuts her tiny eyes/holds on tight/until she emerges/in the warm light/of a spring day/transformed/a new creature/with bright blue wings

 

 


Metamorphosis

my child

let me

tell you

a story

the butterfly

a young mother

lays the eggs

and flies away

round, white eggs

become green grubs

with tiny feet and feelers

searching for something

one day, one strays

and looks around

she is the only one left

hides away, up high

wiggling and wriggling

until her skin peels away

floating to the ground below

she shuts her tiny eyes

holds on tight

until she emerges

in the warm light

of a spring day

transformed

a new creature

with bright blue wings

she beats them, once

one beautiful wing

against the other

the world stops turning

consumed by

waves and fire.

my child

let me

tell you

my story

I

a young mother

created you

and ran far away

your tiny, pink body

became a whole, real person

with tiny feet and hands

searching for me

one day, you’ll run from me

stop! and look around

when you’re the only one left

hiding and high

cooking liquid gold

watching it bubble and burn

on a silver spoon

float back down, below

you will shut your eyes

and ride the wave

re-emerging

in the cold street light

of midnight

a new creature

a fleshy body with no wings

you will clap your hands, once

put one wrong foot

after the other, until

your world will keep spinning

and mine will be consumed

by you.

Vida

 

I was born

to a dead Mother

on white linen sheets

as the virgin Mary

rested beside her head.

Lost in a family of seven

I supped from the breast

of an unknown woman

and grew into a tall girl

wrapped in a pink dress

with a skeleton’s face.

I grew up

tall and wise

with wide hips

and a sharp mind

and Papa always said:

“She is the most like me.”

I met a boy

a smart one too

but I knew

he wasn’t enough for me

so I searched for a man

with a palette to paint

a portrait of pain

to match my own.

“Can you hear me?”

I implored him

to read my lips

to feel my pain

but he was too brilliant,

clever and cold

to care about

the little girl

in a pink dress

with a skeleton’s face

inside of me.

All I had left

and all I believed in

was the power of the

hidden space within

where like a child

dancing among faeries

in a garden of colour

I saw hope.

But I was broken

from one hard blow

to my soft, warm body

and the line stops with, me.

Meurte

 

when

the skeleton                         once more

that hangs                           my honey feet

above my bed                      glide along

becomes me                        these halls

 

when                                     once more

i awaken                              I stand

from long                             in my house

silent sleep                          the home

and open up                        we shared

my eyes

                                                our (special) place

                                                 la casa azul

 

when                                      my days

i look                                      hang here

into your eyes                       and there

i see us                                    trapped in

i see me                                   gaudy frames

                                                  behind glass panes,

before then                             it pains me to see

before us                                 my paintings

“do you remember?”             exhibited

there was me                          in my house

alone                                        (where) i no

with myself                             longer (live)

a company

of sorts                                     un museo 

of one                                        of life

of one sort                                our history

                                                    lining the walls,

                                                    hanging from the rafters

                                                    and settling on the mantel.

 

 

Paper Girl

 

the headline

the front page

the words inside

forged by her hand

landed her in hot water

hit boiling point

and bubbled over

Victoria Street

down in Kings Cross

terrace houses

red brick and white iron

where children played

and friendly neighbours

shared beers and BBQs

families

out on the street

lined the curb

tearful women

speechless men

with nowhere to go

a lone voice

broke the hum

brown eyes

beehive

big mind

she made a stand

refused to leave

staked her claim

and took her place

at the top

the rallies and the power

the signs and the slogans

the unions and the meetings

on mean streets, ruled

by hungry wolves

a pretty little lamb

called out loud

tread on toes

what she did best

troublemakers get

what they deserve

NOW: the time for action

silencing her

was never

an easy task

but a great pleasure

the big wig

Mr Sin

lured her in

Carousel Club

come alone

quietly now

a firm grip on her arms

fingers wrapped tightly

around her red lips

no screaming tonight

 a pink pillowslip

over her pretty head

heavy, brown-paper packages

different shapes and sizes

addressed to always

delivered to eternity

rest on the ocean floor

of Sydney Harbour.

