Poem Is Your Permission
No one gave it to Chandrasekhar leaving the Bay of Bengal sailing for Cambridge in a
headwind. He did not wait for the right Find an ocean of consent He had done wonders
an approved co-author list. Recognition has its ways. First is ridicule,
looking for the wet-nurse of entitlement. Where is she to give me the nod,
This poem is your permission. Love is the great
leveler. Everywhere its busy turning genius
into fools and fools into genius. Look outside,
Rachel! See the shimmering? Thats no
sunshine. Its the sheen of active
pathogens rained randomly
onto throats of the unwary. Its a substance
engineered to short-circuit logic and make new
couples. Everyone, everywhere – haphazardly
sparked into the act of un-separating. Go ahead then,
Rachel, get vaccinated. Join in. Think you are the
first to take the heavy serum of someone else
into your veins. Drink them intensely until your own
skin is unknown. In the end, youll
walk away stronger or
younger or crippled or refreshed, but changed for
knowing the fury at which bystanders can only
marvel. The only guarantee – youll spend the rest of your
days carrying a dead knowledge of this love
inside you. Regretting,
forgetting. Immunity will be
your only proof that it once ran living
through your veins.
No one gave it to Chandrasekhar
leaving the Bay of Bengal
sailing for Cambridge in a
He did not wait for the right
Find an ocean of consent
He had done wonders
an approved co-author list. Recognition
has its ways. First is ridicule,
looking for the wet-nurse of entitlement.
Where is she to give me the nod,
This poem is your permission.
Love is the great leveler. Everywhere its busy
turning genius into fools and fools into genius.
Look outside, Rachel! See the shimmering?
Thats no sunshine. Its the sheen of active pathogens
rained randomly onto throats of the unwary.
Its a substance engineered to short-circuit logic
and make new couples. Everyone, everywhere –
haphazardly sparked into the act of un-separating.
Go ahead then, Rachel, get vaccinated. Join in.
Think you are the first to take the heavy serum
of someone else into your veins. Drink them intensely
until your own skin is unknown. In the end, youll walk
away stronger or younger or crippled or refreshed,
but changed for knowing the fury at which bystanders
can only marvel. The only guarantee – youll spend
the rest of your days carrying a dead knowledge
of this love inside you. Regretting, worshipping,
eventually forgetting. Immunity will be your only proof
that it once ran living through your veins.
Electrons in lonely orbits, our Sun on nuclear point,
and the Milky Way in grainy, star-spangled splendor.
Oh yes, everything rings-around-the-rosie –
Opa in the beer garden, El Niño and La Niña
in fickle pursuit of an average, each silver jack on sixth point
spinning loves back story towards a thirty year mortgage.
It can not be helped. Electrons annihilate
to meet their mates. The spiral arms of our galaxy
collapse in a halo of Bremmstrahlung
a Spell of Indifference
This body, it could be any body.
Rather, any body could be mine.
And the town, well, it is any town –
the street names wiped clean at dawn.
My husband, an arbitrary man,
is no less and no more than other men.
The children, small dear loaves of life,
are randomly being drawn out by time.
Anywhere, with any one,
any me could be.
I cant tell if the sentiment
is laudable or laughable,
whether Ive attained enlightenment
But clearly, it doesnt matter.
The menu is always the same.
The apples arrive with
their leafless stems,
and the bird outside my window
is the same one outside yours.
Im grateful to lovers, every one, who flashed me the salt in their eyes
or Morse coded me in pleasure text to say passion
is a part of compassion. But my memories are pocked on all sides
by girls in tight cotton wearing NO on silver necklaces,
bank tellers of reproduction, these ascetics sat upright
with books covered in the brown, grocery-sack paper of thrift.
They insisted I do the same. Fear rose from them like startled birds.
The No-girls quick-syllable words were bought behind counters
stocked with lottery tickets and plastic saints.
I pitied such shortsighted chastity.
What they called a one-night stand was transformative.
Sex dissolved pain in the detergent of time. How empowering
to be chosen, even neon-light briefly, by another.
