4 poems

The Illegal Practice of Taxonomy

Thou shalt not group and label things.
Chaos Rules! was the maxim of the day.
But I couldn’t help it, felt powerless

to hold at bay what came naturally.
The man said to me, curtains, catfish, clerihew
and right away I thought, things that hang in windows

(except for the last two). Got three months,
no parole. Then a book came out, bold as ball games
and filled with pictures, prints, portraits –

leech, lichen, ox, all lined up
in neat little boxes.
I read that book – once, twice, thrice

and now every time I see a duck, a coot, a budgie
I think, things in the book
and no-one can touch me.

First published in Under The Radar, 2012

All Too Human

What if you wake up one morning
to find that your horse has melted
and there’s nothing between your thighs?

Nobody carries you,
no-one has your back.
No companion,
no getaway vehicle.

Just you and your two little legs,
bare and buttery on the naked earth.

Suddenly you notice
the other animals sniffing the air
a hair’s breadth from where you stand,
and suppose you have only moments to gather your wits
before they slug over and…

Slug over and what?
Of course you have no idea
since it was always the horse who did the talking.

First published in The Interpreter’s House, 2016

Since They Did Away with Sundays

A brown-eyed boy saunters up the path
and I say go away, I’m waiting for a brown-eyed boy.
I couldn’t help noticing, he says,
those fingers on the end of your hand –
five of them, if I’m not mistaken.
Were they always there,
finishing your sentences like that?

I smile. I didn’t mean to.
My teeth started it.

Summer came and went
and I realised the seasons are monstrous.
The here-ness and now-ness of things
is the most alien of territories and there’s a considerable distance
between lying and lying down.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him
the hand’s a fake, a cheap copy.
Left the original with a hand-check girl back in ’75,
traded it for a fedora.
That girl, she promised me a storm but no storm came.
For twenty years I’ve been hotter than eggshells
and treading on thunderflies.

Hell, nobody knows how to breathe.
Popular music has more notes and children
are born with a language that takes up more room
than all the rest of a person’s insides.

We’re like a town full of Italians separated from our mothers,
no longer sure if our shoulders are on right.
Every night we get home late
with the smell of some absent aria on our shirts.

First published in Ambit, 2013

Winter In The Room

One of us left a door open,
now a cold wind blows
through the room.

Easy to call it your door (it is your door)
but the gaps in the floorboards
are all mine.

The walls are whistling, air sounding the alarm:
we may never be warm again.

If only we could shelter each other
from our lesser selves.
Instead, they pitch tents
at opposite ends of the room
and we watch, helpless,
passing each other the mallet.

First published in Blueprints for a Minefield, 2016