Tuesday Poem: “For Sylvie (the Cat)” by Lee Posna

For Sylvie (the Cat)

With nothing but the sea to ape
the sweep of time, and signs of ape
imbued with teloi of an ape
that apes its making;
the sea that rounds the apes with sleep
un-singing in its empty sleep
the teloi of an age asleep
inside its making;

with Sylvie in a square of sun,
couchant and spooning in the sun
of equidistant lions, sun
that squares the circle,
I symbiose. We need the square
for love, you know, is just a square
within a greater, animal square—
but feel the warm circle!

Dear tabby-Abyssinian cat,
translucent chartreuse-irised cat,
brown, tiger-striped, piebald-lipped cat
what is in nature
the cause of your soft heart my dear?
They say these bickies make me dear
while human love transcends, my dear,
the wants of nature—

of course we know it isn’t true—
a matter of degree, it’s true
the sea our dreams of life can true
and vice versa.
With nothing but the sea to sound
our day and words of touch not sound,
I see you hear my feeling sound
and vice versa.

Your deathlessness must colour love.
And wordlessness, though less with love
whose colours beggar little love,
a word like water.
Your wee heart, like Earth, is almost naught.
An epitaph above the naught
whose shapeless words are doubly naught
like words in water.

This innocence apart from birds,
all balled up tight, far off as birds,
baffles my sense of loss, like birds
alone in winter.
I’m hesitant—to touch your peace—
your giottesque radiance of peace
of mind about our final peace
alone. Some winter.

I know if it were you and me
only, our harmony for me
would pulse with distance, you and me
and spacetime ringing;
though dissonance must be the heart
of harmony, the crowded heart
that isolates the only heart
and sets it ringing.

But we the childless or childfree
invest in you what makes us free
and love with the love of the free,
which must be lighter.
And Sylvie dear you love us back,
in spitting rain you come out back
to see us take the washing back
and make us lighter.

It takes guts to write a poem about your cat, and if anyone can pull it off it’s Lee Posna (Janet Frame and Saradha Koirala have also written notable cat poems). When Lee sent me this poem he told me he wrote it after Wordsworth’s ‘To the Daisy.’ He said: “I thought to myself, I love Sylvie so much, it’s funny how you just can’t write a poem about a cat – for many reasons. So I did.” I have been a fan of Lee’s work for some time, and this poem makes me admire him even more. For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: “Poems Done on a Late Night Car” by Carl Sandburg

Poems Done on a Late Night Car

I. CHICKENS

I am The Great White Way of the city:
When you ask what is my desire, I answer:
“Girls fresh as country wild flowers,
With young faces tired of the cows and barns,
Eager in their eyes as the dawn to find my mysteries,
Slender supple girls with shapely legs,
Lure in the arch of their little shoulders
And wisdom from the prairies to cry only softly at the ashes of my mysteries.”

II. USED UP

Lines based on certain regrets that come with rumination upon the painted faces of women on North Clark Street, Chicago

Roses,
Red roses,
Crushed
In the rain and wind
Like mouths of women
Beaten by the fists of
Men using them.
O little roses
And broken leaves
And petal wisps:
You that so flung your crimson
To the sun
Only yesterday.

III. HOME

Here is a thing my heart wishes the world had more of:
I heard it in the air of one night when I listened
To a mother singing softly to a child restless and angry in the darkness.

I hadn’t read any Carl Sandburg before coming across this poem online. I’m not going to say much about the poem; I think it speaks for itself. I would be interested to know other people’s interpretations. For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: “Just another sketch” by Bryony Campbell

Just another sketch

I’ve written another letter
this time its form traced
on an old newsletter found discarded in the recycling bin.
In charcoal feathered pencil, I hastily sketched an outline
then folded the words into each other,
so that they held each other in with no room for escape. I

squirreled it into my jacket pocket and
zipped it away from
the prying eyes of the world, perhaps
for a rainy day
when the droplets are fat
with memories and dust. I intended to

never
let it breathe, or see the sun’s rays,
to let it hide forever in the shadows and collect
my ill-timed reminiscences,
but I was tempted by who knows what,
to read it once more. It’s by no means

a magnum opus, shining in clever wit. It’s
just a mere draft, just as this
is a mere draft
that I won’t dare to read or touch
again. I’m not even sure you could call it a letter
– just a collection of thoughts that stumble

and trip over each other; a clutter
of musings and broodings.
A jigsaw puzzle
with pieces missing, and unwanted pieces that
intrude.
I tell you, though, there really is something

alluring
about committing your spilling thoughts to white virgin paper,
to let the blankness soak up your feelings
and make them belong to someone who is
irrevocably distant from plain old
you.