Alpha

 

her time is long gone now

           the people still remember

           and they always will

with her face in portraits

and her body in bronze

           how could you forget?

 

she can hardly remember

yesterday and the one before

           she saw the war end

           and the wall fall down

she is history walking

shuffling and pausing-

           what did you say?

 

she can remember

            one thing

the green leather seat

at her back

            hear hear

they say

then turn their heads

taking knives to her back

            men, men, men

sensitive, touchy

terrified little boys

oh, what one woman can do!

 

            no! no! no!

she says

with a stern look

eyebrows pulled together

lips pursed

slightly lop-sided

but her fist is clenched

she takes to the podium

taps the microphone

            one, two

and she means business

 

the lady’s not for turning

 

 

Ceasefire

The rules, written long before the ship’s briny bottom had even brushed the shore,

filed away in private archives and only taken out on special occasions

like your best Sunday dress, to wave in the faces of the opposition.

The forces, assembled in gaggles of those who have suffered enough and for too long,

lining the streets with placards and banners- their voices are sirens-

crawling out of kitchens and from under ironing-boards into the streets.

The message, spread out wide and slowly seeped in like a spilled glass of milk,

“Cookin’, cleanin’ and creatin’- all they’re bloody good for!” he says,

“Watch your mouth, darling, or you’ll go hungry tonight,” she replies,

slap!

A firm grip on the detonator

thumb quivering on the big, red button

you count down the minutes

second by second

tick tick tick

you wait, ready and blazing

blood squelches in your ears with every beat of your heart

there’s a tickle in your throat and a bead of sweat runs down your nose

a sister in the crowd jogs forward to march beside you,

with a six-starred flag draped across her shoulders

she raises her fist into the air and smiles

you turn to face your comrades bringing up the rear, but they’re down

sprawled on the pavement, limps splayed and placards crushed

your breath hitches in your chest

a heavy hand settles on your shoulder

you turn back, to find yourself nose-to-nose with a stout man in a suit,

he slips an envelope deep into your pocket with a sneer across his lips

you march onwards, sliding your fingernail under the seal

there’s an answer inside that envelope- a good one-

but it’s nothing more than

a baby’s step forward

in a giant’s marathon.

@JuliaGillard Now that we have almost all rights once denied of us

now handed 2 us on a silver platter, will we eva hav 2 stop apologising?

 

 

An Invitation

A tribute to American artist Judy Chicago and her 1979

installation artwork “The Dinner Party.” Each line is dedicated to one

of thirty-nine influential women of history, chronologically, across the

ages in three distinct stages: Mythology to the Roman Empire, Christianity

to the Reformation and America to the Women’s Revolution.

 

I kindly request the honour of her presence

and the pleasure of her company…

 

birthed from between the thighs of chaos

she bears summer fruits, juicy and buttery-yellow

an eight-pointed star hangs around her neck reminiscent of that first and fatal love

the black one, the consort who exists beyond the hands of the clock

and the maenad, who follows close behind with stretched skin sagging down her chest

are you wise and eternal like all unseen things?

watch her as she cuts off her breast to spite her bow and arrow

she is the Pharaoh – both lands, above and below the belt

a book in one palm and a head in her other

she implores you: ‘come again, my limb-loosening lover’

courtesan to a general, she remains virtuous, knowing her own mind

ruler of the revolt, horse-whipped and humiliated

a teacher of numbers, stars and magic with virgin blood flowing in her veins

 

a dowager, she walks the halls of the family home in her dead husband’s suit

the virgin Mother appears before her, angels sweetly sing and light fills the room

a saint whispers prayers in a theatre of soft tissued slaves under red lights

her chaste voice crawls from her lips to the page to the ears of a nation

she is the doctor of disease and a purveyor of fine cosmetics

a widow queen with a sacred wedding present – a crystal vase

a weaver at the loom of words, who felt God moving inside her

a good witch, guilty of nothing but life, yet burned alive at the stake

between sheets, she writes with a fleshy quill, her shield

the cure: a first breath taken at the stroke of nine when the moon is high

a blind, deaf and untouched queen with a fiery crown and undercarriage

she cuts his throat with her paintbrush, daubing skin and sex onto a white canvas

a multi linguist with a soft, warm tongue, she speaks of “honest delight”

