Twenty Poems to Round Out the Year

by Judith Huang

The white wings beyond the cracks
for Nii Addo

The white wings beyond the cracks
In the world’s pearl
Like a shell that cups
The bloodrush of the ear
Is making us into the beating
Heart outside air
And you are here
A person who has only ever
Brought me joy
And the thunder claps
At the end of the book
To show us what this is:
Only one spinning top
Which the God we love
Has balanced on one finger

Lend me your eyes
At the snap
And I’ll lend me your ears

 

Far Eden

Far Eden
who are you
and why
should I believe in you?
Nobody knows
where you are
and why I had to run
the course of your rivers
away from the sphere
where I lived before
I lived

I am dead already
from a lack of love
and something inside me
is trying very hard to kill me
almost all the time.

God knows I’ve tried
to believe in you
but only the ground cries out
red with blood
and tells me there is no point
hiding from
the unfamiliar

 

Nearly True

God of Love, you are
sometimes gladness, sometimes pain
sometimes hard, and sometimes easy
as a jetty.
If you wound, it is with the razor-edge precision
of a skilled physician
and when you soothe
you’re like the mother of a dove –
What kind of love roams like a spirit
without thirst?
There are many rooms
inside the earth
and as many sides
as many faces
to you God
as there are revolutions
of the galaxy round the earth.
We know the vision
of each prayer must exist
in actual flesh
in an actual
universe.

 

Hope beyond hope

There is peace
past the point of endurance

How many things can we know
unless we test our strength?

I suppose the only point to this
is the proof that I have passed the test

The sun rises again
on the quick and the dead

and God tells me to be beautiful
for him, not because anybody’s watching

Quickly things are changing
as they always have,
but this time I am noticing

and the ache of granting
is that the heart’s desire
has already been transmuted
into an altar

and therefore can neither be
rescinded nor removed.

 

Stonefish

Sometimes you need something
and God gives you something else
and you just need to trust
the stone is not a stone
but really some kind of fish in disguise
that needs to be seen to be believed.

 

God Knows

What is orgasm but a spasm
of recognition
that something aflame
is being understood?

If prayer is simply another
form of thought
then something begins
when the end of words has stopped

I reel off the line walking and running and flying
without realizing that life is draining out the pain
We have to insist that the other world is here
and behave as though nothing can withstand its gain

Because it occurred before
any of us exist
and after we go
will continue to occur

 

Wilderness whisper

These things I write
are extracted from
the teeth of death,

or the jaws of some great maw:

We walk around wearing other people’s faces
and nothing is quite bright enough
to cover the face of something
quite so bare

The way some white man insists
on putting gowns
on people he calls savages
because he fears
the savage in himself

Or extracts blood-tithes
to build a church
on what was already
sacred ground

What piteous rages
are these tiny storms
that we rage on paper stages

While brother kills brother
each time he finds
that he can reinvent murder?

Stones cry out
because God’s people won’t
and God’s rage
is incendiary

Nobody wants to hear it
so I tunnel down
and dig a hole in the ground
to whisper

into the centre of the earth
knowing that it will eventually reach
King Midas’ ear

through the rushes and winds
when the time is ripe
and I have already disappeared

Peace is a Sword
(At Jericho’s Jaws)

To the ambassadors of the world we shout
PEACE
And to the armies of the world we shout
PEACE
And to the rulers of the world we shout
PEACE

and though the fortress is blackened matter
the empty atoms of the walls will shudder
for Kairos has an arc much greater
than the fools who stop their ears and resist

I see
A ring of great light surrounds us
rushes and engulfs and inflames us
and the pearl of the Kingdom a sphere
obliterating the pain and fear that trick us
into endless war

and so

I shout
PEACE
for at the word
all walls fall

 

If we only see

Why are we fighting battles
with each other
when we could band together
against the prince of the air?

Put down your arms
for seven seconds
and look into my eyes
without blinking

I guarantee
what any of us could see
we wouldn’t be able
to bear

Whatever invisible chains
Angels must touch
to dissolve

Declaim them on the rooftops
Howl them off

This generation imprisons its prophets
in madhouses
and makes madmen kings
but they cannot kill us

Lay down your arms
and let’s really see each other
lest we draw the bright swords
only to find a mirror

 

They can say this

They can say this:
That she sees things
that are not there
and therefore she is mad
but perhaps the things
that cannot be seen
are actually there?

