Cuttlefish Edition No.2 June 2018
Rose van Son
My first kiss
Was it Bill? Faded jeans, an experienced tongue—
or Tim—too tall, too shy—(but nice).
Or Jo? Same height, same age, same sex—
or Grace—fresh toothpaste, slow, polite.
Or was it John, the vicar’s son—alleluia!—
(on my knees), or Chip, with stubble
on a rockstar chin? Was it deep and ‘French’—
did my jaw go numb? Or was it furtive, rushed—
and somehow wrong? I remember the sound
of a saxophone, I remember the feeling
of flesh leaving bone. When I opened
up my eyes, too much light rushed in, so
I opened up my self, made the hurting begin.
Nothing to declare
I thought I’d given up France
for good, scoured the Gauloises
from my tongue, but still I’m avid
I am an addict,
who does not fight disease
so much as battle with the cure.
My name is ———. I fall
in love with countries, use men
as their proxies, at night
I spread their bodies out tight,
let rivers unravel,
plateaus cramp, canyons open up
like wounds. I may be exploring
different skins, but underneath,
their geographies are just
the same, the compass needle
lurches northwards every time.
At first, I travelled in my sleep—
borders aren’t patrolled
in dreams—I flowed from Italy
to Mexico, carrying my cravings
like contraband. I dived down
under, prised apart
the hemispheres with my nomadic
need. But it wasn’t enough—
waking alone on the blade
of a cold equator—
so I’ve shrunk the world
to a scarab track
where I roll my lust
like a ball of dung
from dateline to horizon,
with the swivel of an eye,
invade these realms
a month or two, then deport myself,
no forwarding address—
not even a scrap of nametag
stuck to the teeth of the carousel—
gifts for cloud
somewhere beyond lights are on lights are going off
where road and thought conspire moon and Blackwood seeping
between a kitchen chair and unbreathing don’t go
yonder, no, but you do, off amongst tuarts are
lights replaced by creed? you, book fallen, sit where lights
are not needed for word laminex table, on,
on, letters not scrawled now, skin chilled and clammy are
lights swaddling you? the kindling stacked, though heat and light
are but gifts for cloud medals, marches, all beyond,
gone to where the Blackwood eddies and pools not be-
ing, not even that last call for fluorescence, where
off-going are lights on aren’t lights, beyond where-some
the colour of healing
it’s a thick silence,
unrehearsed and accidental,
with the house suddenly empty.
rare, in a home like this –
grand piano, two ‘cellos, violin, guitar –
three musicians and a dog,
Bach Chaconnes, Chopin Preludes and
high pitched whines joining ‘cello duets
has me thinking though,
about the repositories of silence
because it’s been here and waiting,
in the 45 degrees of stairwell, the angle
providing harbour, a balloon of silence
the colour of healing
My sister sent the clover-leaf table from the UK. It went astray, weathered
a storm; battered and bruised landed on my veranda. A scrawny leg poked through
the crate, like a sheep in live transportation. I once yelled at the driver of a sheep
truck on Leach Highway. A leg stuck out. It hurt. I demanded he stop. He didn’t.
Years ago, my brother climbed in the loft, balanced along beams and slipped.
A leg dangled through the ceiling. He hobbled about in a plaster-cast for months.
But this was an antique table. I polished it with bees-wax, fixed its leg with super-
glue. Stood it in the corner. Stoic. Majestic. Admired as a throne. Queen Bee carved
from a tree. While I was cooking dinner, three-year-old Lily drew on the table
with Derwent colour pencils: grass green, sky blue, a pink cloud or two, and mauve.
Content as sheep nibbling clover, she whispered, I’m writing. We deciphered it with fingertips. Pencils
slithered from the tin like skinny legs of lambs being born.
they walk bent as
bows through the dunes
feet shuffling through
memory of sand
heads bowed to the wind & gull
huddle together on the sloped
the waking in their toes
intent on the shoreline.
here they disrobe themselves
drop years from their bodies with
the sagging cardigan
crumpled skirt & trouser
arise from the dumping
like new birds.
feet edge into liminal
saltwater slush sending shocks
wind picks up their hair
throws it behind them
& they face the sea
all their lined histories
enter their past
water transforming skin
flooding sinus infusing muscle.
there are children in Watermans Bay
sinking under the slow curl
drifting in the thermals.
later a couple bent as
bows will shuffle themselves
back to the Boardwalk
sandals in fists
hair full of sand.
