by Mani Rao
You hold on to this cloud, I hold on to that
Shouting the shapes over each other’s voices
Everything turns to water, darling
The riddle of the moon has been busted
Tell me again again again again why
She casts herself on
Reality’s constant insatiable shift
Why we take to terraces, gardens
Wherever we can fly silhouettes
And turning our heads, slightly, in love
Try on the moon ring it never fits
Your face, the shadow of a witch
No matter how much fed
Hound moon is back like appetite
Again again again
Sleep on the flatbed of stars
Sleep on history
Sleep in the shape of Pegasus, Orion, Aquila, Cygnus
Someone always playing at Vega
(First published in Meanjin, April 2007, Australia.)
Those love cannot leave alone
Love those, cannot leave alone
Cannot love, leave those alone
Leave those, cannot love alone
Those cannot leave love alone
Hiding in a tree trunk
Looking through the hollows
Firs in new wedding gowns
Fire budding Christmas trees
It was the trees jangling interior bangles
The tigers striped past silently
Rugs on the floor of salvation wood
The first time I saw ginseng I understood the body to be root
Until a slice of what I could only call steakwood
The river swears it’s blue, will carry you across
Soon as you leap in, fast moving coils
Who said the python’s dead
Where is the hatch
Somewhere here but giant roots flowed over
Is it sealed
Will we keep
Gone too far, free out at sea, why does the water wave as if pining for the ties of Shiva’s braids?
The tangles at the fountainhead.
From here, the view of the dance.
(First published in Fourth River, Vol2, 2006 USA.)
The Void Plate
Silent in the centre of the web of analogies, the indescribable one.
I positioned myself at a safe distance between God and Satan, tempting both.
First the priest violated me. Delectable. His curiosity forced me to relinquish my self. I swept the dust of sex out of sight under my heavy orange drapes. It was not easy to be celibate, until I was celibate.
When the gates of spring squeaked in the mouths of birds, I put out a hand, sunflower seeds embedded in my flesh. A bare-breasted mother re-filled the feeder with liquid suet. Fat River Love. Fire Heart.
Tongue swelled and stayed low on the floor of my mouth like a numb fish.
Tongueless I could only make the haaa and the ehhhh and the aah of hallelujah: if my tongue could arch, it would have flicked l, blow ooh-yeah.
I could do the ah and the oh of aum: if my lips were there they would have moved in the implication of an mmm.
In my hot sand chest, a tide of breath. Sometimes a pause, breathless, as if waves waited for waves that crashed before them to finish, aaaah___allllaaah.
My creatures ran faster to the fire, leaping into it. My trees nailed themselves to the ground when they heard you would pass. Soot-faced, they stood, uncurling fruit-drops.
O the knots on Osage orange for fire to suckle.
I could not feed the fire considering it untouchable.
My only way was through it.
The only way to knowledge is through God, I had to say.
And What, is God? she had to say.
God is the Way.
Shlip shlop shlip shlop
Darling, I hear you – now show yourself!
I stop in the middle of a song about you to take in your fragrance.
That you put strings in the mud-instrument, and waited, and waited for it to stumble upon them.
The plate is the void.
Fire the flare of sound through it.
Is this writing? Then where is my tongue?
I’ve abandoned the pail and pitched my tent on seesaw water.
What if I am my own witness?
My ears believe each other.
After reading the poem I asked, "what have you understood."
She deleted the poem.