NEMESIS: or PAINTING BY NUMBERS
for Michele Leggott
1. The spelling
is probably wrong but, as
someone once said, the Greeks
have a word for everything.
This one is
retribution, a pre-ordained
If only it were / that easy. Begin
with a word; & from there on in
it is all downhill. No need to think,
to struggle over images & how
they hold together. Instead the
remaining words are pre-determined;
you only have to keep your fingers
on the keys, & let them do the walking.
what have you started? That formal letter
nine months ago; & I have spent
much of the time since then
working my way through the
grey box of old poems, picking &
polishing, rewriting some histories
& leaving others well alone. But what
to do with those that talk about some
distant form of me, & yet still say
"I am part-done; & with some work
can be / completed"?
I’ve talked of reliving the past, through
books & discs that I replace as I
wear them out. But this is different,
this is me, unable to be digitally
remastered or re-released in paperback.
was once asked, when trying
to sell for ten francs a still-life that
included ten apples sitting in a bowl
on a table, whether he would accept
one franc / for just one apple.
6. In calculus
we learn of sequences & series; & I realise
that working on the poems has created a
convergent sequence of three terms. The
first is the original grey box that now
sits on the table, too full to close with additional
revisions & emails & photocopies all mixed in.
The second is two sub-directories on the
PC. & the third is the stack of laser-printed
pages with a 24-point title on the top sheet,
& on the next the not quite complete ISBN
that identifies it as a book about to come to term.
is one of the / part-done poems.
Excluded from the box it is
the only one left that I still want
to do something with. Encased
in Byzantine references to Yeats
& interspersed with intimations
of my own mortality that are some
twenty-five years out of date, there are
these lines about Che Guevara that I
still like. & want to keep, even if
it means I have to take some tangental
line to the original intent. So now,
with Che reinterred in Cuba & myself
resurrected in a western suburb of
Sydney, I have crafted this format
in which to lay the lines to rest.
8. & on the bus
I have been reading guevara’s ‘bolivian diary’,
day by day, each day more tragic &
everything so fucking inescapable I could not
bring myself to read the last few pages
& reach the one he never wrote.
Originally published in Poetry NZ 25 (Sep 2002)
© Mark Young