Tag Archives: Isobel Dixon

Isobel Dixon’s ‘She Comes Swimming’

  
 
She Comes Swimming
Isobel Dixon
 
She comes swimming to you, following
da Gama’s wake. The twisting Nile
won’t take her halfway far enough.
 
No, don’t imagine sirens – mermaid
beauty is too delicate and quick.
Nor does she have that radiance,
 
Botticelli’s Venus glow. No golden
goddess, she’s a southern
selkie-sister, dusky otter-girl
 
who breasts the cold Benguela, rides
the rough Atlantic swell, its chilly
tides, for leagues and leagues.
 
Her pelt is salty, soaked. Worn out,
she floats, a dark Ophelia, thinking
what it feels like just to sink
 
caressed by seaweed, nibbled by
a school of jewel-plated fish.
But with her chin tipped skyward
 
she can’t miss the Southern Cross
which now looks newly down on her,
a buttress for the roof of her familiar
 
hemisphere. She’s nearly there.
With wrinkled fingertips, she strokes
her rosary of ivory, bone and horn
 
and some black seed or stone
she can’t recall the name of,
only knows its rubbed-down feel.
 
And then she thanks her stars,
the ones she’s always known,
and flips herself, to find her rhythm
 
and her course again. On, southwards,
yes, much further south than this.
This time she’ll pay attention
 
to the names – not just the English,
Portuguese and Dutch, the splicings
and accretions of the years. She’ll search
 
for first names in that Urworld, find
her heart-land’s mother tongue.
Perhaps there’s no such language,
 
only touch – but that’s at least a dialect
still spoken there. She knows when she
arrives she’ll have to learn again,
 
so much forgotten, lost. And when
they put her to the test she fears
she’ll be found wanting, out of step.

But now what she must do is swim,
stay focused for each stroke,
until she feels the landshelf
 
far beneath her rise, a gentle slope
up to the rock, the Cape,
the Fairest Cape, Her Mother City
 
and its mountain, waiting, wrapped
in veils of cloud and smoke.
Then she must concentrate, dodge
 
nets and wrack, a plastic bag afloat –
a flaccid, shrunk albino ray –
until she’s close enough to touch
 
down on the seabed, stumble
to the beach – the glistening sand
as great a treasure as her Milky Way –
 
fall on her knees and plant a kiss
and her old string of beads,
her own explorer’s cross
 
into the cruel, fruitful earth at last.
She’s at your feet. Her heart
is beating fast. Her limbs are weak.
 
Make her look up. Tell her she’s home.
Don’t send her on her way again.

Isobel Dixon’s ‘Positano’

 
 
Positano
Isobel Dixon
 
The villa’s whitewash clotted
scarlet with geraniums,
the bougainvillea’s purple
bruise smeared inbetween –
I sit here, mottled,
in the shadow of the vine.
The sea is welded
to the sky, a beaten
shield, enamelled, glittering
and everything is molten,
rich, beneath this sun,
such grandiose munificence,
the alchemy transforming
even me – slowly, in thrall,
from milk to gold. After
a day among the ruins
of Pompeii, dust still clings,
a pale reminder, to my shoes,
but now I watch the yachts
below and ring the ice against
the bottom of my glass,
an answer to the winking sea,
the tinkling of the masts.
Remember Ripley, wish
I didn’t wish for all of this
and more. This lustrous,
postcard life. Hear
how my darkened hallway’s
silence shudders at the falling
to the mat, implacable,
of crisp, clear-windowed
envelopes, that smother
my bright rectangle,
its foreign stamp,
the lines I sent back
to my dull domestic self:
Wish you were dead,
and I was always whole
and golden, always here.
 
 
 
From A Fold in the Map (Salt Publishing, 2007).

Isobel Dixon’s ‘Gemini’


 
Gemini
Isobel Dixon
  
Below my heart hang two pale women,
ghostly, gelid, sea-horse girls.
Without my telling you would never
see them, tiny tapioca clumps suspended
in the silt between my bones.
  
So nearly motionless, they are both breathing,
dreaming their amoebic dreams,
and I swear when I wake before dawn, try
vainly to return to mine, I hear them, faintly,
murmuring. But my ribs make a shallow hull
  
and one of them must go. Duck, bail out,
flushed into the sewage and the wider sea.
I can’t endure them both, adrift
among my vital parts, sizing each other up
with tadpole eyes. I must decide
  
and feed the lucky one. Let the other shrink,
dissolve back to this body’s salty soup.
Look closely at them: soulmates, secret
sharers, not-quite-siamese. Who stays,
who goes, which one of them is history?
  
She kicks up an almighty storm, makes
waves, enormous, tidal; while her sister’s
calm, pacific, dull. Our oil-on-troubled-water-
pourer, keeper of the peace. You choose
mark one who should be squeezed out
  
of this narrow vessel; voided, spilled,
to lighten, buoy me, make some space.
Plain sailing then, I’ll forge ahead, forget
her spectral presence, and a lifetime’s
sly, subversive whispering. Learn
  
single-mindedness at last. But when it’s well
and truly done, how will I know? Will I feel
relief, release, how the balance shifts
and settles; then walk straight, unpuzzled,
sure  or limp and stumble, still
obscurely troubled, phantom-limbed?
   
 
 
 
from A Fold in the Map (Salt Publishing, 2007)
   
Read more about Isobel and A Fold in the Map here.
   
Visit Isobel’s website here.

Canopic Jar #22

I am pleased to have two poems (“The Art of Awakening” and
“The Blue Door Opens”) included in Canopic Jar #22.

This issue features:

Poetry by
Arlene Ang, Corey Mesler, Gabeba Baderoon, Isobel Dixon, John McCullough, Kay McKenzie Cooke, Lee Ann Pickrell, Lee Stern, Matthew Gillis, Michelle McGrane, Myesha Jenkins, Patrick Sullivan, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, Rethabile Masilo, Rose Dewy Knickers, Ruth Sabath Rosenthal and Santiago De Dardano Turann.

Prose by
Amanda Lawrence Auverigne, Ash Hibbert, Bill Green, Liam Leddy, Polly Tuckett, Rick Nes Smith, Tom Sheehan and William Alexander.

Visual artwork by
Didi Menendez and Sarah Hasty Williams.