elegy in which the world is visible / invisible / or immanent inside a body

your father, greying now and shrinking,
swings the leaf blower out before him

and hurls the red tree’s leaves back into the garden
while your mother pulls weeds like failed lines

from a poem she will never finish. i want to ask her,
what is the name for grief when it is no longer grief?

did your parents plant the red tree the year you died?
or the year we cut down all the palms

that lined the street and cracked the concrete
as they fell. why do things like this persist?

when a mind has died what is the name
for the breaking of the world inside it?

my daughter – now five – runs by me,
all language (by which i mean the world)

is immanent inside her. if you had lived,
what would you have said to her

as she curled herself against your ribs?
when i explain the world and what it was

before she was born,  she goes quiet
and disappears into her own gaze

as though watching her own ghost
walking through a room,

as though she sees a world
that never was.

Advice for grieving (palimpsest)

When you are done with this earth
or this earth perhaps is done with you
seek no grey extension
              of the claim you made to space

seek what truce you see most apt
          make parley with your gods

rage against the dying of the spark
    if such a rage seems fit
but know that dark will come no less
  for all your spit and clamour

when it comes, listen for the music,
for the note of      you       now hanging
soon to fade amidst the howled arrival songs
of all those yet to learn to walk
across the floor

                         on which you’ve

                                                      fallen-

        fall,
             exhale,
                         and
                                then
                                        exhale again

while you seek to see the narrowing of you
                  not for what it is
                  but for what it soon will be:

     the turning of a tide now soon to rise
                              beauty coming again
               wrestling you back to the earth
                              beauty coming again
                  clearing a space for the new

Advice for Grieving (bluff)

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Find a bluff overhanging water
observe it first from distance
as you would a broken body on a road
all limp and full of angles splayed as trauma,
a thing to be ‘moved beyond’
or ‘gotten over’

Then, having ticked off preparations
tendered your farewells
offered up your “If I’m not back by 8” advice
having chalked your hands to trace
a path upward on the rocks
while summoning whatever absent gods
might speed you on your way
ascend

When, having arrived at the peak
(at a time most apt for metaphor)
having hauled your bones across
the face of cliffs you come to rest
on the edge of all you’ve lost
be governed only by the urge
to hurl yourself into the air,
to spin in flight and write yourself
across the rocks

or if, having found the means
within your arms to lash yourself to earth
with what anchors you have left,
persuade the howling mess
to back away and contemplate instead
a slow descent

But either way, on landing, turn
to watch a kestrel furl its wings and drop,
steady as a dart, folding into salt,
bursting as it hits and breaks the water

and find comfort in the thought
that falling from the sky
might yet be a kind of flight.

10 stanzas to bury a horse

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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.

Ten things to do on the day you will go to your deceased grandmother’s house to collect the books you have inherited from her.

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1. Buy three types of yoghurt.
2. Sell three books.
3. Plan an Easter egg hunt.
4. Remember how she was once in a lift with MacArthur.
5. Wonder when a poem for her will come as you come apart in her house.
6. Go outside.
7. Pick a lemon from her tree.
8. Be kissed by the light.
9. Shoulder your daughter around her garden.
10. Carry her like a crown. Carry her like a crown. Carry her like a crown.

Three Kings

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Clouds break across the shoulder of the plateau
and rush a tide of white into the canyon
as the sky turns swift to grey above and thickens
out the light. Through the window, you see them –

three ghost-grey Eucalypts plucked by squalls –  
a haunting of dead kings, come to keen their grief
at your door – spines bending towards the deck,
crowns pitching back then down toward you,

hands cast up to tear out hair or gouge out perhaps
a guilty eye. A pane of glass is all that stands between
you and the sky and if a spine let go you might yet
have the time to duck under the table 

or to sit wild-eyed and let the pane break
across your gaze and gouge you into landscape,
leave you pinned between the hardwood
and the gums now howling in the storm:

here- old and toothless Lear, all howl and ‘never, never’
there- old Hamlet, ghost of ghosts, jealous as a son,
here- old Laius, offering eyes as tithe at Delphi,
all lost in their regrets.

And in the canyon down below, a thousand wooden arms
are cast about, liquid as anemones, at the bottom of a sea
now flooding heavy as the belly of the sky
splits and thunders.

You wonder what it would take to move a landscape,
to cleave a cliff-face from the rock,
to break the thing in you that turned to stone
and though you know come morning,

the storm will pass you over, the flood
will drown into the soil, you still beg these three-
three kings of grief, three ghosts all choked
and strangled by your one platonic line,

to thread their way, their grey and thundered way
                                     from this world to the next.