I don’t really ‘get’ this poem, and yet I love it. Sometimes it is nice to have a little mystery in a poem. It is both whimsical and dark, all at once. I think I relate to it as a maker of things, also. I make small dolls myself and agree there is something entirely sinister about the process – like pretending to be god. Do tell me what you make of it. Here are the other Tuesday Poems.
****

Stuffed

by Carol Ann Duffy

I put two yellow peepers in an owl.
Wow. I fix the grin of Crocodile.
Spiv. I sew the slither of an eel.
I jerk, kick-start, the back hooves of a mule.
Wild. I hold the red rag to a bull.
Mad. I spread the feathers of a gull.

I screw a tight snarl to a weasel.
Fierce. I stitch the flippers on a seal.
Splayed. I pierce the heartbeat of a quail.

I like her to be naked and to kneel.
Tame. My motionless, my living doll.
Mute. And afterwards I like her not to tell.

How he found her


He tells the legend

again, how they met

over the varsity

dissection table.

Did their hands touch?

Did he admire her

frown of concentration?

Did she call him

a buffoon, even then?

When did he know?

As he watched intently

her small fingers

peeled back the skin

and pinned it down,

exposing the muscle layer

then deeper to the organs,

pulling them out –

laying them on the table.

Go here for more Tuesday Poems.

(cross posted to Show Your Workings)

Click the feather to the right of here to see more Tuesday poems.

I copied this poem out of The New Yorker ages ago.

I love imperative poems, poems which tell you to go and DO something (but not didactic poems, there is a difference). How can you argue with a poem which begins “be yourself”? It is slightly grim, this poem, and yet…and yet…I find it weirdly affirming (but then my favourite bands are The Smiths and Joy Division, so perhaps I’m a bit of a miserablist.)

YOU

by Dennis O’Driscoll

Be yourself; show your flyblown eyes
to the world, give no cause for concern,
wash the paunchy body whose means you
live within, suffer the illnesses
that are your prerogative alone-

the prognosis refers to nobody but you;
you it is who gets up every morning
in your skin, you who chews your dinner
with your mercury-filled teeth, gaining
garlic-breath or weight, you dreading,

you hoping, you regretting, you interloping.

***

Sometimes you might wonder things about the people behind these blogs you read…but you feel a bit weird about asking them random questions in the comments, or via email. It can feel too confrontational, too odd. Or maybe you have a slightly THORNY question?

.

Well, now thanks to the postmodern madness of the internet, you can ask us anything anonymously via a little platform called formspring. The questions just arrive in our formspring in-boxes with no clue as to where they came from.

HH’s formspring is here

HL’s formspring is here.

I joined for a bit of a laugh about three weeks ago, not really thinking anyone would ask me anything much after the first couple of days, but so far I have answered 73 questions! Some of them have been pretty raw/deep/bold questions! Answering them has been very thought-provoking…at times even a little bit uncomfortable, and yet…I am enjoying it in some strange way…I don’t entirely understand why…

(cross-posted to showyourworkings)

1.

The people who lived here before us

also loved these high mountain meadows on summer mornings.

They made their way up here in easy stages

when heat began to dry the valleys out,

following the berry harvest probably and the pine buds:

climbing and making camp and gathering,

then breaking camp and climbing and making camp and gathering.

A few miles a day. They sent out the children

to dig up bulbs of the mariposa lilies that they liked to roast

at night by the fire where they sat talking about how this year

was different from last year. Told stories,

knew where they were on earth from the names,

owl moon, bear moon, gooseberry moon.

2.

Jaime de Angulo (1934) was talking to a Channel Island Indian

in a Santa Barbara bar. You tell me how your people said

the world was made. Well, the guy said, Coyote was on the mountain

and he had to pee. Wait a minute, Jaime said,

I was talking to a Pomo the other day and he said

Red Fox made the world. They say Red Fox, the guy shrugged,

we say Coyote. So, he had to pee

and he didn’t want to drown anybody, so he turned toward the place

where the ocean would be. Wait a minute, Jaime said,

if there were no people yet, how could he drown anybody?

The Channelleño got a funny look on his face. You know,

he said, when I was a kid, I wondered about that,

and I asked my father. We were living up toward Santa Ynez.

He was sitting on a bench in the yard shaving down fence posts

with an ax, and I said, how come Coyote was worried about people

when he had to pee and there were no people? The guy laughed.

And my old man looked up at me with this funny smile

and said, You know, when I was a kid, I wondered about that.

3.

Thinking about that story just now, early morning heat,

first day in the mountains, I remembered stories about sick Indians

and—in the same thought—standing on the free throw line.

