haiku saucer in the sky moon rises over whitman tablecloth of stars whitman cold as white whitman cold as haiku whitman moon walt whitman as haiku moon haiku face of sky whitman rising over moon flying saucer stars
In 2011, shortly after moving to Sweden, I produced a chapbook, Övergången, containing ten poems in English and Swedish. The translations were kindly provided by Linda Bönström and Boel Schenlaer ahead of my appearance at the Södermalm Poetry Festival.
One of the poems, ‘Cute’ (in Swedish, ‘Söt’), would go on to appear in Leaves of Glass. So, in the interests of publicity and cross-cultural communication, I’m reproducing the Swedish translation here.
Nu kör vi!
City of burnt grass and black limousines. City of nudes and spider lilies, where the grass stands up even though it is on fire, whistling a harvest tune. By the railway lines, entropy rules: jagged weeds and mystery melons scramble for space, riddling the rails, disguising the sleepers with their fantastic tendrils. Like a smoker's signal, brave and futile. Trains slice these ribbons into tendons, timetabling history, scattering seeds, accelerating some abstract chaos. Trampled soccer balls like snakeskin or leather on the shining road. Dressed as inspectors, we climb the stainless steel stairs, pass the plastic clinic and the coffee mall, then enter the machine room. Here, the rumble of traffic is merely a shiver in your bowels, barely shaking the keys. Predicting story arcs is what it's all about. Prisoners, good deeds and friendships betrayed. The studios will be eating out of our hands. Privately, we model alternate scenarios: the prisoner escapes; the can of boiled beef falls from the adjutant's hand; a friendship is consummated in a bloody latrine scene. Here, the streets are viewed as if through the screenshots of an amateur photographer: the perspectives slightly skewed, casting one's eye off balance. Jets scramble overhead, but no one notices. The flags of a thousand federations burst into the blue sky, unfurling like false spring! The sound of trickling water consumes bus drivers and cart pullers alike. Insanity is okay, although mistakes are sometimes made. Usually, these thoughts disappear. Slowly, a city comes to know itself by the bend of a river, the argument of a steel canal. Behind us, mountains; ahead, cartwheels of conversation, opening.
there has to be an invisible moon over on the other side of the sun gravitationally drawing me to you how else can i explain these forces lifting me out of my dreams to float like a silver balloon out our window behind the dunes & under the beach beneath the pavement & the rocks in my head & the stars full of music i am its puppet now floating in space its honey power rising in my veins because each night i lie beside you we’re walking on some other moon neither of us knows its secret name it simply rotates at the same speed at which it revolves on a toothpick tempting me to open up the window to leave the curtains wide open the doors unlocked & the radio on playing ‘Hey Moon’ over and over until it’s as if we know each note a starfield swirling slowly into zero already full draped in white shadow guiding us through the afternoon my lips mouthing a weird loon-song on some high cliff north of sound otherwise what’s making me blink speak to us in jazz notes only moon without twilight we’d see no light without the moon surfers would just be dudes with beards going ‘wow, man’ and here it comes: this pure wave that dares to engulf me breathing solid & yet empty at the same time so glassy & perfect is this cylinder what a perfect moon that made it! how else am i to explain the paths that burn fluorescence as we walk hey moon, i’m wearing sunglasses but i can still feel you, feel me come take a walk on the moon babe & let’s make ours an incredible one this thump-thump? our tiny hearts you feel that moon? we feel you too rising like a science-fiction version of ourselves over the horizon wow pulling us in with its silver strings i can hear it calling out to me o hai as a radio wave across the universe about to rise ... about to set over us our hearts about to go boom boom ... i can see it shining through your eyes we’ll walk in slow-motion on stardust tuck a moon-beam behind your ear & everything else will just disappear
you dress young but then you doubt it take a look at the band & think who are these idiots? you remember dressing young & feel slightly allergic to music while all around you (idiots! fawning over you & new order yes now i remember the way you dressed when you were younger (although not as young as your sister was the night you accompanied her to bikini kill at the wollongong youth centre (would 'chaperoned' be a better word? you remember kathleen hanna shoving an old-school telephone down the front of her undies you remember what it felt like to feel old as cool blasts of chill-wave air smacked your face head- on ... you were too old to remember the proton energy pills but nevermind i mean forget it i saw the future in a room full of moshing girls & the minor threat of sk8rs hanging outside (bored boys who told stories about sk8tn & shit (did they also dress young - you betcha (of all people! you grow old, you grow old you shall trade in that dud album by bob mould for a second-hand copy of theatre of gnomes who knows shakedown’s finale like me (i’ve seen spew coming out of a port kembla sky it’s just steam some idiot once claimed (yeah there’s nothing polluting about it ... you grow old but continue to dress young like some fifty-year-old drunk wearing okanuis extra bitter still got it still yearning for that clayton’s moment (whatever it was - nevermind redux dress young grow old & die smiling
first published in Page Seventeen (2010)