As a genius teenage fuck, I won the Nobel Prize for pleasure
several years running. My talent was seeing each brittle yeoman
for who he really was. In return, I was dubbed as easy, gained
a reputation spread by the fire tongues of the No-girls,
I threatened the sexual economy. Brigitta called me Slut
in her strangled pigeon voice. So I played parade music,
straight-ahead drum and bugle, and marveled on the downbeats
at all the No-girls didn't know. This: a talisman against loneliness
is an old lovers name spoken aloud. And this: even a memory
of being held remains strong against the bowhead of time.
So heres my note to the sanctimonious: Stop dinging
the sides of my dreams with fictive piety. Up ahead,
I see the Romeo nation, where Latissimus Dorsi curve
into the small of mens backs and a chorus of stories
are sung as tongues become blunt instruments of bliss.
Solar Eclipse in
Northern Australia, 2012
The Warlpiri people explain a solar eclipse as being the Sun-woman being hidden by the Moon-man as he makes love to her. Ray Norris, 2007, Australian Aboriginal Astronomy
The Moon is a man. The Sun is a
Moon wanting. Sun
today the Moon catches the Sun.
Wedding invitations are sent by shadow.
People come from Poland, from Japan,
from farms and the arms of lovers.
Bringing wines and expensive cameras
as gifts. Chasing holes in the clouds to
glimpse the bride and her lusty groom.
People expect the fantastic.
Still, they are not prepared for it.
An hour of the Moon rubbing out the Sun.
Foreplay is a pledge in nearness.
Even the tiniest crescent of her is still so brilliant.
Finally, one eye swallows the other.
The Moon and Sun shutter this play.
Call it hide in the dark. Call it totality.
Call it a cosmic peep show. As we watch
our makers of gravity make love, another kind
of sight is ushered in – a diamond blue-white
seen only in subtext. This slick foreign narrator
shows all the props to be wired by maniacs,
the curtains to be made of mesh.
Did we really want to see the bride
with her macramé gown pulled down,
moon ravenous, his hands bony, hers fiery?
Yes. Oh, yes. As details richen, people
make noises in the backs of their throats, caught
beside themselves in unexpected climax.
One old farmer brought his folding chair,
wore indifference like a hairy chest
handed out clichés about the weather,
until totality when he cried out holy shit,
holy shit, holy shit.... He was not alone. All around
were mewls of men and women in the throes
of a tryst they had planned, but was more
than they asked for. Clapping, and laughter
a bawdy audience, the most primitive of shows.
Unexpected means a coming without warning.
Well, isnt that always how it is?
(After burner image –
a blanket of discreteness,
radiant streamers and Venus.)
Building My Boat from Kindling
I want to hunt the whale, hunger, single-mindedly,
in pursuit of his heft. I want to be obsessed, watch the days
grow long, forget my teeth until I taste them
rotting in my forgotten mouth.
Let my mind grow wild and feel the whales
impossible form, a bulk of blinding whiteness bearing down,
ever diving behind my eyelids in the moments
when I can sleep.
But if I go to sea, who will make the children
wear their coats? Who will cover them with the right weight
of blankets in the night? While I am at sea,
riding whitecaps of unlikely creation, no one will act as that
necessary basin in which cloth is washed with water,
bringing out the bright emptiness needed
daily in our world.
Hours ago, before this day roused itself from the metronome
of motion, my feet made their way blind against a path.
From across unkempt fields and empty lots, I heard
a donkey make its noises
against the night. I understood its inability
to choose what sound would form when gums parted
and muzzle made the joke of noise
assigned to its form.
Of all the irony of nature, the creation of marsupials, the birth
of animals addicted to bamboo, the winding of winds
that turn wrong in the sky, there is woman.
Every morning she shows the seeds
how to suck air and exhale,
how to grow straight in the sun. Oh, the lack of mercy,
as one womb after another fills. The helium of dreams leak
a hissing trail into the sky. But I am building
my boat from kindling,
breaking the crib, chopping the cupboard
that held the spices. Sticks stolen in the morning
and bent at night form a hollow to carry me out
beyond the breakers.
When the soup isnt worth warming, come here.
Arms needn't echo the emptiness of bowls.
Let my body breathe a boundary around you.
The easy animal of me is outside time. Listen.
Hear the lull of my blood being honeyed into bone.
Within the lushness of each others limbs,
our torsos tell stories, singing skin to skin and
the sharp surprise of eye teeth bared by joy.
Come here, bloom as an instinct, unfold
like insect wings to reveal this gift –
warmth in the body – both balm and source
of perennial alms. Touches, riches,
Entering the Barren Plains
Against my limbic will, Ive decided to have
no more babies, to begin a self-exile where I
wander the land beyond the pastures of motherhood.
Im not barren – simply twenty-first century sensible,
with a secret desire for more.
Rich in inheritors already, two small-limbed mammals
clamber about my house with their fine heads of hair
hanging commas in the foyer of each moment
a-rococo with the pop pop passion of children.
Yet the terrain of this world cant contain my yearning.
The crotch of the mountains makes my nipples swell.
The contours of the land command the beast in me
to yield. I both fear and crave a magical rape.
If only the angels of desire could summon the soil
to rise up into a semen-spitting serpent,
Id warm my still-ripe uterus full again.
But no. I can already hear the broad-stemmed
shield of grasses weaving a spell on my eggs
to stop their free fall towards fertility,
to keep me from populating this land with more beauty.
Hush-a-bye body – there will be no more babies.
Hush-a-bye grasses – never to be crushed
by the small feet of my youngest unborn.
Hush-a-bye wild viable mountains – have mercy –
close your legs and hide the shining crotch of life
from my greedy soul.
Love and Loss in the Hour Before School
A small moth
with moon-colored wings
struts onyx eyes
and thread-like legs
across my sons palm.
My six-year old
gently sets the moth
on his pillow to get dressed.
Then picks it up again
as powder wings
brush his face, explore
folds of clothes.
He loves me,
says my son.
But I hear
I love him.
I nod. Maybe moth
would be happier outside.
I find him weeping,
one hand hanging
over the balcony. He dropped
he says, one wing was hurt.
He couldn't fly away.
But its time to brush teeth,
get socks on
for first grade
where small sums and
sight words wait.
As the toothbrush
glides over baby enamel,
his eyes close. I think he sees
the moth fall again
from his hand
because fresh tears appear.
Powerful, this nothing,
this sugar pill of permission.
Smaller than a button, slipping
through holes of the possible.
A mere two-calorie,
mustering the troops
by blonde suggestion.
A Poem About Country Music
I will not start off singing about all the satisfied men
Ive left behind.
Ive also been laid down on the thirsty ground from coast to coast
in a constant struggle to stay straight and narrow.
Jennings knew, the
devil made me do it the first time.
where I got high and got the clap. But in my version
there are no prison walls and the man is not the sheriff
because man itself is my prison. That personal pronoun of containment –
he is a jar with smooth edges. It looks useful
but put something in and it becomes airless fast.
So I stand at the edge of a field tired with an overdue baby
much longer because my warden is on a tractor or on the road
The field before me is fallow all on its own merit,
I can do that too, take the fossil in my teeth, know loss
on the tracks.
I remember my first dance
in his shoulders and back, so close and moving.
never mind about eyes) just before it disappears.
Feast of the Sparrows
in brown-backed madness
sharpen on galvanized steel
no match for desire
no more clotted berries
Some Things Are Easy to Forgive
Throwing away a receipt,
Sept 23, 2010 Headline Train Crushes Elephants in India After Animals Try to Rescue Calves Stuck in the Tracks
Near midnight, the metal crushes Ganesh. The pupil
of the moon dilates on adrenaline, lamps down
on six wild elephants freshly dead, or dying, while
the herd blares distress. In a snarl of railway gauge,
the freight train to Guwhati ends with engine carving trunk.
Two are still breathing. Someone shouts make way.
A screaming match between train driver and forest ranger.
Twice the speed limit! I braked as soon as I could!
Ruin rivets voices onto the plate of night.
Day dawns like a damnation. People bring sandalwood,
small statues, their own bodies transformed
into keratin duffels of suffering. The nightmare blooms
as a baby elephant is found still standing, motherless now,
hiding in a drain of the plantation. Tea bushes,
also voiceless, buoy in green what wasn't seen
in the monochrome dark. Before us, he slumps and gives up.
Blue-gray infant eyes so close to the surface, unhusked.
Witnessing this levers me wide open with a tool,
sharp as guilt, spilling all my silver decimals.
Tonight, the pachyderm parents derailed Indian trade, briefly.
They slowed humanity to shield their babies with living tonnage
when stuck on the tracks mistook for the forest path. Twenty-two
months in the womb, but only a moment on the Bengal-Assam line
to undo. The industrial revelation feels like this: there is no safe
passage. Fresh leaves on forest trees are not free to reach
past these metal meridians of progress. Indian Rail forgets its architects
the way the future neglects its past, well-trained hides hauling
sleepers and ties. A weed of a man wearing mid-morning trauma
weeps on the sun-hot rails. At first, I hope he is the driver of the train
re-living impact. No, he is only a reporter from Kolkata. He doesnt
say he knelt, and photographed the baby still alive. But he did.
Decisions for a Quiet Revolt
Grate your own cheese.
Make eye contact.
(I mean, look
your lover in the eye.)
Greet small with ceremony.
Meet big the same way.
Sew a flag of old undies.
Hoist your luggage,
up a mast.
Read an autobiography.
Watch a bird.
Occupy a border.
(I mean, move calmly
near your edges.)
Shield something injured
with your entire body,
Turn over stones.
Then, after all these things,
I is for Identity – the straight of its shank, the narrow
of its nastiness. I played its angles with transparency –
a life-long, not-for-profit tribute to gravity,
as if gravity needed to fake interest
in star-signs, last names and last chances.
I was born on the tenure-track,
got a PhD in passion at age seven.
The thesis was a juniper berry pinched
between fingernails damned by dirt,
blessed by the incense of astringency.
I was baptized late into humanity
by the births of children, sanitized by
sweet-n-sour amniotic fluids, their constant demands
for more of me. The pain of their small limbs
carved deep into the wood of me.
I travel toward the final number in my series,
when death will un-define my cursors point,
when my CV will revert onto a letterhead of freckles
whose only entry is my lifes most sincere wish –
I wanted a puppy before I could talk.
The imprint of that longing being all thats left.
My one ambition in death is to turn the I on its side,
ride it out past the atmosphere where gravitys tide
turns my Is every effort into satellites of concentricity.
I will ride and ride, intercept the juniper-scent then
overcome the eclipsing waves of light
until I outrun even the bow-shock of my birth.
I hereby give permission
for my child (blank) to go to (blank).
I release the school
of all liability.
I give my full, uninformed approval
and consent for this event
I know nothing about
but hope its safe.
(Please sign the lower half.
Return by Friday.)
In granting this,
I assume full responsibility
for any damage
to person or property
caused by my child.
I also authorize
by a physician or dentist
cowboy or exorcist.
I, the undersigned, understand
no child will be sent
(My check is attached.)
No Unauthorized Access
juiced to the burr with milk
But I am not allowed
to walk there.
is in progress.
I can only watch
always stronger than the form.
The Sun is an Egg
a guard in collections.
To Close Any Distance
I move backwards this time
to oncoming traffic,
Letter to the Seamstress
A seamstress makes her-self a visionary by untethering her senses. All forms, madness & knowledge – she pulls through her metal eye as a dyed line and binds in new shapes. She allows life, names, stripes and petals, while drinking the force of sunlight. If she should stitch herself a new universe, clap her exit and note the knot. Another with fierce tools will soon rip seams off these remnants and start fresh.*
*This calligram is a variation of Rimbauds Lettre du Voyant.
dont need a job;
they already work
Portrait of Aimee A. Norton, Watercolour on Paper, 2008, by Justine Frischmann.
Romeo Nation and Somewhere Here, a Spell of Indifference were first published by Mascara Literary Review, Issue 8, 2010, University of Newcastle (Australia)
Building My Boat From Kindling was first published in Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, March, 2013 issue, John Hopkins University Press (USA)
Come Here, Placebo, and Decisions for a Quiet Revolt in SOFTBLOW Journal, online, 2011 (Singapore)
Letter to the Seamstress in Rabbit Poetry, #3, The Visual Issue, January 2012, Melbourne (Australia)