Wake

My last doll is dead.

I made it with a porcelain face
and body
A petticoat, a pinafore
I was trying to play
by the rules, play
pretend

but the porcelain became flesh
The doll stood up on its little legs
flexed its newly-made hands
grabbed at my hem
Its clean blue eyes looked straight into mine

I made an enormous prayer for it and recited it to the sky
I held my hands still
averted my eyes
Every one of me
cried

Then
the watcher
in the cortex
pronounced the doll dead
It lay on its back
eyes no longer
looking

Someone in the right hemisphere
tried dreams in lurid 3D
The doll in a locked basement
sitting in tears on a metal shelf
among cartons of yellowed papers

But truth
is truth. My last doll
is dead. If I ever make another
it will not be a doll but something real.
I will have no more dolls,
no more Frankenstein creations.

Dead
the doll is weirdly heavy
I lay it in a ten-inch plywood box
Nail down the lid

A place for everything …
Maybe I can put the dead doll box
in the bottom of the cupboard with my dress shoes

No
I might want to wear the shoes again
one day

Maybe I can bury the dead doll box
in the garden

No
I want to sit there
see things grow

Maybe I can take the dead doll box
deep into the smoothpale tallness
of the wandoo forest east of the city
Dig its grave alone and weeping
among granite outcrops
and prickly dryandra

No
The ground there is hard

Maybe I can burn
the box, the body

To generate enough heat
I’d have to pile up all my books
my laptop my albums my guitar
sweet-and-sour power chords
skin-and-sweat backbeats
The sounds and all the words
all the worlds and certainly my dress shoes
My whole goddamn wardrobe
Douse it with petrol and
torch it

I’d glide away airy and lucent
like the music of Mozart or Haydn
Sunlit
diatonic
clear
The music of the Enlightenment
Of thinking
you have
the answer

Glide away lucent, a cellophane sheet
ready to be blown by the next breeze
wrap around the next gift

No
I would still be this bone and meat
these earthbound feet

I would find the box charred in the ashes
the doll intact
the dead eyes still blue …

Neither earth nor fire will do. I must
unbox the doll
sling it on my back
and walk
Leave the city, its little forest
Venture off the hem of the map
Discover the river coiled in the cleft
of the valley at the root of heaven and earth
Wake the grandmother who sleeps there

She will bathe the dead doll in the water
invite the winds to toss its hair
++++(like this like this)
carry its weight up a mountain (like this)
leave it exposed to be stripped by carrion birds
++++(like this like this)
and let its bones rest heavy
++++(come birds)
for as long as memory
lasts

From A coat of ashes

Creative Writing, Far North REAP, Kaitaia, 16 March 2022

Creative Writing at Far North REAP, Kaitaia, 16 March flyer

Creative writing at Far North REAP in Kaitaia!

I’m running a creative writing workshop at Far North REAP in Kaitaia on 16 March, and everyone is welcome to come and write with me! Express yourself freely in a safe, supportive group. Learn new ways to put your feelings and thoughts into words and make them into poetry or stories. Fun with words for beginners and old hands.

Wednesday 16 March 2022
5.00pm – 8.00pm
At Far North REAP (Facebook)
$10 per person. You have to book in advance.

Book now — places are limited.

If you would like more information about attending the workshop, including COVID-19-related information, please contact Simone, whose details are in the image above.

If you would like to know more about what creative writing activities and knowledge the workshop will include, feel free to contact me.

Far North REAP is a community development organisation that has fostered and delivered quality education opportunities for the people of Te Hiku for over 40 years.

Enlightenment

If I handwashed my clothes every day
I could meditate on the process.
Attain enlightenment while massaging
the fabric or something. I could have two

robes and wash one while wearing the other
or something. Perhaps there are different
enlightenments. Surely the laundry sink
one can’t be the same as the

sunlit mountaintop one where
you see all creation unedited?

And then there’s the Headless Way
one, which I did experience. You do
the pointing experiment, looking for
yourself as a thing. But you find,

instead, Nothing. You’re a naked aware
singularity — an infinite container.
It’s all here, you say. I am. Also,
I am Love. I shared

the link on Facebook and wrote
Katsu!  No-one Liked it.

From A coat of ashes

Katsu!  is a shout used by Chan and Zen practitioners to acknowledge or induce enlightenment.

A coat of ashes

I fell into conversation with an ash-smeared and completely naked sadhu …
— William Dalrymple

If I leave I will not order boxes
There will be no packaging tape
++++no moving men
++++no truck
I will take none of it

A blanket, a water bottle
A coat of ashes
A poem attributed
++++to the wrong author
A corrupt index
A broken database
A partial catalogue of songs
A blanket, a water bottle
A coat of ashes
A sky, a sun, a system
++++of monosyllables
The pure tone
++++of each electron
The pure functions
The math inside the atom
The muscles connecting
++++the trunk to the legs
The tendons connecting
++++the moon to the earth
The ligaments connecting
++++the brain to the bones
A blanket,
A coat of ashes

From my book A coat of ashes

The epigraph is from Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, by William Dalrymple, Bloomsbury 2010, pp. x-xi.