Category Archives: poems

buried

the familiar grave grit in my eyes

a forgotten unbroken roar of ocean under skin

betrayal caught in the blades of the ceiling fan

I open the curtains to the forgiving page

the storm in a cradle

the flickering leaves aflame

the bed porous

I remake movement every morning

poured into the shape of a shelter

from shame

a cup of hands

I cannot remember without a swallow

solitude a cool glass of water

unkinking the hose

after too many coffees

watering plants bathed in light

she got too close to the dying enquiry                              

it reignited

her throat caught fire breathing the text

a cup of water poured over the drain and constricted larynx

nobody listened to the content of my mother’s complaint

I did but she didn’t see me

the rain came down with the words


From Claire Gaskin’s collection, Ismene’s Survivable Resistance.

Ismene reads her psych’s book on dissociation

the mattress holds the heat of the mind haunted
e dream-rivers reason with the tree roots to remember
the cradle flinches in the breeze fracturing
holding through the night of nights de-realized
this journey does not involve going anywhere fragmented
my mind outside my body having a body is to blame

pulling the rip cord of silk self-blame
not present feels like I am ghosting haunting
my skin alight with the pain of a refrain fragment
blood to forgiveness throbbing in my knuckles remembered
narratives run through my fingers de-realized
time calculated in the imprint of my face as the clay fractures

the stone dropped into the pool of my pelvis fracturing
I forgive you father for you have sinned and are to blame
the glass of water on the window sill reacting to the foundations de-realized
I am matter I do matter I am a spirit haunted
thrown into the sea of ancestors remembered
my feet are rubbed out as the waves fragment

the ticking of the passing bike in winking time fragments
I see the effect but not the cause fracturing
the floors worn through in a puddle of raw wood to remember
my hands mangled birds the weather blames
you cannot perceive the imperceptible through perception but meaning is a haunting
awareness is one thing action is another substituting is depersonalisation

disintegration of identity experience de-realized
how traumatised people talk in sentence fragments
a demolished base is not a safe haunt
scenes flash topic switching and my credibility fractures
the two major tasks in life are to love and to work not to be blamed
the more severe the less remembered

I fight through the curtains to get into my psych’s room to remember
the smell in the dark of my mother’s wardrobe their bedroom depersonalised
it’s harder to be autonomous when the culpable don’t take the blame
in murky water hair in waving reeds submerged trees and bone fragments
on the surface of the lake the clouds fracture
wanting it to be other than it is doesn’t stop the truth haunting

a poem is re-membering in collaged fragments
limits de-realised from forming fatigue fractures 
a child with no outline feels to blame it is an oceanic haunting


From Claire Gaskin’s collection, Ismene’s Survivable Resistance.

Ismene in a Twelve Step Programme

I can tell you about powerlessness

step one

knowing it is going to happen and being able to do nothing

Antigone chooses to die rather than survive abuse

pinned down his sweat dripping in my face

saying you may as well enjoy it

something severed it

wasn’t love and sex it was abuse from love

he didn’t love me

all my abusers before that had loved me

I dreamt I was walking through the rubble of my family home

seeking shelter there

I loved them that is what children do

consequences of knowing things I could not believe

I had sex again with him to make him feel

I could have learnt

not spent a life trying to make my abusers love me

if I’d been able to be present

my boyfriend’s parting words it’s not the same

he came back thirty-three years later

said he could have dealt with it better

believing it I knew it was not true

sitting on the steps of ourselves

cleaning my feet

constantly re-traumatising each other

I did my best not to survive it

meet and repeat the annihilation in addiction

I am here because I know about a life time of refusal

I dreamt I was painting

I wasn’t in control of my medium and I had the wrong brushes

you don’t have to believe to pray

survival is the radical act

wasn’t I reason enough for her to stay alive

what is survivable resistance

Polynices was already dead

I know the Greek Tragedy thing once it is set in motion it must play out

but I’m still here to feel the sun on my body and the water to witness my blaring heart

