Joanne Limburg grew up in NW London. Her first poetry collection, Femenismo, was published by Bloodaxe in 2000, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection; her second, Paraphernalia, came out in 2007 and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She recently published The Woman Who Thought Too Much, a memoir about anxiety and poetry. Joanne lives in Cambridge with her husband and son.
A set of Trivial Pursuit, another of possible genes; a pear tree,
a tortoise, the ants in the garden; sick and silly jokes, a satellite
to bounce them seven hours ahead and back again.
The remote control, the microphone; the meaning and import
of certain remarks; the final word, the winning card; the truth
about who started what.
Superior height; Bar Mitzvah gifts, a tallis in a tallis bag; a First,
a PhD, a lab; a certain way with lucid dreams; a ride-on mower,
an early out.
Computer games on audiotape; copies of works by Stanislas Lem;
two Emu puppets, two Snoopy dolls; the very last time I made
you laugh; whatever you were thinking.
Ageing skin, stiffening joints; a slender orange vase from Gumps;
the joke about Dave who knew the Pope; one facetious birthday
card; however many years.
Rabbits copy and paste themselves
across a lawn the size of an English churchyard.
Green light shrieks off imported grass,
bred to take the heat once dry,
now saturated from the reservoirs
they built to feed the sprinklers.
It’s a lawn for looking at
and mowing. Not for stepping on:
along with shrieking light and rabbits,
it’s a home to chiggers,
waiting to hop on board your pasty foreign legs
and burrow in, and itch.
You buy a ride-on mower,
admire your mown and sprinkled lawn
from the safety of the porch.
With all your care, and reservoirs,
the grass has taken well. You hope you can,
though you weren’t bred to take the heat.
Here’s a live body. Out of custom,
I call it mine. I’ve laid it out
on a table, or valley bottom,
knees up, feet flat
a hip’s width apart.
I’m told to allow
my neck to soften, to lengthen
my spine, unlock an elbow,
unlock the other one,
permit the weight of bone
to work it out with gravity.
I tell the ceiling
I find this hard. In a valley
I can only think of running,
and as I speak, my breathing
shallows, prompting a voice
from somewhere to remark
how wonderful it is
that I should live, when I take
so little air. But still I live. I wake
each morning, as I am caused to,
and when I do, I feel the possibility
of movement in the sinew
and know that it will shift my bones all day
again, though they are very dry.
A straight road, a rectangular state.
Over our heads, an endless, unravelling
bolt of blue. A hundred miles
off dead centre, where they celebrate
the regular every day, I feel
like a very small dot winking
across a vast, flat screen.
Either this place isn’t real,
or I’m not. To prove I’m not the figment,
I speak my thought: ‘I’ve never been
to the interior before…’
but all that comes out is an accent.
On Holiday with Cotard
Honestly, the season’s over. The sun’s
its proper grudging self again,
the trees have given back their borrowed green,
flies are laying final clutches, and soon
they’ll rest in spider-silk. Rest forever,
rest you well. Now it’s time for everyone to relax,
the really thorough way, as you can when everything you fear
the most has happened already
and so you float on loose, float empty
just like the jellyfish, the moons and manes
that blister the sea on the Baltic Coast,
no longer pumping, and therefore not alive.
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