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Metaphysical selfie

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iPhone reflected back on itself in mirror 














A cannoli maker's second-person selfie metaphysic

Post-God voices of you complained: there were so many of you
there were none. And, pre-God, there was less than one of you.

That's a hard call. That's a stern said. Back off in the beginning
colloids of an all-or-nothing exploded you. How scary are you?

The Dough-maker's hand was poised, unseen in the shadows.
Then in tactile, alarmingly, quarkily, scrolling and shaping you.

A life-hand a touch. Retreating into the dark. But you became
a baker, the endless maker of same things. Of all people, you!

Your life was repeatedly you. By which of yous it must be said:
you meant as the many, these infinite and brittle shells of you.

But you nightmared. Where the hand was clenched like a fist
of axiom. Deep in Freudian, nature-nurturing, spacey-lost, you.

Still, shells with wet insides. The ultra-sounds show three times
a pattern, a tireless hand, your genome-own of replicating you.

At night after dinner you'd lean towards your wife and lick her
warm cannoli. (And if she smiled yours, the stars lit up in you.)

Adrogynous, cannoli spin in space. The male, the female, the
embryonic (i.e. undecided) meta of the many and a single you.

This poem a Kubrick not a Rubick spin. It needs your name,
your seal in the dough. Your all of us. Our un-youing of you.


The parcels arriving

The parcels arriving. There are now in sequences a week.
If they're a problem I'll get rid of them. Drowning.
They keep coming, parcels arriving in brown
wrapping, in silent boxes.
Parcels are utterly dumb.
I will not open them.
Perhaps they're a parcel club and I'm their guardian.
They are closed, and neat as a guest at a wedding.
They have come alone, nervous, not yet drunk.
Is it a symptom of mania to buy online a want
you then forget?
They are as dumb
as poor decisions,
humiliations, kept in Limbo refusing to die.
They are gormless, they are repeating zombie cubes
(to drive that road, that corner, again and again)
filled with flying space for moths.
There are several white boxes stacked up like a hospital
building, with fleuros, white walls and help! help! in-
side them, people in white coats and frames.
They have nothing
to say about all
the recent deaths.
I must consider this: parcels that arrive may not be gifts.
They sit there, waiting, like poems, like probabilities.
If I open them I must decide, this, not that, then
from one revelation good or bad my day will flow.
Contingent. I am
alive, choosing
will change me.
Someone has a big square gun and keeps
shooting big square bullets of cardboard at me.
Something sick and skinny inside them. All ribs.
Or the slow rustle of huge shoulder-wings.
I have ordered angels? Foolish I may be but I would
remember ordering angels, turning back
months of these
parcels arriving.
I will not open them.


Three never-dreams

The last key of Marienbad

My grandmother stood arm in arm with old Egypt.
The sand, stone, her favourite polka dot clothing.
Her manner, knowing, was the doubtless manner
      of one who is right like a pharoah's leopard
      is right.
A dreamer is a reader of the insides of dreams.
There's something dreaming-Egypt outlives us
like bad interior design, and sarcophagi, but she
      was very still:
an authority that is a quiet half-love/
half-aloneness, of the one who is never alone.

She brought a weird scenery: a temple, a bas-relief
of side-on faces leaning pike-nosed to right or left.
But the pink granite of the temple looked more
like a multinational insurance building,
                                                 its side-on faces
more of a board directors' meeting after the GFC.
Until she lifted that irksome thing of dreams, a key.

Of course I told myself she held up the possibility
of wisdom. And perhaps she did: the key, the wall,
codes and nudges.
                         She was dead by then and dead-
expert as a muse who couldn't have said any of it
when alive.
               It was happiness and hope done quiet,
not the sort of thing a poet gets amazed at: don't
write a poem about it,
she advised, only Seamus
could, perhaps, do it justice. Heaney, and a key?
It was an old-fashioned dream, after all, and she
was a hundred and three.
                                  When slotted in the wall
it turned my poor amnesia. But this was twenty
years ago and I break my word only now, and let
her 'wise old woman' turn to me, and turn in me.

I was the temple and the key. And I didn't like it.
If I got tired of fighting life — to turn it. Is that me?
The day was sunny, glary even, against the granite.

There were no phoney long bodies in short skirts,
the men and women, no whacky lace-up sandals but
I was frozen into that stillness like the garden scenes
of The Last Year in Marienbad.
                                        No longer Egypt at all
it was a black and white film.
It was lit by reflector boards.
It was almost ah-and-gothic
music, repetitious phrases and reversals,
and the arch
hesitations like (but not) an effing TV cheffing series.
Buckets of fake chords, grimaces over undercooked
unconscious ... But its walls made patterns like silent
instruments, and after so much silence,
it felt like the muse of geometrics.
The key fell from the wall like a battery from a torch.

She spoke and I knew what her words meant but
nothing of her words came through the light into
the morning.
                 Revelation is never a line of words if
out of context. Had she been embalmed too hard?
Had they hooked her brains out through a nostril
and left her wandering half-stoned in the desert
mythologies? Older than her Old Testament.
More opaque even than that film of Marienbad.

The sun rose like a blob in a lava lamp. I waited
for it to fall. Side-face is po-face, after all. I saw
a bandaid on her wrist, and her goitre as it had:
grown into a melon on her throat.
After hope, the sub-text.


Journey back to the father

Sometimes I help him balance along the endless platform.
I note he has wet trouser cuffs and his right knee is damp.
He keeps walking into the CBD from inner suburbs along
a platform which repeats its stairs its signs its bench seats
but never reaches the city and never meets the schedules
and trains screech and scream and lay our ears back, as if
scouring the air like Raptor 44s, but stopping hours ahead
somewhere. He stumbles, my father (and I catch him), old
now but not as old as when he died, and in greater health,
now, it must be said:
- God, it's hot. Is it still summer? Christ, I'd love a cold beer.
- OK. Let's find a pub or a bar along the platform and stop.
- Nah, they only sell coffee. It's like bloody Melbourne.
- You don't like coffee?
- When did I ever like coffee? I want a beer but every time
I walk to the train, it's like this, it's just coffee shops. This
is what happens here. It happens all the time.
We stumble past its fleuro-lit, and brown-fronted shops all
selling coffee, not cafes, just awnings sagging over counters.
This a first time helping him, his damp and baggy trousers,
his black shoes scuffed from the daily platform, a slow-walk
marathon, the endlessness of it. And trains that never stop.

Coffee      Coffee      Coffee      Newspapers      Coffee

We arrive on a platform opening out into sunlight the rails
stained from piss, and unhappy passengers on the benches
My father is not a swearing man but right now he growls
like graffiti, front-bar ugly, but no beer, no train, nothing.
Nothing. Then we start walking back, shoes, stumbling,
the brown coffee shops and their brown shutters down.
Stumbling, shuffling, leaning forward, all the way back.

Closed      Closed      Closed      Closed      Closed


The present

I enter the world again and all its words
turn towards me with their faces
blotched. They mean what they mean.
And what they might and what they don't.
Me, I am the foolish. Of We. Of Now.


Philip Salom headshotPhilip Salom is a contemporary Australian poet who has published a dozen books of poetry as well as two novels. His first book The Silent Piano won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Best First Book, and his collection Sky Poems won the British Airways Commonwealth Poetry Prize.

Topic tags: Philip Salom, poetry



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Existing comments

My Concise Oxford English Dictionary and I go a fairway back. There's no "selfie" listed but lots of self-somethings, e.g. self-absorbed, self-awareness, self-doubt. Congratulations on your fine poetry Philip.

Pam | 25 March 2014  

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