St. Raphael’s parish, where the northern-most of the missions

had been, was founded as a hospital, was named for the angel

in the scriptures who healed the blind man with a fish

he laid across his eyes.—I wouldn’t mind being that age again,

hearing those stories, eyes turned upward toward the young nun

in her white, fresh-smelling, immaculately laundered robes.—

The Franciscan priests who brought their faith in God

across the Atlantic, brought with the baroque statues and metalwork crosses

and elaborately embroidered cloaks, influenza and syphilis and the coughing disease.

Which is why we settled an almost empty California.

There were drawings in the mission museum of the long, dark wards

full of small brown people, wasted, coughing into blankets,

the saintly Franciscan fathers moving patiently among them.

It would, Sister Marietta said, have broken your hearts to see it.

They meant so well, she said, and such a terrible thing

came here with their love. And I remembered how I hated it

after school—because I loved basketball practice more than anything

on earth—that I never knew if my mother was going to show up

well into one of those weeks of drinking she disappeared into,

and humiliate me in front of my classmates with her bright, confident eyes,

and slurred, though carefully pronounced words, and the appalling

impromptu sets of mismatched clothes she was given to

when she had the dim idea of making a good impression in that state.

Sometimes from the gym floor with its sweet, heady smell of varnish

I’d see her in the entryway looking for me, and I’d bounce

the ball two or three times, study the orange rim as if it were,

which it was, the true level of the world, the one sure thing

the power in my hands could summon. I’d bounce the ball

once more, feel the grain of the leather in my fingertips and shoot.

It was a perfect thing; it was almost like killing her.

4.

When we say “mother” in poems,

we usually mean some woman in her late twenties

or early thirties trying to raise a child.

We use this particular noun

to secure the pathos of the child’s point of view

and to hold her responsible.

5.

If you’re afraid now?

Fear is a teacher.

Sometimes you thought that

Nothing could reach her,

Nothing can reach you.

Wouldn’t you rather

Sit by the river, sit

On the dead bank,

Deader than winter,

Where all the roots gape?

6.

This morning in the early sun,

steam rising from the pond the color of smoky topaz,

a pair of delicate, copper-red, needle-fine insects

are mating in the unopened crown of a Shasta daisy

just outside your door. The green flowerheads look like wombs

or the upright, supplicant bulbs of a vegetal pre-erection.

The insect lovers seem to be transferring the cosmos into each other

by attaching at the tail, holding utterly still, and quivering intently.

I think (on what evidence?) that they are different from us.

That they mate and are done with mating.

They don’t carry all this half-mated longing up out of childhood

and then go looking for it everywhere.

And so, I think, they can’t wound each other the way we do.

They don’t go through life dizzy or groggy with their hunger,

kill with it, smear it on everything, though it is perhaps also true

that nothing happens to them quite like what happens to us

when the blue-backed swallow dips swiftly toward the green pond

and the pond’s green-and-blue reflected swallow marries it a moment

in the reflected sky and the heart goes out to the end of the rope

it has been throwing into abyss after abyss, and a singing shimmers

from every color the morning has risen into.

My insect instructors have stilled, they are probably stuck together

in some bliss and minute pulse of after-longing

evolution worked out to suck the last juice of the world

into the receiver body. They can’t separate probably

until it is done.

In this poem Hass has so much going on – the church and Franciscan monks alongside the Native American myths and then he leaps to his mother, the drunk, his creator.

They meant so well, she said, and such a terrible thing

came here with their love. And I remembered how I hated it

after school – because I loved basketball practise more than

anything

on earth – that I never knew if my mother was going to show up… (p8)

This is so clever. Firstly he is using the Franciscan monks and the diseases they unwittingly brought with them as a metaphor for his mother’s destructive love. Secondly he is making connections between his own creator (his mother) and Coyote not wanting to drown people in piss. And then there are the line breaks! Meaning well becomes a terrible thing. He hates ‘their love’ and he loves basketball more than perhaps his mother.

Study the orange rim as if it were,

which it was, the true level of the world, the one sure thing

the power of my hands could summon. I’d bounce the ball

once more, feel the grain of the leather in my fingertips and shoot.

(p9)

I just find this astounding every time I read it. Again, the line breaks and then shooting his mother along with the ball. He has such a light touch, yet it is unflinching. He manages the whole Sharon Olds Love/Hate thing but with even more finesse and layers.

You can read Robert Haas’ Poets.org profile here and more of his poems.

Robert Hass, “Dragonflies Mating” from Sun Under Wood. Copyright © 1996 by Robert Hass.

I want to do a little plug for a beautiful New Zealand magazine, extra curricular (for creative folk).

It is all about our country’s artists and makers and illustrators and creative-types, but in an accessible way. It is a very welcoming magazine. They are all people making art in their spare time. It is absolutely sweet and lovely in terms of the design, the photography and the content. After reading it, I wanted to drop everything in my daily life and get making things.

