Monday, September 04, 2006

New Poetry by Libby Hart


Tolstoy walked out into the snow.
Chekhov may or may not have had champagne.
Sylvia Plath neatly folded a dishcloth in the oven for her head.
Tchaikovsky tried drowning himself, only to stand hip deep
in the Moskva River.
Shelley was more successful, heading straight into a storm with a copy
of Keats in his pocket.
Miklós Radnóti buried his poems in his pocket before someone buried him.
Virginia Woolf had faith in the rock that held her down in The Ouse.

* * *

In the silence,
the car has already turned for Sebald
the cancer already taken Brodsky
the ocean already swallowed Hart Crane.

In suffering,
Rimbaud nurses his bad leg
Jane Austen reflects on her illness
Mary Wollstonecraft insists on bravery.

In the darkness,
Henry James writes invisible words over a bedspread
Keats undergoes his long final nights
Eugene O'Neill waits to die in a Boston hotel room.

In rapidity,
Pushkin falls from the bullet
Marlowe bleeds in Deptford
Hemingway places the gun to his head
while the Brontës drop away
like pearls from a broken necklace.

- Libby Hart 2006

Darwin's Walk

Nobody traipses anymore.
No one lingers over a spot
thinking for 20 years about origins or earthworms,
no one bothers to clock up over 20,000 circuits
contemplating the world.

Each grain of sand, a time capsule
mulled over now by gravel for tourists
who stay awhile
and walk the bended edges of Darwin's imaginings,
just past the kitchen garden and the meadow.

I think imagination needs to be curved.
It has to be full and rounded.
There's no point in narrowness,
it is thin-aired and has its limits.

Bending carries laterality
and room for improvement,
an endless cycle of preoccupation.
Circles are for dreamers

Straight lines, on the other hand
are for middle men
for men in suits,
for bitter wives.

Einstein's Theory of Relativity seems doomed for revision
but Darwin's theory still stands up, more or less
160 years after telling his wife to open
the bundle of papers in the event of his death,
binding its shame in ribbon.

Containing it like a toxic secret
until its guilty knowledge flowered from competition,
allowing polite women to utter the word ape
for the first time in relation to ourselves,
speaking in whispers so as not to upset the servants.

Hierarchies climb and crumble like radiation
each set of rules or animal
replaced by another, and another
like time and the notion of substance.

Walking each day
step after step,
one foot in front of the other.
Murmuring the world,
grasping it slowly.

- Libby Hart 2006


Maybe Samuel Beckett was right,
maybe the tears of the world exist
as a silent relay, circling the earth.

I impart.
My next door neighbour follows,
wearing her tears like jewellery.
They are large, misshapen pearls

And like the ancient Greeks
she'll collect them -
each and every one of them,
to bury them deep inside herself.

Each time is different:
small and barely noticeable
pooled at the lid -
blinking, blinking to remove

Or a heavy stream flowing
along the bridge of nose,
crossing the lips
circling, becoming a slick of salt.

And the relay expands into kilometres
through states and borders,
onto atolls and bridges
and dry land.

And again, there is someone
who will follow the line,
who is picked for the flood.
An inheritor, with an urgency for tears.

- Libby Hart 2006

The above poems will appear in Libby's first collection "Fresh News from the Arctic" to be launched in Brisbane on the 5th of November.