You can blacken the paper with ink
screw it up, tear it to furry pieces,
if you don’t like what you have written,
wring it out like a towel
and empty the burning mind
of distracting thoughts.

Bryony Campbell is a 16 year old writer studying at Wellington East Girls’ College. Her poem ‘Just another sketch’ was a runner up in the 2013 National Schools Poetry Award, although I thought that the poem should have won. What I enjoy is the way the poem, which on the surface is about a letter, is actually also about poetry: “just a mere draft, just as this / is a mere draft” the poet says. Campbell states that she was intrigued by how quickly this poem unfolded, given there was no particular, conscious, inspiration for it.

Campbell’s other writing highlights include winning the Senior Category in the 2010 NZ Puffin Short Story Awards with her story ‘Bric-a-Brac’, and placing second in the Middle Division of the Scenario Writing Competition at the International Future Problem Solving Conference held in Wisconsin, USA in 2010. She currently writes interest pieces for her school’s blog ‘Define East’ and articles for the school’s annual magazine.

For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: “What I think about when they are shooting laser beams into my skin” by Morgan Bach

What I think about when they are shooting laser beams into my skin

How if there was a laser removal procedure
for the segment of your brain
that laces your body
with the love-chemicals
I think it would be a golden ticket.
There is a cash crop of broken
tickers and freshly re-cynical
amongst us. Imagine if I could
have burned the besottedness
out like a pocket of ink.

How a map grows in your
mind in thread. The eyes sewing
corners up to tighten the world
around you. A slow-buttoned
cardigan. Streets rolling up like stockings.
You can burn every map
but the one in your body.
It’s like sitting down at the piano
to watch the same song
leave your hands.

Morgan Bach is writing poetry for her Masters at the IIML this year. She was born and mostly raised in Wellington, and says she never seems to stay away for long. She has a BA Hons from VUW and a Diploma in Publishing from Whitireia, although lately she’s been led astray by various jobs outside the book world.

Morgan sent me a couple of poems to choose from for this post, and I really wanted to use all of them. I first discovered Morgan’s poetry when we were both part of the Exercise Book Live this year at BATS Theatre. I was impressed. There is something about the way Morgan constructs a poem – a deliberateness – that demands my attention. What I liked about “What I think about when they are shooting laser beams into my skin” is the way the poem uses scientific language (“chemicals,” “laser,” “brain”) to create distance between the person in the poem and their emotions. The last image, which is a more traditional lyric image, also achieves this idea as the song leaves the person’s hands almost without their permission. For me, this speaks to the way our bodies and lives can often feel outside of our control. I think Morgan is a talent to watch out for.

For more Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: “Operation, October” by Bryan Walpert

Operation, October

Someone is inserting a knife into my father,
slipping it into his skin in the way
we might imagine it to sound

in our darkening fear, walking home, of giving
ourselves to someone as an animal does
in the brush in some countries. My father

will not remember any of this, and while
they cut, in these hours, I know more
than my father, feel that knowledge

heavily, like a wool blanket
I am too deeply in dream to kick off.
Winter is coming. The fireflies

no longer poke holes in the backyard.
The hospital is two thousand miles away.
Each summer, he urged me to join a team,

throw a ball, climb into a uniform. Things
he had never done, and I would never do
for him. Of course, in the throes of worry,

I nearly wish I had, almost as much as I wish
he had not asked. But who accepts another?
Despite my begging, each Halloween,

Mother would refuse to sew for me
the devil’s horns, the hero’s cape, the doctor’s coat.
The sewing has come at last, while we wait,

each imagined stitch of his back, when I let
myself think of it, the tick of an implacable
metronome. Is it because my face

grows into his that I am most disturbed
by the image of his limp form
wheeled into an elevator, lifted

onto an operating bed? I lie by the phone
listening to the wind weave its fabric.
He had no choice but to ask,

just as I had no choice but to refuse
to be the boy he imagined, just as Mother
had no choice but to refuse to make me

into what I imagined, and so on.
And so on a single gurney each of us
is rolled beneath the fluorescent bulbs,

and, tonight, in the window’s reflected light,
I am myself, the spitting image,
untouched flesh of my father.

