Poems from Suburban Fantasy
This house has — too many — windows:
anyone can see in.
It’s one of those houses
people stroll through the back door —
they feel free.
This house was not chosen
by me but by my husband
and father who pronounced it to be
a fine, solid, master-built house
(built by masters who morph into monsters).
It opens benignly to the morning sun, turning
in the right direction (I’m told)
I should be grateful I am
not which makes me —
This house has two storeys, two stories,
the down stairs unrolling like a fiery tongue
I was always afraid to be pushed down.
But now that the opening is closing (touch wood)
I’ve begun to write over the holy hole
we punched in the door of hell.
(They say suffering is good for you; I can’t tell.)
This is not my home. I don’t live here.
I abide in the safe house my mind
has constructed from word-wood.
Only I can enter the back door:
others must knock.
If I choose not to be home, I’m not.
But here, my face faces
painfully outwards, over-
exposing its north-lit bits,
here, there is only one
room to hide in, one
in which to sit,
and this, this
gash of a poem,
this is it.
You’re bloated and there is
fear in your gaze.
You’ve demanded the right
to be this way and I
Mirtazapine bought no peace.
Food wrappers, razor blades, beer bottles, bong.
Your body is an energy
pushing pain into a form
which it commands the world to witness —
I witness you.
I look into your eyes and whisper
— with my eyes — I see you.
Bitch, you shoot, from the dark side of your mouth,
your head in chaotic orbit.
I’m whatever you need me to be, baby.
Let’s croon the moon to sleep like we used to. Hush.
They cut the limbs off first.
Of that tree (which is me)
the one which bears
the blaring yellow x on its chest.
The arborist’s eye could see
it had been wounded long ago;
then disease entered the hole at its heart
then necrosis, gliding through the vessels
in a cool grey onslaught, weakening
the branches we once festooned
for Christmas and Halloween.
Nobody noticed for a long time.
Especially, I didn’t notice.
Not until the last leaves slipped
to the pavement did I look up —
They amputate the limbs
to make it easier to fell;
I know that feeling.
Now all through the house, the stench
of diesel and that terrible,
The unconscious is a precise and even pedantic symbolist.
— D. M. Thomas
All over the camps / children’s eyes / revolve inwards / like moons
Their muscles wane / as minds release / cruel world
They scored their grief with razors / they lit their flesh / like flares
But now their legs lie still / as metaphor / for resignation
Behind fences / limbs grow thin / enough to slip / through loopholes
Force feeding tubes tether / life to life
Judges sanction portals / mothers’ bodies flail glass
Porous eyelids gauge / time to retire
First thirst / then speech / then sight / then sense expire
Beneath the ice / you wend the blank / pathways of your mind
Your body / crossing borders / liquefied
Withdrawn / so far / so far / so far / inside
What interim world are you hiding in?
In dreams / I hear you calling / with the voice of my own child
I keep turning vacant corners / looking
For liminal beings / lost little ones / my loves
* Uppgivenhestsyndrome is Swedish for Resignation Syndrome, a rare psychiatric condition experienced by refugee children in Sweden and those detained on Nauru, who withdrew, as a result of trauma, into an unconscious state.
Poems from Engraft
Fifteen thousand years I have slumbered
In my icy casket, a hoary
Not to be kissed, but punctured
By the pick of a prying scientist.
My blood, dark as a fairy tale
Leached insidiously into the Siberian snow,
And my flesh flared red and fresh
Enough to eat.
My lower limbs devoured
By a lusty pack of ancient wolves;
My torso still fantastically intact.
What a prize: my anti-cryogenic
Strength has preserved the code
To conjure my kind back.
Exhumed from earth’s wet memory
(Who dares re-awaken me?)
Entombed in glass and sold for obscene show –
What they may unleash they do not know.
Epistle To My Paedophile
Doubtless you won’t comprehend
my writing you this way;
for you are harmless
in laboured rasps, your body
by the karmic stroke
of luck which all the girls
you might have met
don’t even know
they should be glad of.
I was not so fortunate.
I knew you when your limbs
still had the power to insinuate
themselves into Christmas lunch
and re-calibrate the trajectory
of uneventful lives.
(Strange, I never thought to tell,
the chest of smut beneath your bed,
the dancing doll’s skirt, lifted to reveal —
Or your pudgy hands which turned like moles
in the incestuous burrows of their pockets,
jingling coins that lured, and repelled…)
What a relief it was today to find them stilled.
Pale members, no longer in the service
of the perverse familial compulsion
which thwarted me, as it did you.
Instead, you have become the baby
you once must have been:
helpless (hapless?) in your cot,
as I was, legs akimbo;
and this is perfect, a perfect way of seeing
because the unsullied space of your mute
presence allows me to impute
whatever version of this I want to —
from your side, recognition, remorse;
from mine, forgiveness, love.
But I don’t need that now.
We are at peace, you and I,
our transaction complete.
There is no more fear.
Only wonder, at how one clot of blood
lodged within a flawed man’s brain
can assuage so much suffering:
what a wise solution, so elegant,
the vessels swollen to bursting
with compassion for us all —
surely that drop was placed, just so,
by the delicate hand of God.
When fixing the bedclothes
I always remember to pause
by the fighting fish’s tank:
Om mani padme hum, I intone;
and at least it helps me feel calmer.
I’m careful to give the cat extra pats
now that the dog has come. The dog
was a gift for the children, but of course
it’s me who shovels his shit.
I cup his sumptuous neck in my hands
and jiggle the swathes of skin so he knows
that it’s going to be ok; we’re his family now;
no need to roll those accusatory eyes.
Still, he keeps following me
around the house, always pining for — something.
It bothers me because will there ever be enough
something to make him happy?
My husband’s not happy. When he tries
the tension of his pretence rises and rises
till it bursts.
I’m not sure where my eldest is:
only want drives her home.
On her first night on earth, before I knew her cry
she squalled for hours from the nursery.
Why doesn’t someone shut that baby up?
I thought, before the nurse brought her to me.
Here, she said, you’ll have to take her —
Now it’s my job to shut her up.
My youngest child still gleams like dreams in dirt.
When I clutch her to my heart and pray
for the impossible, my tears
make her glisten.
On Reading Bishop
after Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Giant Snail’
(for PS Cottier)
A peaceful life is arduous
to attain; desire’s
not enough, nor positive aim —
one side’s withdrawal is always the other’s gain.
What germ inside us inclines towards hate?
It seems to me there must be something
rank and spindly
tangled in the hub of our hearts
disordering their true rotation
until we become beings whose frequency
is attuned to blame.
Therefore, I hold my words
on a parsimonious rein.
Reading Bishop, a distinctive stillness comes.
Like her giant snail I too inch forward
my own amorphous, unguarded
foot absorbing sharp barbs of gravel
avoiding rough spears of grass
as I push, bull-headed, to gain a crack
in God’s sanctuary before sunrise.