There are more things
in heaven and earth, Horatio
than are dreamed of
in your philosophy
and the madman declaiming
and proclaiming
the secret language of water
has merely an ear
that is better tuned to the song

that we should have accepted as heard
all along

 

Blowing through

I walk the earth
and see shades
pale imitations of men
bent over with the strain
and am convinced
that either I am the only
soul on earth
and these are ghosts
or that I am the last ghost
in the land of the living
Without reason,
I am skimming to
The last page of the book
Lord let me draw the line

Return me to life
I am divine

 

Sell everything, Buy the field

Somebody is recovering
Something buried in the ground
A treasure or a seed
A pearl is both
People are intent on never telling the truth
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there
I could use bigger words
But they are not needed
Something is known by the fineness
Of a new-born infant’s hair
Or the way that you watch
A master-craftsman
Burrow with finesse

We are on the way down the road
To fire
But we have been so for thousands of years
In a sense it doesn’t matter
In the hands of God
The weight of the world
Levitates like a feather

 

Night Songs and Questioners

Sometimes you pull a tongue out
to feign it, to look closely
to diagnose which needle
is needed in which socket
I have been lying here in a basket
for too long, drifting
on the bitumen down the Nile
and have not been found
by a princess yet
These seeds course down rivers
In my body following the tides
Singing tiny inaudible songs of hope
And wondering if they will greet
A familiar stranger
My eyes become like hawks’
Racing past mountains
And peering through valleys
Scanning the earth hungrily
Aware of a trap I could pull
On myself, on the cusp
Between mourning and danger

 

Apprenticeship

The writer sat at the table and wondered
if it was possible to feel her way
past the dark
and get a bit more colour
into a person

How anyone can take
and send people through
the wringer

people you’ve made
completely from scratch
or glimpses and patches
of people you know

simply for satisfaction
it seems terrible
even sadistic

but apparently it is part of the profession
of apprentice gods.

Is it worth it?
I don’t know,
I’m not privy to the ledger

People have said
that there must be a way
it balances

That one day we’ll be standing
in stasis
and therefore bliss

 

Salt

The ocean stings you as it heals you
Jellyfish, I thought at first
Then I realized, salt.

Whose fault is it that I had forgot?
The bream are still figuring out
the shark net

It’s a place to rest and exchange
two lines with a man who sounds
South African

But also another advance
of man at the expense
of everyone else

Probably I have no great reason to worry
Everyone round here is slightly wet as well.

 

Grace rang a dead person on the phone

Even the dead must sometimes be spoken of by the living,
I said to Grace when she rang, when she mentioned
she had spoken of me to someone she met in the wild.

He might as well be dead, he’s in Australia
she said of her boss at the genetics lab who had disappeared
after leaving them without funding

Why not? I said
Every time I die I find myself here

I suppose that there are worse purgatories
than Australia

 

Lean On

After I walked on
the words rose to meet me
on the swell of the page

somebody said
that I was immortal
and I lie as though dead

ancient voices called and called
through the stirring wastes
as flesh burned off me

but still my bones walked
somebody seized
the pump of my heart

and oozed me back
onto the shore

the sun and the moon
stood equidistant from me

it was as hard to grow back
as it was to lean

at the angle of yearning
into the wind

 

Speak, Witness

There are terrible times when I sit in a chair
There are terrible times when I stand in the air
There are terrible times when I walk all around
There are terrible times when I can’t hear a sound
There are terrible times when I see things
There are terrible things when I hear things
There are terrible times when I stare
There are terrible times when there’s nothing there
There are terrible times when there’s blood on my tongue
There are terrible times when I am all alone
There are terrible times when
There are terrible times when what I bite back
There are terrible times when I continue to say
There are terrible times when lasting a night and a day
There are terrible times when I have no home
There are terrible times that I must write out of
There are terrible times I cannot write off
There are terrible times that I must in spite of
There are terrible times I cannot write of

 

The Bronze Serpent

Look at this thing
the cause of and solution
to your ills
and tell me its coils are not
your coils
and tell me its stake
is not your stake
and tell me its staff
is not your staff
something is coiling up
inside you, ready to snap
at my heel
but the bite will tame it
it will fall off
as though determined
to be healed

 

Why fish are not blind

What is this face without eyes
but whose every surface is eyes?
I plunge into and against oceans
not because I am not afraid
but because it is necessary
to brave them

The bream know
you are in their dream.
They may defend it.

In the shallows
snook hover over
the sandlands
as ghosts

If you do not peer
into the kingdoms
under the waves
there is no way
you can extract the pearl

Everywhere the colour has come out
of these
inimitable
sacred
missing
floors

Categories: Poetry

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