Colombine, New & Selected Poems
Book Sample

from Fugue

Swann’s Way

          Just a century later
desire seems almost too tragic,
happiness mute as Proust’s sorrowful lover,
chilled and shadow-bound,
loitering in the snow, smoke-breath evaporating
beneath the Neverland of a shut window.

Remember Swann chasing that ultimo kiss,
his finches gossiping in the pulse of Odette’s wrist?
A pair of leopard-skin boots, newly unwrapped,
might thrill the future’s mirror-ball dance,
but radio-sex in a Ford under the stars
remembers literature as a blur of backs.

Perhaps all the summery Swanns
are just this moment striding through the city
imagining a flower, a bird, a moth, a trick—
their yet-to-be-encountered loves
alighting, tasting the evening’s transience.

Satisfaction—another evasion—
seems as tricky as the perfect talkshow title—
When your best friend sleeps with your illegitimate son
or Nineteen times a bridesmaid and never a bride—
       Perhaps Proust might ask the warring couple:
how shall we talk through this puzzle

of loss and loss whittled? How shall
we negotiate the stellate structure of snow
and the sepulchral nature of ash
whilst singing back the sirens of their vast seas
until the future is pulled from adriftness
and the empty kaleidoscope
is left to some other childish memory?

Perhaps we might visit the orange grove,
the pipped olive, the vacancy of marble
and reacquaint ourselves
with Europe’s multisyllabic kings and queens,
their tragic fleets and coincidental destinies—
                    but then, again,
perhaps it’s better to switch channels
and see what’s on SBS digital 2, where all day
language pours from a global cup.
Just watching the cars swim along Punt Road
fills the night with epic smoke.
Love, the one interesting theme, dazzles you
every time, like a catfight heard far away
in an alley off your own familiar street.

from Colombine

XXVI . . . La Guaiassa

In a theatre with flowers for footlights, by a palace
or a coastline, I look at you through the eyes of a mask.
Paint me with coloured wax, tattoo my scar.
My body undressed. Hands looking at the shape of myself.

It’s a surgery of sorts—to move, to be still, to act.
To applaud the audience’s thrumming tympanum.
Colombine’s past is longer than the past of mothers.
She is gravel, collected. No one will stun her finally

with glitter. In the plays of Plautus she’s Scaphe,
the servant of a lady musician. Today, she’s writing
a little something on the pleasures of anonymity
like bodacious George Sand on the Lakes of Lombardy.

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