Born in London in 1969, Kona Macphee grew up in Australia. She flirted with a range of occupations including composer, violinist, waitress and motorcycle mechanic. She took up robotics and computer science, which brought her to Cambridge as a graduate student in 1995.
She now lives in beautiful Perthshire, where she works as a freelance writer and moonlights as the co-director of a software and consultancy company. She has been writing poems since 1997, and received an Eric Gregory Award in 1998. Her first collection, Tails, was published by Bloodaxe in 2004. Her second book of poems, Perfect Blue (Bloodaxe, 2010) is now available. Visit Perfect Blue’s Bloodaxe page, Perfect Blue’s dedicated website, Kona’s professional website and her personal website (which includes her Poem of the Week).
Would you leave it, then, leave it all behind,
take nothing but an apple and the open road
and what you’re standing up in (even a change
of clothes, of shoes, being too much freight
for the liberation of this light new way)?
Would you wrack, in going, your old life’s webwork,
feeling the snap as each drawn strand
reaches some secret limit and lets go?
Would you know, in the early weeks and miles,
some heady freedom, going your way
on a whim or a coin-toss, scrabbling your meals
light-fingered or by luck or miracle,
making your bed where the nightfall finds you,
waking with the sun and without fixed plans,
shedding fears, eschewing mirrors,
seeing it all for the very first time?
Would you go on, drunk on brief acquaintance
and the endless vanishings of the horizon,
stoned by the roll of day to night to day,
until you sense that finer net
cast in the wake of every other face –
a loop of feedback amping touch to slap
and speech to shouting, love to prison,
liking to demand – and think you comprehend?
Would you shun all ties in some bleak fastness,
slip last bonds of custom with your shoes,
your coins, your name, only to find
a screen impeding: your mind drawn round
like a curtain, one day tautly thrummed
with the buzz of struck drumskin, one day slack
as the wattled folds of an old throat,
but always a veil between you and what’s real?
Would you learn, at last, that any heart
will shred to tatters when what hauls it on
is some crazed engine hulking in the dark
of what it can’t unlearn and can’t outrun?
Would you ask yourself what’s real?, look down
and stare at the empty, dirty palms
of the hands upturned in a mocking question,
the feet that bore you nowhere, here?
This poem was a commission for the “Impossible Journeys” exhibition for Edinburgh’s Hidden Door 2 festival. It was subsequently recorded as a filmpoem by Alastair Cook, with an original score by Rebecca Rowe, and now available for online viewing.
Mary Porter’s questions
If I spread my fortunes like a deck of cards
across the marked baize of a table,
what chance will be foretold? Into the yard
our gentlemen don’t go – and yet, what evidence
might Bertha find today, concealed
behind the wash-house, lapping at the fence?
Why does the weary drape of counterpanes
across the drying-ropes still bring to mind
that one night at the theatre? Jane,
when Mother spoke of wickedness, of shame,
why did she never mention this? – the way
the mended roof of sinners shrugs the rain?
This poem first appeared in Ambit magazine.
There’s a river, but here’s a long haul
uphill from its pebbly burble. A cold spring
threads the stepped streets, over, under,
pooling in a neighbour’s garden, lipping,
spilling back into a pipe. When gutters fill
with storm-wash, skimming cars cast ankle-waves
at walls that harbour sodden gardens.
Daily in the square, gulls shark
and bicker round the carrion of lunch
while lorries moor at High Street shops
and crewmen ferry wares. The stopping edge
of town is thin and final as a strand;
beyond it, pylons float, tied buoys becalmed in seas
of barley, haygrass, sheep-cropped choppy stubble.
At nightfall, every full-moon streetlight
dons its yellow glare; there are no tides.
This poem first appeared in New Writing Scotland.
The dropping bomb was real, the blastwave
merely hypothetical, until it took
its coarse-grained quota of collateral:
his father’s wounded scowl, his mother’s look
of willed incomprehension, while, behind their eyes,
the partisans fell back to teenage rooms
they’d fantasied, those wardrobe mirrors tiled
by Miss July, her lush barrage-balloons;
and here’s the aftershock: he’s quivering;
that unexpected recoil’s ripped him wide.
Oh come on now, his sister fires, across
the grey roast beef. It’s not like someone died.
This poem first appeared in Poetry London magazine.
StAnza Poetry Festival 2010
Rough winds hoarsen
all the night,
then morning’s aftermath:
a roof-slate, slipped
from tight-lapped ranks,
lies dashed and scattered;
tall bins, wind-felled,
loll square tongues
across the gutter.
Visitor, you thrust
and vanish. We abide,
fragmented and agape.