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{things that taste like connecting human hearts}


rivers that run into each other seamlessly. like all their lives. they have been waiting to cross. to be so flooded by rain that they run up their banks and across paddocks and threaten to devour hills. 


questions that build and pulse and make the sound of a drumbeat or the stamp of feet on a busy street. questions that fall over themselves and collapse. questions that take time. that rise again. that you have heard all your life. 


a shattered bulb of light with the wires sticking out, frizzing, frazzled, electric. making waves. losing heat.


~~~~~

If everything around you pulses through you like frenetic waves drowning out the sound of your own voice, you’re doing something right. If it feels like the chorus of the universe is rummaging through itself, turning itself over, breaking into a million pieces and burning itself to a pile of broken ash, you’re doing something right. If you’ve never breathed deeper, fallen harder, been scathed this way, been turned inside out and asked ‘how things are’ and wanted to strip yourself away until nothing but the sound of the howling wind remains, you’re doing something right. None of this was going to be easy.

12

I am twelve and sitting in your basement on the tiled cold floor. A pot of paint almost tips and I catch it. My reflexes are sharp. 


On the bright screen a message sits, unopened. We have both begun to experiment with the art of leaving a message unread. Twelve, and we know its power. The illustrious weight of leaving it there, hanging, on the other end of a long underground chord. 


We define ourselves in similarities and dissonances. You like green. My favourite colour needs to be something else. You have always hated the ending of Grease. The last five minutes of it make my heart swarm and I lose my vision in red lipstick and black leather. You steal your mother’s wine. I light a cigarette. 


Twelve and the man hanging on the other end of a long underground chord is nothing more than a whimsical notion. Like a mobile that hangs from a disconcerted ceiling over a sleepy crib, we watch him dangle himself before us. 


It is six months before he threads our skin with green and laces our cigarettes. You are Jane Birkin. I am always Mary Jane. 


In church, we learn that twelve was the age Jesus was left at the temple to fend for himself. We too feel this fending. This feeling of isolation. We pray never to be found. 









back to black

BACK TO BLACK

there you are all

bent backed

crooked fingers

black eyes

paralysed

words make their way across you

you try to capture one, or two

a sentence falters against you

rights itself, carries on

they ask if

they are good enough

you ask

if you are.

the sun pours across to a new hemisphere

your eyes turn to moons


songs

when I would like to lay; in the earth. as a sepulka (sepulchre). i will be instead here in this place.

when my hands would rather curl themselves into bones. i will light candles for you.


mangroves

MANGROVES

the girls’ skin shines in the reflection of the water

it looks grey

under the shade

of scrawny swamp trees

their bellies and thighs marked with long lines

lying on squashed mangroves


grandmothers

JANE AND GRACE

my grandmother jane

emeralds drip on her creamy fingers

nails the colour of a blood orange

i hear stories of flat footed driving and the catesak

my grandmother maria

hands as hard as my father

arms full with bundles of sticks

under her nails

dirt

pieces of worm

juice from a mandarin

peeled, broken, handed to me


Fictional true stories #1

Light breaks the window. Almost; it falters. The green behind it large and voluminous, the dust deliberating its fate between air and earth, gravity paused for a moment and dark suspended in light. Voices fleet and the kettle boils, the button snaps up and tea bags are set in the two brown cups. Chamomile, peppermint, pieces of ginger cut up in the water. Mother’s hands hold little lines. She steadies herself, gives you a cup. The table is bare except for the book you brought for her and your own handbag. She turns it over and feels the covers, opens to a page and reads some, a little smile coming to her as though she already knows what it is about. You try to hold in your disdain for the showiness of the gesture. The house is large and you both make your way through it and spend time in the garden where the plants are and flower buds have begun to open. Mother’s frame is smaller now, or yours is bigger, maybe you’ve put on weight or something. Mother walks carefully and you feel heavy and clumsy around her like she could break one of the pink camellias that bend onto the path. Father is warm and dirty and small as well and quickly resumes the squatted position in a garden bed beneath a vine after he leaves dirt on your back from his hands.

You remember a time when you were so small beneath him and you watched your shadows competing for space in this yard. You want to kneel and gather the dirt around the seedlings and bump his hands, but you must be at work in an hour and this was just supposed to be a short visit. 