my abuser was giving me admission

something my family could never give me

I have to grip the arms of my chair to stay present

I use sex to avoid intimacy

did she love Polynices more than life

is that love

she made him her god

I get that she felt like he was irreplaceable

what was I

but so was she

sister

I could bury my dead in private

she needed it to be seen by other 

is to survive it to comply

she died to what they call sanity logic law so I could live

she covered up that the first burial was mine

I couldn’t stay in the house with Creon

I took off

got as far as Sydney before I met someone

we swam drank had lots of sex moved on to the next beach whenever we wanted

a job at a magazine the editor had sent everyone out

lying on a hot rock by black water

the sound of metal bowls being placed on the ground

I am left I am what is left

my body a bargain with presence

where things move in the breeze

it was the gaze of the train

the inevitability

the lake hollows the sound of voices


From Claire Gaskin’s collection, Ismene’s Survivable Resistance.

Eurydice Speaks

I

I stumble on steps that flow with water

we only do this because we love you

I dreamt my boots filled with water

leaving drags afterwards

when you left I drank a bottle of scotch a day

the anaesthetist asks if I can climb a flight of steps

our story leaves a trail of bread crumbs for the birds

your flowers between me and the man opposite 

he says no to any more treatment

on a suspended staircase that waits 

I’ll pray for you, I love you, god bless you

my body weighted my mother’s valve leaks

as you drive the sun halves you

through polarities our life in pieces

2

through polarities our life in pieces

I stumble the stereotypes flow with wattle

we only do this because we lullaby you

I dreamt my bootlaces were film

leaving drags afterthoughts

I drank a boulder of bougainvillea when you left

the analyst asks if I can climb the flight of stalemates

to tell our story leaves a trail of breadwinners

your flowers between me and your management

a no scalds to any more treatment

a suspended stamen waits

I’ll pray for you, I’ll lug you, I’ll lullaby you

my body weighted in my mother’s vapour

drooped the sundial halves you

3

drooped the sundial halves you

through polarities our life in petals

you lose your footing on the sandbar

the sea rocks us together locks the sea out

to go in deeper you had to come in closer to shore

what would happen if I allowed myself to feel

your promise a stone of anxiety

the broken wrist of the beer glass the wet asphalt

I feel the rest of our timeline wet salt skin

a slippery afterbirth ribbons through my fingers

the cicadas are so loud

so the birds won’t eat them

the extremities are easy it’s in-between that’s hard

can’t see the person for the paper cut-outs of profiles

4

can’t see the person for the paper cut-outs of profiles

the years break like facts

the years fall like anchors

you lose your footing on the sandbar

the seabird rocks us together locks the seer out

to go in deeper you had to come in closer to shortage

what would happen if I allowed myself to feel

your proof of aphorism

the broken writer the wet aspiration

I feel the restatement of our timeline’s wet salutation

a slippery afterbirth riddles through fires

the cinders are so loud

so the births won’t eat them

the eyes are easy it’s in-between that’s hard

5

the eyes are easy it’s in-between that’s hard

can’t see the personality for the profundities

the years breakfast like angels

the yells fall like anecdotes

my memory is a bruised apple

the sink unblocks as the alarm goes off

the fact that we are together again proves

the inner worm as boneless as the outer world

I sew cumin seeds into the seams of your jacket

I fear sandand living life not accounting for

in your reappearance is your disappearance

his dingo breath hot in the face of you leaving

the sand from our day in my bed

a cloth over the mirrors


From Claire Gaskin’s sonnet series Eurydice Speaks.

paperweight

 

we live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us
says Austen

the dead are useful as paperweights

practical like a piece of soap
in a stocking
tied to a tap over a bucket
in a front garden

three pots of tea I sit here
while the cafe is selling cool and the look of the staff

the body must be heard
says Cixous

the moon is full
the pain in my uterus

she keeps pulling
her blue tailored shirt down
over her lower-back tattoo

my mother on the phone shocked she has spoken
to my dead father out  loud
suppose, for instance, that men were only
represented in literature as the lovers of woman
says Woolf

her orange-singlet breasts
rest on the laminex
she leans forward as he leans back

the glass holds water
the rotating blades of the ceiling fan
and light

A Very Easy Death, de Beauvoir says
The sight of my mother’s nakedness
had jarred me. No body existed less for me:
no one existed more.

their graves are shallow because the soil is rocky

a child of sand
the wind remembers
and blows away

a world of comfort and family
that disappears when the match goes out

part of her dress
hangs out the car door
as she drives past oblivious

cool defines itself by what it rejects, it has no substance
and the workers are pissed-off by what is required of them

Woolf would say it’s not good to work from anger or defence
so long as you write what you wish to write
she says
for another six pages while my vegetables get hot in the car

functional like a piece of soap in a stocking
tied to a tap over a bucket

my heart a paperweight
on a fiction of self-possession

 

 


From Claire Gaskin’s collection, Paperweight.

