Poems

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

How could I resist you:
Love forsworn, the transformations,
Gods who speak and keep repeating
'If you look on me, you die',

A rose that haemorrhages,
A bullet that will never miss its mark,
The shepherds, clowns reciting poetry,
Protesting that a fire will consume them
(Far too few are ever burned
For some who watch);
The desert places turned to forests, huts to palaces:

Your sorcery might make the world seem possible
To live in. And it is, on midnight streets
In darkened taxis gliding home.

 

 

EDITING A JOURNAL BY FIRE

Old addresses, sometimes poems to them
or to people look back at me
as I read elusive references,
and phrases I'd be proud to claim
as mine though they are huddled
in the best books I have read:
we do not mind when such minds
beat us to the punch.

Sights, sounds, and tastes collide:
a recipe for punch by Joseph Haydn-
take a bottle each of rum, champagne,
and burgundy, two oranges, ten lemons
and a pound of sugar
(skip the extra half: I always do):
whose Oxford Symphony
(Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, conductor
when I heard it first in Sydney)
was the smash hit of the season
back when Haydn jotted down his party tot.

A photograph of people who attracted me,
the names of some forgotten,
in another country;
one, a man who hoped that I would leave
without his wife. I did.
The names of wines
that are extinct, and labels peeled from cans,
in days and nights in fields I worked in,
subdivisions now. Pen sketches
left by flatmates: houses, mountains,
faces, frozen records of ideals,
ambitions, conversations lost.

Newspaper headlines, editorials, reports
on demonstrations, protests levelled
at a policy that withered in good time:
the inked-in comments on the paradox of that.

Another poem not worth printing
but I read it, think a little better of it;
concert programs, children's paintings,
exhibition invitations, cartoons,
mud-maps to direct me to a party
miles from cities, even towns,
recalling all-day long hitchhiking
through damp hills and wet rainforest
and the evening I arrived, the final driver
sermonising me for bludging on car-owners
while informing me her daughter was
hitchhiking somewhere south.

My friends' obituaries: how many?
Can I stand to keep this book? Elegy's
superfluous when numbers temper shock.

More evidence if any were required,
of betrayals, mine and others', chiefly mine:
appointments missed, liaisons sundered
with no word; the lying promises in letters
those professionals we choose
to represent us could not better.
And through all of it no note
that does not smack of the delusion
that the life is worth recording.

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