Poems by Andrea Malcolm
The Heart Returned
page 20 of Tarot #1
What if the heart were like the brain and earlier
anatomists who’d carved it up had already assigned discrete
territories, all labelled for their different functions —
love, hate, fear, joy, trust and grief; while the less clear
mutables mill and mingle at the borders? I’d look and think:
there’s the section damaged by fire while here’s the part
that beat upwards like a bird, we thought we’d soar
and never return. And this — this was the bit in gravity’s
thrall, poor errant mortal fallen back to earth.
But I think, in truth, you’re more sophisticated than that, more
a hologram that with meticulous care, I could prise apart cell
by cell, to repeatedly find housed in each one
the universe including myself; again, and again infinitely
nested inside myself. And I have to say if that’s the case
it’s hidden well. I’d approached this anatomical sight
with such trepidation, but cut and sealed in this plastic bag,
it’s so ordinary and disconnected from anything I have ever
felt; like something I could mistakenly pull
from the fridge, throw on the flame and offer to myself
for eating. As if I were my own ancient god consuming
myself in return for blessing and meaning.
page 31 of Tarot #1
after Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold
Dead eyed and walking this desolate stretch of sand;
Infinite grains of futility to think that any of this will last.
Avoid the tide line, its grating roar, its eternal sadness
will get us all in the end. But for now, comb, sweep
scan for signs, warnings of something, somewhere
to lay the blame. The wind sends delicate froth scudding
across the black grey plains, silica winks nature’s catalogue
of jokes. My nostrils contract at rotting kelp, abandoned
hermits’ homes, a carcass mangled in fishing line. The salty
tangle of broken feathers, scraps and skull picked clean;
light and easy as life when I had health.
Genes locked in bone to add to my collection, fragments
of a fishing urn and desiccated seaweed crawling
with creatures unseen.
Progenitors: 1874, The Crossing
page 37 of Tarot #1
His voice is a sing song, swelling
and falling like the interminable waves.
No pretty ditty this but a chanting dirge,
mournful request — ‘though will God
exist where we are going, if we ever
get there? Something’s taking the children
off one-by-one —in my arms my first babe
squirms, barely eight-months old.
The crew don’t like women coming above,
tell us ‘out of harm’s way’, but I wager
the captain wants us hid for quite another
reason. Today we all stand on deck
to witness the tilt of a rough wooden board,
the fate of its piteous bundle.
The women groan — a guttural sound!
on seeing it consigned to the depths.
We will never grow used to it. When I look
to my man his stare is dark glass, a mirror
to the sea. I know he has flown, escaped
as he does to that so-called new home promised
by Wakefield’s deed. Every part of me trembles
— it was madness to listen! — for long moments
I hate him.
The Berar ship left London for New Zealand in 1874 and arrived in Wellington 96 days later in 1875. During the passage there was an outbreak of Scarlet Fever, causing 21 deaths, mainly children. On arrival surviving passengers were quarantined on Matiu (Somes) Island before being allowed onto the mainland.