At Dietzenbach Pool
she is eleven
steps in the shallows of the outdoor pool
sunscreen, rashi, goggles
swims away to the deep zone
dives, comes up, dives
into dolphin, dreaming
smile as broad
as a beach
I hear you
your blackness unseeing me
as if you are cut out
of that tree
just the pale ring of your eye
blade ring of your voice
locked in, those
vast adiabatic days
till the land emptied
and air stopped
drained to sea heaviness
in the baking interlude
they walked home
low as grey parrots
settling, fanning out
to porches and farm gates
past trucks and air brakes
steam of railway engines
drinking out of taps
splashing their faces
drifting into kitchens
What is it about this coast?
Is it the bald sun dropping
over the western rim
into a thump of waves?
Or is it the steel blue curling
foam crawling up the beach
and feet burning on its hot gold?
Or is it our colonial history,
the city’s beaches
Scarborough, Marmion, Cottesloe
English names stamped
on our summer playgrounds?
Or is it sky-sails billowing rainbows
on a warm Sunday afternoon?
Or mannequins surfing a wave
arms holding up a sky?
Or does a beach unfold like a poem?
Beach rhymes on a page of sand
Miscellaneous Autumn Maples, Kyoto
Such delicate hands
the Japanese maples have,
so petite and green,
waving goodbye to summer
with here and there a cut finger.
or yet mosquito larvae—
but no other life
graced the granite bowl until
the maple’s coloured starfish.
a woman in traditional
obi and sandal.
And see, in its autumnal
kimono, the small maple.
Like a well-bred
gentleman, the gardener
picks up the red
(for which others never stopped)
handkerchief the maple dropped.
conspire each fall to challenge
But who could win against those
slender limbs and stunning clothes?
I’ve seen pictures of a girl,
a German Jew,
who was, like you, skeletal—
and she wore a small star, too.
‘If the heart of me
is transience,’ momiji
‘why every autumn do I
sorrow at the loss of me?’
was once practised in Japan,
but never suttee.
Besides, you are not widows
nor are you by creed Hindu!
Is it compassion
that moves the maples to join
bereft mothers who
dress the Jizo stones in bibs
or have they lost seedlings, too?
(i.m. the Kakure Kirishitans)
‘Our trunks are the stakes
to which the martyrs were tied,
our leaves are the flames
in which they blistered and died,’
explained the maples, horrified.
As they spun out
during the scourging of Christ,
so the blood-drops
are hurtling from the maples
as the wind flogs their raw backs.
It’s almost perverse
the maples’ stark revealing
our poor universe—
stars turning red and reeling
under the Transience Curse.
Buddhist Temple Bell
Hung by its handle
an unflared clapperless bell—
dangled in its own temple
with a wood ramming pole.
The bell may bellow
with every blow, but the beam,
too, takes a bashing:
only an iron hoop stops
its flattened end from splitting.
The striking panel,
the tsuki-za pounding point,
of the brass bonsho
bears a lotus motif boss
to brace the bell against loss.
Unless they pommel
the lotus-embellished bell
it won’t peal or toll—
so it waits for monks to call
to pound its boss with a pole.
She arrived in a suitcase
Neater than the third shot of whiskey
Curled up in a carved-out corner
Arms folded like laundry
Ironed flat, dried by the pressure
The tea-leaves hanging from her hair
Were uninterested in the semantics, the oxygen masks
After the flight over forty-four fallacies
She left a trail of beach-burdened fingertips in her wake
Reddened like ripe, raw cherries
Half-bitten and left to burst
Like spores filled with blood
They would, at a moment’s hurriedly scribbled notice
Burn and drown like candle wicks in wax
Alight, the zig-zag of lost lovers
Formed a constellation through a handprint of countries
They were the residue, really
Of a juggernaut thundering through
Built from a body, somehow unthinking, unwishing
Surely never, ever stopping
Someone small enough to slip into the stomach of a suitcase
Worldly enough to wait with the watches
Los Angeles Voices
Beneath our plane and Californian sun,
from San Gabriel mountains to the sea
Once El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles–
now pared back to Los Angeles
or LA for speed.
Yet la Reina’s tongue
is still everywhere in her pueblo–
Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, Hermosa
and Redondo beaches, Palos Verdes,
San Pedro Bay with Santa Catalina Island
sunning itself off the coast.
Tides of Latino accents
lapping the city like Pacific waves.
Other voices too sibilate
in the substratum–
beneath the footpaths of Sunset Strip
inscribed by the movie famous
beneath cathedrals and downtown skyscrapers
beneath boulevards that travel to the sea.
that called to Cabrillo from canoes
to come ashore
visit their brush huts.
mutated to Gabrieleño prayers
in praise of la Reina and her saints,
who uninvited came
Wednesday evenings they emerge;
wheeled smartly down driveways
clattering out into the street,
lined up like daleks on parade.
Stoically indifferent as to weather,
their presence is inevitable.
It is their moment inescapable.
