Monday, July 27, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'Walking Around at Night' by Robert Gray

Walking Around at Night

The rising moon appears,
softly focused as a movie queen,
in a close frame
through the kitchen flyscreen.

I stroll outside and down the path,
leaving a radio;
the moon is buxom
behind the curtains of the willow.

It's soon an old fumy paraffin lamp
of a moon, lifted clear.
The hammer blows of barking,
a car clearing its chest, somewhere,

the slam of a tinny garage door
on concrete, and the voices
going inside that could be either
quarrelsome or boisterous.

In that dim-lit town, gable houses
wear a net veil
of leaf-shadow. The lawns, side-lit,
are wheatgrass, succulent and frail.

A parking lot is bare tonight
within its cold, immense
chain-wire. The shadows of some pebbles
loom like a chess defence.

A single tree on the Council lawn,
in 'subdued light', is still:
dressed up, a woman alone in the corridor
of a convention hotel;

a skinny tree, in knee-length fashion, and
leg-aligning, high-heel pose.
A little nervous and preening, tottery.
Another one of those.

Across the paddocks, backyards —
Above fences, the lounge room lights burn;
in the frosty night, thick like thistle fur,
a few porch lights are on.

I keep walking. A cow and the moon
(it's white as salt now), each a term
in some kind of sequence, I shoo
the cow, for a place to lie that's warm,

under a lichen-smoke and bird's egg sky.
Adrift on the rising night.
Going on, towards a razor-strop highway;
its streaks of light

are suddenly lifted away at the curve
and gone, each a stroke;
and the occasional heavy flat backwards
stropping, of a truck.

Waiting to cross (a short-cut back), I stand
in weeds. At every car,
they're strung with glutinous, distended drops.
The moon is bright as an old scar.

Well, 'Cumulus', Robert Gray's Collected Poems, is certainly a book and a half.
I've been through it twice, with a break of almost a year between first and second
reading, and now I am shelving it, but I couldn't say I've got on top of it. It's very
rich feeding, indeed. The star poems are for me for the nonce – 'In Departing Light'
and 'A Bowl of Pears' – (both from 'Afterimages' 2002) – but every time I turned a
page to focus on another poem (sometimes at random and out of sequence) I seemed
to be caught up in a whole new definition of starriness. Look, I liked damn near the
whole book (tiny bit tough on Thomas Hardy maybe on page 239??) The whole book
took my fancy. So which poem to pick?? I went for this one, because I have taken that
walk many times, many times, in many little towns, and this poem is the absolute
experience of that walk. As I was typing the poem up I was totally relishing the acute
play of the punctuation, and then I noticed the delicious rhymes!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'Interruptions to Reading Poetry' by Jean Kent

Interruptions to Reading Poetry

1. In the Middle of David Malouf's Wild Lemons

I put down the poetry book and walk out
the front door. On the brick path, like a visitor
hesitating before broaching the house steps:
a small, slate-black rat.
It is shivering, poisoned, not-quite
dead. Its pointed ears
pick up my footsteps, but
barely. Its coat rises round it like a fur
around the neck of an opera-goer stepping out
into silence, each glittering dark fibre
still electric, still charged,
deep to every nerve. It is in the middle
of my path to anywhere as precisely final
as a print from Dürer, perfect in every tiny
detail of ear point, bony paw, fishing line-fine
whiskers hooked
in an elegant, still nose. It is in the middle
of what I am carrying out of the house from my book

wild lemons, a place in Tuscany, the body receiving
transfigured text …
                              Under a sky of singing blue
it is in the middle of its death
and will not
be transfigured. The flat world of a shovel
is what I bring it. Banged head. Final act.
When it rolls on the bricks it has the profile,
soft torso and premature paws
of an ultrasound embryo.
                                   At this moment when it should be
hard as stone, flung out of the world, instead it is so limp
and the day is stiffening around it.

I balance it on my spade
towards a last rest, a quick
                        sharp grave
under hydrangeas' already bowed
                         lapis-lazuli heads

and the noisy miner birds
which all day have been rehearsing
unholy choruses
hold their breath.
                        Under the hot rattle
of loquat leaves, their silence follows me
like the weight
of a just-closed book.

2. Somewhere in Charles Wright's A Short History of the Shadow

That petulant bird, the phone, warbles in another room.
Where I am sitting, sun has just sparked
even though the sky outside is sulking.

Dark ranges at the edge of my view
are lugubrious dinosaurs, waiting to gobble what's left
of last night's moon —
and now here's this chain of song, its couplings tossed towards me.

I go like a dog to be collared.
Some dark man with his thumb on my name
wants to offer me pest control, as if he knows there are rats
slinking along the branches of my trees at night,
sly shadows whose teeth gnaw holes in everything at 3 a.m.

He hangs up even before I do …
My voice in its glove of politeness
must hold a bait of slowed time, some dangerous sweetness
I caught in my last moments alone in the poem —

                                                        but which poem?
and where in the book can I find it now? The black matt cover,
its edges scuffed, its sleek centre streaked,

has collapsed. Like an unpolished shoe
                                         it shows no sign of the white foot
                                         which lived in it two minutes ago.

The downward sloping leaves
                                         of pittosporums and loquats shiver
like the ears of sleeping dogs an arm's length from my chair —

sun ruffles the morning's dreaming fur …
                                                          and the book,
                                 no matter where I open it —
                      the book
slides out of its fretful slipper —

                                it walks out into the dawn again
its ankles and its insteps so painfully white, its black
lines like veins
                      rising knobbled and tender toward
                                                          'the music of things'

while a gnawed moon
slides into grey mountains to grow again.

I couldn't help but agree with the blurb by Paul Summers on the inside
front cover of the hour of silvered mullet – that Jean Kent's poetry was
like 'an argument with the air'. It is a slippery, silvery sort of book. I
was at a loss, as I read, as to how to put my finger on its qualities. But
then, as its qualities invaded me, I minded less about pinning things
down, and began to let my mind float about here and there, in a most
particular intimacy with the drift and lift of its musicality.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'The Mitchells' by Les Murray


I am seeing this: two men are sitting on a pole
they have dug a hole for and will, after dinner, raise
I think for wires. Water boils in a prune tin.
Bees hum their shift in unthinning mists of white

bursaria blossom, under the noon of wattles.
The men eat big meat sandwiches out of a styrofoam
box with a handle. One was overheard saying:
drought that year. Yes. Like trying to farm the road.

The first man, if asked, would say I'm one of the Mitchells.
The other would gaze for a while, dried leaves in his palm,
and looking up, with pain and subtle amusement,

say I'm one of the Mitchells. Of the pair, one has been rich
but never stopped wearing his oil-stained felt hat.
      Nearly everything
they say is ritual. Sometimes the scene is an avenue.

I invested in a copy of 'The Best 100 Poems Of Les Murray' (Black Inc)
because I was curious to see which ones he had picked. I didn't always
agree with him, I thought he had left out some corkers. (Aphrodite Street,
for instance). But I agreed with him about this one, it has to be in my top ten.