Please do support it if you are interesting in NZ art/craft/illustration/handmade…recently another NZ magazine World Sweet World announced it was to stop after just a handful of issues. This is only issue two of extra curricular, but I wish for it many more issues. I can see it becoming NZ’s version of the equally lovely Frankie.

You can buy it here. It has a blog here, and a facebook page here.

Evelyn Annie

by helen lehndorf

Poor Evelyn Annie with her addled brain.
But how you loved her anyway.

Lying in the sunroom, her house with that smell
of gas and lavender. Who towards the end,
took a 10am sherry. “A little of what you fancy,
does you good.”

When your small teeth proved too feeble,
for the gingernuts
she dipped them in her tea,
fed you like a baby bird.

And the ninety chocolate buttons
on her ninetieth birthday cake-
she fought you for every last one.
“Get off! They’re mine. I’ve earned them.”

Evelyn Annie who earned money
by wet-nursing. Who saved her
premature twin boys from dying with
breast milk and whiskey, dripped into them
off a spoon. Who never swore, but said “Archbishop!”

The only toy she had for you,
were three brass monkeys:
Hear, see, speak no evil. And
a knitted tea-cosy in the shape of a house.
Evelyn Annie who never owned her own house.

Last pat of the hand, she didn’t recognise you, but took
your gift of a handkerchief dabbed with lavender oil.

Sniffed it and smiled.
Evelyn Annie who hated waste. Newspaper
became toilet paper. Butter paper lined baking tins.
And when she had her tonsils out, asked to take them home.
Fed them to her cat.

*****

HH and I are excited to take part in Mary McCallum’s new initiative: The Tuesday Poem Writers from all over New Zealand post a poem by themselves, or someone else. I’m all for more poetry in pixel-land. Thank you, Mary for a great idea!

I’ve gone in for a bit of vanity with our first poem – I wrote it. It received a ‘highly commended’ in the 2008 Bravado Poetry competition.

Evelyn Annie was my maternal great grandmother. Enjoy!

Well, that was rather a long stretch between posts, wasn’t it?

We are both still here, though. Helen H has been busy gaining herself an MA in Creative Writing and I’ve been busy coming to terms with one of life’s curve-balls.

I remember last year some of our readers (are you still out there, readers? I wouldn’t blame you for wandering off…) were surprised that Helen and I had only met once for five minutes. Since then, Helen came and stayed with me for a night and was the guest poet at a local live poetry night. She read beautifully and sold lots of copies of her chapbook. We had some great chats and a fantastic morning of op-shopping.

Then, over the summer I spent a delightful day with Helen at her place. There she is (above) sitting at her kitchen table. Her house is wonderful – a true artist’s nest – and we spent the day in animated conversation about writing & the writing world and our hopes, ambitions, delusions and dilemmas…

Now we are tucked up our separate corners of the country, both working on editing/polishing/refining/reworking our poetry manuscripts. Wish us both luck!

Now that she’s slept on my living room floor and I’ve drunk tea at her kitchen table, I feel like we are ‘proper’ friends…not just an online project.

Sorry about the long absence. It is lovely to be back.

Inspired by an old post of Helen L’s I am going to entertain you with some awful stuff from my school year book I wrote 21 years ago. Prepare to cringe, mwahahaha!

I’ve been looking at the garden for the last six months, thinking how I should’ve really pulled some weeds so I could plant some more veges. I promised myself that I wouldn’t make my self feel guilty about things like that in such a busy year but I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be picking fresh veges from my plot.

Today I grabbed a few handfuls of chickweed out of the vege patch to feed the chooks and noticed as I got up close: lettuce, celery, carrots and in another corner broad beans!

These little seedlings are making their way despite the weeds, on their own accord; plants that had self-seeded from the previous crops. I just need to do some minimal weeding and they’ll take off. The prognosis wasn’t as bad as I had imagined.

When I first started my MA this year I was worried – would I be able to keep up with the workload, would I get writer’s block, would I remember anything, would my brain still work, would all the bright young things leave me in their dust?

I’m sure all mothers experience a similar mix of these anxieties when they return to work after a period of time away with children.

What I discovered was I had 8 years worth of ideas that had been germinating in the dark recesses of my brain, which only needed the slightest stimulation to take off (and that motherhood gives you an amazing stamina!)

I’m slowly starting to realize that it’s okay to let your land / mind lay fallow for a while, in fact, it may even be beneficial – not stripping all the nutrients from extensively working your plot.

I’m sure I won’t be able to (and don’t want to) wait another 8 years before the next intensive work effort but I will be less anxious about the wait, happier to see it as part of the process in the future and able to trust that a few self-sown seeds will make their own way to the light.