10 stanzas to bury a horse


You cannot shoot the tumoured horse yourself,
anymore than face the shadows
scanned within your bones.

You can lead her to the pit already dug
but she’ll balk and rear at the site
of opened earth, and with the lead
rope singing through the callus
of your hands, her face all wide-eyed
blaze and flare, you’ll let her go .

And as she settles, calmed beside the stream,
this man you’ve paid to kill a horse
will turn and say that he could do it
where she stands.

You’ll squint against the light,
raise a hand to brush a fly
then nod assent and watch him go-
a long walk down to water.

And as he holds a hand cupped under her muzzle,
she’ll stamp a hoof and snort,
tendons trembling through the fetlock
until he smooths his hand across
the twitch of flank and whispers in her ear
a prayer perhaps to speed her way to Valhöll
and there, his hand flat and pressed against
the plane between her eyes, she’ll gentle.

And as he turns to load the rifle, the clack
of bullet chambered and the bolt now seating
home, a part within you cracks.

And at the raising of the barrel
you’ll drop your gaze
and turn your back
and wait.

The crack is not what hurts the most,
but the stumbled sound as she slumps
first onto swaying haunches, then down,
full force thudding into earth.

And he will offer solemn quiet as the pair of you,
tendons trembling through your fingers,
cinch the ropes around her hips,
tie a chain under her elbows,
lash the wretched mess to the towbar
and even in his kindness ride with you,
the slow drag up the hill to the pit,
kind enough to do it all in silence.

And when you’re done, he’ll have the sense
to leave you be and make his own way back
towards the stream and though
there’ll be no red to wash away,
he’ll kneel and hold his hands beneath the flow
as you, cracking with your grief,
the shovel heavy in your hands,
fold earth back into earth.

These lungs, this hum


And as for me, each day now seems
to be an unfolding golden field
in which I walk well-lit,
search each blade of grass
and find songs hidden in the root,

where, having spent years wound out
tight and thin as string, I could,
with a song borrowed from the river,
call down the sky, have it sing me slack,
and all those wild horses at the shadow
of the tree-line, twitching flanks
and flaring eyes, would follow me
along the bank, wade into the water,
watch the river fold its arms around us,
grow gentle as the flow,
could raise these hands to flaring faces,

hold palms upward to the light,
cup the falling sky and hold it out
for them to drink and this would
be something more than metaphor,
not just a harking back to myth
or some nostalgic ‘better time’

when all we had worth saying
was said in deep-blue quiet,
was said with mouths pressed
against each other’s palms
or written on our spines by light
that bled from night into the room

and how some nights, still,
when you rest your hands
against me, I feel remade entirely,
singing as the hole in Hafiz’ holy flute
and if your hands would lift me
high enough I’d press myself
against the sky
as a ‘concert from the mouth
of every creature’ sings-
and all these holes I keep finding
in my skin would bleed not noise

but light.

The lines ‘concert from the mouth / of every creature’ belongs to Hafiz

Little Ocean

You came into the world blue,
and hands first,
a tiny clutch of fist and promise
raised to the light.

I remember you
lifted loose with
the goddess rope,
that hotline back to the big everything,
wrapped once around your neck,
the great ocean holding on too long,
not wanting to let its daughter go.

Every one has that terror moment, I know.
Your blue arrival was mine.

I remember it,
as you were lifted loose,
the doc untangling you,
the tiny mask breathing oxygen into you,
you blooming pink,
sparks kindling into perfect popping fire,
and the universe breathing out.

You, long awaited, a slow rising wave that finally broke,
you sang an ocean worth of salt and song,
as something long asleep,
and buried deep inside my chest,
cleared its cobwebbed throat.

And I remember you,
sprawled across your mumma’s chest,
with curled fingers
tapping your morse code hello,
your first filled lungs
singing out their ocean songs,
your at last opening eyes,
and the first flash of a
gentler kind of blue,
from a tiny holy ocean,
that both our hearts
swam into.

higher higher higher

your hands are so small
they are as small as galaxies
the moon is inside your mind
it is a firefly buzzing
these stars are so gentle
you could hold them on your tongue
I would reach up and pluck them down like apples
I would balance one on my forehead
and say hey kid come shoot this star out my eyes
and if you missed
I wouldn’t mind
I would be happy
I know your hands hold galaxies
I have seen you spin song from dead space
pulling arrows from your love struck dad’s face
would be apple pie easy

We Go

You were the sound of blue flame hurled from two outstretched palms,
the holy ha do ken of Saturday morning Streetfighter 2 match ups.
You were the up, down, up, down, b, a, start cheat code that threw pixelated flaming fists
and made us all invincible.

You were the face reflected in a bicycle’s chrome handlebars ,
circling the street on two spinning wheels polished and
singing in the clink clink choir of new spokey dokeys.

You were the shock of red in the long shadow of a wheely bin standing in for wickets,
cast in the holy orange light of 10,000 suns setting
on the last overs of cul de sac cricket matches.

And now
you are a face I see in old home movies,
a ghost in the machinery of memory,
and a space in the air that breathed you back in.

And I stood there in the graveyard years later,
waiting to send someone else back to the earth,
my eyes full of mortgage and rust,
the only part of me worth writing poems about perched on my hip,
all thumb suck and perfect id
and I couldn’t remember where in the ground we put you.

