Poems written for Creative Connections 2011

I was asked to write a poem of up to ten lines in response to each of four visual works by artists with disabilities. I was given a brief biography of each artist.

These works may not be reproduced by any process, including printing, without permission. First published in Creative Connections 2011 anthology. Images are reproduced here by kind permission of Creative Connections and the artists.

Painting by Adrian Chadwick (visually impaired)

painting by Adrian Chadwick

This isn’t for looking at
but someone is watching. Someone is always
watching. This is my sound / my dance / my joy / breathing
pine needles and old rain / with old bass rain my blood / dark
electric berry stains and bright lemony squirts / this is my pink
tint of spiders singing / my nightwings
ruffling in the violin wind / I spiral
and slide and curl and sway and nod / alone
in my difficult deep dance bliss

Mixed media by Robyn Edwards

Mixed media by Robyn Edwards

We be three confident chicks
with midnight feathers ’n’ legs like sticks
On cobbled land we strut ’n’ frisk,
pose for the cameras, take a risk
We relish ’n’ polish our personal flaws
in this stony zone where nothin’ grows
but we, dancin’ under radical skies
with tails a-wag ’n’ comin’-at-ya eyes

Collage by Karen Forbes Smith

Collage by Karen Forbes Smith

From our central curl
we send across the floor our various breaths,
our bits, our strips and feathers. Deployed
on the clean orange space
they cluster in yellow and blue
with a green flag, a pink wink and a purple teardrop.

Their tendrils extend, quietly,
over the hard white walls
into the blankness that frames us

and make shadows there.

Painted with the feet by Lisa Bernic

Painting by Lisa Bernic

at my feet,
a sunlit sea-garden of warm wet translucence
tight and branched corals and long shifting fronds
dark eel places and cray places
happy anemones and quick fish

this is a snapshot of my habitat,
a corner of my complexity,
a mirror of my mystery

if there are any sharks,
they are a long way from here

Album review: Sage Francis ‘Li(f)e’

(Released 2010 on Francis’s label Strange Famous Records.)

I don’t have a ready genre slot in which to shove this, but there’s a Bill Hicks quote in the liner notes, so I had a good listen: Hicks knew what was missing, and he would’ve loved this. Spoken to souled grooves, following its own muse; say ‘hip-hop’ if you want to but that doesn’t cover it.

Open the liner, read the white-on-black notes, the poems that this man wrote. The rhyme is sparse, subtle, inventive, doesn’t drown out the content. This poet delivers, riffing in English ’til the language quivers — but he doesn’t let it splinter. He holds it together.

‘You’re not my Yoko so I cropped the photo and I rocked it solo.’

‘I had one too many one-way conversations with the liggy liggy Lord until I grew a scissor tongue and c-c-cut the cord. I put the phone on the floor, detached the wires in my head. It took a while to accept that that line was dead.’

This poetry is spoken over flows of melody — aching, pacing — and rhythmic attack. Indie-roar electric and stringtalk acoustic, loose and eclectic, full of emotion. Full-on production by Brian Deck.

‘They’re selling a click track but they call it a soul clap.’

Don’t give it to a Christian. They won’t like the diction. The knife inserted into organised religion. Because Francis grew up American like Lisa among the Simpsons but he didn’t let the shame and hate hold him back.

(Reviewed for RTR-FM.)

Brave, beautiful, beloved

(Portrait of Rita)

Commissioned 2009. This work may not be reproduced by any process, including printing, without permission.

In all she did, she loved. The glow of her!
Her Welsh voice, its gentle lilts and rolls
a balmy pool with bubbles, waves and ripples.
Her lipstick-pretty mouth. Her peach-bloom cheeks.
Her neatly cultured brows and bright brown eyes —
a sigh of velvet candle flames, not stars.

Her hair like gold-dust spread on gleaming water,
glinting like her jewelled wrists and throat
and fingers, their nails lacquered and shaped,
dreamily draped yet poised, precise and ready.
Her body plush, yet firm enough to lean on.
Her arms soft, yet strong enough to hold one.

Her home sang of her country-cottage heart.
The warm and comfy — sofas, cushions, drapes,
foliage, her roomy soul, her arms —
embraced the small and shiny — copper, glass,
china, jewels, precious hearts, bright eyes.
Each item laid in place with care: a blessing.

She nurtured and collected delicate things.
Necklaces, rings. Clocks, statuettes, shoes,
pretty plates. Flower-hung, lace-hung hats.
Austrian blinds in gathers, frills and curves.
And many precious pictures of family and friends
honoured in frames on walls, where she could see them.

She lived to love, was conscious of how her touch
affected others, created beauty for others
in every moment, in all she did and made.
This woman of diamonds, woman of gold, bouquet
of chosen roses, lover of all things small —
small dogs, mice, bugs and little human hearts —
she helped them grow in the garden of her arms.

Her calm arms a harbour for wild ships,
      for Debbie, for Leanne
Her reliable smile a quiet place to sit,
      a familiar chair and table
      for Lorraine
Her laughter a homecoming, a rain of memory,
      a swing, a slide, a treehouse,
      a dolls’ picnic,
      a secret shared
      for Pat
Her entire self — her body, mind and spirit —
      the puzzle solved,
      the pattern matched,
      the question answered,
      the door unlocked,
      the path revealed
      to a place of peace
      for Ross.

Rita walked in glowing joy and love,
in brave grace, and warmth, and mirth, and beauty.
Rita. A true friend forever.
She left too soon, but left with dignity —
a lady from her dawn until her sunset.

Poem to be read at June’s funeral

Commissioned 2010. This work may not be reproduced by any process, including printing, without permission.

June Dawn, you were born and lived a lady,
gracious and elegant to the last.
You showed the world your style, your smile
and gave each day — each soul — your best.

Around you, no-one could be lonely.
The laughter in your lovely eyes
enmeshed a truly precious pattern
around the Lotto of our lives.

By sharing with neighbours, friends and family
your lavish feasts — your food, your self —
you shared with everyone Heaven’s secret:
happiness comes to us when we help.

We may no longer know directly
your twinkling eyes and golden touch,
but time can never take away
the love and laughs you left with us.