the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




FIVE WORKS
BY JFK

EXCERPTS FROM TRANSPARENT LUNG

Verdict

009

in the name
of the father

Scene 1
(i)

Today I feel like buying puppies.
Black and white
with spotted paws.
So deceptively soft
the way they coil at your feet
and grow.

(ii)

The important hand
points a latex finger
at the centre of a bright white box.
He pulls his vocal chords
into deadly shapes
and though I can't hear them
I know they are well rehearsed.

He pulls my ribs to centre stage.
Stuffs words into my heart
and begins pulling pulling
pulling at the strings of my body
until
I resume the shape of a human.

As I leave
I try not to terrify
the queue of people
waiting
with huge
yellow
verdicts
on their laps.

Going To Battle

009

tableau of a
father's allies

Scene 1
(i)

My wife gathers up her skin
and learns to walk on water.

I am up to my waist in a brackish lake
where questions hook around my ankles.

She is an ice-sculpture
carved by a Chinese artisan

who decorates her with winches
and a central red light.

She pulses at me day and night
rigid with positivity.

She will not let me sink.
Her cloying rusted links

slip under my arms.
With every turn of the winch

a piece of her falls away. I worry
that we will both meet halfway

and drown.

(ii)

My daughter is Xena, warrior princess,
strapping an armour plate over her heart
as she mounts and gallops wild stallions
into midnights full of rare blooms.
Her fingers are scratched and bloody
from digging at the rotten centres
of spiky fruit gorging with the thorax
and abdomens of pomace flies, and when
I watched her reach for her crusty
Vietnamese roll the other night, I noticed
her fingers were ringed with the scars of tiny green mouths.
She tries to keep them secret, her nights of hunting,
of pressing the fresh bodies of insects into the hungry
jaws of carnivorous plants - bladderworts, butterworts,
pitcher plants, sundews and venus flytraps -
each morning inoculating herself against death
by feeding them her fingers. Her afternoons are full
of dismounts in strange neighbourhoods as she strips
overhanging paw paw leaves for Aboriginal
bush medicine. I believe she will discover
some ancient cure, or at least, will
break her hope trying.

================

EXCERPTS FROM LETTERS IN UNFINISHED VOICES - MANUSCRIPT IN PROGRESS

Letters in an Attic. Grandma. Flashbacks and Monopoly.

My brother has left me alone with her
and tonight she smells like herrings.

Under hypnosis a doctor tells me
I am very fond of the smell of herrings.

Grandma, squatting next to the board
in between smoking herrings.

Numbers sending me to jail
Outside cars and voices flash

as deals are done in a hat or shoe at Euston Station.
My sister's fingers learning the art of Mayfair blue

grandma smiling and tossing bread
her skin full of ocean and herrings.

================

SLOGANS GLIDE OFF HIS TONGUE LIKE WARHEADS.

His hands are restless explorers
he names wing and wing.
                                           
It is a good day to be a spin doctor he thinks.

Close up of success 'blue suits are the most trustworthy
                                according to the latest poll…'

Always the blue suits closing in on you.
Always blue kites made of double breasted letters

hovering above you shouting words to the wind.

================

THE NIGHT OF THE DROPPED LETTER

I missed the long fall
your suede eggshells cracking in the sun

insects limp with cracks
in their exoskeletons

in a dream she says something to me
that scribbles along my senses

as if there were flowers at home
as if between sickness and death
everything counted

everything falls away
and my bones become breathless

waiting for you.

================

Excerpts from The Butterfly Chronicles a book of haibun in honour of Julia Butterfly Hill - manuscript in progress. The Luna in the poems refers to the nickname Julia gave the redwood tree she camped in for 100 days while trying to save it. (you probably already know all about it)

8
Sometimes it gets so black in here that the months in my mouth lose their days in worry about this redwood's future. I think about Tibetan monks and how they can only ever be almost content because they are detached from contentment. Sometimes I dream of the police shaking me out of a branch held together by wing skeletons and I resist the fresh straight jacket in their hands. That jacket belongs to somebody else's insomnia.


I pray
for a time
when Luna's
body is
no longer
bound
by maybes.

================

11
Your ears slipped out of my mouth again tonight. In the foliage, biting, you didn't listen - my beliefs nothing but moss on the rocks to you. Had to add you to my collection of dropped things.

I'm desperate for you to hear the heartbeat of this tree and how the earth reaches up to sing its songs in the sway of Luna's branches. Almost too sad to bear, these leafy lullabies, full of prophecies of metal carving through bellies of timber.

The last time I tried to whisper into Luna's rough old bark it will be okay,
my lips spilt open with ants and it felt like freefalling.

That it touches you like a circle is irrelevant.
Listening

================

POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE

1
He docks his talons
into a competitor's guts.

Scalps the writhing creature
till it bleeds all over television.

A container of curled sparrow feet
slips into place and he smiles
with a mouth full of bones.

He doesn't see the creeping oily shadow
as it snakes its way in
to the corner of his dull metal iris.

2
A tea lady
with a pack of fortune cookies,
pretends she is invisible
as she polishes an axe.

Everyday she reads the wall,
today it says,
today is the first day
of the rest of your life

3
One of them complains
that the tea tastes like sorrow.
She quiets the coiling shadow
that stirs on her wrist.

Reminds herself that the safest thing
to be in this room
is someone who can't spell bottom line.
Someone with a glued on
your shit couldn't possibly stink
kind of a smile.

4
One of them says, I would eat my mother
and is given a beaten-up star
to pin on his lapel.

It is important, in this industry of pork bellies
and asparagus futures,
to show that your eye teeth
are as sharp as they can get.

By the time she gets off the bus
three teeth have fallen out
five vertebrae have compressed
and she is bent into the shape
of a walking question mark.

5
An animal suit rushes at her with a placard.
It waves a tin with Donation painted in large
bleeding letters. It grabs at her sleeve and whispers,
in that stealthy villain-whisper that makes her ears twitch.


save the planet
save the homeless
save the koalas
save the trees
feed the starving
stop the war
save the oceans
save the dolphins
save the whales
protect the children
save him
save her
save yourself
save me
say not in my backyard
say not in yours
say not in this lifetime

A boy with cropped hair and hard eyes
crashes into her on his skateboard.
Another, older, in a business suit
brushes her off like contamination.
A woman in a flour-spattered apron
snarls at her from an opposite door.
Her son gets off the couch
and shoves his mother back inside.
He says, 'Be an Aussie or get the fuck out of here'.
His mother says, 'Don't use that word in this house.'
Outside, skating back and forth beneath her window
she hears an echo
Get the fuck out of here and give us our guns back.

6
He digs at a bamboo splinter in his nail.
Directs forklifts of reduced supermarket stock

and cheap cosmetics
that reek of mutton birds.

A pot belly shag bursts
at the seams with plankton.

There are rows of topiary-humans
with khaki weapons in their leaves.

A ferry docks at wharf number nine
its passengers, sick-eyed straining for gulls

watch, as a woman in dappling mucosa
undoes her wrists

unrolls a panorama of sticky cliffs
and shell shocked rips of land.

They watch as she explodes
and explodes

and keeps on
exploding.