Geraldine McKenzie

Working Note

Though I hate equally the notions of intuition, inspiration, and imagination, know each to be fraudulent ad copy for self-aggrandizement, I myself work intensely (and best) by principles only partially known, at work by a method at once constructed and resistant to formulation. —Hank Lazer, H's journal (3 of 10)

Most of the time, I don't know quite what I'm doing but want to see what can be done with language, and trust to instinct and the fecundity of possibilities of the English language to carry me through. Iím not interested in a specific method or form but an exploration of same; whether it is old or new is less important than what might be done with it. Having said that, I must qualify it with a resistance to the lyric and the crafted 'poem as object', both of which testify to the existence of a single voice/ordering ego, an assumption Iím unable to share; although there is certainly a place for both impulses within a broader context of inclusion and process.

Meaning is clearly an essential aspect of language and I've no desire to relinquish it, anymore than I'm interested in poetry that is anything less than polysemic. To paraphrase Milan Kundera when he wrote that he didn't want to write a novel that could be turned into a film — I don't want to write poetry that can be turned into prose.

 

PATCH WORK

COUNTING COUP

EXQUISITE AXES OF THE NORTH

CUCHULAINN AT THE FORD

IT COULD BE A FOREST

STATEMENT

MEANDER

 


 

patch work


 

counting coup
         

>>>

...a good day to die

honour gutted
the busy streets the quiet
streets

only
connect

>>>

each man kills the thing he loves

beautiful bear Oscar who
drank the Americans under the table and gracefully declined
to enter the 20th Century

between bars
the space

Oscar writes
The Soul of Man Under Socialism
and a ballad

>>>

we bear the stripes
lashed all
the livid years

the dark kitchens, the sheds
the park with its winter stiffs

a minor scuffle by the gates
what are our lives for

the next three passersby will be variously
itching burdened sated

>>>

Louis spoke calmly to the crowds till drums
walked to the spot and laid
himself there
owing to the unusual
thickness of his
neck the blade
stuck
accounts relate a single scream

we're all familiar
with this version of equality

>>>

fed fat on
naked joy
then levied such
a fall

dumb as any nurtured calf
tried and sentenced in absentia

he couldn't look at me

yet had taken pleasure in the work the preparation
of the body

>>>

how life feeds us
its cruellest juices
carnivorous after song
and a jester straddling hall with a word

put on your cherry ribbons
Krum at least will applaud
turning in his seat
his mouth a poppy smear

I shake my shaggy limbs
bare my sorrowful teeth

O throw me an orange
anyone

 


 

exquisite axes of the North


clink

stone collections

the smoky wood in blue recoils

smudge

ice

like ice

fish pulse the throat

crack

for stone read grey black white

for stone read hard smooth cold

for stone read yielding to pressure

permanent splinter

severing

cross reeds the creek

knobble crust

witness the irretrievable

as with a sharp intake she produced

quivered in the crook

arc like god

 


 

Cuchulainn at the ford


hard slog

o Ferdia I

thought that we should live forever

so like and loved

would heavy

wave

something about mountains

rills the pool

hands knees

grave raw

my sapiens

beautiful monster

want air in its wild riff and blaze

unspring

the exigent

consulting details as

mound arch sprawl

some bourne of still uncovered

as in these hands

what's spirit's gone

begin their sober intercourse with worms

to you Cuchulainn

broad stream and drunk to bed

shift time

what glimmered in the whiskey watches

might other be

 

 


 

It could be a forest.

 


statement


statement

prevarication

hedge

the limpid lie

doggerel

world view or vehicle

out the window

noisy settlement of birds

jabber matter

beaks explicit purpose

a word has no intention to deceive

cut loose

private nonsense or openings

at leisure rack

the hungry moment mouth

everything seems so obvious

a buttery come down

lay by

let go

your

invitation to desire

trusting logic only

so far

too far

a bridge and barcarolle

lazy cat lick

light

up

put by and listen

I'm beside myself she said with a laugh

a slow stitching to the point and hollow

anxiety justified by subsequent events

gratuitous whimsy

meant meant

wall grid and griddle

spit

come up against

found flower in the smoke's display

you get used to this

and with respect to the use of round numbers

prime or product

stone altars

disposition

line*star

articulate

rose

chimeras of control in the breath

plunge or fondled to a splurge

even your clean

disgust rankles

 

statement

statement

prevarication

this is not the

world

statement

statement

extenuation

it's too long since I had a fuck

separation from the act or moment when

it's precisely those qualities of habitation

one desires

just as troublesome

(in common

tree)

