♠ Exquisite Corpse

Among Clouds of Dust, Only Mountains—a Garden

You could get used to it
if you drink the air enough
deep in the lungs like drowning in such air
witness or a vain pretense of rope
dawdling from the fillet of your hand end
                    rescued from the mountain flesh you used to eat.

You’ve saved yourself, that is, inside the garden
without anyone nearby, the clouds being
not the dust itself but what the inside of the mountain
yielded up as gift, a convalescence from your body trope
carved out of the mountain’s door
                    from where your eyes are made.

I met you digging there inside the dirt we were
making a playground for short-term sacrifice
all like “show me the love” and scarface giving it up
sardonic as in talking long enough to convince
the powers of earth to make a soft bed
                    you could lie within.

Not dead so much as ready to relax at last
the garden giving us the water everyone might need
or spatter on the ground to mix it up pat pat
the hands we made before now smacking, ready
to create the dirt we’re made from
                    trails, panting the way.

I’m sorry to say it, but writing
poems when you’re too happy
is inane. Did you scratch
the mambo? Did you touch
your tongue after alighting the tram
                    and the taste was metal?

Did you walk five blocks
and not notice anything, not a
single person being strange
or carrying their life in their arms like a very
large and light potato? Did you say
                    a bunch of words and mean them?

Did you crave the baby?
Did you eat the pasta?
Did you thoughtfully amass
the single-use plastics in an attractive jar
so they might be taken to Coles
                    and fashioned into a bench seat

proclaiming “rest easy”?
Did you try and learn the difference in Spanish
between taking and bringing and getting and having?
Did you shave your dream head and like it?
Did you want a feeling to last forever?
                    Is this a happy poem?

Is this Beltane or Samhain? Does
anything really die round here, like
properly die, and can we
when everything is so flush, invoke death?
Give me a moment to plunge my hands
                    into hot water.

Enlarged trees, pink scrubbed roots, a line
I find returning. What is the biggest
living thing you’ve ever seen? When I unzip
the case to see what kind of hot hair tool
you own, I find a bottle titled ‘Young Again.’
                    At any age, ridiculous.

You found your wedding dress to be polyester
when you washed six inches of dancing from the hem.
Should we keep things like this, drooping, in wardrobes,
and how should we explain them to our heirs?
When you were just a lump in your mother’s throat.
                    Twenty words that will show your age.

I’ve never wanted to be sexy.
Oh, mum. You are a human conundrum.
Look, here’s Amal Clooney in a bubble skirt.
I hate steampunk. Steampunk is for divorcees.
Hey, that’s mean. I’m a divorcee. No, not you.
                    You know the kind of divorcee I mean.

The first gay divorcee so far
this year – a victim of party-party atmos –
vanquished by their own love of bubbly
they fell for passionate utterances then fell right out
again – ignoring sociological consequences
                    they took just off to straighten up and fly right

a bad move and impossible as it turned out –
no more dancing in the kantian sublime
regretful and lost gazing at the soft toy animals
fading pastel prizes and jelly belly packets
piled up in the timezone entrance
                    next to ‘zing bling’ celebrity hairdressing

a change of style? colour? highlights?
a signal of solution to their crisis
seizing the instant they enter the salon –
negotiating aesthetics through a haze of hope
‘nothing too cutesy-poo thanks’
                    from the chair there’s a reflected view –

a dusty silver foil xmas tree sits on a glass shelf
several branch ends slightly bent – it’s april now – against
the chill of autumn aircon they tuck the animal print cape
closer in to their neck lean forward
into the ridiculous mirror and check the progress
                    of a beautifully fading bruise

On a scale of one to ten how tender is the place
or site of the injury? No is a fair
answer; the origin is Latin for lack
of justice (infinite ways to be wrong).
Months are always colours – May a pale
                    thumbnail; June burn pink, but

pain is a pitch – stubbed toe stringed
instruments; labour white noise,
blinding (so coloured too, I suppose).
An uneven gait is no proof it’s not broken.
Amazing how things heal. Early words:
                    “graze” (gaze) with fingertip

to temple; then “bandaid” (bang-ay).
Plane is pain, each piece of paper a potential
flying machine. It’s easy to fold bank statements
into pains; the best kind of flight is when the nose
hits the ceiling so fast it bends in half.
                    Again! (Gen!) A section of the brain

is responsible for what the neurologist calls
an “emotional reaction”, unreasonable
curses and tears rather than plain
acknowledgment. Gentle touch
can placate this cortex.
                    Yes, it has been a tactile year.

Curling black hair,
his lips as warm as eggshells.
He makes himself sauerbraten in the kitchen –
slices tomatoes,
cuts capsicum
                    into a mosaic of glossy

red blocks. Perfekt.
I watch from his couch, under
a woolen blanket,
its warmth rough and familiar.
Steam plumes from the pan and halos
                    the 1970s inset light fittings – I tried to clean

them once, balanced on a chair
with a toothbrush. Don’t bother, he said
I don’t want to owe you. What rough misery we
make for ourselves,
familiar and perfekt,
                    he slices onions against the dark glass.

Applause from below
hardly a shock to think to oneself and
turn to find rifle pushed against mouth
rifle which sprays out a shot or two disabling a owl
waited till it burnt against tounge
                    and split the words

cradling them towards curtains so grey and volume heavy
that sprinkle with flaming white just frying
raindrops perched on edge of owls wound
grazing the fizzy water, slowly padding back and forth
and then fall into blood
                    ammonia

well drunk down now
on wake tries to come up
rigormortis body floats clothes eaten away from above
a living one pulled up into the dead one and drift away
very flat feet trampling at spikey plants
                    trampling them down, no other option

doesn’t hurt bad just think very funny!
funny how foot big pad just pads at it and no damage really to feet.
look back at fire
then to the closed door
then back to the fire then return to window think
                    my lonely harvesting has finally breached.