Tag Archives: poets

Jacqueline Saphra’s ‘The Dark Art’

 

 
     
The Dark Art
Jacqueline Saphra

  
I once knew a wife with rattling bones,
whose face was made of rice cakes
whose blood was made of consommé
whose skin was hard as eggshell.
There was no melting her.
Her child swallowed nothing
but greens and goat’s milk;
he was spindly and failed to thrive.
    
I once knew a wife, plump as a doughnut
with buttered hands and a floury lap
whose babies always wanted more.
Her sighs weighed heavy on the rolling pin,
her crusts were never tender,
there was fury in her kneading;
her loaves would take on air and multiply;
her children grew too fat.
    
I once knew a pitiless wife
who smelled of peach and salt
who warmed her skin like a caramel glaze.
She kept a secret book of recipes,
lured her husband with a calculated sauce,
then killed him slowly
with foie gras, double cream and hollandaise.
    
 
    
Visit Jacqueline’s website.
    
Order Jacqueline’s pamphlet, Rock’n’Roll Mamma (Flarestack Publishing, 2008).

Liz Gallagher’s The Wrong Miracle

 
   
Spring the Life Fandango
Liz Gallagher
 
I want something and there are twinges in my heart.
My heart twinges so badly that I fear the act of dropping
 
down dead before I get what I want. How is that for
momentum or for a god that has the sauciest way of telling
 
me that I have pushed the boat out too far, I have let
the boat land with a splash and a hoot and I am left in mid
 
ocean without a paddle – the paddle they had warned me
about, the paddle that takes on a life of its own and even beats
  
me over the head in my dreams to make me wake
up in the middle of the night with a bunch of hair stuck in my
  
mouth and my cat licking the back of my hand, frantically
reaching a high meter of lickability that says the big gong is
  
going to gong and tell me Time’s Up. I’d hoped to never want
something as badly as I want this – all the karma and jinxing
  
in the world could take it from me with one loose crack
of the whip. I could be sent marching the long way home
  
without the thing I want badly tucked up in my inside
pocket near my heart, no, on my heart, which now has stopped
  
twanging and is doing a la-la-la beat. It is not about wanting
to hold your hand nor about shaking all over, it’s about seeing
 
a tiny dream, like a foamy insole for a favourite winter
boot (a size too big), become something I can lay
myself on and spring, spring, spring the life fandango.
 
 
 
from The Wrong Miracle (Salt Publishing, 2009).
  
Read more about Liz and The Wrong Miracle here.
  
Visit Liz’s blog.

Paul Stevens

 
   
Paul Stevens was born in Yorkshire, England but lives in Australia.  He has an Honours degree in English, teaches Literature and edits The Flea, The Shit Creek Review and The Chimaera.
   
  
The Paragon of Plants
Paul Stevens
  
Eye to eye we track, grown heliotropic,
And sunlight ripples ticklish on our skin;
Your touch on my touch, phototactic, sticks.
  
We bathe in energy, our element:
Sky trickling liquid down bare branches,
Earth fingering upward through deep roots.
  
Now buds and foliage spring from manic limbs,
Hands metamorphose to the fruit they reach for:
Sense is exactly what sense apprehends,
  
And in this growth engrafts all difference
Of sex and soul, with scion cleaved to stock
And trunk to shaggy trunk. Swaying as one,
  
A paragon of plants, we rollick there,
Breathing light in, gasping out spicy air.
  
  
 
Previously published in Umbrella.

Valeria Melchioretto’s The End of Limbo

  
   
Papal Blessings
Valeria Melchioretto
  
Airship Italia left Spitzbergen on 23rd of May, 1928
   
Hermetically-sealed matchboxes couldn’t save the holy mission,
sanctioned by Pope Pius XI to bless the very tip of the Pole.
One morning in May, the Zeppelin reached that point
where meridians touch like segments of a forbidden fruit.
The crew threw out a blessed crucifix, some coins and a flag.
It showered the snow below like a Pentecostal sacrament.
They dumped all that was sacred upon the melting desert.
 
