an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

Poems by Erin Ramsay

The Stone People

Erin Ramsay

Published on
page 46 of Tarot #4
(June 2022)

On the phone my mother says Think of all the stone in the soil where you live Isn’t it—scoria? Go for a walk and look at the walls outside houses Made from rocks dug out of the ground in people’s back yards All that volcanic rock—from Mount Eden, as it was before

On the phone my father says When I was your age, in Australia For months I felt immobile Like I was dragging myself around Though I always went to work

(In Farmers Blue Monday drove him mad on a boombox And people returned hifi sets after weekends, claiming faults)

That immobility is dangerous, my father says Too long without movement and it gets very tough You need motion

In the early years my father took me to Mount Eden Watched me careen on the flying fox Months after I moved to Grange Road, he asked Do you remember?

I hadn’t, the fox not visible on my bus route Now my neighbourhood mountain and the one in memory fused In tectonic violence Past rushing into present

***

In memory my grandmother, the stone woman, lies in bed My grandfather, plutonic, hides the truth of his wife

On the phone my father says I’m grateful I’ve never been as bad as her Never faced destruction in the way she did

I want to go to Iceland, he says It’s volcanic there And cold And listening to Icelandic feels like listening to my past I can hear those Scandinavian roots The Northern England of my parents’ families Was settled by the Danes

When you are deep in it, he says You cannot see above the barrier And when you are out You don’t understand why you couldn’t see

I imagine a wall of stone And I am in the pit like Joseph The man in the Catholic picture books In my grandmother’s back room (gone now)

***

In the shadow of Maungawhau I bless my metamorphic body Slowing and hardening and loosening and moving quickly In and out, every week, like breathing

The present point in a lineage of stone Of mental difficulty, peppering the timelines like ash

What the phone calls really told me was Bless the porosity of your body Nothing short of a miracle, reall That a stone can live a rewarding life

In my thirties, or maybe forties, my father says I had a realisation about the meaning of it all I know it’s hard, he tells me But you’ll see

When It’s Cloudy Everything Is Dead; When It’s Raining Everything Is Alive; And When It’s Sunny Everything Is Bright, So It Doesn’t Matter

Erin Ramsay

Published on
page 28 of Tarot #2
(June 2021)

as the grey came to brood in a soggy sky, Charon mated with Karen—
the Epsom houses have been hollowed out

in the remnant of pith there lies a spider’s egg of wealth—
white sneakers, light fixtures, pressurised air

and seeing castles in the ozone, a throbbing palimpsest

Google Search: synaesthesia memory depersonalisation
                       mood swings changes in light, weather

no one can give me a fucking answer

and the cloud, it’s trickling into my skin, it’s melting me
into the footpath with the sweat I carry

you’re incredible, you know

still pounding the pavement, even with all that in your head

Google Search: is it normal to feel like

              to feel

                         like

the mind-vomit

what did you tell her? that it feels like living in a horror film

yeah, you’re fucking amazing

;

chattering ghost faces run the gamut
see the small world
rotting leaf is beautiful—drip drip
straw grasses, feeding warrums near the plastic flakes
tinctures: concrete sizzle, line vertical, bird-tail-flick, happy house-dirt
door open merging boundary;
wishes laughing in the humid air

;

the tips of the lemon leaves are winking with water
I’m catching the sunset on the swing of my hand

there is no substitute for the growth of a year
the hard-edged confidence that hands me an afternoon
with new and good people

and returning home to the cat
bathed in some combination of
viridescence and old furniture
and hope in the yellow

Cannibalesbianism

Erin Ramsay

Published on
page 48 of Tarot #2
(June 2021)

something sulphurous is dripping down
the inside of my torso
the inside of a cave
the damp of my body

in a hotel once
the girl pressed into me
ground herself down to nothing
until she was as thin as pencil shavings
and bright as a knife

and the hair she had then is the hair I have now

my envious and Saturnal instinct
means I eat everyone up

The Mirror

Erin Ramsay

Published on
page 12 of Tarot #1
(Dec 2020)

“Carol looked at her. ‘How do you become a poet?’
‘By feeling things – too much, I suppose,’ Therese answered conscientiously.”
The Price of Salt, 1952, Patricia Highsmith

 

i. Bliss

I spilled water on the carpet when I knelt to feed the houseplants
Like you broke the milk jug
Ambivalence touched me lightly
I waxed translucent

I read in my old cahier the violent words of fantasy
I felt my knuckles drag
Soft fevers tore my skin
I ate fitfully and late

Music rang and crooned
The curve of my throat was vulnerable
Restless in the stair bend
I fell heavy with yearning

ii. The Mirror

You
I found you
I saw you in the Palermo
You stole glances but were afraid

And being you, I saw myself
In some unfamiliar frame
You were too much of a boy

***

Let me count the ways
That I am you
I read Joyce’s 
Portrait too

I too bought material things for love
And saw figures in clouds
And whole worlds in Sandringham houses that each seemed like their own country

I saw you and within you I saw myself too
And within that silhouette another self and on and on
Until I numbered in the thousands and millions

iii. Anger

Like you I could not escape capriciousness
Like Auckland weather

On Oxton Road I watched a curl of leaves rush across the street, unwinding
Those blissful feelings closely held were now dispersed and lost

I felt the blow she dealt you
The shame of living vicariously

I looked for you in a palindrome of movement
Here and there and there and here again

But you were gone and there was only jealousy
A disgust at never knowing true and beautiful affairs

And the sky turned to slate
And the wind blew as if to say

You will never settle
You will for ever shift and change

I stared at the 1917 in stone on a Dominion Road building
which was there before you or I were born

And selfishly believed that the world held its breath for me
and that was why the streets were empty

I ran to find you and put you behind me

iv. On to Perigee

In the end I came to your conclusion
There will be a gradual return, the journey slow where it had been so quick before
I’ll walk towards the natural and right ending of things

It is an omnipresent ending
I’ll make your choice repeatedly
On shuttering grey days and when the light is lemon-toned

None of the first ecstasy now
But still the wingbeats of the pulse of love—
Like you, I choose to continue