Alice looks back

Since furniture regained its proper size
and animals ceased to speak;
since teapots evicted rodents
and the Queen became so very nice
I find myself looking back
more and more and more.
Everything now is normaler and normaler,
and normalcy has its limitations.
I play patience, play it out,
wishing that the cards would rise
and assume that manic thinness,
that monarchy would lose itself
in ordering the loss of heads
for no known reason at all.
But we have assumed the robes,
the tight beige robes of logic.
Mathematics begets statistics,
measuring the mundane.
One day we’ll hear again
of these parallel places,
rabbit holes or worm-holes,
and falls into other worlds.
For now, I corset myself in common-sense,
and stuff memory into quotidian hats.

P.S. Cottier

This poem was first published in Eureka Street, and then in my book The Cancellation of Clouds.

Alice in Wonderland is a perfect book; one that can be dipped into again and again. It makes us all flamingos; turning pink as we sup on its immortal shrimp. And if that’s not the worst metaphor you read today, I will eat my quotidian hat.

This feather was dropped by a rare New Zealand flamingo, known for its total lack of defence, unique accent, and inability to fly. Click it to discover more poetry:

Tuesday Poem

Apparently, poetry is the WordPress theme/prompt/challenge for the week. I wrote this before knowing that, but given poetry is my life-long challenge, I’ll sneak in a link anyway.

The terrace next door

Seven kids and a parrot in a small terrace house.
Where squawking ended and shouting began
I could not say. But one sudden day, they spread wings,
left cage and house empty, my ears ringing on quiet.

Until six stoned students, without a single book,
set up camp. Smiling hammocks in the backyard sun,
contents content. Guitars, flute, piano-accordian,
folding time like an unwritten essay, due last week.

The six sixties clones left, sweet smoke signals blown.
Five rugby boys scrummed in, all frantic barbecues,
discarded runners, toxic socks smelt over fence,
and a screen bigger than the house, to pack in the front line.

Was it the four intense Vietnamese, who came next to next door?
Inexplicably neat, the terrace became clipped hedge suburban.
Or the three goths clothed in darkness who never met my eyes,
papers piling archaeologically on pavement, abandoned?

Better those times than the perfect couple’s renovating din,
as they improve the street out of sight, pave it with expectations.
Each hammer blow smashes the ex-rental like a musty egg,
as they grow golden equity, crack troops of one mortgaged dream.

PS Cottier

Definitely after renovation…

‘The terrace next door’ won third prize in the NSW Writers’ Centre’s ‘Inner City Life’ contest, December 2007. Published on their web-site, January 2008, and read at award night in Sydney. Also published in Eureka Street, Vol 18, No 3, February 2008, and in my first poetry collection, The Glass Violin. Based on terrace houses I remember in Melbourne.

Now I live in a city without any terraces, of course. My house, built in the 1950s, is quite old for Canberra. Tragic, isn’t it?

I can’t guarantee more fine architectural/economic analysis, but I can guarantee more poesie. Click this feather and go to New Zealand, where I assume that there are more terraces than in Canberra, if not as many as in Melbourne or Sydney:
Tuesday Poem

I must try and be more opinionated, as my blog as shrunk back to one poetic entry a week, on Tuesdays. I promise to try and work up a frenzy about some major issue, or think of a whimsical and touching observation on life (sorry, Life,) perhaps illustrated with a picture of a cat smelling flowers. If I do that, could someone arrange for a contract on my life? Thanks, discerning reader.

Take out the cat too.

Mental cases

Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ tongues wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain, – but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hand palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

– These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men’s extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a bloodsmear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh
– Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
– Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

Wilfred Owen

the building in the back fills the one in the front

And on ANZAC day, 25th April, let’s not forget that we still send young men (and women now, too) over to do the dirty work for us all; or at least in our countries’ names. I would like to see Australia’s troops only here for the defence of Australia, and fuck the geopolitics. But it’s usually old men (and the occasional middle aged woman) who make the decisions that cost young men their lives or sanity.

Not to mention the civilians, who have no special day of remembrance. It’s appropriate to remember the dead, but it would make more sense if we didn’t take actions that guarantee that we are making more of them.

Click the black feather to go to the Tuesday poetry hub in the country that contributed the rest of the ANZACs.

Tuesday Poem

For Amy

August 12, 2011

For Amy

14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011

A claret voice, thick liquid copper,
poured out of her skin, sweat honeyed,
hair bee-hived. No droning sweetness;
such a tangy longing. If only she’d lasted
a few more years, we say, as if she were
a bottle to be stored and turned, turned,
until she matured into something else,
ordinaried into age, lees less special.
She’s gone; jade asps of notes remain
to remind how beauty often stings.

P.S. Cottier

As I approach the launch of my first book, I can’t help regretting the loss of my exclusive relationship with the poems inside it. Once it was just me and these works, with no third parties looking over our shoulders. Of course, I am pleased to be published. But one part of me, a part that I have shamelessly nurtured over the years, prefers the life of fantasy and dreams to the real world of readers and print.

It’s a well-worn trope (I bought it at the second-hand trope store) to compare a book with a baby. I always suspect a hidden insult to reside in this sort of comparison, at least when applied to the writings of women. It’s as if the work is less an intellectual endeavour than an extension of biology; poet as womb. Of course that is to ignore the intellectual aspects of pregnancy, and the fact that in advanced societies at least, the continuation of pregnancy is a willed act, no longer a question of mere chance. But there is something about the way my book now has a life of its own that does recall childbirth, in all its terrifying complexity.

I admire Emily Dickinson for her steadfast refusal to seek publication once she understood that it would mean compromise. That and the fact that she was unique and seemingly almost timeless in the invention of her own poetic language. But we can’t all be solitary geniuses, can we? (Most of us aren’t any sort of genius at all, not even noisy, self-promoting ones.) And publication, that rendering of the personal into the public sphere, the changing of monologue into dialogue, is necessary, if our conversations are to stretch beyond our immediate community.

All very serious. But here is a poem written about my first book. You can see why I say I am not Emily. But, on the other hand, so what?

The poet addresses her first book

Oh my little treasure, with your spine just like a real spine
and your two short footnotes; smooth, appropriate and small.
I would swaddle you in gossamer, rock you in a golden crib.
All too soon you’ll be waddling out amongst dangerous critics
(if one so angelic and slim could ever so perambulate.)
Strange readers may not see your brilliance, and overlook you
for the thicker, slicker, tarmac roads of easy fattening prose.
Those lard-backs, perched like obese babushka dolls
above the Muse’s cuter, lighter, cuddle-worthy spawn.

Hush, dear bookie. Drink deep.
No-one will ever love you as I do.

P.S. Cottier