These Things Happened
walked like a woman with broken heels across pavements
bags trailing with open zips, hair splitting with braids
scuff-eyed and frozen with bruises rich as honey
with hands grazed along knuckles from punching drunk
on the backs of garages when you weren’t watching
when you were busy with your lips on a cold neck
a shoulder, a face almost pinned to your collar
my skin scraped blue and without thought or reason
to confront you I became the colour of rain
stole leaves from sycamore trees
ripped them from branches and rubbed them like balm
into my cuts, into the dark nettle of these sores
until they stung like wasps and scarred my bones
they were friends these bandage and ointment days
they were winter lovers I held against my skin
under horsehair blankets, under mohair,
under wool nights I became a green song
later, washed in the ice and mud of puddles
scrubbed elbow to toe with pumice
and stones picked from disused quarries
leaving myself nine times at the edge
when you weren’t watching
when you were sleeping
I became hard as gravel
First published in Winter Hands (Shadow Train Books, 2007).
She lies on a bed of stones, bruised by feathers, worn by the turning of clock hands. Her forehead is creased with troubled sleep, her mouth twitching the beginning of words. She’s dreaming. Maybe of crumbling buildings or white rooms with no doors, or beds without pillows. She never remembers the details, wakes with tension in her neck, a crowded head.
She drinks tequila for breakfast in tiny shot glasses, wipes sweat from her face, and waits for her husband to bring home beads for her neck, a poem, a blood orange. He is gone a long time. She unwraps ornaments from newspaper, curls her hair in rags, pinches her cheeks to give them colour. She wishes she could split one half of her from the other – sit in out-of-town bars, soak her skin in alcohol, lie with men who have coarse stubble and rough hands. She would wrap herself in their sweat, see if her husband noticed.
Instead she rubs her skin with lychees, lets her curls tumble onto her shoulders and waits barefoot. He comes home tired, but drawn to her. He kisses her cheek then pulls back, with questions on his lips. He tells her she tastes of lost summers and a trip to the beach once when they were first lovers.
First published in Winter Hands (Shadow Train Books, 2007).
Visit Annie’s blog, forgetting the time.
“I want the freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with my ashes, to fashion my own gods from my entrails.”
- Gloria Anzaldua
Waiting at the Breathing Hole
The white of this screen burns
my eyes. Its unswerving glare
might well make me snow-blind.
There was a time when words would fly
across the screen, like a dog-team speeding,
each at its peak and pulling
equally and all I’d have to do was leap
aboard the sledge, guide it
in the right direction, then
relish the ride.
we hit uneven ice.
Bumped over ridges.
I fell from the sledge. The dogs fled.
The instructions I yelled
had no meaning.
So now, with tender eyes,
I must hunt for a hole in the white
at the rim
for the whiskered nose of inspiration,
for a flippered urge to surge to the surface.
And when it comes, I won’t shoot it,
harpoon it skin it rip its liver out and eat it raw
leave banners of blood on the snow.
No. I’ll feed it all the saffron cod and shrimp it needs,
teach it to move with the ease it knows beneath
but first, I’ll take a few steps back
and just let it
First published in Creatures of the Intertidal Zone
(Cinnamon Press, 2007).
Visit Susan’s website and blog.
The Open Road
What if colour film came first
and all these searing sunsets, curly copper mops,
pink-fringed parasols and gaudy frocks
were so much blah to an eye that thirsts
to watch an ashen rose unfurl,
see the charcoal sheen of a peacock’s tail,
a seascape rolling in drab grayscale,
dun smudges on the cheeks of girls;
dancing flames of heatless brume,
rockets spraying asterisks of chalk,
greybells blooming on pallid stalks,
the world’s flags starred and striped with gloom?
We wouldn’t dress our hearts in motley threads
and fix the world in greens and reds,
projecting all the loves we said
we’d never leave but left for dead,
and might not glimpse the widening seam
between the separating reds and greens
of everything we’d thought we’d seen
on our memory’s monitor or silver screen.
First published in Los Alamos Mon Amour (Salt Publishing, 2008).
Read about The Open Road, the 1926 British colour travelogue that inspired Simon’s poem, here.
Visit Simon’s Salt Publishing author page and read more about
Los Alamos Mon Amour here.
Check out Simon’s website.
“Writing objects to the lie that life is small. Writing is a cell of energy. Writing defines itself. Writing draws its viewer in for longer than an instant. Writing exhibits boldness. Writing restores power to exalt, unnerve, shock, and transform us. Writing does not imitate life, it anticipates life.”
- Jeanette Winterson
“It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.”
- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
” … it is not news that we live in a world
where beauty is unexplainable
and suddenly ruined
and has its own routines. We are often far
from home in a dark town, and our griefs
are difficult to translate into a language
understood by others. We sense the downswing of time
and learn, having come of age, that the reluctant
concessions made in youth
are not sufficient to heat the cold drawn breath
of age. Perhaps temperance
was not enough, foresight or even wisdom
fallacious, not only in conception
but in the thin acts
themselves. So our lives are difficult,
and perhaps unpardonable, and the fey gauds
of youth have, as the old men told us they would,
faded. But still, it is morning again, this day.
In the flowering trees
the birds take up their indifferent, elegant cries.
Look around. Perhaps it isn’t too late
to make a fool of yourself again. Perhaps it isn’t too late
to flap your arms and cry out, to give
one more cracked rendition of your singular, aspirant song.”
- Charlie Smith, from “The Meaning of Birds”
(Indistinguishable from the Darkness)
“Most writers spend much of their time in various kinds of torment: wanting to write, being unable to write; wanting to write differently, being unable to write differently. In a whole lifetime, years are spent waiting to be claimed by an idea … It is a life dignified, I think, by yearning, not made serene by sensations of achievement.”
- Louise Glück, from “Education of the Poet” (Proofs & Theories)
“The very things I used to be told off for – daydreaming, exaggerating, making mistakes, wild guessing, contradicting, spying, being obsessive, being reckless – for these, suddenly, I am being praised.”
- Selima Hill