What I remembered
was my 14 year old fist
pounding the earth
trying to find some way to say sorry for being the one
who gets to stay.

When your blood turned against you,
declaring a strange war in your bones,
I imagined myself courageous and miracle thumbed
standing at the life support machines
looking for the controller to punch out up, down, up, down, b, a, start
and make you
invincible again.

But I stayed away
afraid of seeing the space you were about to leave behind.

This is why I fear death,
This is why I write these dumb death poems,
I am afraid that one day, my friends will come to find my bones,
To bring me back in their minds for a final round Streetfighter  rematch
and the place where the ground took me back will be forgotten too.

And I will be just another ghost in the machine.
Another face in home movies.
And a line in someone’s dumb poem.

My friend,

I am sorry for all of this.

You are missed.

Sorry Sylvia (Plath)


Sitting at the state library,
that great bunker for truant nerds
and the elderly.

At the next table
in between text messages,
status updates
and instagram likes
a table of private school uniforms
are preparing one more essay on Sylvia Plath.

Dutifully copying out details of
the dissected wreckage of her life,
finding among the bones and coffin splinters,
the pretence of our knowing,
the hermeneutics of the blood,
the black shoe,
and the gas oven hiss.
And all of this is done for ticks in boxes,
for ‘well dones’,
and ‘good to see you did your research’,
and dumb grades.

Could you imagine this Sylvia?
That this is what we would do to you?

That high school teachers
would keep dragging you out of the ground,
and laying your bones out for inspection,
looking for symptom,
and signifier,
pretending like we could ever know
what you looked like on the inside of your skin.

We are the boot in the face.
We are fat seals barking commands,
dumb throated and dead.

And then one of them reads aloud to the others:

At twenty I tried to die
and get back, back, back to you.

And they fall quiet.
And the spine of this poem breaks.

These young Molotov bomb minds,
with their angry lash,
their razors,
and their suicide plunge poems
they are made knowing you.
They don’t need to see your bones
to know what you knew.

They know the brutal tyranny of skin.
They know the bite and swallow of the mirror.

And though we try to drown it out of them
raising old women in their place,
they know you.

In their bones,
they know you.

-with acknowledgement that this poem directly incorporates certain lines and metaphors directly from Plath’s work

After Dorothy Porter’s ‘View From 417’

I am making a habit
of all this walking into
then out
of my chest.

Making my rib cage
a revolving door
of starts
and stops.

Hiding a jack-knife
behind my teeth

And lungs pumping
a pair
of blustered bellows.

Washing sparks into a throat,
birthing them grey,
soft and rolling

into the blue.

And you did it right to the end,
or at least in my head
you did,
down to the last
‘can’t believe my luck’

dot… when my 417 finds me,

dot… I will find its spine… and break us out.

Dot, when I go,
I want to go down singing,
breathing out
a wisping sky,

having loved the world,
having drunk it dry.

When I go,
let me greet the end
with a jack-knife tongue,
a throat raw and smoking
like a shotgun.

In a blast of sparks
into a wisping

Let me walk out of my chest
ready and lucky,
wearing a ready

What parents know

The thousand iterations of an empty box

The sound of a whole ocean’s breaking across the sterile fluorescence
of a delivery room floor.

The finger paint that finds its place not on the canvas but
in 1, 2, 3-4-5 once I caught a fish alive shaped dots across a belly.

The paint brushed absent minded through hair,
or poked inside a nose to
sneeze its way back out in dripping Jackson Pollocks of blue.

That we are most full when we are poured out
into two tiny upward reaching hands.

That miracle is just a collective noun for a mind unfolding
into the world, and all these tiny finger bones.

That we raise our young, not just to make a life;
we do it to save our own.

Brother Poem

One day soon,
sooner than you think,
all those Saturday papers,
all those Sunday morning coffee cups,
will quietly gather dust like artefacts
in some kitschy museum
of what once was.

all the slow Sunday wake up stories
will be finished,
filed away
and strangely unmissed
as the only story you wrote that will
ever really matter howls
her good morning metaphors
at 5:00
or 4:00
or 3:23
or whenever the fuck she feels like it really.

And soon her ‘you,
hey you,
I need you’
lungs will
split the quiet so perfectly
that while you’ll crave it like a fix,
a strange and stretched out part of you
will come to hate the quiet.

And soon,
her milky smell skin,
her eye scrunch toothless grin,
her midnight wake up burps,
and all the other kinds of pink,
soft- limbed perfect
will wrap themselves around you.

And when she falls asleep against you,
her strung out froggy limbs spread across your chest,
her little knuckle heart
brailing away at your breastbone,
her tiny snores
harpooning all that shared air,
you’ll breathe your life
into her lungs,
and retell all the stories
of all the things you ever did that brought you here-
to this moment
to this amber light rest
and you’ll see that love,
and purpose,
these things make no mistakes.

And soon,
sooner than you think,
probably a Sunday afternoon,
you’ll lay on your back on a blanket
spread across your backyard lawn.
She’ll be standing on your stomach,
holding your hands and dancing,
and there, against a perfectly blue sky
she’ll sing you are my sunshine,
and every star forged atom of you
will dance
and everything ever named
as god or love or fate
will reach down
and blowtorch away your broken parts
and there,
in that singing minute,
you will be perfect,
you will be whole,
and you’ll sing back.