Monday, June 22, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'The afterlife of elephants' by Lynn Davidson

The afterlife of elephants

Here is the elephant at the bank
idly stirring up dust,
idly touching your shoulder.

Here is the elephant
thundering along the concrete expressway
on four unbending feet.

Here is the elephant hanging
from a whisky bottle, which is what happens
when you take him for a Grant's.

Here is the elephant with his landscape body -
those distant terraces up close reveal themselves
as ragged gouges from the rainy season.

Or perhaps it is inside the elephant
where the articulation of water occurs. Which is all
for the good. He is heating up as he gets older.


Here is the elephant
we have come far to see. Silk ripples
from the great wall of his spine.

Here is the elephant
to teach you about rhythm.
Watch the silk, it is rhythm's after-image.

If I were to write the deepest thing
inside me it would be this
elephant sound.

His eyes are so elephant
when he looks at me while
hooking up hay and feeding it into his mouth.

I try for detached
but really, I wish I could throw a beaded shawl
of water so delicately across my back.


The elephant is on his way, quick
open the window before he gets here
while there is still room for elbows and hinges.

Here is the elephant
breaking the spine of Contemporary Scottish Poetry.
There's nothing about bagpipes in there, elephant.

Did the elephant have to come
to the story-telling centre? I point to a busker
outside, playing flamenco on a uke. He ignores the bait.

So. Here is the elephant.
See how his heavy trunk droops, forgotten,
as he stares and stares at the mysterious paper sculptures.

The elephant does not know that he is also swaying
and people are stumbling back.
The elephant thinks he is standing still.

Here is the elephant.
There is no need for cats to give loneliness form,
because here is the elephant.

Every so often I meet up with Lynn Davidson, and sometimes it is in
Wellington, and sometimes it is in Melbourne. I can never be quite sure
when and where I will spot her. I think she is a bit of thistledown that
drifts to and fro, following the winds of her own purposes. Or something
very like that. Last time we met she popped up at Vincent O'Sullivan's
launch in Wellington. Just like that. There she was. But I wasn't very
surprised. For her to pop up, I have to pop up too. She was the Visiting
Literary Artist following on from me at the flat in the Square Edge in
Palmerston North, and although we exchanged emails we hadn't met
then. All this bumping into each other started happening after that.
And I was well pleased to bump into this poem in the latest Australian
Poetry Journal, because – well – I like it a lot. But as I started to type
it up I got quite a frisson as I realised it wasn't exactly about what it 
purported to be about. It's a real shape-shifter of a poem, deep down. 
But with an airy, insouciant surface. Nice!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'The detective's chair' by Anne M. Carson

The detective's chair

threadbare, stained with old Guinness, splashes of double malt.
Rebus sits into the early hours pooled in moonlight, neon,
dappled with despair, ensconced in smelly, smoky fug.
He looks unseeing over night-time Edinburgh, shoos ghosts
back into the past, ignores conflicts with the brass, other cops,
even manages to bypass self-recrimination, regret, that
quagmire of his multiple failings. He comes to the centre
of concern, the current case. He may not be quite sober but
the blur is better. You can't bludgeon hunches out of hiding,
have to be willing to hang out in their vicinity, hope they
show their heads. He sinks another inch or two of whisky,
the better to see into the shadows, last the night through.
He nods off, as usual, the LP crackling as it spins, still
seeking the glimmer of clues nestled between hard facts.

Erlundur comes home after a brittle day. Nothing has broken
open in the case of the murdered boy, no motive, weapon
not even a maybe suspect to pin their hopes upon. His chair
sits by the window, blond wood waiting to welcome him.
He leaves the light off, sinks into low-slung, leather-
upholstered ease, letting his mind loose from its leash. He
offers his tired thoughts, his despair to the open sky. They
dissolve in its infinite space. His ghosts visit him – unsettling
spectres from the past. He sighs, allows them their due. Gone
midnight, Reykjavik. He always means to get up, go to bed,
but dawn often finds him curled into the contours of the chair,
cold, cramped. He goes over the facts one more time, teases
them apart to see what can be glimpsed through the cracks.

Wallander jerks awake, heart jumping. He's on the sofa again
grabbing a few hours, still surrounded by dirty laundry. Not time
enough this case for a leisurely chair by the window, letting
patterns emerge, even Puccini is relegated to a back seat.
This time its a serial killer. He snatches thinking-space
between developments on a bleached beach at Malmö Harbour,
Copenhagen smudged in a haze across the Sound. Or shut-eyed,
slumped on vinyl in his Volvo at the Ystad crime scene. Even
flat on his back in a locked conference room, desperate for
a few motionless moments to let his thoughts roam unfettered.
A niggle, just out of reach, an uneasy ache he knows holds
vital clues. Something someone said or didn't say; elusive
since the first murder. If only he could sit and listen long
enough for it to unfurl, it could crack the case wide open.

This poem really sparked with me, ever since Anne tabled an early draft at our
workshop. It's not just because, I think, I hope, that  I am a huge fan of detective
fiction, although I am, but also because I was so energised by the way Anne infers
that the writing of a poem, usually with a bum in a chair, has intimate parallels with
the parading of clues through a nerveless mind. So the premise of the poem
caught my attention, and then there's the way Anne handles it so deftly. It's a
lovely triptych of technical and artistic delights.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'Skyshow' by Toby Davidson


Fireworks now and fire worked then, as long as it sparkles
we'll claim Bethlehem. Bottled sparkle, served on buildings
rains forty stories down on mounted police as they baton-charge
youths, including at least three Darrens I saw tearing each other
to garn fuggun gah-un as their girlfriends screamed Darren, Darren
and more joined in cos it's a free country of battlers you can't stop
the music feeling no pain punching headfuls of shirt with a smoke
in one hand pissing green and gold darkness from an old semi-naked
twist top shrapnel wound … I'll never forget the bloke who told his
opponent Ah pull your pants up, mate before socking him straight
in the chops. To summarise: we are a noble people, unable to bear
ourselves without booze, if we can't blow things up we just fight
for the hell of it, our national day is a crucible of destruction,
and I want to go home, I just want to go home, but this is where I live.


Skyshow: In Perth there is an annual Australia Day fireworks display set to music by a commercial radio station.

Toby Davidson and I will be doing a gig together in Canberra on June 9th at the Gods, so I pulled out his book Beast Language which I had purchased after hearing him read for the first time at Hares & Hyenas here in Melbourne. I hadn't quite finished it – the one hour train ride home from Flinders Street to Carrum is not quite long enough to read a whole book. So there's quite a few sitting there in the almost-read pile. And Beast Language repaid the effort to finish it off and knock it on the head and choose just one poem for the blog and then shelve it somewhere between Adrian Coleman and Bruce Dawe. It's a bit of a goer, his first book. As Judith Beveridge opines in the blurb – 'Toby Davidson never lets the dust settle.'