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.