I often carry a thin poetry volume around with me, tucked in between draft chapters I am currently editing. I’ve been carrying Michael Jackson’s, Duty Free: Selected Poems 1965-1988, around for a while now. He is quite a beautiful poet and I enjoy re-reading his poems, looking for the anthropology or ethnographer. The latter is not far away in the following.
Our house had filled with moths,
a slow silting of lintel and architrave
a cupboard dust,
until I looked much closer
and found the wood-grain one,
the white quill paperbark, the blotched
shadow of a patch of bush,
an elbowing riverbank that had gone deep blue.
The soft perimeter of forests
had entered our house
fluttering around the moon.
Then for five days they drowned
in sinks and pools or seemed to wane
into sanded wood or ash on windowsills
until they became
what they were when I first noticed them:
fragments of a dull interior.
from – Michael Jackson 1989, Duty Free: Selected Poems 1965-1988, John McIndoe, Dunedin NZ, p. 43.
The second and eighth lines – ‘a slow silting of lintel and architrave’ and ‘an elbowing riverbank that had gone deep blue’ – are exceptional and beautifully crafted. But I think the poem, as a whole, is a little too clever. I would have resisted ‘fragments of a dull interior’ at least, I think. (She says sitting on a pedestal in front of her computer . . .)