Coming Home Last Night
Walking back from your parents’ house
I stopped to watch you walk,
Watching your plumed breath curl
And the easy stroke of your legs.
I wondered how many suburbs
Those legs of yours had covered
Before they covered mine,
And why, so suddenly, I loved you
For your quiet defiance
All the Torn and Tangled Days
And all the torn and tangled days since then are lying,
Piled on the floors of dirty rooms and cluttered kitchens,
And woven in and out of all the places
We’d so often try to visit together.
And in the budding days, the newness,
Ageless from the empty buildings of our desires,
Would walk so rare and real beside us,
On the street corners and up and down the corridors
Of our interminable happiness.
Fettered only by our loving limits,
Caught only by our careful hearts,
We seized the autumn afternoons
And breathed life into the leaves.
And always our pedestrian destiny
Would await us on street corners,
Amongst the intersections
And the poorly-scripted trees,
Over and under the terrace houses;
And in the winding of the lanes.
But now the houses are cluttered.
Amongst all the possessions,
All the artefacts of spent affection,
And trophies of despair;
All the fixtures of forgotten longings,
And the easy ornaments of cheap regret,
How can we find the space to share these things?
The solitude of company, and all the endless
Emptiness of the unshared world.
My Winter Coat
I brushed off my winter coat this morning
In the grey light, with the rain pressing
So hard on the curtained window.
And all the sounds of the suburb waking
Came sliding in under the sills,
Under the old aluminium,
Corroded to powder blue.
The thousand compelling little melodramas
Of all the unshared world
Came welling up under my window sill,
Dripped lazily down my bedroom wall
And wet my naked feet
As I brushed off my winter coat.
A Hand Through the Window
The suburb strokes my sleeping face—
Shadows by the underpass,
Dog track, telegraph and posted bills,
Bins all heaped with yesterday’s news;
Bums by the tram line coughing,
Smoking patchwork cigarettes.
The cars go jack-hammering overhead.
Behind the blinds of a crouching room
Faced up to catch the light I wonder
At the strange way my mind takes,
Why it feels a promise in the later hours.
Each streetlight like a finger beckons,
Draws me out on the night’s cool arm,
Calls me out into the air,
Takes care to rub my sleeping face
In the gutters of some little street,
To creep my eyes behind the shutters
Of undressing girls and women, see them
Blush-pink or sallow with unconscious grace
Or very conscious clumsiness.
And I follow, somnambulant, the unwinding town,
My suburb stretched bare, unshuttered,
Blushing in the moon’s desirous light,
See the fights of smaller men in public houses,
Violence and the pleading eyes of lonely women.
I will weave a new mythology
Patterned on the streets’ square deltas,
Sew it with the thread that runs before
Like a kite string from my chest,
Cut it with the scissor-motions of the clock,
The hands that beat the tune of life’s decline.
Walking home tonight past the fig tree,
By the iron fence and sandstone wall,
I was lifted suddenly on to tip-toe
And I felt the sky between the lustrous leaves,
Felt its cool and countless stars,
And felt, with perfect clarity,
The pure, pure darkness between,
The stretching, fathomless sky.
As if some giant thumb had ceased to press,
I walked taller, knowing I would not hit my head.
I floated, weightless in the cold evening
Stretching candidly to infinity
Before my wondering eyes.
And I rose, by degrees, above the street,
The concrete, asphalt, and stop signs,
Saw the little streets as lines of light,
The fraught, succulent intersections of the living,
So many lives and lights and misplaced things,
The whirling madness of the city made small,
Its harmony, collusions and collisions
All reduced to golden corollaries.
Just as if I’d burst my body’s bounds,
As if all the bonds of every cell
From molecule to atom had let go,
I moved outside the world,
Saw it spin beneath my feet.
Beating by my secret heart there lives a thing,
A stupid, senseless, golden chord
That thrums with warm vitality,
Hums like a fat taught string,
A chord of senseless beauty
Backs the beatings of my heart,
And I cease to touch the ground,
My heels are winged and streaking
To futurity with unerring aim.
© 2012 Elias Greig
from Contrappasso Magazine #1, August 2012
* * * * *
ABOUT THE POET
When he’s not fumbling for consonance or checking his lines don’t reach the edge of the page, ELIAS GREIG is a tutor and a PhD student working in the English department at the University of Sydney. Research interests include Wordsworth’s political poetics, Robert Burns’s democratic ironies, and William Hazlitt’s critical style. His poems have featured in Hermes, but nowhere else, and he is glad they are part of the launch of something new. If pressed, he prefers the still, small voice of literary criticism to the sounding tones of poetry, but happily combined the two as an editor of Hermes in 2010.