With wheels precisely aligned to kerb,
lids secure over cavernous bellies
they stand rigid in anticipation.
Rank upon silent rank, street after street.
A veritable army; brimming with detritus
containing all the secrets of the world.
These are the timekeepers,
counting off the days, the years,
the entirety of living in between.
Each Wednesday brings a kind of communion,
a cleansing of the soul
and its accumulated encrustations.
At road’s edge, penitent, self-effacing,
resolute as martyrs, they remain steadfast,
secure in the knowledge
that the blessing will eventuate.
Come morning, they will be raised on high,
catharsis will ensue, absolution achieved.
In the aftermath they are discarded,
Lying askew on verges, exposed to the elements
In due course, each one will be collected
to lumber cumbersome back down driveways
and be stowed away somewhere in dim obscurity.
Of necessity will they be refilled, replenished,
‘til each tomorrow blurs and Wednesday returns.
(For I.M.P. and J.M.G.P.)
Is amity a wave
in an ocean
and solace, a frown
to wash the deck,
or a sail billowing
on a raft going
I am glad
you and I have met,
walked, played tennis
listened to Elgar,
Baez – shared
a bed, a house
and have a daughter
who loves and likes
you and I.
Like the Mist
After writing for hours
by one of the windows
in one of the rooms
at the home she occupies
and looks after
she looked up for
a break, noticing
eaves made of iron
above the panes
of a window framed by
banksias, bottle brushes,
bushes, a palm and a plane
refrain and refrains.
There was enough quiet
to discover that
in fair weather for
fair weather seldom last,
that a resolve asks
The mist, lingering
in the province of risk,
lifted to cover findings, givens.
A small boy returns
on a hotel porch on the front
his flapping tie sea-breezed
he’s back again on business
holiday smells come in
front end loader diesel-fuming
as its inscrolling the beach
above the surf
seagulls, adepts at windsurfing
in slip-sliding air
in tummy-tum shallows
on to his freckled back
till a splish-splashing past
old caged cockatoo
Picasso might have thought of you
as a white pocket handkerchief
a beak with tangled triangles
but those shreds of blue
you were meant to electrify
those hollowed logs
your family were to occupy
failures, oh yes, failures
we understand each other
me and you
Dawn on Eric Street Bridge, Winter, 1954
Rose ether inflates the sky
train slides to bridge on argental glints
tendrils of a cold breeze
born on faraway desert dunes and swales
blush my skin
hands retract into my cardigan sleeves.
I’m swallowed by steam and grime
rewarded with fleeting warmth
flash of bright firebox.
In dim yellow carriage light
a man hunches in an old army greatcoat
nursing a Gladstone bag.
A young woman reconciles her murky
soot - smeared window
with the pristine sky beyond.
1. She never finished
She never finished her song
but grew weaker with each stanza
Her fine voice faded
Her resonance stilled
More stanzas that I never heard
are sung somewhere else
in better company than I
But I wish I could hear just one note
to bring her back to me
I tried to save her but the baby fell
I tried to hold her but did not hold her well
I tried to love her but my love was ill
I tried to keep her but she had her will
My baby fell and broke apart her life
and in my heart there lay a glittering knife
The knife has rusted there and still remains
My heart has healed and scarred
and loves her just the same
Sing open the gate
My voice fights against the constant hum
of more important tones manifest in traffic jams
and living rooms, flitting from renovation to school fees
to new job/new wife, avoiding new life
jingling tunes that catch your mind, whisk it away
saying someone else will take care of your concerns.
Deep in your self-knowing
you hear me murmur
below the surface
Come on! Risk dipping your toe
into this tepid dark
Hear my scratching voice sore with use/misuse
declare the unloved truth.
One voice is heard but many more
shout in silence. Let their cry from the desert
reach the town where this miserable note becomes
a chorus of the world watching
and we sing open the gate.
I wake and look for the moon
Ithaca gave you your lovely journey
Without it, you would never have set out
Her aunt knew the ways of the moon
the way vegetables bloomed in night light
how they trailed, spilled by morning rays
the April moon full of expectation
tempted by southern winter rain, days
filled with promise of a fragrant spring
to have set out on a journey, to have travelled
from the northern summer to the southern winter
from sweet tomatoes to sweet potatoes
those hungry faces of a moonlit night
so soon after solstice. They have passed
the worst of it, she knows, the moon
promising so much would deliver
as it delivered flavour to her father’s house
her mother filling empty mouths
& she looked at life as a verse
having the means to turn, to fold when needed
to break when a new breath called
& there were many, another child born
just when there seemed no strength to bear–
no space by the fire to keep the child warm
& she mapped her concern in the child’s brow
as if the child knew as she acted her dreams
to appear as bright as she could
when she sang in her low voice
in the voice of her mother, she kept
her mother’s Ave Maria in mind.
the child smiled and the flicker
from the fire stretched her voice
& a new volta born.
