‘Tolerate the spasmodic, the obscure, the fragmentary, the failure.’
Virginia Woolf, ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’
I am hanging onto the edge of a continent.
The full moon takes the sand far from the beach
into the gulf’s indifference.
I stand for a moment in this immodest heat.
The world here will burn before it freezes.
The words I write, and the sun, all resist me.
So they should.
As a child I’d pad around thinking ‘if I were a boy’,
another kind of mind and muscle, a difference
as green as grass but it never worked. TV was
my co-parent, my super hero. The outside air filled
with mowers. Nothing would fit the cracks.
Every bird was a visitor, while I stumbled into bricks
or the hidden kicks of the real world. That’s how I fell.
And how I felt. Each stitch was a prick.
Like Osiris or Frankenstein, I am assembled.
Later, when they poked out my eye and stuck in
another, they forgot to tell me it wouldn’t fit quite right,
or I’d be able to see far, to predict every calamity,
but everyone would laugh.
(OK, have it your way.)
Each night I sit down and watch it watching me.
Are poems becoming hotter and darker like the world?
Maybe I’m listening for the wrong broadcast
as a loner within screenlight, a bit ‘404 not found’,
living in idle twilight among pickings of lecherous
sparrows, still subject of thanatos, still
hanging around my old address.
Not all the boxes can be ticked.
The sea is my mother tongue, reaching for me
on the sand, my feet slipping in the undertow.
The tide wants me, my paper sails. Μὴ κίνη χέραδας,
Sappho says. ‘Don’t stir up the beach rubble.’
My fragments float.
Μνάσεσθαί τινά φαμι καὶ ὔστερον ἄμμεων.
Who has met their trash and forgiven it?
‘One day someone will remember us.’
Note: versions of lines and phrases from Sappho are my own. The poem’s last line ‘translates’ the phrase in Ancient Greek that is the last line of the previous stanza.
Jill Jones has published eleven full-length books of poetry, including Viva the Real (UQP 2018), Brink (Five Islands Press 2017), and The Beautiful Anxiety (Puncher & Wattmann 2014), which won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry in 2015. She is a member of the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice, University of Adelaide.