Prick and it'll bleed

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My life without you
I've glimpsed what it might have been like on my trips
to places that weren't even disappointing,
just real and so almost utterly foreign
to flimsy, film-set imaginings. The real
with its detail filled in far beyond the call
of duty set up peephole installations:

a kind man's flat into which nothing useless
and beautiful had been brought for a long time;
a window display of high-heeled work boots; keys
but not mine, a pink sapphire ring and false teeth
in a lost-property box; something half-dead
floating in the eyes of a man who turned out
to be not only a cold fish but a shark.

Next year it will be twenty years already.
You've probably forgotten most of the times
you made all the difference (if you ever knew)
by not being otherwise than as you are:
a perfect stranger to dinginess. You were
the barefoot breeze all along the branching path,
the breathable light and the ocean-washed air.
It was you. I knew it. I had no idea.

This way up
I can walk backwards but it makes my neck hurt.
When I was a kid the right knee of my pants
usually tore first, but I can only sneer
on the left. In a gravitational field,
my body goes this way up for sixteen hours
then should be laid flat in the dark. If I said
it wasn't ticklish, how obvious was that?
Prick and it'll bleed, so careful with that Ouch!
Failing a lotus with a puff of ether
in it at the centre of this opaque space,
small sorts of flora and fauna multiply:
it's the tropical, Hindu sort of temple.
The sight of a workstation makes my back hurt.

Some bodies are happy sitting at the still
centre of a drive-thru tarscape. Not this one.
Sometimes after a sunny lunch I forget
the whole universe doesn't have to take arms
to knock it flat. A drop of liquid will do.
Pretty good the way it keeps bouncing back though,
so far, slower than it did at first, but still.
Reading this over I think: How smug is that?

Plenty of bottles have sunk to the sea floor
messages slowly dissolving inside them,
others have washed up a short walk down the beach
or far away but a century too late
for the sender, though not for the retiree
archiving items of exotic flotsam.
How many super-durable monuments
are settling on the windscreens of cars in Rome
as I put this together from lines drafted
with a finger in beach sand or a texta
on a tile by anon? This gappy lattice
suddenly crystallising from a slowly
enriched solution of possibilities
would have to be further up itself than Oz-
ymandias to pose as a monument,
but it's brazen enough to hope that someone
might take a piece for another mosaic,
as you might pick up a sanded glass pebble,
a piece of this perishable instrument
in two hundred and thirty one syllables.
So get out, little poem, go on, get lost.

Chris AndrewsChris Andrews has translated books of South American fiction, including Cesar Aira's Ghosts (New Directions 2009). He is a member of the Writing and Society Research Group at the University of Western Sydney.

Topic tags: new australian poems, Chris Andrews, Envoy, This Way Up, My life without you



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Existing comments

TGIT (thank god it's Tuesday!) A lovely sure and unstrained voice. I love, amongst other things, the easy precision of 'this gappy lattice/ suddenly crystallising from a slowly enriched solution of possibilities.' And the onobtrusive crafting of the 21 lots of 11 that make up the 231. Chris, here's one 'retiree/ archiving items of exotic flotsam' who won't let the little poem 'get lost'. I muse rather, as someone else once said, "So long lives this/ And this gives life to thee." Congratulations and thanks.
Joe Castley | 28 July 2009


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