from Gathering in the Underworld
Monday 13 April (Prompted by Sharon Olds’ ‘Making Love in Winter’, using the nouns: skin, blooms, transom, ovaries, questions; the verbs: is, flying, touch, burns, casts; and the adjectives: loose, dark, motionless – last noun is the title of the response poem)
At birth, the bird flew high and white
and motionless, the eye of the storm not yet
arrived but drawing nearer, the bird
loose in its orb of stillness branching
its wings in the hospital hallway between
the lights going out and the generator
roughly clanking the lights back on, in that
moment of cyclonic noise subsiding, the veil
your mother reached down to touch
between the legs they had raised in stirrups
slid warm, unbroken, and when
she, frightened, drew you to her, only a
makeshift curtain pulled partially
around the trolley on which they had
parked her, alone and shaved, one among
many, young, untaught, she felt
before she saw, like glistening gladwrap,
the bag you came in, and she held you in it,
horrified, in awe, believing in that moment before
the light flooded you with ultraviolet,
that you were gone from her, or dead, or worse,
a creature from another universe, which was
partly true and partly all she could feel through
in that overrun, clamorous place, but then you
reached your curled fist palm-upwards,
and kicked to break that sticky breach of trust
and rushed her skin, which bloomed
beneath you, and in that transom,
your tiny ovaries quickened like stardust
and she saw in your unblinking eyes
not the surprise of the unseen bird
like a torn sail above her, but something pass
wingshadowed through your widened
pupils, and she pitied the mewl you made
and brought herself to love you.
Monday 20 April: Prompt: What repels me? Working from a list of things you dislike intensely – the question of beauty propelled by repulsion inevitably confronts the abject.
Have you got your Action plan ready?
Mould on the windows, all the cooking books
smoked in grease and arsenic. Spores
on Jamie Oliver. Dust so thick it lives
to garnish spaghetti spliced with stink
bugs suppurating the porous ground.
Where once a kind of onion grew, indelible
Rorschach blots bubble through the possum wee
cooking pot, whole towns drowned in porridge
or was it asparagus, for lack of a word?
Maggots at work among the tulips,
like actors planting light bulbs under
centrelink office desks flashing on and off
up-side-down. Nothing weird
about the underworld in Australia.
Give me a worm with a moustache any day,
or a shrieking bat drunk on Tequila.
Ah, do not go gently, my foul
friend, the good old days when vampires
chilled out with retro cooking shows
and grinned friskily at the rule
against garlic in Hades. Renovations
the Addams family could be proud of.
No queues at Sgninnub in Hades, the
sausage sizzle still available with all
the extras, don’t ask questions,
blinking strictly prohibited though
you can shake whatever comes to hand.
Handles, however, are in short supply.
Tomato sauce, sulphur and sinew completely
out of stock. When registering for real estate
in Hades, have your password ready
and your myVogID portal set up
to activate your deathrate with the
myVogAp to track your whereabouts.
All viral carriers welcome, we want you to
socially include yourselves before we press
Incinerate. No, Ruby Princess, you stay
exactly where you are, you beautiful
infernal dream boat, all your working
slaves captured on camera in their glorious
two-by-two styrofoam cells, no Styx©
necessary, no coin discharged. Here’s a
plastic bag, easy enough, just hyper-
ventilate: we’ll take care of everything
at the Swiss hotel or at the marble gate.
Dr. Shari Kocher is a poet, creative writer, therapist and independent scholar whose work has been featured in literary journals in Australia and elsewhere spanning twenty-five years. These include Australian Poetry Journal, Best Australian Poems 2013 & 2016, Blue Dog, Cordite, Going Down Swinging, Meanjin, Plumwood Mountain Journal, Southerly, Overland, and Westerly, among others. She is the author of The Non-Sequitur of Snow (Puncher & Wattmann 2015) which was Highly Commended in the 2015 Anne Elder Awards (Australia). Recent awards include The Peter Steele Poetry Prize (2020), The Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Award (2018), The University of Canberra Health Poetry Prize (2016) and second, third and shortlisted placements in the prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize (2017, 2015, 2020). Her forthcoming books Foxstruck and Other Collisions (Puncher & Wattmann 2020) and Sonqoqui: a verse novel in translation (El Taller Blanco Ediciones) are due out soon. Kocher holds MA and Doctorate degrees from Melbourne University, where she sometimes works as a sessional teaching associate and postgraduate supervisor in the School of Culture and Communications.
Paula: Shari Kocher and Joan Fleming have occasionally followed daily poetry prompts as part of a Madrid writers’ group that was doing ‘a poem a day’ for Poetry Month. It inspired me to gather together some local poetry prompts that I will post on Wednesday May 13th.