By | 15 September 2022


welcome to the holy island they ask a lot of questions
and use words like apheresis and tetany on the wall a wetland scene
portal into memory someone laughs
and takes blood from my neck someone sings
the body electric apheresis and tetany
in the distance a boat moves slowly closer
who’s in the boat we don’t know
counting on our fingers one two miss a few
ninety-nine a hundred longhouses
dot the shore family relics
strung from roof peak to jetty
soft click of bone on bone three eleven
sixteen eighteen the numbers add up
free as birds over water free
to step ashore on the island yes it’s us in the boat
and us already wading into the shallows to welcome
those voyagers who were once ourselves
from these numbers I will build you
a new body and a new soul over the wetlands a cry
goes up circling like smoke or birds
first small tingling in the tips of my fingers
apheresis to take from tetany concerning
the fingertips


I am happy when I forget when I remember
I am sad
I open The Book of Disquiet
listening for these words I consult the Portugal notebook
running my fingertips over its smooth surfaces
settle for locations between an orange grove
in blossom and half a dozen waterfalls
cascading into the Lake of Tears
I am happy I am sad
deep and dreamless Chitra says
here are your earrings put them on and dance
but the boat is too small and God is great
a cat and a teapot in one fragment and losing your soul
is like dropping an oar into clear water
a chance fragrance printed on x-ray film
I am sad I am happy
the falling waters move about ripping up
certainty retrofitting syntax
a new body and a new soul if you can read
soft click of bone on bone repetitions
bloodwork derangements of syntax
pouring into the liquid air did I say
the boat was small did I say the earrings
are silver and pluripotent and Chitra says
I am sad when I forget when I remember
I am happy
bones of two hands on dark film


my march of triumph didn’t get as far as a teapot or an old cat
and in the clouds towards the south I lost my soul like an oar dropped in water

here we are back on the lake
quotations intact but wondering how to greet
the islanders coming our way arms full of flowers
eyes full of tears you have come back
they chant for another night of poiesis
here is the teapot here is the old cat
here is the oar sun beams radical
effusions and suddenly we understand
tetanic fingertips to neuropathic toes
just what we’re in for counting down to zero
knocking out resistance a new body
a soul the shape of an oar or even
the oboe they are handing over bird’s-eye maple
flutes and drums fragments that tell us
we are making poetry on the holy island
in the lake of tears butterflies at sea

day zero

a stretch of the imagination blue corundum
weeping blood climbing a ladder
to reach the main floor of the house on the wall
snakes lizards magic birds and monsters they carry me
to a pallet on the floor and perform ceremonies
of purification a wailing instrument
removes the precious substance from its icebox singers
open the line in my arm and cells begin to flow pristine
undifferentiated into the body wracked by chemical barrages
a puppet-master invites the soul to enter representations
of the body electric on its journey to and from the underworld
falling waters orange blossom I have married death
and wait on this bed of dreams for motion to return
dance body dance the day is zero
the cells pour in and everything counts
vast and blue the waters of the caldera wait
for a signal from the birds and monsters the snakes and lizards
who protect this house and will not let me die


as good as a house or shadows thrown on a screen
birds and beasts conduct us lifesize through corridors
day after day the pilot vials have promised
fair winds and waves talking gently shush shush
around the poles of the house walking just them
walking and we are beginning the poetry of blood
counting every day the white and the red and the little coagulants
that tie everything together I have to find your heart
says Ala we want your body and your head
says Katya blow with everything you’ve got
says Dakar flinging her arms about and shouting
to bring the water dragons closer these arcana
on strings these spirit houses
on poles these small footsoldiers
spreading out in formation from my bones
blood poetry but oh my darlings
I am beyond repair the dance is too much the house
too big I am neutropenic
unable to move waiting here and counting days cells waves winds
a teapot and an old cat the oar is lost
when will I see you again it’s like camping
says Anna it takes all day to do nothing
here on the holy island in the lake of tears nothing
but calling up the ghosts of the house the bone doors open


but not before the stars
in her spiral arms turn one more time
and the stirring stick froths the milky
clouds of Oort of Magellan hull down
over Malagasy and incomprehensible
to any but the most persistent listener
falling asleep now as the words
race on over the lunar field and sweet
scented jasmine curls under the sill

ships in the distance completed the sea that lapped my terraces

I fall to pieces but not until
her voice walks me through
the skein of stars that milky way
discovering terraces
spiralling over archipelagos and oceans



Preparation for a transformative but ultimately unsuccessful stem cell transplant.

The lexicons of medicine and poetics converge at haemopoiesis (bloodwork) and heuriskein (to discover).

Motutapu is the haematology ward in the sky above Grafton; its walls feature photo murals of New Zealand scenery.

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa appears and disappears in the dreams of cellular rearrangement.

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