Softly chanting shanty songs
I put my little boat to sea.
Coastline lights slowly shrink
blink and wink
white pinpoints disappearing.
Clouds hide moon and stars
so no horizon can be seen.
Only darkness all around
my little boat and me.
It has no sails motor oars
so drifts with tide and current motions.
But I’m never lost
becos I don’t know where I’m going.
Adrift with Chaos Destiny.
Missing the two loves left behind.
For a short time they’ll miss me.
Then I’ll be forgotten.
No real tragedy.
Just how things were meant to be.
Ending as it all began :
my little boat and me.
Despite its dislike for everything
not itself, the sand
likes trees. When they die
it buffs them
into a sort of stone, then attacks
the stone, till between
a night and a morning, they’re gone.
It also has no particular
quarrel with lizards that raise, first
their legs on one side, then the other’s,
from it; or snakes and fleas,
or humbler mammals; though no one could say
it supports them. When it reaches
the sea, dismissing
the green of coasts, it contemplates
no rival but an arriviste, and sees
(for all time is one
to sand) brackish shallows,
salt. It likes air,
though it could and will do
without it – likes
to rise with its help, rap playfully
on tanks, men walking, the remaining structures.
You might think the women compactly
hunched on cracked mud, wearing
wild dulled colors, with almost
their last portable property
in noses and ears, hair piously
and/or sensibly shrouded, are looking
beyond the wire at the
sand through a filter
of apprehension – the militias
might not be satisfied
this time with the last sacks
of rice and bottles of water
from the UN; or through layers
of ignorance, superstitious
mistrust of the camera, etc.; but
they see it well enough.
Wherever she tumbled I fell
up hill and down dell dale
and wherever we fell I lay I she lay
panting pantless that day
she me on top of me her
on the ridge of shifting sand
the sea pounding below our
frantic & ampersand
later we packed our gear
our thoughts regrets delight over bright as the moon
[later we left the beach
back to our lonely rooms]
a hug a kiss a quick look round
‘I’ll call you soon!’
trans. Tracy Ryan
When you close my eyes to the light, linger
As you kiss them, for they will have given
All that endures of loving passion
To you in the last glance of their last ardour.
By the funeral lamp’s unflinching glow,
Lean your sad, lovely face toward their farewell
So they can be imprinted with the sole
Image they’ll keep below.
And let me feel, before the coffin’s shut,
How we join hands upon the pure white bed
And how upon the pale pillow beside
My brow, your cheek rests one crowning moment.
And after, let me go far off, my heart
Preserving for you a flame of such strength
That even through the dead, compacted earth
The other dead will feel the heat.
(from Les Heures du soir, 1911)
My father had an upper lip that was quite long
Whereas my mother boasted one that was short;
Such is the intermixture of parenthood.
Who can discern the specific claims of ancestry
By this or that small detail? The nose or the jaw
Tell only so much, and even that proves dubious.
And yet, seeing my aunt in her old age
Take on the attributes of her father – that Scottish nose -
Revealed to me the hidden clams of ancestry.
I’d never guessed before that she carried those genes
Seeing only herself and the world that she had made
But there it was, in the open at last.
We carry a long line of ancestry. My lip
May seem as if neither parent had claim
But am continually taken by surprise each time I stare into a mirror.
Sheila E. Murphy
Germane to the nth reach of the chimney
grew a random vine that laced itself round all sides.
He arrived, invited, grew gregarious, and proffered
pandemonium for those who found it difficult to wake.
Summer happens almost apart from an awareness
that the skin, no longer cold, releases new endorphins.
Woodwind players resolve to grow accustomed
to the nasal tones of mothers calling children after dark.
Heresy reputed to be less-than-obvious,
remains the truth in minds least fastened to dogma.
Sheila E. Murphy‘s most recent book publication is a collaboration with Douglas Barbour (University of Alberta Press, 2012), Continuations 2, recently shortlisted by the Alberta Book Awards for the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award. Her home is in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Near the bedroom blind
dark pales to light.
to my surprise
I stare – blink – flutter eyelids -
test toe movement.
Body may see me
through another day.
What had I dreamed, then?
It must have been
of disembodied travel
leaving flesh behind -
almost to the terminus
once more, once more
checked and passed
by the stern conductor
return ticket valid -
safe passage -
looking in to where
my stilled shape reclined
surprised it would be
Spent such a short time, a cold time, in a small town a seven-churches-three-Chinese merchants town a town of unbreakable rules and habits even the rabble obeyed
but not the wild dogs that bayed at the stars, ripped at the lambs out in the night, fell to rifles, hung lifeless from spotlighting utes outside this cold town, icy river town that floods sometimes, a blackfella drowns, tents and bridges washed downstream, the wailing
and the screams got a brief mention from some pulpits in this bullpit town
being slowly worn down by bendable rules and changing habits so that if we’d hung around
a few more years, taken out a mortgage on a house on nob hill, joined a golf club, the CWA, got on committees, got promotions, gone through the motions of converts, who knows,
a long time, a warmer time, a few good crop seasons, mangy dogs eradicated,
three or four churches shutting their doors or amalgamating, giving all the blackfellas their rights after getting their gratitude in triplicate, who knows but with another generation,
each with a one way ticket up to the cemetery, we might, just might, have stayed on, but it’s a handout town, hand-me-down town, father to son town, a hold-on-to-what-we’ve-got town,
a run-them-down-town, a run-them-out-of-town town…and we’re still running.
Gideon left me a bible
whoever Gideon is –
good if I was able
to thank him.
The bible’s new
but full of old words
lots I don’t know.
Who is Begat?
The plot’s odd too –
far too many stories
and the main guy in the new
bit ends bad.
Not a bedtime read
if you ask me
so why did Gideon need
to leave it beside the bed?
Maybe he just forgot
and I’d like really I would
to return it not
just leave it but
I don’t have his
mobile number he’ll
just have to buy
be more careful.