for Arjen Duinker
Christ Child with Whirligig (Bosch)
twirling until Kingdom Come.
The Word is like the hold of a ship:
Heemskerck, its timbers
shivering in a spring tide, heavy
with antiques from the New World.
Batavia – a rainstorm drowns out talk of borders, where
fungi phosphoresce for our Lord.
Horses lose their shoes, carts
capsize as we ford the Almighty’s deeper
meaning. Wood holds onto the nail’s faith, wood
splinters on the nail’s dogma.
Paradise is here, between the thighs of a slave,
the taste of sea mixed with sky …
Existence is useless
unless you are a hammer – still
you need someone to pick you
up. The hammer ignores the nail –
they both rust but not equally
because nothing is equal; they are still
Absence makes the heart go
nowhere. Near the clearing, never
in. To revere is to fear
when all’s said and undone.
The hand that grabs at air
A net of names
drops into the illiterate sea.
The ambition of blood to overcome
An arrowhead of cormorants
strikes the horizon.
The hand that grabs at water
The waves are available to all.
They do not discriminate.
The king also goes
for the third time, three
being the number of the unseen
One who wills but will not
even to direct the dove.
But a wing must scan the air,
time. And the sky is held
by the wing, as the sailor
and the wave
beat one another.
The ship needs the sea.
The sea does not need the ship.
The bird needs the mast.
The mast does not need the bird.
Atlantic, rain on the palm of your hand,
salt in the crease of your thighs.
Pacific, the palm of your hand salty
in the crease of your thighs. Rain.
Father is away on business, Mother
late. The birds are not of this world,
you hear them when you stop
listening. Every ship that ever set
misread the sextant, steered
beyond the known, the named, making
landfall on a beach of bones.
The solar system is a bangle
on the ankle of a god. Shells
inlaid on its rim, our hopes
shine for half the time, time
being illusory yet
divisible. What will we find, losing
our lives to endow museums?
We thought of ambition as our rudder,
it is an anchor that drags …
The Word was not ready yet
the devil was a tailor
double-stitching Dutch sails
with Cain’s sinews.
A dove is not a god but
a dove with a sprig is godly.
The explorer draws his chart
on water, concentric
circle after circle …
In the centre his ship of bones.
To port the sign of the fish
rather than fish.
A wreck becoming coral,
the cross on all fours.
What was horizon presses
blood from the genitals.
This is love, the last
commandment: the tongue of a bell
fracturing air. There
the promissory note of the choir,
the cry of the godforsaken gull
swooping on a fish-head
left in the wake of a waka.
The sea monster was Appetite: it annexes
common from sense, stripping
prayers then oaths from master and mate –
they go down before the roaring
lord of savages, hermit crabs, and vitrines. Heads cracked
open, hold the Great Southern Land.
There’s a lot of space
left. We claim that space in the name of.
We use the voice of a futures broker –
it is an anachronism
and we own that anachronism.
When we said bread we meant hunger.
When we heard men we thought women.
When it grew dark we cried
Hallelujah! the night is ours.
Soon the stars will be beneath us.
- 94: EARTHSUBMIT to M Takolander 93: PEACHCOMING SOONwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones