Monday, September 25, 2017

13 Ways of Looking at a Possum


for Andrew MacDonald

There’s a possum in my roof.
More importantly:
I’m scared of it. Helpoem?

(with apologies to Wallace Stevens)

Among twenty suburban houses
The only thing truly awake
Is the possum.  

I am in three minds
And all of them
Are afraid of the possum.

The possum whirled on the telegraph wire
It was a small part, but he made it his own.
His agent said it would lead to bigger things.

A man and a woman  
Are one thing.  
A man and a woman and a possum
Are quite another.
But a man and a man
Or a woman and a woman
Who want to get married
Should be equal in the eyes of the law.

I do not know which to prefer,  
Inflections or innuendos.
The possum’s guttural growl,  
Or just after.  
Well obviously, it’s better
After the possum shuts up.
Except then you lie awake, tense,
Waiting for it to start again.
Bloody possum.

The shadow of the possum
Is the shadow of casual hatred.
The possum despises you,
And everything you stand for.
Your human privilege.
The inheritance of shame
Is a burden and a gift. Atone.

O thin man of Elwood,  
Why do you imagine the possum?
The possum is the void.
It lives in your thoughts
and in her thoughts,
but it does not dwell in its own thoughts.

The possum involves itself  
In what you know
Even in the middle of the afternoon
In the midst of rational human activity,
The possum intrudes –
Its animal intuition,
Stuttering, scratching.
Scraping at the threshold
Of consciousness.

When the possum
Marked the edge  
Of one of many circles,
I was like WTF?
That’s really weird.
I’m not sure why the possum would do that.  

At the sight of possums
Flying in a green light,
It became clear
They were probably up to something.
He drives up the Nepean Highway.
He sees something on the road
And swerves.
But it’s not a possum.
Just the shadow of a possum.
He’s thinking of getting a Prius.

The river is moving
To the outer suburbs.
It’s heard about this place
Near the end of the Hurstbridge Line
That’s like Northcote in the country.
The possums are kind of being arseholes about it.
The river tries to ignore them
But deep down it thinks
Maybe it can’t hack it in the suburbs after all.

It was evening all afternoon.  
Who knows what the weather was doing
Or going to do.
The possum ran out of its hole
And said, there are many truths.
You dream a little
And feel the rising of the dark.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Why Did I Say Yes?

In everyday life, ask more questions.
There’s a rule to live by.

Questions about the form and technique of living:
how do you read a poem or get the scum out of a coffee cup?
You try hard.

Read the cutlery drawer as it was written: left to right,
past to future, imagination to critical thought.
The forks think themselves into a confused pattern,
knives live so simply, like monks or soldiers.
The spoons reflect the absurd world.

The thing is, you want to be surprised by life
amid the dailiness of routine.
Wash the dishes, dry the dishes, eat the dishes,
talk about the dishes.

You are noisy
in your sleep
and when you wake up
you are awake.

Yes is the word that speaks your name,
that speaks the body of your name,
your body’s name. It speaks the woman
left behind in the twentieth century,
deciding on the place of cutlery in the history
of the kitchen drawer.
Knives, assemble!
She closes the drawer on our open-mouthed other selves.

You said yes because you always said yes
locked outside your spoonself.
No is in the release
of the tip of the tongue
currently stuck to the roof of your mouth.
Did you say yes?
Or did they hear what they wanted to hear
in the din
the scraping of the plates,
the clamouring of cups,
the high pitched screaming
of the forks.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Avery's dream

there was a tree at school
and it only had four leaves left on it
and that meant only four people were friends
and everyone was a robot
and if they touched you
you would be a robot too
and I made Declan be my friend
I said why do you have to be mean to everybody
I said why can’t you just be nice
and he was nice

and he was my friend again.

(after telling me this, he went back to his breakfast. Then he looked up and said: I've got a big day today. The birds are teaching me how to fly. The bears are teaching me how to fight. And the bulls are teaching me how to release my anger.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

why sometimes when I am driving do I feel like I am in a movie?

