Chapter 7

By | 24 July 2003


All roads lead to other roads


    metamorphoses of brain damage:

The man who mistook his wife for a truck
they had a similar stress gradient
she bore her load of life badly
he lacked all emotion; his frontal lobes
had worn away like a brain-shaped
eraser; he'd lost that pencil with which we write
out the chorus of everyone else's responses to life
and sing along. I can't love you anymore she wrote
to him while in hospital, ever grinning
it's like you're there and not there
I don't care, he told the camera of his accidentally caused
lack of empathy, and she cried
on camera, and no one lied

the doctor looked on kindly
the camera and film crew watched
and so did I – in whose shoes (dress,
fingers, accident, blank screen or eyes)?

    and another:

'Rate your sadness for me,' she said to the woman, who was
trussed in a plaster cocoon like a broken leg
sensors and receptacles suspended from her to the ceiling

('I want to make you sad,' said the scientist
in her white like-a-slightly-longer-dress lab coat
'and to measure your frontal lobes')

'About a six' came a voice
whose bruise was real, if practised
large eyes staring out of old fruit sockets at the screen above

her, her words hanging spiders of text, set pain
('I'm a monster. I hate myself,'
the depressive wrote, with her fingers

typing out her saddest thoughts, quote unquote)
then while she was looking back at her thoughts
they radiographed the sadness of her brain

'I'm sad that you're sad,' the scientist then said
in her wordlessly-white, paper-white lab coat
'but I'm glad that you were sad for us';

like a child, the monster woman was still
sad but pleased to be pleasing, a little
healed, you could feel the plaster wearing lighter and

the power of science


Some God's elbow escarpment holds this town in to
its azure seascape, its fresh mown green back yards,
Hill's hoist, sea-saw waves and sky-blue time

a shivering pall over the death of our dead friend
whose loss we have gathered to forget, whose loss
to forget, bright eyes embrace me, you've arrived


Fishing for sharks
a ring of teeth
round your neck
their eyes like egg whites
boiled wider than fear
who are nicer than people
many more people
are injured each
year by their own
continues the professor
lecture theatre widening with laughter
like a maw


    a quartet of curses

Dean wanted a cigarette. I suggested
he watch The Curse of the Phantom Limbs instead:

They're interviewing a woman and her stump
which feels, which she feels, pain
in the fingers, though she lost it from the elbow

A hand typing in the distance, next door, on the computer

An artist interviews her too, takes photos, digital
images and then virtuals
the woman's imagined pain in, pixelling a massive swollen hand
the hand that grasped the wheel – this is imprinting
on a stick-thin arm coming out of the stump: a map of pain

the artist paints

Another is a man with no arm, but his phantom
body map has a huge thumb, a thumb for an arm

The typing stops
Dean didn't need a cigarette. He wrote a letter instead
touch typed like us


A man lost all sensation in his right arm
from the motorcyke smash, but his phantom hand still gripped in pain.
The eyes. Their phantom pain. The arm ungripped

(its ghostly impossible grasp. What else are phantoms
but. And so is art. This is imprinting the scientist said print. The homunculus in your brain is more you than you. Which remaps)

when he placed the one left in the black mirror box.
In a mirror your right arm is your left
a reflection of the left. So you see

both limbs, one virtual, one real, move perfectly now, as if the motorbicycle
had never cut the other off. And patients start to cry
And to lose all phantoms float away pain

to where?


while the black mirror box has a video restorative effect
on me too, like a phantom picture of what's virtually real
or a T.V. set (you coffin box) up turning into a pathway
to Heaven, and all our lost souls idiots


a cigarette
paints phantom lungs


There in Russia they keep their herds shut in stables, you'll see no grasses in the fields, no leaves on the trees appear.
But the land is mounds of snow, shapeless and deep
in cold, it rises as you walk all around you. It's always winter
the North-west wind is always breathing in frost.
From morning, the Sun, his horses reaching for the far skies,
never succeeds in scattering the paling shadows; his car rushes
to bathe in the red mirror of Ocean, and night the shadows revives.
Bridges of ice congeal, of a sudden, from flowing rivers. Whose waves
then carry wheels bound with iron on their backs. Having
once served ships, they now pave a way for open carts.
The cold causes bronze vessels to leap apart, clothing stiffens
when put on, they cut off blocks of frozen wine with an axe.
While pools, in their depths, turn solid ice, fierce icicles
make caves of uncombed beards, and the snow
all through the air, is all this time falling.

Virgil, Georgics III


The body of Bethesda: the tain of sky that floats overhead
and the walking tracks vein the land with life

inroads, humans, ring up in the mind
their binary codes, the lizard beside me, DNA-determined

he motes in the eye my silence of nature
as if the divorce I'm getting over meant as much to him

as the light at each tick of the clock of the sun
on the pool of Bethesda, silence settles, no one
was or ever will be at home


Walking around a
corpse makes
the path of our
difficult, trippy, little
jumps in grammar
over – excuse me


Sydney postcard

that bleary-faced old faith of me supping on the sober
the podium dancers were podium dancing

and the night did away with all thought of the night
yet Daedalus found it easy to fall into the Sun

did his skies slip from knowing
did the soles of his feet come undone

Hyde park spreading out its dark rug of grass
to eternity

an eye enters the harbour smashes a mallet smashes down on her face
my hand touches your breast like the wheels of the train go round and


Cleaning my teeth with a truck


I ate the best minds of my generation, rot
dribbled down the sides of my chin
and not throwing up
To what sight
do you shut that eye off
do you dream it to death
do you drink it all down
to one black painting
that swallows the frame

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