Poetry

Stone. Tongue.

i.

Evening falls, and rooms grow dark,

then light. Through the open window,

a cricket starts up its whirring. Steam rises

from the kettle. The tea grows stronger –

no words today: a tightness around

the throat. A weight like a thrown stone.

Sprigged flowers. What has the mind

to do with such wallpaper? No way

to knuckle through to its imaginary

elsewhere – like Marvell’s green, a screen

eye goes out through into its living place.

I’ve spent too long in the house.

 

ii.

In the night, memory’s garden coalesces.

On another island, peaks pushed together,

then abandoned: a child’s careless empire.

The creeping moss, deep over cottages

puzzled from rocks rank with burning peat

and livestock; the curtained beds are hollowed.

Heaps of stone. Heaps of ash. A shovel.

Ice wind off the sea. Memory says:

move this. The morning’s work. I

sit at the desk. Its landscape is grey-

green spores spreading out of the dream

place, its growing shadow. Its bloom.

 

iii.

The rot runs deep. We slice at dead

tissue, find only blackness – an eclipse

in the star-pinned night. Light glancing

off a window swung open across the bay:

a clean blade of hurt. We break ourselves

open. The world pours in, feeds on the void.

I mean: this window, open. Night sounds

in the room. Out there the sea is turning

its cut surface back into its whole flesh

tirelessly over the sand, the sand keeps

repeating its sound of an in-drawn breath.

Night so dark stars slide down the glass.

 

iv.

Dew swollen like jewels on webs,

strung taut across invisible threads.

On the shelf, a family of glass jars

enclose damp soil, stones, ferns smaller

than a secret thought. In the Surgeons Hall

they display a gnarled foot, an abscessed tongue –

The tongue speaks. It wants to speak

of the fern: image infolding mind, mind’s

green fractal of itself. It wants to speak

of the stone: O. Self-sufficing.

In the mouth of the glass it wants to speak.

It speaks blotch. Says: This. This.

Note: This poem is a collaboration between Eileen Chong and Lisa Gorton. Following the theme ‘Generosities of Spirit’, the two poets responded to each other’s work, however it unfolded, each contributing three couplets in turn across four parts. This was meant as a creative act of trust and responsiveness.

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