 

a preacher with a womb, un-heard of and condemned, a travesty

her face is on the golden dollar, taken as a wife and prisoner

she opened the eyes of the earth unto the sparking sky of stars above

the book penned by her hand: a monster made from pieces of the past

she questioned and queried the world but she was a woman of honey brown colour

peering from behind bifocals she sees behind closed doors, a future of balance

the very first with a scalpel in her hand, slicing away the lies, can’t you see?

her verses – woven from wilted petals and starving bodies – have a heartbeat

“there is no G-d!” she said, but she wrote music to please his ears anyway

ending lives not yet begun for the sake of preventing living pain

can you allow her to write the play-book of women and scandal? an autobiography

a darkness clouds her grey eyes and the water pins her down to the riverbed

it is only a black iris flower, don’t make it more than it is

 

… I extend to her my warmest regards,

and hope she will accept this invitation.

 

 

The First Lady

 

Firmly seated in his leather office chair,

she glides the palms of her black-skinned hands

along the varnished surface of her husband’s desk,

carved from the resolute one

with an eagle’s wings spread wide

where the histories of the great land

and the scandals of those who came before

are laid out for the world to see

in public addresses on the television screen.

 

The Forefathers each left their own etchings

in the timber where she lays her hands:

one had a son who played peek-a-boo at his feet

one couldn’t fit his knees underneath the desk

one spent time in a blue dress with a cigar tube

one told a nation to be strong in the face of terror

and her man, he told his fine nation: “Yes We Can!”

 

The ladies of the past are silent shadows in her wake,

born of a time before, not forgotten but committed to the books of history:

one was left with pieces of her husband spilled down her pink suit

one was left a cuckolded woman, but became much more

one was left to clean up the mess he left behind (aren’t they all?)

and she, gives her man a run for his money; every day of his life.

 

Their two children play in the corridor

as men with dark glasses and earpieces

keep a close and careful watch,

the little girls smile and giggle as Daddy

signs his name with his left hand

then answers the ringing telephone,

he leans back in his chair and

puts his feet up on the desk

click click click – go the bright flashbulb lights

like a naked popstar dancing on a balcony

or a model caught with a powdered nose

the eyes and ears of the world are open

and waiting for his next mistake.

 

She knows she’ll never live to see

another normal day, anonymous and quiet

and is fine with that decision as long as

she doesn’t stop to think about it,

too deeply or for too long…

 

Smiling with her eyes

through the camera lens

to the people of the world

she tries to make them listen

but it has been a while

and they feel a little neglected

a little rusty, a little lost and a little lazy,

as they tweet and blog

without having to take

any responsibility;

maybe it’s time

for someone

new?

 

They all want the title

the highest honour in the land

that is why she knows, they will fight

capped tooth over manicured nail

to knock the crown from her head

but she will rule for another four, for sure…

Unless the Mormon Mama

beats her to the throne.

Change

 

Later in her life

she will wake up and notice

the clock inside her

has suddenly stopped ticking:

she begins her metamorphosis.

 

Pandora, Catherine Edwards

These poems are inspired by the evils, which escaped from Pandora’s Box into the world and into our lives creating chaos: ‘Secrets’ (death), ‘Ten Fingers Ten Toes’ (passion), ‘Today’ (illness), ‘We are the Same’ (hatred), ‘Battle of Caffa’ (war) ‘Famine’ (famine), and of course, ‘Clay Figure’ is based around Pandora’s creation

 

Clay Figure

she opens her eyes

crafted of clay, water smooth, shapely
body
earth made, for mankind
blood pumps warm veins

brown clay, thick lifeless.
I study the edges of the cube,
size, feel the weight
in my rough hands

dip the tips of my
fingers in warm water
gently rubbing my
moist hands over the
smooth grains of the
dry, crackling clay

I grip the handle
of the sharp scalpel
slicing her soft silhouette
she begins to grow

clay dries on hands
filling the groves of
tree ring fingerprints
lines on palms
I become a part of her creation