On their way south the airship crashed. Mayday signals
came out of the blue, stirred only silence and vanished.
They thought to be prepared for anything but never used
their ice axes. The windproof-overalls were worn by the wind
and the life jackets saved no one’s life. The Finnish shoes
didn’t carry them to Finland. After the virtuous artefacts
fell out of the window they clearly said adieu to salvation.
  
 
  
from The End of Limbo (Salt Publishing, 2007)
  
Read more about Valeria and The End of Limbo here.
  
Read Angel Dahouk’s Poetry Society interview with Valeria.

Sheenagh Pugh’s ‘The Bereavement of the Lion-Keeper’

  
   
The Bereavement of the Lion-Keeper
Sheenagh Pugh
  
for Sheraq Omar
 
Who stayed, long after his pay stopped,
in the zoo with no visitors,
just keepers and captives, moth-eaten,
growing old together.
 
Who begged for meat in the market-place
as times grew hungrier,
and cut it up small to feed him,
since his teeth were gone.
 
Who could stroke his head, who knew
how it felt to plunge fingers
into rough glowing fur, who has heard
the deepest purr in the world.
 
Who curled close to him, wrapped in his warmth,
his pungent scent, as the bombs fell,
who has seen him asleep so often,
but never like this.
 
Who knew that elderly lions
were not immortal, that it was bound
to happen, that he died peacefully,
in the course of nature,
 
but who knows no way to let go
of love, to walk out of sunlight,
to be an old man in a city
without a lion.
 
 
 
from Later Selected Poems (Seren, 2009).
  
Read more about Sheenagh’s Later Selected Poems.
  
Visit Sheenagh’s website.

Jane Hirshfield

 
“A good poem takes something you probably already know as a human being and somehow raises your capacity to feel it to a higher degree. It allows you to know your experience more intensely. When you meet your life in a great poem, it becomes expanded, extended, clarified, magnified, deepened in colour, deepened in feeling.”
 
– Jane Hirshfield

Tania van Schalkwyk’s Hyphen

   
    
Our Father
Tania van Schalkwyk
  
When you plunge your arms into the heavens unseen,
red-robed and lean, veins straining
to reach your god with this wafer –
all the women gathered want to fall on their knees
and pleasure you.
  
We clamber to receive Christ’s body from your beautiful hands,
naked and trembling, fingers touching
our lips, we kneel –
all us women tilt our heads back and offer
our belief to you.
  
We confess our sins to your body, hidden in darkness,
attention hovering between your imagined form
and the very real smell of you –
all us women who thirst for your blood, your gaze, forgiveness,
but mostly for the sacred in you.
  
We ask you to marry us,
to another man, another body, another life
and you oblige our wish, bless our union –
all us women get married, have babies, baptise our children
for the love of god in you.
  
We invite you to dinner at our family tables,
drink in your tales of redemption and duty
as you sip our wine, nibble our food, taste our hunger –
all us women watch you eat – and later
dream of being eaten by you.
  
  
 
Previously published in New Contrast
and included in Hyphen (The UCT Writers Series, 2009).
  
Read about Tania and Hyphen here.
   
For queries regarding Hyphen, please email:
info@electricbookworks.com.
   
Hyphen will be available on Amazon from mid-August 2009.

Eleanor Rees’s Andraste’s Hair

Andraste’s Hair
Eleanor Rees
   
– Andraste: Iceni goddess of war and victory.
   
   
In the woods they are burning her hair
                              three of them
they light it with a match
and she lets them
she lets them burn her hair.
   
Watches the ends smoulder.
Watches the ends curl her curls
curl up like leaves.
   
She lets them burn her hair.
There are long dark shadows
                    between trees
                    like corridors
blocked with boulders.
   
– The area is cordoned off. –
   
She let them burn her hair.
   
– The area is cordoned off. –
   
When the sun splits open
   
the gaps between trees
   
and the sun slices into the scene
   
they see:
   
that she let them burn her hair.
    
*
   
The light opens up the morning.
   