On the train on the way back from mother’s house the rain slowly settles in and the glass seems to bend and cave to its growing pressure. Tunnels pass in and out and air is bent out of shape by speed. The train passes a green field with a dam in it filled with purple weeds brimming with lilies. In the field, a girl in a brown dress follows her father across the grass. Time wanders beside them. You gulp, close your eyes, plant flowers with your father. 

sugar

the juice breaks. my tongue

splits the skin

sugar falls through my fingers

all afternoon they are sticky

i like their sweetness

i smell them

the smell of fermenting fruit

now, the sun sets and

i am fermenting

bubbling

bursting with colour

ii

the girls’ skin shines in the reflection of the water

it looks grey

under the shade

of scrawny swamp trees

their bellies and thighs marked with long lines

lying on squashed mangroves

ink

you take a broken pen

ink drips from the top

you wait until a new droplet forms

looks to drip

draw with the clear plastic tube

interior

marks on my belly

you go where the organs are

heart, on heart

lungs

fibre and tissue

like a strong tree

dendrous, your arms

as you line my skin

 

green pool

hold this, you say, and wander haphazardly across the rocks to where the green pool shelters from the heat

i won’t be a minute.

you look at the sun and judge the hour. you tell me it is three.

i don’t care. the afternoon is interminable. i watch you make waves. i watch your body become water.

in the shade you brush me and i shiver.

a water dragon plunges into the pool.

the entire chasm echoes with our silence.

sea-sick

i want to be so sick with salt that my skin shines like pickles

full of brine and breathing through gills

exhale air 

inhale water

let my hair dry like green weed on the rocks

turn my cells to scales

cover the sandy floor with my body and wait 

for the tide to change

sssss

brine has darkened her cells

the fish

mistake her for one of their kind.

she lies in the sand, hair coated with yellow grains turned translucent by the wetness

her nails are clear like the sea without the sky

her skin absorbs light, takes it, darkens

in the sea, she exhales all her air to dive deep

wishes for scales in place of skin, long draping fins where the fingers sweep the underside of waves as they bucket overhead

falls to the sand. the whitewash above a creamy sepulchre.

i want to be a woman so briny.

skin pickled to hardness. hair breaking off in the sun. legs beating green jelly into the night.

the poetic taste of un-words

i

this morning I hung your clothes on the small line in the backyard, with the string that you showed me how to pull so that I can let the line back down alone.

hands cool and damp from the clothes I placed new rinsed into the basket. basket to hip, and into the sun. the sun that is learning ways around us, our shadows in its way. seeping into our skin.

the sun that fell in diagonal patterns across the slatted wood at the side of the house. my toes on cement and brushing against grass that pokes its way through the large tiles. clothes in my hands. fresh-rinsed from sweat.

this morning you hung my clothes on the small line in the backyard, with the basket sat on the porch and clawing through to find the largest pieces to hang first. and on the ground a lizard made its way through the beams of wood on the veranda and into the light to bask in contented solicitude with the sound of passing cars. the way you do.

ii

of all the poem-people

that have touched my skin

you have written —— and unwritten

more words

by speaking silence

than others do in all

their wailing

jubilee

iii

here I am

cooking

the same meal of sauce, garlic, red wine, onions and shallots, over pasta

with oil and the sweet olives my mother taught me to buy.

the same meal I have cooked many a time. for others, too.

this time

there is no transience to the way the pasta curls

the water stays clear. it does not muddy. I pour the oil over it and scoop it into bowls. it is perfect.

iv

when I would like to lay; in the earth. as a sepulka (sepulchre). i will be instead here in this place.

when my hands would rather curl themselves into bones. i will light candles for you.


your father's house

there you go, sitting on the old torn couch, grey and matted and stained with pieces of dead skin so small they make a small matted space by your head. where your father’s head lay back. it has been three months since you occupied his old house and you wonder how to get these stains of his very back and neck off from the chairs and couches. in the kitchen is the smell of sour scales where he would skin and gut and whip the scales from the fish out on the hand-poured concrete in the back that runs down to the river that opens up to the sea. with the jetty and the small boat with oars discarded on the sandy river-beach. where he ate mullet and catfish wrapped in foil and thrown into the grill in the oven with butter stuffed in beside it.

