Alas! [Poem]

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“Poor Yorick” my ass. I got off easy.
Heredity is kindest when it’s short.
Let the forest weep, the poisoned king
dream of pythons and immovable heaven.

We who carry princes on our backs
stoke another’s brawny passion,
infected, jaw-to-toe, with fatigue
and a double-helping of soreness.

The thicket’s the ticket to catch
the breeches of the riding dauphin,
scratch off a flea for quick relief
and a momentary cigarette break.

Even my skull has become your souvenir.
Remember me fondly, parasite.

Intolerable Weather [Poem]

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Intolerable Weather

The flared sun beats its skin-tight drum,
and I think how arrogant it is to be alive.
The blueberries are cultivating their beards
at the ice-domed back of the refrigerator.
Whose silence matters more — yours or mine?

We are still, and still breathing, but barely,
as the wheat gathers her skirts by the stream.
No prosody without blood or sweat, they say.
None of us can survive this heat for long — 
yet the kitchen exists, and so we cook.

The tonic is laced with just enough gin — 
even as nonsense contains its backwash of truth,
and so we are given what we always wanted,
tearing through Christmas paper to get the gun
we aim at classmates, flag unfurling its “Bang!”

Pull my finger whilst I talk into this banana.
Smell my flower while I sever a plastic thumb.
No circus can compete with the headless headlines.
No freak-show so freaky as the one behind shut lids.
One day they will bottle silence, and we will pay.

For now cool breezes exist for the price of taxes,
for now the stream gathers up acceptable losses.
I haven’t brought answers, just this deck of cards,
so we pass through the space between tick-marks,
mumbling through our hands a prayer for rain.

Self-Esteem for Giants [Poem]

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Self-Esteem for Giants

Sometimes I think I am just the way
dishes get transported up and down stairs — 
like, having no legs, they invented me
to go on these excursions. It makes me
feel useful. Sometimes I think about how
I make cutlery both dirty and clean,
shuffling it from dishwasher to drawer
to dining table, and then back again.
Sometimes, I lick a spoon for effect.
Perhaps each day for them is a season,
the soapy rains, wintering in drawers.
Sometimes, when I break a dish, I want
to cry, but it’s more from shock than loss,
more about me and my failure as a cup holder
than about the cup and its untimely demise.
Each day for them is an adventure, soaring
in the questionably steady hands of a giant,
clattering into the sink with undue panache.
I’d like to feel like a giant. I was told
(probably by myself) that one day I would.
Yet here I am, savouring the chime of forks
put back in their places. I wonder what they
say about me, passing reviews of my work
through the drawers and shelves they sleep in.
Goodnight, dishes and cutlery. Dream well.

Nothing Personal [Poem]

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Nothing Personal

There is no more left to write about
since I fell away from the world
I don’t mean existentially — 
like a balloon, the globe escaped
and drifted into the star-pricked dark
or perhaps it was I, filled with
the good air of hopefulness,
tied tightly by a mother’s hand.
Among the satellites, I was alone
cosying up to space debris, cartons
of fast-food left by astronauts,
the Earth glowing gently beside me,
wrapped like an invalid in cotton wool.
I was told it would be dangerous
but the air had already been used up
in the ongoing political debate
and the chill I found refreshing
after the seas turned to bath water.
I wouldn’t say the vacuum abhorred me,
though I felt its persistent tug.
Something is to be said for drifting
after a lifetime spent believing in gravity.
Sometimes I miss the small-scale things
here with the Milky Way behind me,
but even if I wanted to now,
I could not pull it all back.

What We Were Given We Did Not Know [Poem]

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What We Were Given We Did Not Know
for Marvin Bell

Once the thing is inside you, you can travel
with the ash-coloured leaves awhile,
and sip the dark pools in passing
without fear of homesickness or thirst.

Absorption is gradual, as the clay-mud knows,
though once the platelets are convinced,
it will swim through the dark capillaries,
seeking the nuclear light of an innermost self.

So you become by shedding a once-useful coat,
and lying beneath a moon that was always close,
the in-breath a foregone conclusion of the out — 
and each thought predetermined by the last.

Sure, one foot can listen to another in snow,
while wind in the desert erases even tiny success,
and since backward has become the new forward,
even the willow must lift up its arms to dance.

Praise the tiny capsule of shelter, belonging
to the arthropod, praise the hull we plane
to take the waves face-on and smother back.
Our beginning was there, in the energetic foam.

Now we have learned of buoyancy, and heft
our small belongings with us place to place,
while the blood rushing by our eardrum protests,
and gravel mutters under our restless boots.

Dysthymia [Poem]

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I don’t really want to do anything — 
not peep through the small doors
at mice living out unimaginative lives
or run a finger over the beaded skin
of a rattling snake, coaxing venom.

In my mind I could be anywhere, and yet — 
out of the piles of driftwood, small crabs
are fighting for their well-armoured lives,
and so I stoop with my flaming stick
and prod the wet sand, and it sizzles.

I can’t even be bothered to autocorrect.
The wet lips of the python beckon from a tree,
and isn’t it always that tree to blame,
as though Knowledge itself corrupted us,
rather than we ourselves through its mis-use.

The dice fall beneath the crucifix.
A bet is a bet, and the spear goes in.
The rules made up in childhood we follow
like a sleepwalker throughout our life,
for it is dangerous, they say, to wake us.