Seven women roam a caldera in the mountains.
One starred in a ‘90s sketch comedy—wigged
damsel Fabio strummed the lute for. One knows
how arms at sea say, Save me, above the waves
and below; her red one-piece’s cut grooves
her legs like the grooves in a unicorn’s horns.
One is a magician’s assistant. One is Ace
Ventura’s girlfriend. Two are sisters on Full House.
One, an actress who served in my school canteen,
stands a head taller than the rest, neck choke
-chained gold. Down on the flatlands, a villager
gleans the scent. He climbs, and looks. The formation
resembles a deer hoof. I’m the leg. I maneuver
the hoof to a lakeshore, swim it to an island castle.
The villager swims the lake. Enters the castle.
His body hair drains. He can’t feel his bruises
swell, yellow, but it happens. The bruises are lust
in the way that skin is lust. Hunger too. The bruises
are what his famished village has made of him,
a wandering wound, a balm seeker. Tennis balls
in the guttering when as a boy I’d scale the roof
to retrieve them, felt rain-flayed and soiled to
rags: this is his indigence dress in the darkness
of the great hall. There is one light source—
a mirror, backlit as if with moonlight. Wedged
behind, edging from the bottom, is a scroll.
A kingdom and more for he who slays the ghost
that cannot be slain, whose terror hour is midnight.
… that cannot be slain, whose terror hour is midnight.
Were the villager literate, he would have read
this, run. But the myth doesn’t vest him such power,
nor does a negotiable summons thrill out my chest
hair by the root. He climbs again, up to a garret.
Lights the table candle. Everywhere, the grace of recent
movement: tomes on werewolves, frogs, and dragons
lie open as if just perused, tassels chewed, stroked;
the candle wax is soft and skin-warm; cobwebs
stream off a globe of Earth; shadow cobwebs stream
off the globe’s shadow. Between a unicorn’s eyes
streams a lone hair, long as a boy is tall—omniscience
and invulnerability in war to whoever plucks it.
Then, the door, wrought of water, not iron, bursts.
Wrought of water, not iron, the garret door bursts.
On the threshold stands a Cyclops. The villager
sees, in that yawning singularity, a servant’s quarters
or carriage house in which the captives huddle. Come!
Come! It may be a bedroom. Are there bite marks
in the bunk wood? Is Mars’ light jaundiced on the ceiling?
It may be a bathroom. Are there razor sheathes
stuck in the heating vent, like truths between teeth?
Nail lines in the grout mould, toy-soldier-green?
The Cyclops attacks. The villager spears its pupil
with the table candle, and from that tumult of sun
-beams and roars carves two perfect halves, which fall.
Out of the split drifts a voice: the damsel. Kiss the gold
to claim the gold. The women envelop the villager.
The women envelop the villager. The women
whirled Earth and its shadow. The women, who
were hidden, flare—solar flares. The villager
shields his eyes. The women laugh and bleat and bawl.
In front of the villager sways the actress.
The villager kisses her choker: lips, tongue, teeth.
Her swoon upraises purple smoke, and antlers.
As the smoke settles, seven deer emerge. The deer
bolt the garret. Rather than bask in the blazing
corona that will save his crops, feed him, the villager
dons hunting camouflage. The camo pattern
matches his bruises, as if by design. The masking—
a balm. Need supplants wound—a need I need to hunt.
There is no point, no time. Seven caldera deer run.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith 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