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Alan Loney

Testament: ninth muse

if you say something, see something
                       — Charles Bernstein

it is easier to die than to remember
                       — Basil Bunting

of whatever part of the world
          I know          next to nothing          poetry
as an oral more than a semantic
          writing system          faced with the photographs
it’s hard to recall the corpse
          in a box          a letter disappeared
from the alphabet          one of the few
          species having a murderous interest
in itself          bleached paper white
          as the reddened snow

a voice of the author without
          authority            flagrant flowers
thruout the house          hope
          will lead you nowhere let’s hope
for that
in the iridescent feathers
           a coin spinning along a table

out of word-rubble
         nothing         not for nothing
nothingness calls         empty depth of
          death         will not take anything beyond
a given time printed blind
          water rippling over stones          words
rippling over earth          a seamless nexus
         we cannot write of seamlessly
rock over plant
         over cave & wall         by the time
I check the time it is gone
         no worth or word
in the tiny opening of
         a flower         a mind         a breach
in the wall          no fortitude

didn’t mean anything by
          anything said          you may have
sweeter dreams in the blink
          of an eye          night never
falls          day never dawns          local
          flattening of vocalic range          all cues
moving right along       thirteen alphabets
          exist fifteen extinct is one way
of looking at it          bird call’s a real
          eye-opener          all the grief
of a life come to you
          in a day     learn to be a poet
all over again & again          pull down thy
          vanity he sd          why didn’t I
listen          scoop out the brain-pan
          hear the words anew

a thinking way of looking          hail
          bouncing off the top of
the fence          no words dark enough
          to match music’s dark or body
its dance          o labyrinthine library
          show me the way          musaion
the book has always resisted you
          wind-rustle passing treetop to treetop
as you walk          in his ingenuity & kindness
          he has handed me a box labelled
The Universal & Complete Poetry Engine
          bird collecting other birds’ feathers
to feather its nest          drone of
          language          platypus found out
of its element        need new timbres or
          substitute for them

duck-wake rippling form of red
          carp at surface          despair not
dissimilar as it may seem          why write
          this when that is all there is
no words from him only thumbs going
          round & round          a partial glory
on breaking cloud          try reciting
          the alphabet in an order other than
the one you learned          I deny the existence
          of a primal book or primal voice
paper on paper thing upon thing
          the centre is everywhere
the garment has no hem at all
          circular splash of raindrops on
the drive          fresh early morning chill
          is not cold

eyes all over the place          black
          butterfly in & out of sight
narrow channel but a deep one
          in the pond an eel moves into
& away from view          he is no familial
          figure at table head          how to get
from radial to radiant reading          why
          would anyone want a book
on a desert island          twenty ducks
          in nose-cone flight across
morning          pied type
          is the work of the world
what’s to do in the last phase
          of being here being there
there has been no word
          inter alien

at golden beach          nothing cadenced
          music half a millennium old renews
the two of us back from the sea
          mosquitoes probe for blood          salt foam
chills bare feet starved for truth
          red wattle bird rackets
thru dying banksias & syncopated
          viols          how will it end
if the cadence is over-tuned          eyes
          outwitted by ears that never close
long drawn-out ostinato          an unfigured
          baseline no letter will achieve or
round off sound on sound of wave
          as king cormorant spreads wings you can’t
believe and flying low aslant
          wave-trough          path of forgetfulness

kookaburra at nightfall          mosquito
          smelling blood at the window
foam is the gentlest part
          of the sea          each life quick
as light flicked off wave          forget
          piracy & sovereignty water resists
all your inscription         commotion & cacophony
          of birds in tall trees
can you ever write anything
          about the book          list all
any sheet of paper requires
          of you          physis kryptesthai philei
nature loves to hide and so does every
          thing you think you know
panta rei          everything moves          each
          one located everywhere

looking is discontinuous          hearing
          can’t be turned off
how to write by only
          what you hear          out of the depths
where do you go          there are no
          wild mares or radiant daughters
of the sun to take me          sober
          as one for whom no mercy
no judgment no consolation is just
          around the corner          will the
unexpected come          the un-hoped-for
          arrive          before me
on the table the little shell striated
          white and the color of sand
the gods are gone          attend
          to what is given you

read Parmenides think Wittgenstein
          unfigurable ground of nothingness
devising words throwing up only
          the things that seem          the absolute
and the ephemeral          thinking & being
          are the same how did I get it
so wrong so long          the things
          that are are unreachable by word
or deed blood or thought they elude
          you for the long run called
‘forever’          the poet tongue-tied
          hands cut off for stealing
the language of power          we will steer
          you to the delusion of truth
delusion of self          delusion of poetry
          your ‘aimless eye & ringing ear’

death does not round anything
          off          water thicker than blood
any day          been writing so long
          the left brain’s in tatters
son father & brother gone          how
          is it I am still alive
he filled a trolley full of
          food before he left          he
stopped a brutal father in
          his brutal track          he grew
& tended orchids in a new
          country          he loved a woman
in another language          forgive
          forego forget & forge          give up
pretence forensic foresight’s possible
          blood will not out here

turn page to write again          emptiness
          crashes upon me again & again
always again          the repeat          the repeal
          clanging thru breath          circulation
bringing it round again          those one
          values loves reads all dead
words will splash on to paper without
          gain          writing hands
emptied of the pen
          ink is water not semen
her prosthetic finger writes
          as mine does in our dear
& simple difference          my brother’s
          death tells me nothing but
nestles within me as all the names
          of the known I can recite

if there’s a word for it
          find it perhaps in ‘melancholy’
in Skeat on the same leaf
          as mellifluous   mellow   melody
 memoir   memory & menace          add
          ‘loss’          the weight of it          or how
 might ‘alienation’ sit in welter
          of relation & resonance
or what if I gave my nostalgia
          for beginnings away          or what
store will the compositor set
          on what could never be
believed          everyone exists
          to appear as a book
he called me ‘reclusive’
          in public the other day

to live in a place I could
          love   I’d give anything for that
sea, rock, sand, cloud, any
          bird that will come   in its time
my time coming to an end          all
          the poems lined up a tawdry heap
beside grass flower & the grey owl
          that perches here the whole day
from time to time          limbs fail
          hair thins          the old poetic tricks
trip off the pen          there has been
          no home   as Thomas (R.S.) found one
in Wales   Pound in Venice   alien at birth
          every word stained with blood
and stupidity   not a snowflake’s chance
          of settling on the ground

Alan Loney

Alan Loney

Alan Loney’s first book of poems was published in 1971 and he began printing in 1974. He was co-winner of the poetry prize in the New Zealand Book Awards in 1977, Literary Fellow at the University of Auckland in 1992, and Honorary Fellow of the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne 2002–2006, and Convener of the Conference on the History of the Book in New Zealand at University of Auckland 1995. Loney has published 11 books of poetry, and eight books of prose with a recent emphasis on the nature of the book. Recent books of poems are: Fragmenta nova (Five Islands Press, 2005), Nowhere to go, and other poems (Five Islands Press, 2007), and Day’s eye (Rubicon Press, 2008). Recent books on printing are: The printing of a masterpiece (Black Pepper, 2008), and Each new book (The Codex Foundation, Berkeley, Calif. 2008). His latest limited edition books are Fishwork, with drawings by Max Gimblett and a Foreword by John Yau (The Holloway Press, University of Auckland 2009); Nowhere to go (Ink-A! Press, Oregon 2009), and Katalogos (Red Dragonfly Press, Minnesota 2010). A novella, Anne of the Iron Door, is due from Black Pepper, Melbourne in 2010.

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