Andy Kissane lives in Sydney and writes poetry and fiction. He has published three collections of poetry. Out to Lunch (Puncher & Wattmann, 2009) is shortlisted in the Kenneth Slessor Prize. His first novel, Under the Same Sun (Sceptre, 2000) was shortlisted for the Vision Australia Audio Book of the Year. Poetry prizes include the Red Earth Poetry Award, the Sydney Writers’ Festival Poetry Olympics, the John Shaw Neilson Award, the inaugural Publisher’s Cup Cricket Poetry Award and the BTG-Blue Dog Poetry Reviewing prize. He has taught Creative Writing at four universities, most recently UNSW, (2007-2009). He is currently the recipient of a New Work grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council and is working on a book of short stories and a fourth collection of poetry.
Seeing you again
Driving to your place, I remember
how you said you wanted to carry my hands
around inside your bra. You won’t say that today.
You are married and it’s years since that
dinner dance, foxtrotting under the tablecloth,
my cock wet before I’d eaten the entree.
You said you adored men in dinner suits
and I was eager to strip, loosening
the onyx studs from my ruffle slowly
and carefully, as if they were amulets
with enough power to peel back
my shirt and open up my skin.
You meet me in the driveway, comfortable
in tracksuit and windcheater. Your hair
is not quite the way I remember it.
We don’t have much time alone.
Your husband’s making coffee
in the kitchen as words ripen
on the roof of my mouth like blackberries:
fat icicles ready to fall. My cup wobbles
on its saucer as I recall the last camping trip,
our lilos pushed together, your sleeping bag
zipped into mine, the guttural snores
of lion seals floating up from the beach.
I think of what might have been, waking
to a thousand, thousand dawns, children,
the closeness where you don’t need to speak.
Instead, there’s this afternoon tea, polite
conversation, the way I look at you and wish
I could live more than one life.
Wood becoming Rock
Walking down the steep path to the backyard,
I hold the stump splitter like a baby.
I’m an occasional woodchopper, intent
on clearing the logs left by the previous owners
—an eyesore, abandoned.
One huge tree, an angophora, fell down
of its own accord, unable to get enough purchase
in the rocky hillside, harming neither limb nor property.
I’ve already chopped and moved a mountain
of wood, gradually, like a hot-rodder
restoring a classic car.
But what’s left now is the hard stuff,
wood well on its way to petrification—
green-tinged, adamantine, too heavy
for one man to lift. I swing the axe
up towards the hidden sun and the other bright stars,
then bring it down onto the dumb block.
I make no impression on the weathered wood.
Relentlessly, I search for a fissure in the log,
a crack the width of a hair that I can wedge open.
The longer the search, the greater my enlightenment.
If only I could borrow the Marabunta,
those ferocious army ants from the film,
The Naked Jungle, let them feast on the wood,
then stop right there. But as I remember it,
they don’t stop, eating everything in their path.
I swing and swing until I am a riot of noise, a mob,
a serial woodchopper who won’t cease until he’s felled
the forest. I hack until my shirt sticks to my back.
My shoulders ache, my arms have emigrated,
and I am all axe,
as Gimli is axe to Legolas’s bow.
I can’t work, it seems, without making
some connection to popular culture,
though this is not work, this hefting
is not my bread and butter. Sparks flash
blue and yellow at the moment of impact
and I understand how my ancestors struggled
to make fire. I’m tired, wet, almost done
for the day, but over there,
against the fence lies another
and it will lie there until I come for it—
ageless, slowly rotting, obdurate and silent.
I wield my iron-age tool until the wood wails and shrieks
and when I finally cleave through the stump,
the sound of it splitting fills the cave
of my head with the last rays of sunlight.