there you are wiping butter onto bread. scouring the oven. hosing down the old fence with grime flicked up on it.

the sink is rusted and filled with knives, carving knives, bread knives and thick scaling knives and the rust has joined them together. you have to pull them to break them apart. the rust somehow ends up on your hands and you sniff the rusty smell, unpleasant in the salty air. salty from the incoming tide and the easterly blowing the spray of waves into the air, whipping them into inscrutable parts, letting them fall around your father’s house.

paint falls off walls. like the dripping sea it tumbles. the walls full with asbestos. the old wooden windows with their stuck-open latches. the sun makes itself into a hundred pieces and stampedes through the windows. skin-dust in the light.

water

condensation was one of the first words that ever fascinated me. held me. for three days straight I sheltered leaves with left over plastic bags

waited for the droplets to form, took the bag and let them run down onto my hands

and the word was there, covering the grey plastic, dripping from my fingers onto the grass below my feet.

the water follows everywhere. it falls as a waterfall down the back of my mind and rushes in concentric circles behind my eyes that build and grow like the tide til I ride them downstream and begin to leave worries behind

they run.

they run ahead of me and lay me out to dry, rinse me until I am ice cold, covered in frost, waiting and panting but so very un-lost

like a quarry filled with the most ecstatic blue and minerals deposited with waste that may or may not be able to drown a person in poison and cover them in sparkling silt at the same time, the words are vengeance and renewal and the breaking down of every large thing into the finest sand.

you can build a mountain from your thoughts. but make no mistake, the water is stronger than the dirt. it will forge paths for you, break down monuments for you, stop traffic for you. take you until all you need to do is keep yourself from drowning.

it is never done with you. like all the lakes rivers and seas on earth you will find yourself connected, circling and re-circling back into the same shallows and gullies, diving deeper with more strength, more assurance, a greater elation.

crashing into rocks in a violent tumble. pieces in the sea. pieces on the land. the steam of your breath.

sea bird

gold the light strikes them. on the white places where the water rests as in a goblet on waxy feathers

crawing against the incoming tide, the setting sun, the abundance of human flesh littering the creamy dunes

human-kind rinses itself in the ocean

the birds caw above, and dive to throw their heads beneath. white into white. pink beaks gulping tiny shimmering scales.

on the beach a man past his prime pulls himself into the surf, against the current. his heart pounds loudly. the waves crash around him and he shivers at their tenacity. his tenacity. to be here, among them. he is afraid of being swept out, so careful to maintain a foothold. but the sand slips. no sooner can he place a foot than the grains rush away beneath it, dust. he is on his back floating. the light seems to tickle him. giggling.

Peaking (poem)

the thoughts were so

swell.

gorgeous.

held together. knowable.

now they blitz apart, simply the sum of a hundred fragmented memories built into your mind

the present mingling with the past, a blur. you reach your hand up twist it into your mind, try to configure - reconfigure - reset

you walk long strides in the evening down glowing summer paths. pacing placing re-placing yourself

building yourself again of the gentle dappled light that breaks through velvet green leaf or the smell of balsamic and garlic in somebody’s pasta sauce

building yourself of the sum of the evening

Friday poetry post: peace

If you stop hating yourself
You can stop hating other people
Your pain will not be illuminating their imperfections all the time



There are enough people out there with a shield across their heart hoping nobody will notice they have one.

Choose the bloody option. The one that leaves you open. And rich with breath.


The truest things are the things people are sick of hearing. Advanced beyond. Have no time for.
That love is the fabric of life. But love is not only an idea, it is a wave that grows and consumes your fear. That kindness will heal your broken heart. That nothing cannot be mended, is too far gone, is not allowed back. That you must allow yourself to be kind first and strong second. That the children hold the secrets we have forgotten in the speed of things.



It's very strange that we want to be okay all the time. Be sane all the time. Be pleased, and jovial, all of the time. Take the deepening of Autumn as a reminder that your body is in fluctuation like the earth. The leaves are a sweetness that browns and bursts and drops and falls, and so are you. The clouds weep like you, before they are frightened by warmth. And sometimes there is a dull stillness about you that cannot be understood. It isn't illness, to desire to hole up from stress, or hide and hibernate. Because still all the time you are a living, gasping, hoping soul, daring to breathe.