What is a soul


A passenger from the childhood house
The sheen on things under blue
and the cool acreage of canary
light has not a hint of crimson

till you drive me home
with the idea of sky over the bay.
Save tomorrow, the poster says,

from things that eat organs, things
that multiply in vessels, cells
skimming the venous and arterial

roads. (The careful knife
under the skin prises, cleaving
the old idea and the good)

Nanna can smell the rain
coming; she scents the hunger
of the soil.
When my surfaces are raw

and ragged, like a tree shedding,
I wander in memory. The past
tastes bitter and lovely

(don't stitch me up too soon)
the flame tree blooms
blood in the childhood yard.

A mask slips. Forgiveness
is neither random nor chosen.
New rain yaps on the roof,

the wipers scatter recollection,
intermittent with the light. Grace
throws itself into my lap

and licks my face. When it lands
on me, what can I do but laugh
at once wary and delighted.

What is a soul?
A soul quivers
in the palm of your
voice, is still when
a sparrow alights

outside. In the winter
sun a soul
twitches neck and
head, neck

buried in the pulse
of a round & thinking
flesh. Like any feathered
thing in its space

it does not try
to be noticed. A soul
pauses to witness
a magpie. Its body

is a lever, its
beak a chisel,
prising bark from the trunk
of a myrtle. On the sky

a soul writes
itself. Winter
tosses a gauze
across the single crescent

jewel that fades
into day, watermark
of the fingernail that
lifted a scab. Then

the soul is a prayer
may a great
white egret
lance your skies.

Blue fades last. A parting
turquoise flush on the leaves of paperbark.

Indigo strengthens and silhouettes resolve
where the lucid becomes the deep. A newsprint

hue folds the walker into dusk
but night fakes it — the stars are shy

the extraversion of the city.

PoetAnne Elvey's poems have appeared in journals including Blue Dog, Cordite, Island and Westerly and in The Best Australian Poems 2009 (Black Inc.). Her first chapbook Stolen Heath was published by Melbourne Poets Union in 2009. 

Topic tags: new australian poems, anne elvey, a passenger from the childhood house, what is a soul?, blue



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Existing comments

Thank you Anne for leading us through the senses into the spirit.
Marlene Marburg | 16 March 2010

Wonderful, touching and poignant. Anne sings my soul.
Kim Power | 16 March 2010

Light and colour come to life with rare yet alert subtleties through Anne's deft touch.

Thank you Anne for opening our eyes.
Anne Doyle | 16 March 2010

Thank you Anne.
Anne Benjamin | 18 March 2010

Anne, thanks for your poems, especially "what is a soul"; a question on my heart's thinkery at the moment. Lenten Blessings to you
Robin Pryor | 19 March 2010


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