POETRY PROSE FEATURED POET FEATURED ARTIST CONTRIBUTORS GUIDELINES ABOUT TIMELINE
Cally Conan-Davies


Aletheia

He must have forgotten everything--
rinsing alfalfa in the kitchen sink,
sifting for treasure in thrift store bins,
the felled boy, the pity of it.

He must have forgotten naming the stars,
covering us in old leaves by the Red Jacket path,
the effect of sunlight on coloured glass,
the clear frozen lake. How it was hard.

He must have forgotten how the snow
held my shape and wouldn't let go
until it rained. How slow
the heart will beat. How flowers grow.

He must have forgotten the Chicago day,
The Old Guitarist hunched in smoke-grey,
two cafe lattes on a red plastic tray,
the tears he cried. How I wiped them away.



Put on Your Sea Love, Charlotte Mew

And when I found it again
on the damp sand where I'd left it
salt-stiff, windswept

I knew it because it shone
with my origin
and about it clung

the odour of anemones
the wet embeddedness before I began
to know the fastnesses of land

the constant ground
where I woke to wonder
with a taut skin that prickled

grew rougher, sloughed
as I, reaching for a word
only the sea could understand

shed them time and again
offed them, glimpsing tide-wise
the original skin

dead beauty I now put on
returning the wave to the urchin
and the wind-moan to the seal cave

I only had to step
through the spiky marram
that stays the blown dune

And now it holds me
there is nothing to hold on to
on this earth save earliest things

slipperiness and surfgrass
bull kelp and as far as I can see
below the flensed moon.



gull

nest be gone, and gull-begot shell be broken
hold back, greywing, hold for the sightless ocean
drowns the pool and pours over stone--blue-throated
cormorant vandal

gull go white, no camouflage down can save when
hell breaks loose to ransack a hatchling cradle
hid in rock face, ecstasy-eyed marauder
fearful of nothing

amniotic blood on the sand, a grief is
streaming--blown back over the sea of sailors
plovers, godwits, pelicans, whales of always--
death cannot take it

sky go empty, steeled by the look of cruelty
winged with light, devouring the neck of beauty




Old Man by a Door

Inside, the lights were lit and tables laid;
the small town knew its hunger as dusk hid it.
In the half-dark, his fury rose and pitched.
It must be magicked away--so he drank
and let the dead sink down again within him.
Then he began to take the world to pieces
and put it back until the late hours, deep
in care, a lemon tree flowering somewhere.

Suddenly his slippers felt too tight,
his feet and spindly legs had gone to sleep,
his heart had swollen, risen to his throat,
and words got past his teeth into the night.
Something was cooking there. Then, in one spring,
he pushed the door open, and went in.



Offerings to the Dead

because they tend to scatter
     a gathering

because they drift in and out
     mend the fishing nets laid along the quay
     where the boats with the painted eyes are tied

because they cannot bear it
     weight them down with a large stone

because they lack matter
     kale and wild thyme, kelp and dandelion

because they fix their eyes on maternity
     a poddy calf and cut curls of orange hair

because my hand is cold to their touch
     my other hand joining in a new prayer
          teach us humidity

because they settle on bone and shadow
     a wall of wool systematically arranged
     in the graduated colours of the rainbow table

because they refuse to numb in the salve of sorrow
     a song to dance to, a slow tune,
     preferably with several references to the moon

because they know not what was their undoing
     annotated pages blotted with water

because the harrowing follows hard upon the farrow
     a brick to crush the head of the runt

because only we are hounded by heaven, and the horns of hell
blast and the bells jangle at noon
     silent water and birds brimming with sky

because they carry on as if they were born for bereavement
and close their stores every winter
     pure white leggy larkspur mixed with blue

because all consequences are disastrous
     the thirsty roots of a late-summer lettuce
     charging the heart with long gone bitterness

because they get sidetracked
     a mainstay for the pleating, twisting, cross-linking

because day and night are the same and they see
only by headlights of funeral cars passing on and on
and on--when will they be done?
     a sun word etched on water, its own name, sol

because they beg a return fare
     a stern reminder that a feather is a nest of barbs
     and love is difficult and the earth is hard

because nothing offered by the living can bring back the dead
     a bottle of medicine
     with a label telling them
     how to take it:
     Don't say 'it isn't mine'.
     You were meant to find where it was kept
     in the crawl space of must where you often crept.
     Drink it down.
     And when your teeth turn brown
     like the jug and the bread and the wine
     and the bird caged in the thicket
     and the iron in the apple
     you will know the difference
     between a doctor's visit
     and the feeling you existed.

because though they are as close
as the quill to the follicle
but you can't hear them
and they don't listen

spring what you think

because god
is a soft hollow
the softest down there ever was
and nothing can come
between the dead
and love



A Bird Let Fall a Certain Light

Call it dorsal light--
when the sun backs down
where tall masts with their rigging go
and stars are yet to shake at the speed of night,
and the outward water, polished
like bloom on a black grape,
wets the sand to mirror
the slippery part of day.