For Simmone Howell

My character is ‘driving woman’
I’m not sure of my motivation
there may be a dead man in the trunk
I glance at my child in the rear vision mirror
possibly I have repressed memories
of being a trained assassin
the houses I’m passing are painted houses
nothing has depth
nothing is its own true colour
I glance in the mirror again
the back seat is empty
at this exact moment
the car slides past
an exact duplicate of myself
waiting to cross the road
It’s like a movie
but the reality
I’m driving
I’m not sure of my motivation
the car is doing the thinking for me
it really is real life
cars stretched to the horizon
honking to each other like wild geese
we all get out
stand on our cars
and sing

Monday, January 30, 2017

In the deep dark of the night, how do I let go of my fear?

For Lefa, with love

There is so much to fear how will the work of it ever be 
thoroughly done in the half-felt, incomplete hours? 
She gets up in the night, pulls on her dressing gown,
scuffs her feet across the floor (past the picnickers in the hall)
to the kitchen to make some kind of soup. Salt, salt, pepper, salt.
She lays a cloth napkin across her knees  and sips from a spoon. 
Salt, salt, pepper salt: It tastes of childhood, 
the combination flavours of safety and harm.
It is natural to be afraid, says the shadow, who has followed her
from the bedroom (past the picnickers in the hall)
and sits across the table from her, watching the spoon break
the surface of the soup. She folds the napkin and pats
at the corners of her mouth. Salt, salt, pepper, salt.
In the morning the soup pan, the bowl, the spoon, the napkin,
have all been cleared away. She tastes dread in her throat, 
salt, salt, pepper, salt, the flavour of the waking dream.

How Can I Be In Two Places At Once?

Unless you are a bird
history entering
the panelled eye
time is colour
light is memory
migrating by heart
led by the wing
but there is only one bird
of all places
who cares nothing
for what is a bird 
sticks and feathers 
made and unmade
you sleep 
standing up
on the wind

This poem is a temporal anomaly because it is yesterday's poem published today.
It is for my friend Kate Clifford, long time Internet companion and all round excellent human, who asked 'How can I be in two places at once?' 
The bird comes from Boyle Roche, an Irish politician in the late 1700s infamously said, "Mr. Speaker, it is impossible I could have been in two places at once, unless I were a bird." While Roche was famous for mixed metaphors and malapropisms, in this case he was quoting lines from a play.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Guess Who

 For Penny Tangey*

A girl walks into a pet shop,
and says to the guy behind the counter,
‘Just the usual thanks.’
He stares at her, slightly panicked.
He can’t tell if she’s serious.
she gazes at him for a long time.
‘Don’t worry,’ she says. ‘It’s a joke.’
He can't help feeling he has let her down in some way.
She lingers for a long time at the 'oodle cage,
and the dogs act like they know her, 
some sit,
some walk on two legs,
they whine, 
play dead.
She says, ‘I have another joke.’
He says, ‘I don’t like jokes’ 
but not loud enough for her to hear.
She says, ‘What’s the difference between a duck?’
He waits. 
When she doesn’t say anything, 
he’s forced to say, ‘What?’
The puppies tumble over each other,
rubbing against the cage, purring like kittens.
She stands up, walks over to the counter.
The puppies whine.
‘One leg is both the same,’ she says.
He frowns, thinking about it,
he’s about to ask her to explain it,
but she is already gone.
The puppies are bereft,
they sleep all afternoon,
and at the end of the day, 
though it’s against the rules,
he takes one of them home,
a Groodle he temporarily names Ernest.
He tells his housemates about the girl,
holding the puppy on his lap,
and they have lots of questions, like
‘Was she wearing glasses?’ 
‘Did she have red hair?’
‘Did she have a big nose?’
and he says, ‘well I guess
that’s a matter of opinion.’
And then they start asking different questions, like
‘Would she take a long time to choose a video in a rental store?’
And ‘If she was a celebrity, would she release a perfume?
And would she name it after herself?’
And he says ‘listen,
she was the kind of girl who’d walk into a pet shop
and say, just the usual thanks.'
He lets Ernest sleep on his bed
and the next day, takes him back to the store.

