A few new poems by John Stokes
She hesitates at the gate...
The vines scrape down
She speaks, softer
than time sliding its locks
than the leaves shade-searching.
A hiss of new entry
dark stories flooding
from her belly, dark hair
preceding the yet unseen.
Don’t, she whispers
- don’t cut me in half
- that Chinese, sleepy, girl
sliding off with a pale youth.
They’ve gone off together
as with any whispering,
looking for the noble wish
the hoarded lie twining.
Sleep, sharp as any iron
tendrils the gateway
All things will fade
from the face of the naked.
The great illusion remains:
that her breath caught, her warmth
come into, would have been better
than the unseen, opening.
Elegy from a seaside
… and this stone-picture’s Wayne, the Suicide
doing it his way: longest finger
cocked up from the earth
into the sealight fading.
Here the surfer, boy of the sea
still suckled by his mother feeling
his salt mouth, his sighing
over the tablet gravestone of the waves.
Here the incongruous, Calvinist whalers
moaning with their predestinations:
born in sin, living to lament
relieving themselves in death
and here the mother lover, with her child
still moving, on top and hung
in the harness, the smash cut
gently into the mind at twilight
and Brad, who knew Sherryl
in the fullest Biblical sense
and Nathanial, who knew the kill
and the smell and ways of the mulloway.
These deaths: are so Australian
and yet, the same. They are sung
in the tongue of the water, the hiss
of the sandgrains rubbing
one with another, and another
and another, under bellbirds
sounding their deathknells
into the sealight fading.
So leave the dead ones to it
- they are, after all, forever
love them, leave them, go
pausing once, at some corner
(you will know when)
so the car-hoon
when he misses you by a nail
gives you the finger!
Resurrect your breath.
but with a chill,weak
the fall of the shoulder
the shadow in the fork
the shudder of rain
on old silences.
Nothing was hoped:
shared, a wire
back to a fear
of letting go:
too many years
invested. So goad
the children on
to their own next
our visible evidence
Existence, the moment, is cutting
along the valley
a chill, weak
3 Days on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel
Air-rain on the channel:
a body shivers itself into the lee of nothing:-
Swanson, long-dead uncle, making his last tack
a bare ledge-breadth above the Antarctic
into an opening blown clear through
into the imaginings of the damned,
the grey-beards running deep in to cast their auguries,
a true south-westerly breathing in his ear.
Sun-rain on the channel:
Today, rainbows, and random blessings on water
and the breath of ghosts on a rim:- the Swanson wife
the second one, the suicide, remembering
a silent music of imagined shining:
chance and wavespill on the edge of another country,
the safely lost, an order sung onto the waters.
Ground-rain on the channel:
and around the swelling island,
new ground; the subdivisions receiving their dues,
water, welling and driving the quince tree
as knuckles soften and push through soaked rock,
fattens the ground. And around, the bending island,
the dead uncle, the dead wife, the childless ones,
whisper lies of their next voyage.
There is rain on the channel…
Let there be two pines darkened
against a silver lake
and sun-gulled light, let
the drum-wave of the traffic begin
the sallow flush from head-high roofs
slanting down to the carp-fishers…
Let there be theology for the teeth
& practical fire
& soft tongues, brown
lapped water wished
along stone walls
built hand, by hand, by hand.
Tracing Charles Conder
PART 1: The Scriber wakes above the river
The scriber wakes and shines above water; the shadows harden into grit
This little groove is washed by song; under Big Mens’ smooth feet
And two men are fighting in the middle of the road
There is much focking in the tongues of the people
Dark ones are flopping in the dark
Blue-wired girls are slopping in the breezeway
A man in a dreamcoat’s standing in the rain
and in Africa, a lake is turning over…
Something from Rosie
The night before you died
I heard you, Rosie, creeping
down a dark hallway.
I am leaving, now,
you said. I’ll not be late.
I have given everything.
Look after my sister,
walk the last with my friends,
Speak softly to the silence.
The word you are looking for is love.
Keep the word.