Call it buffer light--
when a chancy wave
sloshes into your boot,
and a fishing boat lantern
swings to the swing of a heavy ocean,
and a gull yell aimed at a sore place
is merely shrill, and dies away.

And never call it light--
this feather that you're left with
when a crow and the wind at earth-end
rush to where the sun went
and every hair stands up
to the underside of the under-said.



The Swim

My love swims in a pool of unbelievable
colour. Crouched on a smooth rock ledge above
the dreamed of, salty Mediterranean,
he held in the sun then fell into that liquid
they call a sea, though it looks like oil and neon.

I search my inexperience for a name
to colour it with, give it hue and tone
and dazzle. I sift through blues like kyaneos,
fumble with glaukos, but lose it in the swim.
Water looks like silver, stones like rings,
his body streams, the sea has ciphered him,
then he dolphin-dives, and all I make of him
is tiny silver fish . . .
                              I follow them in . . .



Venice Draws the Eye

Gone and now
locked in the ground

leave the crowded Bridge of Sighs
the rocking black boats gone

now to the island where few get off
the vaporetto bumping the dock--

why stop here when further on
the glassworks of Murano

and the round breath of living men
float on the sheet of saltwater.

On San Michele such things as must be said
are put in stone. And stones are falling down
on the island of the dead.

THE HEART KNOWETH ITS OWN

The human form is cut to figurines
in alabaster, marble, mosaic tile.

All have eyes but all their eyes are pale,
the sightless part. One comes to life

a girl with snowwhite skin, and her clothes
are black, skintight, and as she bends

nothing interposes between her red lips
and the red roses.

BITTERNESS AND THE STRANGER

Flesh creeps in the grass, a spring-warm
lizard darts from beneath a cracked tomb

old skin hanging from its middle
a torn froufrou, skin, host of our parts

oh negligible skin

the lizard body fat as a tube of ointment
splays on the hip of a bronze Christ
laid across the pebbles covering a plot

oh molting lizard, your taut skin
and the patina on his bronze legs

grow green together.

INTERMEDDLETH NOT

Look aside when the boat bumps the dock
for the gondolier deals out privacy.

Venice is all you see.

See? the stone curve of a bridge
draws precisely on the green canal
a momentary, widened eye.

THEREWITH

Closed doors in high walls suddenly open
and we glimpse--hortus conclusus--
then let the dark confounding lanes move us

to the plane trees on Campo Santa Margharita
and birds in a blue square of sky.



Orbit

When I was young it passed
as the eucharist held in space,
the shock of god's dead white face.

Then it became a watermark
of benignity erased,
then abalone muscle pried from its shell.

Now a woman, aglow and aging,
showing every pockmark of devotion,
is smiling to herself, and nothing wants saving

for whatever it is it gives to the sky
the imprimatur of grace
and the unending bulge to the ocean.




Lingo

I just wrote the saddest thing--
"I love for Australia in a week"
when I meant leave.

It was only a typo
but I got an echo
of smoko with Jacko
after workin' flat chat,
a whiff of a snag
in bread with dead horse
(don't go picturing the race-course
on Cup day. Think tomato sauce.
And say the 'a' in tomato like ahhhhhh
without an 'r' on the end).

Call me a dag
but it hurt like billyo
cos if you're an Aussie living O.S.
even a typing blue
can give your knickers a twist.
It's the lingo I've missed
so fair crack of the whip--
I'm feelin' 50ks north of Woop Woop.

Love and leave
are peas in a pod.
That's what I reckon.
Fair dinkum.

































FEATURED POET BIO

Cally Conan-Davies hails from the island of Tasmania, famous for apples and wilderness. She moved, for love, to the United States in 2012. Her poems can be read, now or soon, in such places as The Hudson Review, Subtropics, Poetry, Quadrant, The New Criterion, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Sewanee Review, The Southwest Review, and various online journals.

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