In her aunt’s last winter, the storm
over, the orange crop overwhelmed
the sky a turned summer blue.
Rose van Son
Turn away thy reproach which I dread; for thy ordinances are good. Behold, I long for thy precepts; in thy righteousness give me life!
Lay your orders down, over the tree that peels, the errant blades of grass, the melting stone
Sun sets down Bayview Road, the Bay whale-blue; set
your statutes, Lord, over my wanderings – my blank musings; perhaps ordinance shelters my fraying mind and on
afternoons such as this, sun-suppurated, bird-songed and wind-wispied; the gums flood
their feathery leaves Let me understand the way of the ant-warrior and share its burden:
march on, march on good soldier, finish your dutiful step and lift, make your colony strong
– give me a hint, lay it on me rule of God.
The earth is utterly broken, the earth is rent asunder, the earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunken man, it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it and it falls, and it will not rise again.
Tjandamurra, at Tunnel Creek, painted his skin red in the dirt of his land
when they came to take it away. If that was brinkmanship yesterday,
today leave your qualms at home
now is time to wear your god on your sleeve
time for ride-bys, hoons, alt-right smoothed over
time for smooth things, again and our daughters are in various states
of nesting Is this right, that the tree is dry, the creek bed dust
eggs and bread are shored up for tomorrow
prodded, poked, pricked, kept
Sell me the open road for a handful of shekels
eat molluscs by the bay, pile them up in history’s middens
for random beach combers to be amazed broken oysters
to raise more questions
A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’
Did not someone, some centenary ago times a plenty
rightly write a voice, out there, in the ether
on the wire Was it not downloaded some time ago
say, to make a bee-line correct the road
that we roughed out in the bush, along a lonely coast
through thickets of sheoaks, blackboys and banksias
Did not that Primary voice command us lay it down straight
upon a desert highway even in the red dirt deserts
leave lie your bleached bones along the side of the road
for the carrion, ants and flies to pick clean
Join the dots if you must East to West, South and
in some northern Kapok fields Draw the Linear
be my surveyor with your sure eye
pave the Way and do not waver
Thou hast opened my heart for thy understanding
My heart murmurs … and my heart melts like wax
because of iniquity and sin …
Send in the clouds, snow and ice heart of mine
a wide range on this southern horizon where the kitchen is warm
eggs and chorizo freckled in the frying pan are there other duties to distract
to peel my eyes for this day? Other than a monastery far far away on a Dead Sea
is this day not enough parrots gambolling the gums all around maybe hearts
do melt maybe they are tiny like a little wren and, crushed only once,
can they ever truly bounce back? Look to the beyond, there, over the zigzag
skyline to a wider sea that breathes for us all.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.
Forgive me brother, sister, but what was, will again ∙ this has to be said, has been said a legion
& again ∙ a prisoner’s life is a lonely one, inside & out ∙ this is true of the writer, the pole
dancer & assorted aberrant literatures ∙ Send me to the gallows, bend down to tie my laces,
wash my hair with anointed oil ∙ this will cost you darling, this will send them into a tizzy,
but they will rule with Kafka’s notebooks on how to rule ∙ The boss will kick us & we will go
home & kick something else agreeing that we could have done better ∙ The falling leaf has
said it all, accomplished it all, like a river that never ends, but tails into the deep blue ocean
where molluscs feed & all will be restored to the earth
The wind blows to the south and goes round and round to the north; round and round goes the wind, and the wind returns to its going around.
Return again don’t just return me to the store
buy me outright own me, own your own shit, eat bread this day
don’t just break it; the rat-wheel, tread-wheel
are we not all prime suspects, are we not viable, our fields fertile with cash
cows ploughed into millions of acres of virgin jungle
we all want our piece of the hamburger-pie
It is said there is some sort of slippery slope, uphill and down
again, again, again take the strain great Sisyphus and your stone
we step into the stream and are changed and yet we are again
Eat me, consume me mighty bit-coin
allure me with your glimmer
your call-girl cry out to the wilderness, until round and round
like a merry-go-round we are no longer affordable and
I look to your breath and mine for liberation
She could see it too well –
the men running
plunging into the surf
desperate for sight of his body.
she could see the horse
in the breakers terrified.
how it must have pulled him
the dead weight of him
how it would have bucked
losing at last its dreadful cargo
from that stirrup.
how it would have fled
bolted away down the sand
a riderless horse always a signal
always brought men running.
brought the news of him
that morning when
they had not
ridden out together –
she put to bed with a cold –
that morning when
she would never
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