“Operation, October” is from Bryan Walpert’s collection of poems, Etymology (Cinnamon Press). I’ve previously posted another poem from this collection (called “Horse Story”) as a Tuesday Poem. It’s a brilliant collection, and I think this poem is one of the most touching of the collection. I enjoy the beautifully rendered imagery, the dream-like quality, and the poem’s tender sadness.

Bryan Walpert is also the author of A History of Glass (Stephen F. Austin State UP, forthcoming October), and Ephraim’s Eyes (Pewter Rose Press), named a Best Book of 2010; and a scholarly monograph, Resistance to Science in Contemporary American Poetry (Routledge). His work has been published widely in journals or anthologies in NZ, the UK, and his native U.S., and has received a number of awards, most recently the James Wright Poetry Award from the Mid-American Review. He teaches creative writing at Massey University’s School of English & Media Studies in Palmerston North. At the moment he is seeking a publisher for his new collection of poetry, Native Bird.

For more information, visit http://bryanwalpert.com.

For more Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: An excerpt from “Lostling and Foundling” by Anne Kennedy

11. My 40,000-Word Thesis on Atonality in the bone people

Atonality is the absence of a pitch centre in music. Atonal music is
homeless. Poor atonal music. But wait! There is much research in
the field of music-in-literature. And lots of music in the bone people:
refs to existing music, allusions to tonalities, and use of sound (i.e., it’s poetic).
What I found: bp’s tonal music is often shattered by homeless pitches.
Do-Re-Mi – Take that! Fa-So-La – Arghh! To-Do – Mmph!
My thesis is accompanied by a CD I’m rather proud of. ‘the bone people’s
Found Compositions.’ Absolutely brilliant music. She loves her music,

Keri, I kid you not. Sea shanties, flamenco guitar, European folk songs,
waiata. What I wanted to say was, bp gets touted as a bicultural novel but
I think it’s a Maori novel. My thesis is soft-bound in the Victoria library.
No one will ever read it, but aha – here you are reading this poem!
I should have written my thesis in fourteen lines, shouldn’t I?
I just did. Signed, AK, B. Mus., ATCL, MA. Yay!

Anne Kennedy is a writer of fiction, screenplays and poetry. Her collection Sing-song was named Poetry Book of the Year at the 2004 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Kennedy followed up this success with The Time of the Giants in 2005, which was shortlisted at the 2005 book awards. An excerpt from that wonderful book (with commentary) can be found on the Tuesday Poem Hub. The poem that this excerpt comes from, “Lostling and Foundling,” is in fourteen parts and appears in Kennedy’s recent collection, The Darling North. The collection has been selected as a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards.

Kennedy is one of my favourite New Zealand writers because her poems always surprise me in terms of their form and language. She’s also funny, as you can tell from this poem (which obviously strikes a chord with me as I’m coming to the end of my own 40,000 word thesis). There is more here than just humour, though. As the poet notes, the poem consists of fourteen lines which brings to mind a sonnet and the way sonnets open with a question that then needs to be resolved, which is the same structure as a thesis. The poem also describes the way writers can work on long and personally important projects that never get read, but then states, “aha – here you are reading this poem!” That suggests to me that the poet believes literature is more important – or at least more entertaining – than criticism.

For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: “Statues” by Sarah Jane Barnett

Statues

Anna asks me to help her move the garden statues:
the petite Grecian woman bent over the well
is to stand beside the front door; the matching
Grecian man sits opposite; a gift from her husband.
I don’t like him: he is badly cast and his white pockmarked
hands pour a bucket of nothing into nowhere.
Anna tells me from a distance the pair seem graceful.
I imagine water, and the woman watching
continents of clouds slide across the well’s surface. And the man,
if he was kind, would look to the curve of his wife’s back,
see her hand’s small efforts, before hauling his own bucket
to the fields where only that morning
he’d planted radishes, and carefully soak the tilled earth to black.
For their sake, I hope they are labouring
in the mild evening, out of the heat of the day;
that they’re able to talk of family business in a language
that only the two of them know. Is this what my friend
sees from her kitchen window? A man and a woman,
their deep comings and goings? Or does she see two figures
frozen in a moment of emptying and emptying?
As I bend under the man’s weight, Anna asks me to speak plainly—
Do they work together?
Her voice pours like water over stone.