Exile

 

there is no story
just letters the cormorants form
in the sky
when flying
in changing
formations

their feathers are not water-proof
you bought him an umbrella
these birds are well adapted though
to life in and around water
he wasn’t dressed for Melbourne weather

like eggs
hope and belief are self-contained

the brown warbler’s song
goes up in scale like a question
keeping finality at bay

the yellow-throated honey-eater
takes wool
from clothing and floor rugs
it is not distressed
by snow
rain

death is an umbrella that doesn’t keep off the rain
tears came to his eyes
when you leant across the café table
took a thread from his top

for their nest lining
goldfinches have been seen taking
cobwebs from clotheslines

the nest is neat, cup shaped
made of grasses, cobwebs, strong fibres,
with a lining of down or soft material
this bird witnessed
the crucifixion
it tried to pull the thorns
from the crown
was left
with blood
on its
face
this is why
these birds are so often found
in and around thorn bushes
this is why
after you asked him
if he was attached to that bar stool
three hours later you saw him
in a romantic embrace
with the stool

on the dance floor
he is like Christ
in that he has lived hard and will die young

the egrets
walk with wings drooping
hunched as if they are sick
eyes downcast
James Dean scuffing feet

full of importance
the Indian Myna’s nest is crude and
untidy, made of grass and often the
paper of torn poems

the palm-cockatoo blushes
the red patches on its cheeks
turn redder when . . .
what happens when we lose the story
we mimic ourselves like drongos
‘I’m not a single-mother, never seen a double mother’

moves you a sun dial
relaxing in the downpour

his flattery and promises
only making you realise
the depths of your aloneness

there is a story
of a small boy
who ran
around
and around
a perched owl
convinced
that the bird’s head
was following him
in unbroken
revolutions
when really his
reverse head turns
between acceptance and enemy
rejection and friend
lover or self
partner and other
were too quick to observe them

 

 


From Claire Gaskin’s collection, Paperweight.

walking away down the bluestone lane

 

walking away down the bluestone lane
I saw him wipe my mouth from his kiss
windows watched from Rodin’s I
the keeper wolf said to the

I saw him wipe my kiss from his mouth
when I the first colour I heard thought I’d get up
the keeper said to the wolf
you don’t need to hunt now you are now being fed

I thought I’d get up when I heard the first colour
reflux like my childhood
you  need a mate now you are being fed
her weapon is safety to scare me with her

my childhood like reflux
exist, addict I I
her weapon is to scare me with her safety
I dreamt I was the wolf keeper and the wolf

I exist, I addict
the wolf had eaten its mate’s legs
I dreamt I was the wolf keeper and the wolf
I was the wolf and the wolf’s mate

the wolf had eaten its mate’s legs
the wolf couple had an offspring
I was the wolf and the wolf’s offspring
the wolf couple had a human offspring

the wolf couple had an offspring
I watched from Rodin’s windows
the wolf couple had a human offspring
walking away down the bluestone lane

 

 


From Claire Gaskin’s collection, Paperweight.

Hippocampus

after Sacks’ The man who Mistook his wife for a Hat

 

she made a mosaic out of all the cups she threw at the wall
I saw an opening
at a party in her garden
it was yellow and soft petalled
there is always an element of surprise in delight
I had never watched one open before

the brain has no pain receptors
with the skull open like a cup
the patient awake and answering questions

(the neuronal memory effectively regulates the implicit reduction)

the rain is awake
down your back from the tip of your plait
down between the cheeks of your buttocks
awake to the earth of you

—–man does not consist of memory alone

(the molecular ability intracellularly records the cellular reflexes)

—–Sacks said Nietzsche said:
—–Only great pain is the ultimate liberator of the spirit