I am gentle with her,
lightly I stroke the clay

I must be patient, precise
knuckles rocking gentle on the clay
shaping her hips, breasts
The curve of my index finger marks her
eyes, lips

I place the small figure
in the heart of the fire
a volcano, turning mud
into rock, into vitreous
burning her into life

she takes a breath
raises her chin, eyes flicker across her
body
feels the curve of her narrow chin

beauty, beyond imagination
grace desire
cunning as a deceitful crow
vixen defiant
crafts defining femininity
weave sow

Curiosity

I place a gilded box in her slender arms
a white veiled bride
a gift to man
she takes a breath

ghosts seep into the world, creating chaos

 

 

Secrets

She whispers a secret she knows he
can answer

he watches, through purple shadowed-eyes,
as naked branches bare fruit,
he seeks the blushing Corella
deep lines dig out a map,
upon his palm.
blue eyes illuminate
wrinkled white-paper skin

He takes her on bushwalks
she demands her pink gumboots
he watches her squeeze
the blossoming wattle buds
in her tiny hands
sniffing the yellow cotton
expecting a delicious scent
she sneezes twice and
continues on her way

He puts a finger to his lips and points to the
old weeping willow
out of place among the squiggly gums
a fat green tree frog with a white, puffed out
belly
suctions his toes to the slippery leaves
she giggles at its throbbing throat

He prunes his Cleopatra roses
rubbing his fingers on each velvet petal
he opens the deep folded layers
she is impatient to see inside the closed bud
slips her button nose in the rose petals and
sneezes twice

black and red rubber snakes
litter his garden, strategically placed
a metal cage made of wire and wood
armed and ready, he watches on like a child
to scare or catch Myna birds, he doesn’t mind

Balancing on the balls
of her purple polished shoes,
his soft chestnut ear hair flutters
against her dry lips
the hem of her black dress has been dipped in
mud.

Curious eyes painted on her porcelain face
trace the stiff curves of the dead tree
the piano breathes
a final note

She whispers a secret she knows he cannot
answer
open your eyes Grandpa, what do you see?

 

 

Ten Fingers Ten Toes

I
I rest my head in the crook of your neck
your breath warms the night chill
my cheek feels the slow pound of a heart
that is not mine
my fingers twist through black chest hair
I trace the velvet hairs that cover your pink
ears
they tickle the groves of my fingertips
I stifle a giggle,
scratch the rough edges of your shadowing
stubble
you lift your chin arching your neck

white lace curtains flutter against the
windowsill
light swims across the room, like ripples in
water
I tangle my feet within the sheepskin rug

Lick the curve of your jaw
slip my tongue between your wet lips
I stroke your pale torso, muscles tense
under my light touch
drink in your greedy grin

II
In the deep folds of my flesh and bones
I can feel her grow
I know her
before she takes a breath
before she opens her eyes
before she meets her father
the small life is already a part of me
she hides in the darkness of my ribs
among the bone cradling arms of my body

III
Pools of blood leak into white linen
cramps contort toes, spreading down my thighs
jaw clenches, teeth grind together
blonde hair drips salty sweat
violet nails dig deeper into palms

A single cry in a blanket of white silence

She is saturated in my blood outside
and in

IV
The sky blue water is calm
bubbles break the clear surface
light reflects green and brown
Her small hand rests in mine

Grains of sand sear our feet
soft and tender from winter
we climb the dune digging in our toes
the hot air dries our skin, thick in our lungs

Rainbow frills cover her swimmers
they sparkle in the rising sun
white wide-brimmed hat shadows her
small face, brown eyes cast down
I rest her warm body on my hip,
auburn hair swings at her shoulders,
she cuddles her face into my neck

She points a stubby finger to the sea,
‘Mumma, bath time now?’

