Poetry

 

Skin and bone

skin-and-bone

Held together by fine strands of tissue. Empty at an atomic level. Spinning, accelerating. An integrity guaranteed by physics, society. Individually apart, the same. Organic. Psychological complexity, false complexity.

1.
Skin
Sticking on wet. Expected signs of
language,
1

Learn a language in high school
Watch anime without subtitles
For hours the colours made sense

discordant against a backdrop
lacking
2

Air humid
In a stationary atmosphere
The edge of my body has no end

representation. You
speak,
3

Forgotten languages
I spoke as a child
Abandoned in silent recollections

right? In worn expressions.
2.
Muscle
Wrapped
around
4

I read that in space
Astronauts work
As their muscles atrophy

hard-shell. The freedom in
imprisonment
5

Solitary confinement
Indefinite detention
Will unmake us

through barbed wire hanging in camps.
Held
6

Running for kilometres
Body aches and sweats
I chose to endure

tight below the surface. Tearing.
3.
Bone
Bleached in sunlight.
Broken
7

White ground powder
In a white ground bread
This for the white giant

through the surface. Hard,
permanent.
8

Crouched over a computer
Work related injuries
Push ribs out against each other

Unfailing frames of
promise.
9

You always forget
Walls of skulls
War and occupation

A sound cracking under weight.
4.
Marrow
Clothed in
tubes.
10

A sucking sound
Of the contents removed
From the intellect

Bloodied in tight passageways, unable to find a
way
11

I watched a documentary
A man drilled into his own head
He survived

out.
Hostage
12

Trapped in the white bone
Stripped of identity
Your recourse is singular

forgotten within the physicality.
5.
Mind
Fragile,
imaginary.
13

Recognising your own self
Through senses
You hope don’t lie

Constructed
characteristics.
14

Mind collected
From events, history, relationships
I try to claim as my own

A faux static
realisation.
15

In calm control
In control
Control

The shadow of unconsciousness. Echoing in empty rooms.
6.
Memory
Incoherent whispers.
Unfamiliar
16

My sister says
In winter your breath
Is like dragon smoke

faces, unremembered
places.
17

The house
Where the monkeys watched the cat
Days diluted among many others

Difficult pieces of remembrance pushed under
layers
18

In-between
Here and there
Skin and bone

of skin, leaking emotions.

Benjamin Laird

* * *

Skin Senryu

first ever
unprotected sex –
we conceive a girl

early morning –
are the birds kissing
and whispering?

full moon –
my tongue
between her teeth

making love
we set fire to a pillow

giving the gift her other fist closed

just married –
my hands dance
under the tap

holding my newborn –
breathing
curry in her face

Matt Hetherington

* * *

NAUTCH GIRL

I stand before you a nautch girl.
i walk with too much rhythm in my hips too much longing in my lips
when i stand still i’m dancing inside
nautch girl
dancing girl
i danced outa the womb and i’ll dance back
when the flames of my cremation dance over my flesh the final duet
nautch girl
temple dancer
dispossessed from my temple torn down
desecrated violated
relic relic relic
they stole my dance when they destroyed the stone temples
cut the breasts off the goddess decapitated the gods
turned the land into one giant plantation
i have no name, only what they told me
nautch girl
with this lean brown body i twist and shake
leap and lie, bend and flow, contract and release
movement rippling through my body like water
a monsoon of rage and beauty as i dance the dance of destruction
stamping through the white cement the brown earth rises up to meet my feet i fight
the white the light the might
with the grace and love and rage that can only come
from a nautch girl

Raja

* * *

Borderlines
Departure terminal again.
Fractional boundary condition
a muted journey home.

Just going back up to Hong Kong
for a week or two, back in time
for exams. They never notice I’m gone.

Ticking the box
“visiting friends or family”:
a dynamic splayed over continents,
for the fourth time this year.

A passenger fails to show and their seat is forfeit.
Hasty transition to passport control
still shunts me to economy at the gate.
Australian airspace is drafted dissected as
time reverts to ETA.

Fractures are plotted in miles while
thoughts of home reverse.

Chek Lap Kok
swallows jets
in timed doses.
The plane circles
like a cat curling for sleep.
They built this island
– neither land nor sea nor air –
a perfect Ur-space.

“Reclamation”:
property law evolves, so
even the sea has no proprietary rights
these days.
Rifts are as tonal as boundaries
given names.

The plane is purged
borderlines are drawn anew.
Passport promises an access point,
but there is incredulity among the Perth ranks
when I join the Chinese line.
Eyes prod the back of my neck, pinning ambiguity.

Some benevolent Aussie sidled up to me once, tapped my
shoulder and leaned in close:
“do you know that’s the Chinese queue?”
Her voice was good clean sympathy. I said yes, thanks,
that’s the point. She didn’t hang around.

Identity on the margins of filing
recognises few porous expressions.
The Airport Express is instant coffee,
an artificial high seasoned with sweet-bitterness.
Liquid fixation thrums
progress as thirty-two minutes away
the peak fidgets,
fortified by apartment blocks,
rows of concrete teeth.

I think I have forgotten
the new combination for the door,
frustration pegs itself in place
as I plod towards dilemma.

My suitcase snags on patched tarmac.
The pavement sinks and arches
as if for breath,
anachronistic concrete
recreating tar pits of old:
walking is a jigsaw process.
Home looms on the corner,
and the man at the door smiles recognition,
taps the code before I can try.
Mailbox is full of slogans, English and Chinese
hawking their wares,
but egalitarian disdain tosses all to the bin.
Forty-seven levels above traffic,
the mired moon sulks between skyscrapers.
I watch it sink,
apportioning a new timetable
and wondering what was left behind.

Siobhan Hodge

* * *

Phu My Orphanage

a heat wave through us
gathering in blessing time

waiting for the paint to dry
to mark out horizons
a window to look out upon

where the sky is washed gray
I have gathered up my own children
thrown them
into the wind
to rise up
on a breath of day
as kites sail
their bowtie tails
twirl like a prayer on a string

no dust just horizons

sandal scratch
a head in the clouds
as the street rattles

what is it we have gathered
in the twinkling nursery night

gathering hold of the night rinsing out the electricity
on the quivering street

at the newness of every turn
I am amazed humbling in that soft
shoe rhythm through uneven streets
to the sparrow mouths of children

& there is something in the limbs
at angles to the day that has meaning
I raise the spoon & the rhythms
of food & harvest
sowing what it is that needs
to be done

& there is always politics

we rinse bowls with the names of the hungry

it should be this simple
a child & hunger
& a bowl
with someone to feed

her or him
as the sun
would bring light & throw
a field into bloom
as the night would bring
a blanket over us
in the rattling cool
at the end of the day
show a little grace
the limb touch kiss of elbows
as the spoon is lifted
to sparrow open mouth child
always hungry
this love

some days are white
like paint to hold the sun to the walls

all the shadows grow

a tiredness in the limbs

we breathe the new light
all this & more at the end of the day

the edge
between where the ocean
ends & the sky begins
a gentle sway
rhythm blue tide pool pulls hearts

here the day has wings
as children have hunger
their arms thrown back in fright

in the late afternoon tropic cool
a chaos of students sit
to write their story

the baby sits quiet

the slow rhythms of games
feeding in the rattling afternoon

a cloud bumps a tree
in the laughter filled day

waterfall stepping stones
into the deep

then the long step back

coffee in the crackling heat
later much later

one beer in

Rex Hotel Rooftop Beer Garden

Rory Harris

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