(motor synthesis allows electrochemical habituation)

—–it animates the prosthesis

I am rent free
I have been living in the house of my body
all the windows and doors open
curtains wet with rain billow and whip
I sit
to remember is to put back together the dismembered
I close your hand around the open eye of the torch

—-Sacks said Freud said:
—-neurosis is reminiscence

(central interneurons close short-term amnesiac connections)

—–a phantom limb is essential if an artificial limb is to be used

the sky is so blue it has forgotten
every window is a ghost

—–disease as seduction
—–the vagueness before vision
—–a wellness can be genuine even if caused by an illness

and don’t let affirmation be an excuse to hold on
extinction blue
the cloudless sky
is opinionless

(lasting phosphorylates regulate behavioral transmitters)

extinction is not the same as forgetting
you replace one habit that holds up a beam
with another

—–you can only spot a deviation if you can identify a norm.

 

 


From Claire Gaskin’s collection, Paperweight.

 

If I hadn’t

 

If I hadn’t texted him I would not be caught up in the thingness of being rejected and of should not be doing. I would be dwelling in the infinite possibilities of the openness of this night alone and my cows and sheep would have a large paddock. The aboutness of my Friday night is now waiting and reaction to rejection instead of the spaciousness of reading Zen and Heidegger. My thinking and writing appears as the phenomenon of diversion instead of the thing in itself. My present is should not haveness. The jug is this house and it is a vacuum that pulls in longing to spill. It wants to be filled, held and poured. Being is containmentless. Being is relationshipless. A jug filled with water immersed in water. Break the house. This is being. Things are manifestations of two opposing parts, like self and other. Meditation destroys thingness. My little suicides are manifestations of the duality of killer and killed. The silence is being with the presence of the absence of the phone ring. He not ringing and inviting me over and after hours of intersubjectivity me going to leave and him not pulling me down on the orange couch beside him. Him not saying we should not do this, it only ends in tears, there is no aboutness about this and entering me. He not dwelling in me with the intentionality of itself in itself sometimes not even moving. Only a receptacle  however can empty itself. I shape the void into the thingness of his penis. Holding needs the void as that which tightens. The climax gathers what belongs to extinction of division. The two parts the receiving, the receptacle, the void and the outpouring as giving. We don’t come apart and the room doesn’t fill with leaving and receding. It empties

 

 


From Claire Gaskin’s collection, Paperweight.

Freedom from André Breton

a response to André Breton’s poem ‘Freedom of Love’

 

My wife with the hair that tells the history of the hunt
My wife with a waist where the two planets that orbit in
——different directions meet
My wife with lips that flower the pain of the landscape
with thoughts to extinguish all thought
with the teeth of crumbling churches
with the tongue she swallows souls
with the tongue of hibernating snakes
My wife with the tongue of an empty bed
with brows of the shade and damp of a cave by the sulphur sea
My wife with eyelashes with ashes in them
with the forehead of a frozen lake
My wife with shoulders of melting snow and the sun that
—–melts it
My wife with switchblade wrists
My wife with fingers of rain that break windows
with fingers that pick up threads
My wife with armpits of bursting eucalypt pods
and of bushfire nights
with arms on fire around the baby of herself
My wife with legs of a plough and field of turned earth
with the movements of a slow mountain climb, thinning air
My wife with calves of vein in rock
My wife with feet of saffron
with feet of details and birdbath containment
My wife with a neck of salt
My wife with the throat of a vase
with breasts of vertigo
My wife with breasts of breath
with breasts of a continuous curve from her arm to under bone
with a belly of undulations
My wife with a back of scaffolding where bird people walk
——unafraid at great heights
with a back of sand
with a nape of forgotten invitations
My wife of all is not well
My wife of a well of light with no doors into it only windows
My wife whose dreams burn her sleep and I wake on a pillow
——of ash
Whose history burns with the smell of hair
Her chair burns absence into patience
Her arms burn around the baby of herself
Her travel burns the saris of skies into my eyes
Her birds burn her freedom with my flight
Her sex a cat’s purr that burns meditation into the walls
My wife is time, the distance between the beats of a heart, the
——rings of a phone

 

 


From Claire Gaskin’s collection, a bud.