A plait lain out on the end of the bed
                                        like a rope
several metres long it hung there
swaying
                    tied with a yellow bow.
   
It belongs to no one now
lopped off at the nape of the neck.
   
The door is closed.
   
*
   
Arms raised to hug the sun
woman
                    eyes like sods
ratchet-nosed, craggy
hatchet arms creak and clank
   
lady
   
sleeping under sunless light
   
another sun gone
   
reaching obedient:  she dreams.
   
*
   
From among the ashes
from what had not burnt
gathered to a mass
of brown turf gathered
her hair
and carried
– a cloud in her arms –
and carried
to the river
her hair
to spread in the warp of water.
   
The light smooth and silting.
The forest behind –
remember
too much                    too much
dark cannot exist?
                    The sun swings to the right.
She went left
to the river
old dirt track
stepping over grass
hair taken down to depth.
   
In the forest they look for her.
   
Now,
   
she walks along the path by the river
her hair in her hands
to deliver
what had been taken
to the river
to the water
the smooth strand that curves its path
over the head of the hill.
Something subsides.
Something has passed.
   
Behind in the forest
in half dark heaving afternoon
they claw at earth
scratch around for a trace
                    and further
in the woods
search through evidence
make lists of explanations
make lists of reasons
for her absence.
   
The sun guides steps,
footfalls
imprint on soil.
    
*
   
It wasn’t about who was listening.
If anyone was listening
                         – to the song not the words –
speaking would mean silence
                         – dead ears dead ears –
but variation
the pull and placing
in a line brimmed to full
     with evocation
was almost love and almost listening.
    
Quiet response to quiet sound.
   
*
   
A song heard in the forest days later
   
burbled
   
made a young boy cry.
   
Wrapped round trees
stayed, not moving,
                                   just hung
a stopping place.
   
We could meet
in the woods by the river
stand eye to eye
in the stopping place
                   and wait
words curdling our bones
                    to stone
         be petrified
                                             in sound
a single drum beat, one long groan.
   
While she walks
a path behind her concertinas
each stride a fragile weight
that
  pushes up the earth,
turf over grass over turf.
   
   
Know how
it is now to be stone now
to know how to finish.
   
Listen, she’ll break you.
   
Will you follow?
   
   
 
from Andraste’s Hair (Salt Publishing, 2007).
    
Read more about Eleanor and Andraste’s Hair here.
    
Andraste’s Hair was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best
First Collection 2007.
    
Visit Eleanor’s website.
   
Eliza and the Bear, Eleanor’s forthcoming collection from Salt in October 2009, explores wildness and what it means to inhabit a body, what it means to be an animal with a sense of self. The poems circle the tensions between a domestic, communal experience of selfhood and the individual wild feminine of the “I” of the title poem. They explore love, longing and esire with unabashed imagination.

Gloria Anzaldúa

  
“I am a wind-swayed bridge, a crossroads inhabited by whirlwinds … You say my name is ambivalence? Think of me as Shiva, a many-armed and legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white, one in straight society, one in the gay world, the man’s world, the women’s, one limb in the literary world, another in the working class, the socialist, and the occult worlds. A sort of spider woman hanging by one thin strand of web.
      Who, me confused? Ambivalent? Not so. Only your labels split me.”
 
– Gloria Anzaldúa, from ‘La Prieta’

Barbara Smith’s Kairos

Roosters
Barbara Smith
  
My Granny used to soak the spuds too
making it easy to peel them later.
Part of morning’s ritual was topping
their pot with water. Later, after
fowl were fed and tae and bread were ate,
she’d peel them slowly, humming all the while
a medley of Moore’s Almanac songs.
  
Steeping my potatoes now, as she did,
brings her Four Green Fields down the years to me.
Scaly and red, these Roosters, instead of
her soft Queens; mine tattle of modern machinery,
long scars that I smooth away with a stainless
peeler. I split them with a long broad knife,
rinse them down and leave them by for dinner.
  
  
 
from Kairos (Doghouse Books, 2007).
  
Read more about Barbara here.
  
Order Kairos here.
  
Visit Barbara’s blog.