Bend and stretch

Ali Jane Smith

 

Ductility confused with tails of ducks

so A.A. Milne adorable

poking from the surface of the pond.

 

What are the ducks after down there?

Little fish? Elvers? The flagrant stems of waterlilies?

Something glorious in the sediment?

 

Perhaps the pond eels

have heard Edwardian children’s literature

recited by visitors to the pond.

Sound waves travelling through water

— glob glob glob globble

glob glob glob.

 

At this time of day myriad winged insects hover

above the uncut grass

visible because the golden light

reflects off and shines through them.

The lawn gnats rise and fall

like champagne bubbles.

Other insects, bigger, but not much, make a purposeful flight

a beeline! Predating on the little ones.

Now a bird. Another bird.

I’d like to say they are the first

in a stuttering series of red-browed firetails

but it’s a magpie pair I’ve started to take for granted.

Stick around, magpies, poo on the garden

I’m too squeamish and lazy

to keep chooks with their problems

of broodiness and garish foxy death.

 

If I’d used the time I’ve wasted thinking about

good and bad for entomology

I’d know more. At the museum

a woman was drawing sandhoppers.

Not insects, tiny crustaceans.

Her drawings make clear those details lost in photographs.

Later I think drawing also shows how seeing works through time

and so drawing is three dimensional in its way.

Photographs pretend a standstill.

Is that something like what Fay Dowker means about atoms and time?

Anyway, I like her voice and the way she hesitates then extrudes boldness when its needed.

 

The children are designing time machines on A3 paper.

They draw in details: arrows and question marks.

Do they want to go forward, or back?

I’d like to stay here for now. Everyone

stops growing, the dust stays exactly where it is

there are no events, bread

doesn’t get stale, ice doesn’t melt.

 

Here is a photograph of Kyoto Railway Station.

I was once there, four dimensionally, but

I don’t remember the shape of it. I remember walking

with my host family, I remember an enormous shopping centre

the whole thing glossy as a perfume counter.

My host sister confided, Kyoto is famous, and old.

Temples, gardens, shrines.

I saw some of these things, but I don’t remember.

Now here are photographs of the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine.

More than five thousand torii gates!

Stretching into the illusion of an unending path!

That red, like the firetail’s brow

not the red of blood or sunsets.

 

Once something’s on your mind you see it everywhere.

The entrance to a block of units looks like a torii gate.

An ad in The Economist shows torii gates.

Three skinny red gum leaves on the ground make the shape of a torii gate.

 

A ductile person is a silly, a gullible fool.

When I was vegetarian I went to a book launch

the crowd so tight in the room

we moved according to a subtle current.

Sushi made with eel was served.

I made a mental excuse for myself, I was so

hungry, I ate. The eel tasted delicious.

I saw eels in my mind, long and mottled

swimming and brooding. I ate more and more.

I thought about eel traps, woven, a place the eel swims into

and can’t turn back.

 

 

Ali Jane Smith’s poems have been published in literary journals. She has written reviews and essays for The Australian, Australian Poetry Journal, Cordite, Mascara Literary Review, Southerly, and Sydney Review of Books. She recently completed a series of poems commissioned by Wollongong Art Gallery and is co-writer, with Barbara Nicholson, for a piece of theatre in development by Anne-Louise Rentell. https://alijanesmith.wordpress.com.

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