02 April 2012

Tuesday Poem: Hit and Run, by Michael Jackson


That absolute
and unfeigned stillness
I can’t get used to
even when it’s only the family cat
that’s dead
hit on the road
carried to the bathroom
on a green towel
lying there now
with a set grimace
a smear of blood
a broken leg
freeze-framed against the curtains
moving in the wind, my own reflection
moving in the mirror,
gone – or what we knew of her –
and that evaporation
of what we know as life
impossible to comprehend
so instantaneous
and irreversible
as in the beginning
a child is suddenly
as if from nowhere
and no way back
alive where there was nothing
such passages, so abrupt,
there is no cancelling
as there is with words,
no taking back
a remark that hurt
no revising the manuscript;
these events cannot be
there is no as if
or only if
it has happened
nothing more
and so you leave
a space on the page, a gap
as the only way of alluding
to this emptiness,
the day that began with
a cat going through a door
and ended with clay
spaded into a hole in the yard
and me trudging back to the shed
kicking earth from the sole
of my shoes
and washing my hands
as if that was the end of it.

Credit note: From Michael Jackson's new poetry collection Being of Two Minds (Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2012) - please follow that link for sales information.

Tim says: On Thursday, I will be posting my interview with the distinguished New Zealand anthropologist and poet Michael Jackson.

That interview focuses on Road Markings, his memoir of a recent return visit to New Zealand, published by Rosa Mira Books. But since Michael Jackson is also a well-published poet, I asked if I could feature one of the poems from his latest collection as my Tuesday Poem this week - and Michael sent this fine poem in answer to that request.

One of the many good things about Road Markings is that, though mostly prose, it also contains a number of Michael's poems, included where they fit the narrative. Stand by for lots more about Road Markings on Thursday!

You can check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the hub poem in the middle of the page, and all the other poems in the sidebar on the right.


Tim Jones said...
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Penelope said...

and washing my hands
as if that was the end of it.'

This line resonates long after the poem is finished. The way that the cat's sudden death has thrown into question quite profound mysteries of where we come from, and where we go, will mean it lives on, in a sense, in the consciousness of the man burying it. (I was just reading about Pontius Pilate, and his most famous hand-washing, though, so it's hard for me to separate that from my reading of this poem at the moment.) There is a blunt simplicity to the language here that is very strong.

I haven't read anything by Michael Jackson before, and look forward to reading the interview with him later this week.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Penelope - I think your "blunt simplicity of the language" captures it very well.