when I fucked

or was

subject/object

grammar of grapple

wha'ís consciousness that it may

shed the watcher

presence signals failure

yet this

pithy hereness

flesh/flesh/time/space

when it's working

reduction/expansion

perhaps I should reconsider my object

(shuns) dance the poles and puns

essential difference

nor gender bound this flexing

vectors multiply

specific

words with their weight

a thudding to the thighs and nuzzle there

coddled other

where's dripping trees, the dark

the muddy

middlemaze

lefthanded sugar

block

what works

this is something I could use

and, with reference to the unsuitability of certain forms in a dry season

language as intrusion

extrusion

real

sediment

a blind

come on

red clay

mottle and daub

featherscratchdance

the sticky way trembling by the river

we're all strange

and even to myself retreat

come close salt bugger will we

it's better blank

fill my mouth with it

the hardest words

stick there

question

question

time and spirit waste

these cuts

question

statement

invocation

come to drink

the green one read

 

statement

statement

equivocation

it was an old country

and I fell into the grip

 

statement

statement

interpolation

nothing is clear yet at that moment

when I hold it in my hands

 


 

Meander

 

poem be a river
so long locked me

to a window
turning

these blossom, jasmine
ever bear

fit and
lovely

inner
spring

stripping by the bed he moves with that slightly hurried nonchalance of one disclaiming his body//different//so much more//resentful at times//behind the scenes the usual mutterings of discontent//the mind provides comparison//weathered stone its fused specifics and the seamy life under

where every prospect feeds the lie
that's beauty

bizarre and fecund Greeks
found light
umbilical

a cramp of fathers

a nape of wishes

a crony of disasters

I keep my bad dreams to myself
and so do they

coming in truckloads

a monstrance of trains
a quandary of religions
a deepfriedchicken of visually striking items on the evening news

plug plug

(buying back the baby)

she moves like —

sun spill be
smear the subtle
hills and hoist
old world new world

marketable
difference

a dilemma of histories

you might
well
pass on this one

hiding
spaces

between the game and the parody and the odd
sound which, in retrospect, might

instantly declare itself, but here
moves in and out of consciousness, denying
in oblique
moments
the evident
thud
(I can barely contain myself)

again

a clutch of bodies
a waft of souls
a glimmer of the undecided who
still set their feet in earnest glamour
to a loitering path

this way in
wry cuts
the carpenter's blade
her pleasure

when I found myself in that situation, that is, when I realised the situation I was in but without knowing how far it extended and could each word and gesture peel back to an undisclosed and furtive self or partner in events, and realised thus that this was not unlike life itself, or language, subjects which had already engaged my interest without penetrating in such a markedly painful manner, the undoing —

belief's a dialogue

(beat it)

a quorum of diseases

a pendulum of epochs

germane and proper
Romans all
building
the nice proportions
of control
end here

home's emissions
above the temple fire and stench
groaning at the board

outside's the wind
roisterer
night's immaculate pearl
and the trees
not holding

drab the english immigrant
said, faced out by gums
these are to be lived with

and it's always blue
when bleeding

stitch the rich
travesty of life

mean mile
slow guile descending
deceptively
fast food

a fetish of cities

a declaration of lights

a whim of devices

and here
white vase
delphiniums
bookshelf

stand for no more

my blue bed

drunk deep and mumble
looking back, itís a mess

if I pause to address you itís knowing
we're partners in this fiction

what colour thenís the rose
apple-scented or thick
as southern summers
angophora spreading

pink 'n orange
flesh
it seems
about to roll

sweets turn
all truths are agricultural
end in earth
half-steps toward

infinity

sojourner, traveller, itinerant, wayfarer, pilgrim, palmer, walker, trekker, tourist, spectator, tripper, holiday-maker, visitor, pioneer, pathfinder, explorer, wanderer, migrant, nomad, gypsy, rover, ranger, rambler, straggler, stroller, strolling player, wandering minstrel, rolling stone, drifter, vagrant, vagabond, tramp, swagman, sundowner, hobo, bum, landloper, loafer, beachcomber, refugee, displaced person, runaway, fugitive, escapee, waif, stray, street-arab n. poor man

(I'll get back to this)

Orpheus as
the Thracian oaks
resume their elephant dance

sometimes I'd think it could be anybody

one envies the clean line
its detachment
and where the broken vase depends
incessant vine
and rapids

in Constantinople the usual
paradoxes winding entrails
round the circuit
a silence that is many silences
grumbling under the walls

authentic parent
in the grunt and wallop
pleasure rides
a grave horse

and, turning on my heel
make as if
to pass on

 

 

Some of the following poems have appeared previously in journals and other publications, including Shearsman (UK) and the poetryetc (e-site) Featured Poets series.

 


Bio: Geraldine McKenzie was born in 1954. She lives in the Blue Mountains with her children and works as a teacher. Her poetry has been published in numerous literary journals and in the anthologies Calyx: 30 Contemporary Australian Poets (eds. Michael Brennan and Peter Minter, Paper Bark Press 2000) and New Music: Contemporary Poetry (ed. John Leonard, Five Islands Press 2001). Geraldine's first collection, Duty, will be published by Paper Bark Press/Craftsman House in 2001.

 

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