new zealand electronic poetry centre

J E N    C R A W F O R D

keira st

and letters come, rain, the poems
like a mouthful of salt
and some like a room or a drawer
filled with precious tickets, strange coins,
the notes of a quiet hand.
in the garden a cat collapses
to an ecstasy of sunshine and scoria
while sun rolls its burning, weeping bones
to the far side of the house.  
where is there shade against this? –
the single moment
stretched across a lifetime,
the way dailiness shivers
in that moment’s long heat,
threatens to disappear,
and then won’t
like a mouthful of salt
and a dry wind persisting
even now
let us say that something as beautiful as –
a plastic bag, caught in air currents, opened, laughing –
was once touched by the merest fingernail
of a flame which was eating something, hungrily,
nose close to the ground and out of frame
the bag is dancing                      is gone
your son’s friends sit on the floor, their hair dyed bright as grief, their hands
working open and closed, palms gasping
and your body as you speak is larger than your body
the word ‘body’ no longer sounds the same

someone’s deaf aunt was quavering in the foyer
asking too loudly about sedation.
she and I didn’t know
that you could stand and release your voice
to touch every torn tissue, every cell,
            whole words coming to you like rain
to render these gulfs of air as
nothing      but humming connection,
to touch even there, beneath a too-thick shirt, the weakened shoulder
of a broad, unspeaking man in the second-last row,
to say yes
my hands are empty
the boy is digging sand. from the dunes you imagine
reaching to check the temperature of his skin; can you give him
your long-sleeved shirt, will he come back beneath the tree?
but he’s found the point where sand gives way to water
like magic, and never fails, and the shine of it keeps you
like a warm-blooded creature of the sea
to the rare, deep pool of light
where an image may hold you,
as you rest
now, after mountains and deserts, you come again
to the house with his name on its laundry door. two lines
mark six month’s growth – the span of an adult’s palm.
through the wattle the works flames shiver
but are constant, quiet at this distance,
as subtle as a cat
stealing onto your lap, again, kneading –
night is composed of broken threads
of light pulling free of a needle
which falls in the lapse of
breath, hope, memory
something we could name as a god
who yet fails to be returned whole–
and minutes will pass with you in the garden
motionless, your eyes caught in a well of blackness
made by chance in the loose stacking of rocks.
            some days light touches on a web in there,
            some days it doesn’t
and months will pass to the sounds
of honeyeaters, thunder, windchimes
the boom of slag hitting water
of pounding-heart boys burning out tyres
of welding, of weddings,
of rain–
in leaving I hear it again:
the mute and crying world
as it receives what you have given;
this echoes, and is not lost.


Last updated 28 April, 2006