Have you ever seen a Pomeranian goose? One comes to visit me every morning at the end of third shift. It's domesticated & the people next door to our medical facility let it wander. It waddles up to the walk as I leave work: honk honk do you have bread sir? Perhaps a fish or two? It's brown & white & big & a bit pushy. Pretty bird I tell it & it preens like an addled swan. I always wonder what the birds are saying. How do starlings sway in their murmuration across the sky? After do they tell each other, dude we nailed that one like a Top Gun. People want to find God, or know the secrets to the afterlife, but I’d be happy to know the words to the frantic grieving that flutters the wind when a nestling falls. Or the exact second the sun rises & the blackbirds, robins, & wrens all tremolo the trees with trills. But maybe the meaning is it’s all music. Maybe that is what music is? Maybe a song is just like sunlight. What does sunlight mean? Or rain? What is the absence of the story inside the rain?
My grandmother was at the widowed age when walking became “difficult.” That was the word she used when my mother urged her to use a cane. She tended the old pink sea roses I thought near dead, only a few blooms she cut with her arthritic hands. Long passed eighty, the way she bent from the waist, & often I wondered if she would stand again, but before I could help her, there she was, tough & gnarled as any bonsai, or an unkept lilac bush. I caught her smoking sometimes, one cigarette, she lit at the end of the day watching the sudden rain she loved fall. Years later she watched my daughter run calling grandma grandma grandma two syllables I thought might bring her back but even my name was far from her tongue difficult to recall through gray eyes, I thought maybe she saw someone from a world I never knew, long ago on the dusty farm of Oklahoma where she learned to speak to crows, caw caw caw she’d say & they always answered, turning their heads on any telephone line or fence, as the thorned pink of sea roses lost their petals, her arthritic hands still clipped as a rectangle of sunlight through the porch glass warmed the rug at her slippered feet, she drowsy singing a few soft words along with Ella on the radio, “your looks are laughable” giving a small chuckle, cormorants & gulls called & the smell of the sea blew in from the bay, her left-hand palm up on her lap as if waiting for someone to hold it.
When I was about 19 years, I recall this summer night
I put this Etta James cassette on my Sony Walkman
& took a bottle of wine I stole underage from the packy store
in my gym bag & walked down through the mill yard
between the empty mills & the lights from the west side
tenements rising up across the river, I sat drinking that wine,
rewinding this song about her man gone like my friend died at seventeen
drowned at the quarry— one shouldn’t know grief
like that at seventeen, grief a boy’s back is not made to carry
like a friend with a wounded foot, but the blues don’t know no age limit,
it’s sudden & old at the same time it takes who’s left you
with what's left of you & makes it rhyme.
living off the edge by Iain Britton
sometimes i feel stuck in the foreplay of a warm vaporous dream
i’m fascinated by this detachment of being – not being
i crave for new sounds – for intakes of fresh air – for
living off the edge of a clock
each day is transformative – each day rubs forecasts wrongly
corrugated clouds scrape changing summits
people don’t vanish that easily – they sleep amongst religious landfills
on the road – i cross a bridge – a lagoon – a fountain at work
often – a self-made fantasy rises from the water
i struggle with the mnemonics of a coded self – silhouettes
known to me – light fires in the dark
strange alliance by Iain Britton
the movement is quick methodical i pull off my jersey the sun folds it neatly
followers of the man in the grey boiler suit talk tactics for standing on street corners slapping graffiti on people’s faces
the day is hooked as if by its nose sniffing at cherry blossoms the wild life of children at female office workers sitting on lawns unwrapping aspects of their menfolk
around The Square i count my paces
this ritual never changes i take ownership of the footpaths then stop by the carved Taiapa gate
i grab my jersey put it on the church creaks of wood & brick with too much carbon dioxide on its breath sparrows land on crucifixes old marble prophets a renaissance figure of human light at the door
you arrive you kiss there’s more to this the sky condenses steam into herbal-laced mixtures & hands-on practitioners drink up & anything newsworthy instantly disrupts dissolves
a sudden exposure forces us apart to find new spaces a youth
plays his flute to whoever’s riding the clouds the wind gusts or thrusting nature’s accessories at invisible crowds
he’s the sole occupant of his island logged in & feeding on music
he plays his flute drinks coffee sticks his fingerprints on landmarks for the blind for the hard of hearing
some rituals never change
i smell the sweat of nearby sounds
of stacks-on-the-mill offices we expect a lot from opening books discussing good art ensuring the blue mosaic roof of the museum is part of the sky
we enter the long-distance lens of the grey-garbed performer preaching about the first birth first howl first mouthful of meat
at the Taiapa gate scraps of voices are picked over by workers returning to their homes
early moonlight chalks the footpaths whitens the bridge fondles stones
we mind map a long night’s journey into the contours of a metamorphosis a strange alliance emerges we let body cells liquefy extract core samples from our solar centres & for a short time we live spellbound attracted our seasons all entangled
Come dusk, the field makes the sound of a vanishing. I cut through, feeling just like a waste below the pinkish clouds that dangle without any language. Last night, was told that language makes the world. Tonight, the world makes the line, so crossed, like how still I can’t escape you, my addressee – the friend who died or the boy I once adored like a wind chime. Hello! The world feels exactly like itself, only perhaps quieter, less peopled. I miss you, of course. All of you. I’ve been feeling pregnant every day for the past week – at least the desire to be. That to mother would make me more loyal like the beginning of a story. That to be loyal is to behave. That to behave is to know, perhaps, about the deepest rhizomes of reverence. I have nothing but this body, its uncradled bloat, to give you – we could rest atop the grass, gravel, and wade through all the blinding saltwater of this earth.
They say I stole his favorite color. Blue. Fact. The idea that I loved him against a miraculous city, the city spinning onward like a great ship. Fact. Fact remains that we used to have potential: to carry wings of broken swallows, to name any animals at all. On farms, we carried cracked eggs between gold wings on our backs. Shells broke into our skins. We were becoming. It remains true that when he died, he wore his best sweater, and did not speak. Or he spoke softly, like a new kind of desire. Mornings, he touched my birthmark as though my body were the beloved. Fact. It was. Until the funeral, we were precisely alike. There were no metaphors. Only dull knives in the kitchen meant for slicing through cake.
I’ve saved the lines you read to me about the silver fish in the winter pond – even in January, they never grew cold. In January, we kept missing one another. No space, all distance. Too much space, not enough time. The night you left, I left, too, for a party where I intended to wail by the speaker. The music was loud, rapid and rabid as an ambulance. I was becoming my own infant. I’ve no idea what it’s like to be a mother! I’m beginning to own up to this, trying to live up to my regrets, looking for the simplicity in womanhood. Everywhere startles me. The world like bits of clam shell breaking into the soles of the feet. This afternoon, alone in my friend’s living room, traffic rears its head through the window. I still forget that people exist. The problem is thoughts rhyme too slowly. The bluest skies of California are just outside – your weather so far away.
How do people do it: fall in love, rise to occasions, jump to their deaths?
How can we have this and this and this with no commas between?
This and this are hard for me, but I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, so I pretend to be better than I am.
I have this secret fullness of feeling we call love.
And it’s for you.
Reflect me, text me, message me, “I love you too.”
carnivorous plants by Eric Adamson
Conversations with the Neighbourhood Girl by Vanessa Niu
I know what love is. It hides under the endless growing space under my bed, pulsing like a second, mechanical heart of mine. It is my nature to love, although falsely, at a distance, in friendship and in Girlhood loving with scraped-knees, juice sticky on my fingertips, fingertips worshipping the acnestis teeth bared against the sun.
I imagine Godhood is no further from true love than Tosca and Cavarodossi from mist-horned, moon-burnt, break-of-dawn, desert-reaching quietude and the great madness that pursues lovers (or so I have been told);
but knowledge is not experience as experience is knowledge. The goblet of water is not filled with water until it overflows even just by a bit, even if only it is the turbulent rippling of movement on the surface that causes it to spill. So do not call me ignorant of love—I bear a near full goblet. I am just a statue, unloved by any Pygmalion.
Ocean House by Stephano Pereira
The front door bursts open ocean waves gush into the house and beyond it the sky is a clean cerulean touched by a diamond air.
Pirate John with his skull and bones just lost the love of his life and steers a sinking ship with teardrop on his lip that’ll either hit or pass us but it’s hard to tell being so far and yet near.