*Penny wrote: Could you walk into a pet shop and say "Just the usual thanks"? Actually, this is a great question for playing Subjective Guess Who. Maybe not for poems.

The Internet of Women

Jo asked 'How can I help?' so this poem is dedicated to her, and to all the women from Ninemonths, the parenting forums I joined in 2002 when I got pregnant with Fred and especially the mums in the private group we created to share photographs called Our Baby Photos, which became our safe place on the Internet for a really long time.

The Internet of Women

Well, the years went fast, but the time between
three and four in the afternoon lasts forever
dust suspended in a shaft of light.

Every day is a miracle, and you’ve never been so bored,
you are literally never alone, and you’ve never been so lonely,
You sit down and type ‘how can anyone live like this?’

That’s how you find the internet of women.
The medium is the message, breastmilk, blood, cervical fluid,
we leak into each other’s lives.

First you make the character of yourself,
and then slowly you become that person,
until you’re ready to take her out into the world.

Once we met in a private forum called ‘Our Baby Photos’.
Now we’ve spread out across platforms,
and into ‘real life’. I’ve met women in every state of Australia,

my children have played with their children,
some of them are still friends. Of course the kids think 
they invented the internet.

The years went fast, but days go slow.
How can anyone live like this?
Every day is a miracle and you are literally never alone.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why does this hurt so much?

For Raelene, who asked, and for Shelley, who hurts.

Hurts so much, bright agony of light
piercing the slatted blinds and I’m awake.
This is the pain I won’t give up.

Contradiction. I wanted to go somewhere,
so I buttered toast, blasted milk,
drank coffee by the window, looked down to the street,

and all that time, I was a body with corners.
Contradiction. I was soft and I was brittle,
pressing my fingerprints into the burn.

When the wound speaks out, I am grateful
for the company. I’m waiting to see
how okay I’m going to be.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Collective Sleep Dysfunction

Nights fail you and mornings are hard.
Are you on the side of sleep or no sleep?
Scared/not scared
of the dark that waits behind your eyes,
the masked parade of thoughts,
front row tickets to the carnival of dread.
You lie down in bed and it’s just not working,
or maybe you drift off okay until
you half dream yourself falling down stairs
and stagger awake,
and then you can’t sleep all over again.

"We slept in the night,
in the morning we got up
and made something of ourselves."

Here we all are on Facebook, on Twitter,
the midnight choir of the narrowly awake:
Why can't I sleep when I'm so darn exhausted?
Why do I stay up too late even though I know
I will be tired tomorrow?
Why are we still awake?
If you don't sleep all night, is it really the next day?
Why don't I want to get out of bed?

"We slept through the afternoon,
as night fell, we dreamed ourselves awake."

Questions in the poem dream-harvested from the fabulous likes of:
1. Melanie Sanders
2. Sabdha Pink Charlton
3. Nicole Hayes
4. Jo Case
5. Penelope Davie

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

At any given time what is the weight of the human head?

How long must we carry the precious burden of skull?
The total body mass index of being human
weighs more than you thought it would
the ache of hair pulling on your head
but you mustn’t speak of the pain to anyone.
What is the weight of care? It weighs nothing.
Children are heavier asleep, they care for nothing,
not even sleep. Their heads roll away from you,
though they would be no good to use as bowling balls.
Brains are sort of bouncy, like tofu, weigh a smidge over a kilo.
The brains are hardly the issue here, and doubt
is more of a stomach thing. Necks are the real heroes, 
though we’ll be crushed by gravity in the end.
Anyway, it's a beautiful design flaw. 
Our heads are so heavy but when someone enters the room, 
we look up.