Poems

VOLUME NO. 33 [2]

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Nicola Scholes,
June 14, 2012
Diagnosis Loneliness

I write my life

onto post-it notes

peel them off carefully

there is always a fresh one

underneath

I remove them like plasters

leaving sticky residue

on flaming pink

These notes tell me what to do

and I forget that I am their author

for instance

the one that I stuck to my heart fell

and may be in the river

for all I know

 

 

 


George Toseski
June 14, 2012
Joyce

 On the first page of the book of history

is a pressed leaf.

On the next page the initial entry reads:

“People have moved away from people

and away from the earth.”

Near the middle of the book

is a dog-eared page marking the day

we first imagined killing the world

and building it again.

Soon after that the pages go blank.

We no longer write in the book of history.

Using needles, we mark our history

directly upon the earth.

History is not a scar, it is colourful

and is therefore a tattoo.

 


John Tarrant
June 14, 2012
Do You Remember How the War Began?

 Two soldiers

are preparing to surrender.

Right now they are hunched down in a bunker

to get below the fire fight, and also

because, curled up like this, you can depend for a moment

on the plainness of gravel,

the kindness of the dark—

believe that your mother’s arms have blessed you

and though it is late,

the world might still embrace you, personally.

Perhaps the bunker is a find, like a Rolex on the battlefield,

perhaps they have dug it themselves.

A trench like this is on the way to some other place

where they might be less alone and afraid;

so they didn’t plan to be here.

They have planned to surrender though.

One of them has a white cloth tied to a stick

gripped tightly in his right hand.

The white flag belongs to the nation

without a name.

It doesn’t have a written history

or plans of any kind

and it’s not represented at the UN.

He hasn’t raised that blank flag yet.

We know that he’s right-handed.

It’s possible that the other hand has in it

something important

like the air-dropped leaflets on how to surrender,

but you don’t usually practice

waving a white flag,

so yes, you would hold it in your dominant hand.

And a white cloth a couple of feet square

is not something that you happen to have in your pockets;

you must have brought it with you,

and a thick, strong stick, too,

you can’t find that just lying around in miles of sand.

Unfortunately, despite the provision of the white cloth

despite the effort of finding a stick,

and of hunching over as far as they could,

in a posture as touching as a child’s,

and despite having no visible wounds,

they are dead.

And the failed magic of cloth, stick, hunching over,

goes on reaching, unfailed, in another dimension.

It shows how intimate he is, my enemy,

how much like me.

Now that I have seen these deaths,

my life will also be theirs—

I’ll have to carry them

so that they can see,

walk, embrace, and take on

that weight, that confusion

so necessary for the living.

I can't help but make for them

 a place in my heart.

 


John Synott
June 14, 2012
The Saigon Panther

 I

When a zoo was built in old Saigon

French colonials sought it out for fun;

white suits, hemp hats for gentlemen

and ladies with parasols and pastel chemise.

They stopped at the pineapple seller, the coconut juice vendor

to suck a straw at a seat out of the tropical sun

and giggled as the children with their insouciant mamas

held sticks of sugar-cane across ditches of dung

to tease the elephants until their trunks danced and sung

Then strolled down the pavements

to view the panther walking on his toes

fresh from the jungle of Waq Waq

black as eden in its dark fall.

Sleek, muscular and virile,

liable to flash his devil eyes

or spray his cologne scent to mark his place;

or lift himself for mating through the fence.

Oh the thrill, the tingle through the bones

and the delicious rude language to torment

the wild animal safely captured, his razor claws

behind the iron bars and concrete cave

that enclosed the beast without distracting the pleasure.

But he was ready to revolt, take back the jungle in a leap,

and watched for signs of the regime’s retreat.

II

That was before the war, the cause of the war.

Now the visitors still take Sundays in Ho Chi Minh City

to escape the heat and motorbike noise

around the Hotel Continental and Pham Ngu Lau,

beat from Banh Tanh markets and the noxious crossways

to the old zoo where they relax in the shadows

of Alacasia odora, lush survivor from the napalm years;

where vanilla orchids perfume the air

and durian hang in domes above cracked stairs

that lead to the same panther’s lair.

And who knows how the panther’s voice should sound

who stalked through empires and revolutions

and still waits for liberation, some rights or compassion.

The Sunday hunters capture panther over and over,

click and delete, zoom to the foreground:

a decoy girlfriend on the rusted fence;

her lips bait the animal for a taste of fresh.

But panther has lost the urge to hunt.

Under the black skin its muscles sag in pouches;

the cartilage is hardened sorrow, dried instincts;

Insane from ennui he shuffles on stumps without claws;

the yellow eyes mourn like sunsets over Xom Lang.

The panther coughs as if about to speak,

then gives up or forgets.

He gazes moodily upon the visitors,

pads back and forth without purpose;

he does not know of death.

The panther scratches at fleas and waits for popcorn,

crunches through his bitterness.