Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Barn

Here, it is that we are
a breath outwards
returning, the gate –
on a slant – the paint pulling
from the wood –
closes –
we let it,
let go of the road,
the run of fences, the tin-cut
tilting hills, the world’s rim, let
the dog out to run,
and we drive
with the windows wound
down - lavender -
olive trees - cypresses.
The barn, at last. Blushes! – there
you are.

Here, it is that we are
a breath outwards
returning, and not much
more than a breath this time,
not much more than skin
and bone,
rubbed thin by all
our comings
and goings, all this
living in the light. We can see
through our scraps of selves
to paint the colour
of ox-blood wrinkling
like the skin on milk
around the double-hung
windows. In the exposed
wood, in the rot, in the rare blushing light,

here, it is – (breath outwards)
a glimpse (returning) – that time –
when paint clung so
tightly the timber groaned,
and in a stampeding wind –
a hot sun – under a welt of stars –
the barn was an instrument
filled with our spit and wild
breathing. Daughter, plump
as a pigeon,
by a tree in a bag for planting;
her brothers
snickering like ponies
on their way back from the frogpond –
their tins and string and
percussive boots.

Light is trickery.
The paint
blisters and peels,
and it’s all we can do
not to help it off.
My knuckles
on the warm wood.
I lean close –
feel it, or someone, humming.

Mary McCallum

This is a poem I worked on over the summer up at the place we call The Barn. It's ours and it's blssful   - as a place to be alone and with family, and to write. There are some photos of our summer here with a glimpse of The Barn.

The poem was written to contribute to an exhibition as part of the Fringe Festival here in Wellington. It's called Translucent Landscapes and it's opening March 1. There are 11 of us involved: a number of visual artists (including installation artists, videomedia artists etc), a composer, and me.  I have written four poems for the exhibition so far and am wondering how to present them now (follow the link to Translucent Landscapes above for some thinking on that.)

In this poem, the theme of the exhibition is concentrated around the line:  'Light is trickery' - the way light can 'show' us what's real and what's not - shining onto the present and yet somehow 'lifting' it like paint - summoning the past as real as if it's there in front of us - the paint - the wood - the paint - the wood - and the way light, too, can wear away at what's there now - 'too much living in the light' - so, again, the past comes through - bidden and unbidden ... these things preoccupy me...

At the Barn there's no internet connection - although I can use my phone when I need to. There's also no Mac computer, just an old laptop which is rather slow. So, I write a lot by hand at the Barn without interruption, which means poems written there are different somehow.

Do go and read the Paul Green poem taster at the Tuesday Poem hub - and the fascinating commentary by Helen Rickerby. Truly it's worth it.


Kathleen Jones said...

Mary, this poem is absolutely sumptuous - I was there at the barn with you all, it is so visual. Look forward to more about the exhibition and the visual images that will accompany the poems.

Elizabeth Welsh said...

Mm, the exhibition sounds fabulous - good luck with it all coming together! Love the line 'welt of stars'. Thanks, Mary!

Claire G said...

Yes, altogether lovely, and your "Light is trickery" line is especially quotable. It applies elsewhere, I find, as yesterday I tried (and mostly failed) to "catch" the right light with a camera on a remote beach amid black sand, bleached wood and shining sea.

Penelope said...

Rich and gorgeously crafted, Mary, Was glad to find this on B's B this morning.

Mary McCallum said...

Oh thank you so much everyone for coming here and telling me what you liked about The Barn - this is one of those big poems (in my head) that was hard to birth - can lead to something ghastly - a two-headed monster even... Thank you for the story about your photography experience Claire - I would actually love to see the photos if you didn't mind sharing them, are they on your blog? Beach imagery really interests me. And yes, Penelope, love Graham Beattie put the whole poem up on his blog, I was very touched. Lovely man.
Cheers everyone.

Claire G said...

Mary, I didn't do well with those photos! I also wasn't close to a public library - my official topic - but I may not let that stop me publishing a few of them in the future. Thank you very much for visiting and commenting on my blog, too.

Catherine said...

Lovely poem, and lovely line "light is trickery". I have always written poems mostly by hand, keeping the computer for longer things. And for typing out the poems, then printing them out and scribbling corrections and revisions all over them, then repeating the process.