20160623

Anne Elvey



Things that teach the line


Your fingers are a cord you cast to my hands.
I tether a flag at the pole of your life.
Sober, I tiptoe the line: what pants
in labour like a body dying
? Your need

tolls against the post. Breathing quickens.
The flag smacks the sky, one cord
undone. A whisper slurs, but your fingers
tell me stay. They are so long to be

so nearly lost to doing. A Timezone claw
hangs here. I fall into a crowd
of polyester-filled-made-in-china pups.
Your mouth gapes. A wind might play you.

Outside, I nose a meal at the nearest house
as my eyes throw a line to a stranger.



Burnout


I dream an office gutted like a fish
that dies on our deck. The gloss of semi-
translucent flesh begins—like habit—
to fail. Sharp against the day’s last

shadow and fire, the spine and finer
bones fall from the fisher’s hand
to the boat’s wake. They are the mariner’s
leaf, floating shoreward on the tide.

The bare vertebrae are a church
a son—angled by a “fisher of men”—
torched. Prayers are my cinders: charred
words are my relics of integrated

circuits and main frames. My screen
no longer flickers with a prompt to save.



Saltwater Lent


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The ocean is bounding like an adolescent dog.
Eros has drawn a line in the sand. He tosses his driftwood pen. The sea is a lathe. Worn to a shine other wood arrives at his feet.
Eros traces their print. His stencil is undone by the tide.

White buds plug his ears.
At the maritime museum a plastic bag lines a turtle’s gut and a seabird has grown into a six-pack.
If the archer unstops his ears, they bleed like a prophet’s tongue.

On the sand a storm-tossed canister reads POISON. Condoms and tampons litter the sprawl.
At intervals jellyfish lie surrounded by spume.
A day moon rises above Psyche weeping.

In red leggings and grey vests, gulls patrol the beach. Their voices contest.
Eros is running. Birds break, take flight, take his gaze with them.

Under the pier he sees gas bulbs on seaweed.

Psyche has news of a shark.
Straight from the sea the boy’s nose drips. Veronica passes a handkerchief.
Salt water has cleared his head.
Her V is in the corner. His face is in her eyes.

Sand ripples beneath glass and tiny fish school in the shallows.
Eros digs a trench to catch the tide.
A man watches an ant.

Dogs plunge into low swells.
Two girls dig a trench to catch the tide. They wear hats against the sun.
Persephone follows a kite and trips on a city Cain engineered. Shells crust her feet.

Sap dries in the scrub.
The banksias want fire to seed.
Scoured by salt a sign: no alcohol in public places.

The sand recedes beneath the idol of the sun.
The wind whispers a midsummer message: the beach has hidden its clothes in an ass’s head.
Puck writes a charm on an ice-cream wrapper and posts it in a crevice for ants.
Pigface straggles green and pink in the dunes.

The waves are steady. Blow for blow.
Wood wears, drifts and settles.

At the maritime museum there’s news of a pod of whales beached. At the shore the skeleton of a fish.
On Rescue TV they bring in a body.
Gentle. Rough. The thrust on the chest. Breath to hollow. The urgent lips. Hollow to breath. Fingertips braille for a pulse.

The sea announces there is no silence. Demeter picks up a handful of shells.
Coconut oil. Ozone. The clear ointment of the sun.
Children bury their parents in sand.
A parent buries a child embalmed with salt, remembers his caul.

Wood drifts.
Psyche prises sand from between her toes and makes a hole for a necklace in her shell.



Anne Elvey is author of Kin (2014) and This flesh that you know (2015). She is managing editor of Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics and chief editor for Melbourne Poets Union. Anne holds honorary appointments at Monash University and University of Divinity.
 
 
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