MUSCULARITY

Homage to GARY SNYDER

 

words whittled to shavings

curling at my feet

thoughts like plastic wrappers

swirling in the wind

a puddle willing itself

to become an ice cube

the wave of a drowning man

in the waves

the sound of one hand clapping

in the forest

words shouted into the face

of the storm

unheard unread

 

your footprint preserved in stone

once a tentative step

in the ooze of time

much the way this began

DEAR KEN*

when Ashbery* wrote “hand me the orange”*

was he slyly referencing O’Hara’s*

“Why I am not a painter”*

was this the orange he wanted

or would another do

was he craving the cool dimpled skin

the juicy flesh

explaining what happened to Frank’s orange

all that time ago

why do we assume he means

the fruit not the colour

 

nothing is as it seems

maybe he was just hungry not ironic

at his age would he care or remember

you can continue to break language down

but eventually the music

becomes just noise

words broken into a mumbled jumble

or is that the point

 

Ken when we both wore our hair long

your studied casualness signified cool

your hip nonchalance

your deliberate insouciance

 

nothing is as it seems

 

Mies Van Der Rohe* was born

Ludwig Mies

his Barcelona pavilion

was really the German pavilion

on Montjuic* overlooking Gaudi’s* city

not in Barcelona

the pavilion built 1929*

was demolished 1930

what happened to the Barcelona chair*

is unknown

when we supplicants climb the hill

to pay homage

does it matter this structure is

the 1986 re-construction

how authentic is this

set down millimetre perfect

to site specified stone in its construction

what is more important

the plans and specification or the building

is one just language the other the thing

where does the idea manifest itself

 

if your poem is reproduced

which is the authentic version you devised

if translated what does it mean

to you if you don’t speak that language

is it still your poem

 

nothing is as it seems

is your poem the same read

as heard by you      or me

your sparse flinty words

scatter the light

 

the vast Mediterranean sky

captured by the pool the pavilion floats in

 

there is no ambiguity in structures

 

maybe that is why you are not an architect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Ken Bolton – Australian Poet 1949-
  2. John Ashbery – American Poet 1927 – 2017
  3. “hand me the orange”- final line of Ashbery’s last published poem New Yorker magazine February 2017
  4. Frank O’Hara – American Poet 1926 – 1966
  5. “Why I am not a painter”- O’Hara poem 1956
  6. Mies van der Rohe – International architect 1886 – 1969
  7. Montjuic – site of the 1992 Games of the XXV Olympiad and site of a vast above ground necropolis site of Joan Miro’s grave
  8. Antoni Gaudi – Catalan architect 1852 – 1926
  9. For the International Exposition 1929
  10. The only piece of furniture to have a building designed around it

ALPHABET SOUP

staccato conversation on

our walk to preschool

 

first observe the dead rat

laid out in the gutter

long tail ribbed like a worm skin

 

next pass the bat

pinned to the ground

by gravity’s inevitability

 

then the carcass of a cat

and the howl of a man crumpled in the gutter

his lover hovering unable to cross grief’s divide

 

return to the rattatattat of our conversation

rat bat cat rat cat bat

 

SLAUGHTER

in the distance

the bullet connects like a sting

the bullock slumps in the paddock

in hock deep grass

the hunter lays down the gun

settling the scope gently

before sprinting knife drawn

to cut the throat and bleed the beast out

a ceremony played in silence

 

the disconnect between sight and sound

leads my four year old son

to report the scene as seen

that cow just fell over

an innocence not even

these events could extinguish

 

the hunter controls

his pulse as he pulls the trigger

his chest constricts

the hunter fears

the quarry stands in blissful

ignorance

 

will you eat what you kill

the beast winched

onto the truck

deck slick with blood

slithering

then strung up

stripped of hide

eviscerated and butchered into portions

 

are you prepared to kill what you eat

THE TRANSACTION

the daily mix of seed and mash deposited

inside your wire enclosure

fenced to keep the cat out not you in

 

click and chirrup as you circle

quizzical as I mimic you

 

in the scramble for the feed

you walk over my feet

eyes targeting the largest corn amongst the seed

a sudden dart extracts that morsel with precision

the focus of your greed

 

I reach into the nest

a perfect bowl lined with lilac feathers

and collect two pale blue eggs

to complete the exchange

LARRIKIN CACATUA GALERITA

your feathered carcass lay

Elvis white with yellow quiff

in the gutter where your flightpath

intersected with the road

bitumen black beak and claws

 

for days your cohort of lairs

hung about the wires strung above

 

scooped into a bag

and dumped into the bin

on collection night

no viking funeral for you

 

I held your surprising heft

feathers softer than skin

your natural life span

longer than my own

BUTTERFLY

looming large and suddenly

at speed there is no time

as you slam into the windscreen

with such force

the wipers are activated

 

all that remains

the perfect imprint of your wings

and a smear across the glass

DAMBULLA

I

 

in the deepest cave the ancient

carved stone reclines

soles of the feet

marked with winding circles

hands set in enlightened repose

 

each cave contains a statue

evolved over time

the last a gift

gaudily decorated as authentic

as a retail mannequin

 

we emerge into the light

from the depths of the cave

blinded by what we now know

 

II

 

at the entrance to the cave complex

shoes and thongs in random array

like the aftermath of some market bombing

a reminder of Sri Lanka’s recent past

MOUNT LAVINIA HOTEL

I

 

the liveried sentry

on guard against the 20th century

faded colonial colonnades

regimented

once the official home

of the Governor of Ceylon

 

II

 

around the pool

crows stand their distance

long trained to anticipate

staff flinging fireworks

in their direction

a gesture like striking a match

sufficient pantomime to set them to flight

a dance rehearsed

 

III

 

the Saturday brides assemble in their finest

gaudy saris billowing in the wind

waiting expectantly for their photoshoot

and their future

the Indian Ocean drives

against the rocks

as if to reclaim this promontory

letting us know

our presence here is transitory

CAMERA OBSCURA

HOCKNEY

 

shots of light

mesmerizing the surface of the pool

 

his LA exile

looking like bad photography

 

surfaces bisected

by light and shade and colour

a flat pack world

 

not as you might imagine

unlimited blue water

reflecting the vast sky

 

a static take

on that vibrant splash

 

his real interest

the intersection of that boy

with this water

the way the white bottom bobs

 

CAVAFY

 

the barbarians are still needed

a century on

Xenophobia justifying itself

 

his quest began

looking into the eyes of old men

and ended with the splendidly oiled body

of that remembered youth

a journey without end

as if that were the meaning

Alexandria a way point

to exile   Ithaka an ideal

 

loss and longing

 

(his Fourteen Poems illustrated with

line drawings by Hockney)