Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wordsmith Opening Words Pt 1

Here is the poem I performed at the opening of Wordsmith at M16 Art space on 21 August.


Knowing the Trick Spoils the Magic

I know the moment I became a poet -
My parents have taken me to my first rodeo -
This is what I remember:

            fist-falls of hooves; bone
            pummelling earth's skin; wide nostrils,
            flared eyes, peeled back lips; earth
            flicked in clumps, grenades of dirt; sweat
            torn off in clouds of steam; fleshy
            punches of flanks
            colliding; wheeling western fighters
            diving; lassoes strafing the ring;
            a caught calf's sudden

            I cannot separate the hides,
            can't divide excited from
            scared, as I sit in the bleachers,
            pinned, afraid to 
            share my breath with the
            weight of the forced
            snorts in the air.


            one horse fallen. a
            cracked bone protrudes
            rudely from its shin.
            sharp. white. sheer.

            the cowboy pulls his caught leg free,
            puts his mouth straight to the horse's ear.
            whatever he says, the horse does not shift,
            except for short bellow-throws of its chest,
            its eyes fixed on something only it can see.

            a truck and trailer appear in a puff of smoke,
            behind the stricken horse,
            and a tarpaulin is hauled across our view,
            as mysterious as a magician's screen.
            the last thing I see as the horse disappears
            is a vet showing us nothing up his sleeves.

            I sit breath-held and leaning in,
            listening to the dust settle on the emptied ring.

Merlin was a boy from school with white, wise hair.
the other kids told me it was once pure black,
but he had been in a car crash when he was five,
and the shock of the smash
drained the colour from his hair overnight.

            as I stare at the tarp, I conjure an image:
            trauma has turned the horse's hair glaring white
            and, somehow, the vet takes the bone from its leg
            and fixes it as a glowing horn to its head.

            when the tarp is re-rolled and the truck drives off,

            there is nothing left but a dark outline of horse sweat
            and a cowboy, head bared, ignoring the crowd,
            not doing anything, just staring at the ground.
            he waves the dust from his chaps and dons his hat,
            before wide-walking to the yard to accept another mount.

            that moment, on bare bleachers, set my writer's course:
            to search for what's behind a canvas screen;
            trying hard to write me as the wise magician,
            more often the cowboy,

            sometimes the horse.

First published in spoken in one strange word - Queensland Poetry Festival Anthology 2013

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