On the other hand, once I was an invisible girl who cut herself into mirrors –
Self 1 sat on her knees in grim attention without a body but she spent her life trying to piece herself back together.
In this house where the ocean is she read old books and once she finished them they combusted into flames even though there was water everywhere.
Higher and higher the flames grew by the gold-silled window where the polaroids of her mom and dad was.
The darkest room in the house had an enormous eye in it the hazel eye of our dad and hair made of trees - it was the guest room.
Self 2 looked like Self 1 but he was always standing holding onto the ocean like a journal or a blanket and gazing always into that part of the house that had no walls.
They both lived there in the house that was filling up with water where their fires grew.
Far away beyond the pirate ship there were planes and labyrinths of ice and beyond that a yellow air-balloon racing towards them with a gondola filled with flowers like a mini garden this landscape promises to bring.
I don’t want to be held back any longer-- I want to float in the atmosphere with the darlings I slaughtered, ringed with marigolds / my dark hair / ringing with blackbirds, with stars in my throat. It is comforting to think there is something out there, surrounding us, waiting for us, filling our lungs, the sac that holds us, the sac of water we will return to—without truth, but faith as solid as a calcium rich shell filled with a delicate stuffing: red and green peppers, onions, and bread crumbs / shaped by my mother’s slim hands & slender memories / pumping two legs on a swing set, the wind rushing through the elms.
Excerpts by Simone Weil (adapted)
All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity. Grace is the only exception. To come down by a movement in which gravity plays no part… Gravity makes things come down, wings make them rise: what wings raised to the second power can make things come down without weight? Creation is composed of the descending movement of gravity, the ascending movement of grace and the descending movement of the second degree of grace. Grace is the law of the descending movement. To lower oneself is to rise in the domain of moral gravity.
Like a gas, the soul tends to fill the entire space which is given it. A gas which contracted leaving a vacuum—this would be contrary to the law of entropy. Not to exercise all the power at one’s disposal is to endure the void. This is contrary to all the laws of nature. Grace alone can do it. Grace fills empty spaces but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void. The necessity for a reward, the need to receive the equivalent of what we give. But if, doing violence to this necessity, we leave a vacuum, as it were a suction of air is produced and a supernatural reward results. It does not come if we receive other wages: it is this vacuum which makes it come.
Time is an image of eternity, but it is also a substitute for eternity. The present does not attain finality. Nor does the future, for it is only what will be present. We do not know this, however. If we apply to the present the point of that desire within us which corresponds to finality, it pierces right through to the eternal.
We have to go down to the root of our desires in order to tear the energy from its object. That is where the desires are true in so far as they are energy. It is the object which is unreal. But there is an unspeakable wrench in the soul at the separation of a desire from its object. If we go down into ourselves we find that we possess exactly what we desire.
Decreation: to make something created pass into the uncreated. Destruction: to make something created pass into nothingness. A blameworthy substitute for decreation. Creation is an act of love and it is perpetual. Everything which is grasped by our natural faculties is hypothetical. It is only supernatural love that establishes anything. Thus we are co-creators. We participate in the creation of the world by decreating ourselves. We only possess what we renounce; what we do not renounce escapes from us. We are born and live in an inverted fashion, for we are born and live in sin which is an inversion of the hierarchy. We have to be nothing in order to be in our right place in the whole. It is necessary to uproot oneself. By uprooting oneself one seeks greater reality.
We are drawn towards a thing because we believe it is good. We end by being chained to it because it has become necessary. Things of the senses are real if they are considered as perceptible things, but unreal if considered as goods. Appearance has the completeness of reality, but only as appearance. As anything other than appearance it is error.
The upward movement in us is vain (and less than vain) if it does not come from a downward movement. It is the crucified body which is a true balance, the body reduced to its point in time and space. We must not judge. We must let all beings come to us, and leave them to judge themselves. We must be a balance.
The beings I love are creatures. They were born by chance. My meeting with them was also by chance. They will die. I have to imitate God who infinitely loves finite things in that they are finite things. We want everything which has a value to be eternal. Now everything which has a value is the product of a meeting, lasts throughout this meeting and ceases when those things which met are separated. To know that what is most precious is not rooted in existence —that is beautiful. Why? It projects the soul beyond time.