Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday poem: And what remains

blinded he watches the play
words falling like tears

tracing the salt line
of frozen memories

last year’s hunk of lamb
still stiff in the freezer

outside, cloud gathers in
an upside-down mountain


one night she came to him
in white polyester pyjamas

traced her shadow
beside his on wallpaper

his fingers thrummed
against her cold skin

when the heart fails
blood pools in the peripheries


her glass music box
contained a Russian spring

yellow plastic daffodils
humming with melody

in her carved wood box
she keeps a single earring

false pearls lost in surf
at Karekare beach


his door frames the sea
when he holds it wide

a candle in an old bucket
makes a fluttering beacon

her feet squeaks among pebbles
finds the cracks in his mind

he paints her pink bike blue
so she can find the sky


feathers; a sea of bedded feathers
from snow-white geese

the slash of wounded duvet
gapes in surprise

the two of them laughing
in sudden snowdrift

kissing him was like
finding her lost tooth


a golden O swinging new
on both their fingers

a surprised mouth an O
the entrance to a cave

pushing in head first
O, he slips and she laughs

licks the blood on her lips
where love has kicked


his sweat stains
the stainless steel sink

the sodden whiff
of filled nappies

so this is house of dreams
this is the picket line

cracking the roses
of his mother’s last teacup


she’s made love to a man
on a white lawn chair at midnight

danced tango in Buenos Aires
with a man in an old silk suit

now she’s home to winter
the smell of rain on asphalt

bitter homemade lemonade
squeezes her tastebuds


chalk letters blow from asphalt
like children getting lost

crossing the road
the rain makes jewels in her hair

her umbrella makes
an upside-down mushroom

she finds herself wishing
for the burnt taste of his coffee


in Bangkok he sleeps
on beds without love

in Italy he sleeps on the road
while waiting for a ride

in Izmir stoned half-men
take his passport

in Kyoto his payment for sleep
is early-morning prayer


he sees his abuelo touching
a young lady’s knee

good touch bad touch
soft touch hard touch

the old man says
you saw it the wrong way

he feels his face melt
his ears and his soul


she looks like a frozen rose
petals held cold and stiff

her hands are ice crystals
melting in his cracks

her mouth like soft soap
fragrancing his shower

in the morning he wakes
to find her a puddle.

This is the full text of the series of interlinked couplets written for mine and Gaby Montejo's Metonymy collaboration this year. It has just won the 'best writing' award at Metonymy. Gaby is a Cuban-American artist living in Christchurch, and he and I met to collaborate during my locum there in July. As we navigated the red zone fences to find each other, wandered around the ruins and explored new areas sprouting with life and people away from the ruined CBD, we were struck by the very personal debris on display - torn from or lost, abandoned, cherished or forgotten by their owners.

We started emailing each other memories - small childhood moments, love stories, moments of loss, betrayal, intimate tales we wouldn't normally tell a stranger.
Couplets were constructed from those emails, put together in small narratives, then separated again. Strips of paper containing a couplet each were stuffed into small baby socks and buried, toe-up, in a baby bath containing 67 kg of Christchurch liquefaction soil which had been transported to Auckland for the installation. Viewers were invited to fish a sock out, find their own couplet and keep, swap or recombine the couplets to make new stories.

And what remains of stories after we lose them or give them away....

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