Melissa Ashley

Melissa Ashley was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1973 and moved to Australia as a child. She is one of the most promising of a new generation of younger Australian poets. Her work, in its wide variety of forms and themes, is at the cutting edge of contemporary Australian poetry.  “Incisive and uncompromising in their gaze, [her] poems get under the skin to witness the body with all its wounds and glory; the hospital for dolls [her first collection] is an intelligent collection, brave and beautifully written (Bronywn Lea).”
Ariel’s Song

that tree has cancer suggests Ginsberg/
levering his eyebrow towards the mass
of buckles and knots/ stone-hard/ necrotic-
grey/ distending the neck of an oak

the poet is in Bath participating in an
interview for the Paris Review// the great
oak is as close to the bones of Diana’s
temple as igniting a cigarette

its taproots clench roman redware and
the broken lips of soapbowls/ and oil
decanters bloomed from glass iridescent
as paua-shell/ when two thousand years’
collected dust/ lifts

in Hanoi a banyan tree in the process of
being hand felled kills three men// the
fragmentation-grenade enclosed in
concentric fists of wood-tissue/ dormant
as rock

the project begun when sapling/ the laws
of genetics accommodating mock fossil/
knitting banyan fibres and cartilage over
the alien diamond// internalisation is a
thirty summers’ deep/ bad habit

Backwards Poem

I stumble upon him like
suicide. Our first meeting leaves
two footprints in a sprinkling of dust
on the railings of a bridge.

In secret I take a pen
knife & nick my initials all over
the wood of his bones. Into his navel
I blow a figure of sorrow

carved from amber
found in a landlock of flesh.
When I finally wrench him
from himself and into me

the victory
is the flinging of a rock at the eye
of the sun. During the day we move
our mouths through the motions

drag words like logs
out of ourselves. Slide sentences
onto the thick, pink rubber of our skin
in a desperate kind of birth.

At night he collects
the black leaves inside me.
Pierces the caul of flesh. Draws
the seed husks out.

Our love
is slit waves, a paper
bark sky. Is every fear imagined
taking up the slack.

We cut into
the strangled, knotted nub
of each other. Streak the face of
my womb with spit & clay.

Later he rolls over.
His sadness like the tearing
of skin, crawls form the egg
of his eye. I feed

the cats. Listen
to their mouths at the meat
stub my helplessness out
with the light.

Philomela Knight’s Favourite Part of the Week

the symbol for you was a wandering spirit
in a book of enigmas
Jorge Luis Borges ‘to the nightingale’

Philomela Knight’s
favourite part of the week
is Wednesday morning -
just before her Dialectics
Tutorial meets. [Gk. dialektike:
Plato: art of formulating ideas.
Ln. dialectica: primary defn.:
art of discussion & debate.]
Behind a plastic sheet, while
rubbing a compact moon
of tangerine flavoured soap
along the length of her arms
& thighs, she recites (out
loud) broken pieces
of the textual curricula:
The sublime object
dissolves in the raptures
of a bottomless memory.
Wet hair deltas conflate
like pleasure & pain in the centre
of her back. Larval white foam
accumulates in her knee-pits.
The rhythmic chora of her lips
in rehearsal unlaces sutures
at the junctions of in-terior /
ex-terior. Braids together
suppositions ethnographically
far apart as Canada and Paris.
Emotion is a liquefying
substance which pours into
a person and dissolves her.
Her cortical appendages
beginning to flex.

Postromantic Ornithology

In Sultanahmet my lover was nearly killed by
a truckload of soup bones. By a mobile ossuary

painted blue that came clanking out of nowhere
like that earthquake the day we arrived. Which forced

every living soul in Byzantium to observe a minute’s
stillness. Some people whispered afterwards that

for the duration of trembling crockery   pavements
window frames the storm petrels gliding over the

Bosphorus Strait turned into hummingbirds. I dragged
my lover (nonchalant as a carpet peddler) from

the summer sky of the pickup’s bonnet. Quivering
in the manner of dead meat we pinched two fingers

peg-style on our noses; watched it round a corner
denuded cargo clinking and shining like making

a toast. The trailer of peeled bones bound for the
slimy waters of the Golden Horn got me thinking

about ospreys. Bone plus crack equals the French
term for the bird (ossifraga) named for its habit

of shattering the tarsals and tibias of its prey
to make osso bucco.