It’s been a few months since I posted one of my own poems as a Tuesday Poem. “Statues” has gone through a couple of revisions and will be part of my doctoral thesis. For me, I like the quietness of the poem, and the subtleties that come with that.

For more Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: “Storm” by Claire Orchard

Storm

Rain overflowing gutters, smacking
hard and loud against the concrete path,
the cat leaping at the walls like something
was living inside them. Wind wailing through
any cracks it finds, flip-flapping the cat flap.
The airport is open, but the trains are not running,
buses are, but not the electric ones and you see online
that Morgan’s precious glasshouse has disintegrated,
spreading itself, serpentine, across her back lawn.
Meanwhile the manuka tree outside your window
is most painfully pulled around. You wonder
where all the birds go in such a downpour? And where
is the emergency kit? People faraway invariably ask
about this sort of thing and you say it’s somewhere,
don’t worry, it’s not as bad as everyone’s
making out. But it’s a good day for keeping
the doors closed, for staying away from windows,
for free streaming old black and white movies,
Westerns, preferably, because today’s about
crisis management, and in your classic Western
there’s always some guy with a black hat
fixing to take over your once peaceful town,
or buy up your struggling ranch for a pittance
so his tycoon, cigar smoking boss can exploit it for oil,
perhaps you have a train of canvas-covered wagons
full of starving, orphaned children to get through
a narrow, loose-earthed canyon before nightfall,
before a posse of tobacco-spitting, dark-eyebrowed
outlaws catches up with you.

“Storm” is the second Tuesday Poem from one of my fellow poets who appeared in the Exercise Book Live at BATS. Claire Orchard is currently completing an MA at the Institute of Modern Letters. Her work has been published in Penduline Press, and her work is appearing in the upcoming issue of JAAM.

I think this is a fantastic poem. While it appears to be about a storm, for me it is about story telling. The first part of the poem tells the story of a storm, and then the poem transitions into a humourous list of Western movie tropes. For me, this suggests that any stories told the next day about the storm (the unavoidable first topic of conversation), will suffer from the same predictable plot lines. I also think it’s a poem about imagination, and how, during a storm, the speaker in the poem takes their excitement and lets it feed their imagination.

For other Tuesday Poems, check out the hub.

Tuesday Poem: “Abattoir” by Lauren McLean

Abattoir

There was a hoof in the corridor this morning
Just a hoof, by the wall
Like an old tyre, tossed aside
Yet so utterly different: it was a goddamn hoof

One grows accustomed to odd pieces of flesh
A chunk of gristle slick on the stairs, smudged by the trudging boots
The shiny, vermillion progress of meat as it oozes down a wall
Deposited by the unknowing brush of a slaughterman’s shoulder

Dad used to tell me a riddle: what’s black and white and red all over?
He always said it was a newspaper. Now I say it’s an abattoir
It’s dark machinery, and white fat, and glistening raw beef
It’s dirty concrete, and bleached overalls, and blood; blood everywhere

But the hoof got to me; the sheer ridiculousness of it
Before I knew it I’d burbled laughter, and a passing worker,
All knives and gore and sweat and seriousness
Asked what was so funny

I merely pointed; he squinted, paused, tilted, smiled
‘It’s a hoof,’ he said. ‘I know,’ I said.
Then we giggled. The stench of hot death filled our nostrils
As we sucked in air to fuel our shared mirth

I passed by later, glanced over
The hoof was gone

I wanted to share the poem “Abattoir” by Lauren McLean because I found it so enjoyable to read. I find the matter-of-fact voice in the poem hooks me in, and the understated imagery powerful. The poem knows when to apply pressure, though, with the “dark machinery, and white fat, and glistening raw beef / It’s dirty concrete, and bleached overalls, and blood; blood everywhere.” The speaker in the poem is casual, but toward the end of the poem there is an undercurrent of hysteria. Lauren is one of my tutorial students at Massey University, and this was one of two poems she wrote for an assignment. Thanks for letting me share it, Lauren.

For more Tuesday Poems check out the hub.