Friday, August 23, 2013

Anna Livesey

Anna Livesey is a some-time poet, usually found in deep cover as a public servant, and currently mostly occupied with a small baby.

I think of my poems as mostly being chance encounters. Something is happening inside me, and something is happening in the outside world, and they come together to make a poem. Sometimes it’s a piece of found language which, re-set, changes its meaning. Sometimes it’s the activities of others, brushing up against my own life. Like in ‘The Moonmen’ – it is always a funny thing that the images come at just the time they do.

Acrobat Love

The strong father
whirls his son
through the air.

The mother’s heart
turns somersaults.

The daughter shakes sparkles
out of every dress she owns.

Shoeman in Love

I fell in love
through a pair of beaded slippers.

She brought them to me
to have the heels repaired.

They were black satin,
the toes hung with jet beads,

and lined with pig-skin,
a leather that absorbs sweat.

Her voice was like pig-skin
fine and strong enough

to absorb me,
but it wasn’t that —

it was the taste
of the imprint of her heel

when I licked it,
holding her slipper

in front of my face
like a cup.

Young Love

Your body held the awkwardness of a breaking voice --
the obvious metaphor holds true, a young animal, clumsy,
still surprised by itself.


Remember a night in a tent on the south coast?
A cautious night, a play at touching.


In the last flush of summer we spent all our pocket money,
ate lunch in the olive grove, kissed in the grass.

Your father died, my mother got sick.

We slept in a blue room under the garage.
Days tumbled after one and other.
Families opened and shut in new shapes.
I wrote poems in praise of your body.


February, the Eastbourne sun.
The world gathered to watch us break a glass,
hold a bunch of flowers, kiss.
This was the year of making a display, of moving north.

In our first flat we lived on the edge of a gully,
under the hospital’s constant mistresses,
the swarming helicopters and the ambulances,
crying out their needs as they rode up to the door.

It was quiet in that big city --
you and I in the roiling nest of a million people,
you and I, and the others, passing around us.


On Grafton Bridge I met a suicide.
We talked, I held her arm.
´Not again, Lois,´ said the policewoman,
her impatient blood jingling through her veins.


The window glass in our favourite cafe sent our faces back to us, distorted.
We loved them, and they were far away.
We had been away. We came back.


What is the half-life of a dying brain?
What government will compensate the survivors?


The wooden floors of our second flat glowed a perfect, delicious gold.
In the eye of the night we made love.
We befriended a cat.
There were things to be getting on with, if not quite
the things we’d had in mind.

 for Heather Tone

Grass kingdom,
higher than headwise, horsewise.
A tree looks down on you from the roadside.

Paddock peopled with tiny horses,
a stirrup, leg-up, leg over,
more tiny size, more
proliferation of tinyness.

Un-joy, a kind of blank seriousness.
It doesn’t live among the horses.

You are a long way away, in a library.
You say, if your small library were a body,
poetry would be the head and torso,
fiction a limb, reference a limb.

From the chest of your books,
you enjoin belief
in outposts of miniature sense or nonsense,
or going further, antonym, bonsense
the elaborate folly of the heart and brain,
built curlicued, baroque.

What bonsense is this, a tiny horse, a tiny library?
The great iced cake of relationships,
the ornamental pony of compassion,
the perennial shout (SHOUT) of shared exclamation.

The Moonmen

On the last night the moonmen came.

We woke at an unaccustomed time and knelt by the window.
The moonmen pushed lines out in front of them,
they marked off their territories with orange markers.
The moonmen made a regular thud thud like a generator.

They walked in spaces we were used to seeing cordoned off.

It was a strange light the moonmen moved in –
a greeny glow they brought themselves, a glow that reflected
across the front of their heads.
We were leaving in the morning and so we said
“the moonmen need not concern us”, and
“we will pack up the kitchen and say goodbye to the cat”.

Still, it was a funny thing they came at just that time –-
I thought perhaps they were acting something out for us
while we crouched below the windowsill



The first thing I saw
was the inside of my own head – I did not know
what darkness was, or how it felt.
After the unwrapping I became
connected to everything.
The world rushed up, cramming itself
inside my eye – but my eye
is a small thing, round like a sparrow’s head,
slimy as a cut gherkin.
Light pecked at me.
Broken shapes and a series of flashes.

Walking and Other Seasons

A hill, wheel tracks to follow, dry grass
that stands above my knees.  Creek ice loosening.
Winter breaking, the body turns to movement.

I walked long, my coat, black and white,
swishing at my calves. Streets and lanes,
apple trees and concrete.

What the mind turns over is like
the leaves that reappear after the melt. A few shapes
worn to ribs, caught against the sidewalk, stained there.

Returning, I found a lantern on the porch,
and a bird´s nest inside it. The maker a small creature,
passing back and forth through the glass mouth.


I was weeded, undesigned,
I caught nothing but garter snakes.
A wastrel, whale-headed, I was racy, roving.
I was lacy and needy, sober and serious.
Owl-like and shrew-like, I was waiting for news.

Memory of a Poem by August Kleinzahler

A crowd and two people (one in a blue dress).
They stood outside the ring the crowd made
around some spectacle
and spoke to each other.
It is not in the poem, but I think she folded her hands
in the skirt of her blue dress,
running the fabric between her fingers.
I think he touched her wrist, bare and white
in the light reflected from the spectacle.
They were behind the backs of several thousand people,
none of whom noticed them. Her wrist
looked very fine as it rose from the blue material.
Seeing the wrist, he was sorry for what he had said.
He said something else to her instead and she replied, quietly.
They made a small crowd of their own.

Next Time

The other day my sister was trying to dress you after a spa.
She said you wouldn’t lift your leg.
You had your trousers half on.
You said yes, yes, yes,
but the foot stayed on the ground.

She thought
this is my mother
there is no way
to make her lift her foot.

My sister laughed when she told me.
She said people were looking at you.

I said, ‘Next time make her sit down’.
I said, ‘Next time use the family changing room’.
I said, next time get yourself a better mother,
there’s something wrong with this one, my sister.
Next time be more careful, this mother is broken, I said.

It is Spring, Sometime Late in the Fifties

A girl in a bed under a window,
her skin blossoming red welts, fever rushing.
Her head is hot and heavy, reading strains her eyes.
Through the curtains’ gap, japonica bushes,
petals making teacup shapes.

She watches a starling settle in a fork, cock his head.
He hops, leaves, returns.  His beak clamps twigs,
rags of wool from the fences,  a piece of twine.
A nest among the bone-china flowers.

Sickness laid itself in her,
a speckled egg. Spring is a long brooding,
days pale as her sheet, her companion’s eye
bright through the glass. What stirs and rustles in her?
It rises and retreats, like the petals,
abandoning the branches as she tries to count them.

What License Issued You Anyway?


Things have changed since you were with us.
We no longer call a spade a spade.

Now we say you are crazy and try to believe it.
Now we say ´she loved us then´ and ´there can be no return´.

Connection, light as sunlight through clouds;
as light’s flick across valleys, across gorse.

There is no way of saying we are sorry, save to hold you.
There is no way to hold or save you.

Unspeaking Frankly

I have held silence these long times now,
since the holding of it must be done by someone.

There is no other object I have turned so much attention to,

no unkind juice greasing like gasoline,
no low-hung fruit or un-grasped embryo:
tiny bites grossable, (worrisome),
weighed against the arm-bundle (I am worrying).

When I was a girl I thought I would be one of the speakers.
My mouth moved like the environment from state to state.
Time fine-tuned the senses:
all things can be wrong.

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