Monday, November 20, 2017

Mapplethorpe


In the photograph
he’s holding a stick with a skull
on top. He’s dying.

His own ravaged death’s head face
stares out of the frame
as if floating

on the black background.
He’s taken the most spectral
picture of his life.

The uncompromising shutter
exposing the final light
in his eyes,

the pockmarked skin stretched
thin, like papery gauze
over bone.

All that beauty.
The framed, perfect shots
so carefully crafted,

so delicately manicured
even the hot flop
of a heavy cock

doesn’t shock, but hangs
like a living weight
of muscle.

Flesh is his domain -
the bulk and shape of bodies.
Counterbalanced

by the intricately structured
curves of flowers
casting shadows.

So evanescent
they could be floating
interstellar beings caught.

I drift with them awhile,
feel the truth of skin and bone
and fetishistic sex.

Men’s bodies grappling
and alone. The spurt of sperm,
a fist, a chain.

And his last face
punching my heart
from the other side.



15 November 2017

Refuge


Down in the back corner the rhododendron tree
is flourishing. It’s all green leaves and foliage
in the late winter light, crowding in on the fence
and hiding the neighbour’s writing studio.
I wonder what he does in there?

The other corner, where they dug out the drain
for the new sewer pipe is bare. The one tree
has no leaves, the ground is hard with stones
and upturned clay, the invading jasmine I cut
has died, is hanging brown above the fence.

I’m sitting on the low stone wall. Thomas is nearby,
curled in the sun, her tail lazily swishing, and my feet
are exactly where the red-bellied black slid by
one day last summer while I was pruning dead stuff
from the feijoa tree and battling blackberry. I froze.

It’s all right here. I feel safe. No-one is suggesting
I change my medication, or give an account of myself.
The plants ask no questions of me. Thomas serenely
offers companionship. Psychiatry does not enter this
lush and hidden garden. My trembling can subside.

I wait till the late afternoon sun is pinking the sky,
and with the wind picking up and the cold change
blowing in I decide to head inside to the fire.
At the bottom of the steps I take one last look back.
A violent gust of wind is scattering leaves.

I mouth a silent ‘Oh’ to the sky.



18 August 2017

In The Garden


It’s cold sitting in the garden. The leaves
are scurrying at my feet in an uncertain wind,
while the cat crouches to one side, hunched
in a triangle of weak sunlight watching me.

I don’t intend to move. The leafless branches
of the old magnolia tree have not given up yet,
the lemon tree is ripe with fruit, the pumpkin vine
that has escaped the compost is flourishing.

I can’t feel my feet. It hasn’t rained in so long
the chilled dirt is hard, its flaky dryness crunchy
underfoot, the few patches of grass growing
are brown and thin and hardly even there.

I'm still as ice. From the house, where the fire is,
comes the clattering of crockery, laughter, snatches
of conversation warming the air. And a sighing,
as if the settling bricks were deepening their hold.

The air crackles. And the daphne bush displays
its blooms along the fence line in a spray of colour
and scent so thick I catch my breath. Two rosellas
chatter in the empty branches above my head.

It is the change in the day. The last of the sun fades
behind the neighbour’s house. The cat goes inside.
They're calling me in for dinner, but I go on sitting
in the gathering dusk ignoring them.

I'm not cold enough yet.



22 July 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Two Seats


Down the back of the house are two seats
made of simple wood and wrought iron, old
garden benches riding the slope of the yard.

In the late afternoon sun, now the trees
are bare, they proclaim their solidity and offer
sanctuary for an agitated soul. I settle,

shift about a bit, and my eye is drawn
to the pile of leaves under which Michael
is buried. His short, rambunctious life

disturbed the place for only three months
with a manic headlong rush of tails and claw
before his back was smashed on the road.

We put him in the ground and placed rocks
and crystals about the spot to remember
him by. A shrine to a flare.

Somehow, I’ve survived my own wildnesses,
and with the cancer scar healing I’m happy
to abjure public display and stay hidden.

I watch a currawong glide past the maple tree
soundlessly. The leaf carpet almost rustles
in the fading light. There’s a red streak in the sky.



24 May 2017

Parrots


I’ve been raking slowly so my stitched arm
can ease its way back into use. The maple leaf
carpet covers the whole lower garden
with a red that leaks into brown. I pick up twigs
for kindling. Sitting to rest on the aged seat
angled awkwardly near the roses I gaze
through branches at the still hazy morning sky
and notice a parrot high in the tree. A slash
of green it quietly worries away at a leaf
or bud I can’t really see. As I watch
I see another one lower down
hard at its work, and think how you always
encounter these ones in pairs. Minutes pass
and then my eye is drawn to the very top again
where a third bird is hanging upside down
on the very end of the smallest of stems,
an avian acrobat curled in the air
with confident ease. Now I have three birds
and I sit with them till a breeze stirs
and they burst away with feathers flung at the sky.

I am not thinking of my arm when I rake on.



23 May 2017