 

 

 

Today

Yesterday
He makes friends,
at the beginning of year seven.
I watch him take his school to state,
for throwing the furthest discus.
He pulls apart motorbikes,
puts them back together

Now
The anesthetists have put
him under twenty-four times.
They take tests, from his bone marrow.
Stick tubes down his jugular.
Poison is the only cure
only hope

Yesterday
He camped at Brogans Creek
scaling thick branched fig trees
clinging to smooth limbs, sweating fingers slipping.
Caught tadpoles in plastic bottles, laughed at their wiggling tails
Felt the burn of a campfire on his face,
the familiar smell of musty smoke and aerogard
Listen to the rain, fall on the tight canvas roof

Now
His tissue paper skin bloated, stretched
His favorite drink makes him nauseous
Dead strands of straw-like hair cling to
a sunburnt pealing scalp
His bed a prison, confined and locked

Yesterday
He stands knee deep in salty water, calves tense
his feet grip smooth pebbles
The tip of his finger tightly pressing the cord of his fishing line,
waiting for a small tug, a nibble
He flicks the rod back, frantically reels the line
Thrashing on the hook is a mangrove jack

Now
Dad cries for the first time
We visit him in a bed with labels and
stained sheets.
Like a black shadow disease will follow
him for the rest of his life

 

 

We Are The Same

                             we celebrate with lamb roast
they are appointed by the people
we are born into privilege
collecting tears with mothers fingertips
now we are seen by all
free speech and choices to control
no concern for forgotten land
loud voices heard over crowds
I have an advanced education
we have life
bright blue skies open horizons
eyes open to technology
we are tucked up in silk sheets
we are safe during the night
born in Chicago
with a water view apartment
adored by eyes of parents
I have no responsibility
young girls have cul de sacs to play in
small pale faces laugh with glee
gently wash skin with lavender soap
watch as I change my future
I was a lawyer like my father
given names identities
the world is a small place
gave me a Barbie Dream House
soundless sleep sweet dreams
surrounded by digital beeps
governed by selfish power
teddies softer than clouds
red lipstick makeup on child pageant queens
painted clown faces
meet brothers for a big brunch
family wedding fight over cost
forced lollies, lick, suck cavity
free medicine for everyone
we
                                      have
                                      eyes
                                      arms
                                      toes
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
different

                             we eat scraps with dogs
they are cruel powerful dictators
we are born innocent privilege
tears collect with leaking blood
no one sees us
silenced choices no control
no connections to justice
silenced voices lost in crowds
I wish for an education
we have to hope for life
deserted brown dilapidated land
clouded eyes weeping
we are stolen from our beds
we are afraid of nightfall
born in Uganda
with eager hunting rebels
taken from eyes of our parents
I feed the little ones
young girls have been raped forced sex slaves
small black faces watch in terror
skin whipped torn from flesh
I have no future
I was a fisherman like my father
given a green and grey uniform
not an important world issue
gave me a gun to kill friends, neighbors
terrified sleep abducted from homes
surrounded by child soldiers
governed by threats and dictators
bodies don’t belong to the soul
mutilated scars burning skin
thousand faces with empty eyes
meet brothers again in heaven
we murder our parents
forced to fight in the LRA
addicted to drugs trapped in this place forever
                                        we
                                        have
                                        eyes
                                        arms
                                        toes
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
we are the same we are different
                                        different

 

 

Battle of Caffa
1345

Battlefields make me giddy
I soar through bright skies
humans sweeter than any meal
specks scattered in vast landscapes
vibrating call, screeches across open skies
wings beat in unison

Smoke clogs the air
flames burn dried grass
black eyes twitch, searching
mesmerizing metal, flickers in light
guttural, chocking noises escape
creatures wide-eyed withering faces
sticky liquid saturates soft feathers

the first feats
the scent is sour
rip juicy bubbling bumps
marks left by other feasting animals
they burrow through hair and skin
latching on deeper sucking harder
delicious blood
I use my beak to tear through weak flesh
I peck brittle bones

White cloth wrapped around human mouths
they leave me to my feast
I watch the creatures
they lift my meals into their contraptions
they fly like us over stonewalls

 

 

Famine

Hollow brown stick thin limbs
Hang from a stone-like belly
A final whimper
Mothers milk dried to powder
In weeping eyes lay maggots
Mother cradles empty blankets
Her child cradled by soil and earth