Sous Rature


                                                     Barry Schwabsky



                                                                  After Amy King


                                                                  Is this my last meal? Is this my only porn,
                                                                  my only easel—my last sentence? Could it have been
                                                                  floating in my head, flowing
                                                                  into yours? The philosopher’s
                                                                  conquest: my only
                                                                  look back, my only everything, except
                                                                  yours the last whip and crack, my lethal
                                                                  flight to quality, my low degree of bliss
                                                                  overthought (were I ever to think again)—

                                                                  My genius pants were far too tight.
                                                                  They split under a cloud of images.
                                                                  What cloud? Occulting what moon?
                                                                  These are questions for aesthetic beginners.
                                                                  “Tell us a secret,” the piano sings,
                                                                  immersed as it must be
                                                                  in the language of the fathers, a cavity
                                                                  as clean as the one we buried them in, long ago,
                                                                  as soft as the hollowed roundness behind the picture plane
                                                                  that slanted away that night, the aptly-shared intimacy we bent
                                                                  on lovely knees, still shuddering
                                                                  for art’s sake and yet unwilling to burden time with poetry,
                                                                  that night forgotten in your vaudeville life of silence.




                                                                  After Catherine Wagner


                                                                  The bloody show was entertaining us.
                                                                  The poet runs from the stars.
                                                                  The bloody show was causing us reaction.
                                                                  Her feet, sublimely imperfect.
                                                                  The bloody showy business made us money.
                                                                  We use it to incite people.
                                                                  The bloody business was a source of harmony
                                                                  so we began collecting illness to spread
                                                                  among us, the disciples of the bloody
                                                                  cherry tree, our new name:
                                                                  Folded and kept in a pocket.
                                                                  The business wasn’t bloody; it was blood.
                                                                  Blood, the pet name for a body.
                                                                  A body gleaming sweat in headlights unzipped into mud.
                                                                  Our open seams filled with sweaty words.
                                                                  The rest of us zipped tight our skins and opened
                                                                  an artery to the heart of my lover, leading right
                                                                  through our enemy’s, who did the bleeding for us.
                                                                  Veins always bring the blood back in the right direction, don’t they?




                                                                  After Simon Smith


                                                                  A few go there

                                                                  you ask me who but you know so well

                                                                  and whose heart stopped

                                                                  the pain a wasp feels when it stings you?


                                                                  Don’t stop at Deptford

                                                                  don’t blame my brown eyes blue

                                                                  PVC harder-wearing than diamonds

                                                                  lasts a thousand years

                                                                  manufacture to landfill


                                                                  Pegged together polyester blouse

                                                                  odd sock, panties, woollen skirt

                                                                  sour candy, bramble, ivy, marram grass:


                                                                  Fragments from Gravesend

                                                                  ghost memories, tricks.




                                                                  After K. Silem Mohammad (II)


                                                                  When a man has his tent ropes severed in sleep
                                                                  so curling up on the cold earth to rest
                                                                  the future is his only possible voice
                                                                  the brief and fretted dream in which

                                                                  arrested for treason having conspired
                                                                  to seize so many stars he was presently silent
                                                                  and slept in his secrets
                                                                  but what may I ask ever happened to the sleep

                                                                  he was buried in
                                                                  was it not until evening
                                                                  he heard your Highnesses’ calls to account
                                                                  he preached to Britain its manifest density

                                                                  working upon their fears he persuaded them that
                                                                  the accusation against Lord Russell was true
                                                                  soon the letters swarmed across the page
                                                                  like ants at a picnic

                                                                  the Duke himself told them they were mistaken
                                                                  but up he appeared in Westminster Hall
                                                                  stars swarmed across the sky that night
                                                                  my king he then died cheerfully in faith

                                                                  passed gratefully into restfulness too
                                                                  though the poem grew so long
                                                                  sleep came upon him copying scrolls
                                                                  amidst so many popping flashbulbs

                                                                  what else can I say of his dreaming end?
                                                                  he took his pipe out of his mouth when to sleep
                                                                  his dream a stipend from some future time
                                                                  and when the latter is said to be hard

                                                                  lost his head and drank the warm milk
                                                                  the north shall come and he was told not to fear
                                                                  for there was never any present tense
                                                                  o heart of this love be the slave

                                                                  fine sheets how soft how smooth
                                                                  and after that the music unless we try
                                                                  to stop it there is no turning back
                                                                  until a man of skin

                                                                  but look to the star that was written in an age
                                                                  when sleep could make you happy
                                                                  to stay in that island where they had landed
                                                                  the falcon all the while rubbing its narrow wings.