Matt Hetherington is a writer and musician who lives in a flat in Melbourne with a really good bath. His most recent collection is I Think We Have (Small Change Press, 2007) http://www.smallchangepress.com.au/. He is also on the board of the Australian Haiku Society http://www.haikuoz.org/
“The cage opens. The canary closes its eyes.”
~ David Stavanger, “Everyday Magician”
the canary sings like a canary.
it dreams of flying through the morning without moving;
its claws clutch at the perch,
but it is the yellow light only that rushes past,
and it sits almost still, tasting nothing.
within the darkness of the everyday coalmine’s heart
it falls into sleep with its black beak open,
seeing only caves of night
which suddenly bloom into fields of yellow air.
it warbles of false dawns in the lives of happy families
which sound like early morning warnings;
it rises like a puff of cigarette smoke,
and drifts over crumpled fields and the need to wake up;
it skims over seas of yellow clouds
inside which perhaps are sleeping the hooded dead.
a drop drips from the ceiling.
a candle flickers in the draught the open door left.
someone has left the gas going.
gravity is holding on.
the canary sings like a canary.
the cage closes.
the canary opens its eyes.
Starving Girl, Calcutta
acting or not, it didn’t matter
she didn’t need
desperate or debased or beyond despair
what she was
could not be hidden
i was only trying to leave the country
now trapped in the back of a taxi
in a midday traffic jam
she clutched at me
through the open window
sobbing, chanting, imploring, wailing
not even in english
(why didn’t the driver do like he did with the others
and tell her to go get lost?)
i felt for coins but had none
so (keeping my notes for the next stage to the airport)
as if it could help
i blessed her repeatedly
and for a whole two or three minutes
we stayed there
stuck in the spokes of the hideous, sacred wheel
at last the traffic moved forward
and she returned to her tribe under the plastic sheeting
while we drove upwards
onto the rabindra setu bridge
Lone Bird Collecting Twigs
“ Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me
How good, how good, does it feel to be free?
And I answer them most mysteriously
‘Are birds free from the chains of the skyways?’ ”
~ Bob Dylan, “Ballad in Plain D”
in the middle of anywhere
letting its song waft where it does
the contours of its mouth a tree to climb cliffs of falling from
i frown gratefully into the horizon’s setting
to see a baby looking
like she makes mandalas and angels with her eyelashes
below clouds like the brows of a father who cannot cry
below the moon like a large clump of dirt
below a jet-black eyeball staring through our ashes
yet while i give my own sight to the screen
and it takes it
there is rarely a bad day
i have a craving for earlobes
and want to write a poem without nature
as lazy as the rain as usual
or maybe more like an el salvadorian gentleman
who must eat even when not hungry
and cannot sleep even when he is tired
still through the voice of the indifferent wind
a question comes asking “is it fair to love clouds
more than the sun, but less than sunlight?”
the answer is ‘yes’ if you don’t ask the question
but this one
teaching me how to breathe