Rene Harrison
New Zealand

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Karakia Precari - Penny Howard 2016
René Harrison is a blind poet who lives in Auckland.  His poetry has appeared in Landfall, Takahe, Poetry New Zealand, Wordgathering, Shot glass journal, and Brief, amongst other places.

The Soul Is Not Its Memories

The butterfly feels burned by my hand,
wanting to rest in cool grasses —
Escape the earth, to rise with poppies —
that make me forget, the envelope we shared
when we were homeless together;
unenvied in the intervals of sky,
We slept in the ear of a tree,
but the soul is not its memories.

Go now, but leave me your colours,
where you perch in the wind, for the softness
of your wings has become my full-body-seeing —
Prosthetic as your feelers; and I too,
want my body back.

Why then do you hide behind waterfalls,
sliding on slippery rock, leaving only
the after image, of a body lost?

Above this swimming hole, I will study you,
without pins; or was I once your dark twin?

Though my books be full of failed spells,
the haunting of this place I know too well,
for the acid left on my hands reads, “Farewell,
Your desire is my command”.

But how can the blind man know the butterfly?
When it is as real as a blossom — that you would not tear,
and as rare as a shadow — that follows a spear.
As radiant as a morphing chrysalis in autumn
camouflaged on a bow,
I can feel this temperature now—
crossing boundaries —
flirting with the air
and flexing —
before fracturing into points of hot and cold light.

To hold its pattern solid in my mind,
I rub it over a blossom’s smooth surface,
saturated with colour;
lifting it up towards the eye —
lighting- up- then- vanishing;
Stretching its slender feelers,
into the shadow of my folded retina.

So return to sleep, as I dream in your mind —
beneath wet leaves, where Monarchs rustle our nights.

See how the ancestors toiled, breaking the coal
that no longer warms us, though dark is the cover
of their memory.

Like dawn in your eyes — “my wings repaint you with ash!” —
with your orange nourishment asleep beside me.

Shall together we scratch, the eggs that didn’t hatch,
Or gather the colours I forgot to burn?

Our leaves unlit, as skins drink sleep, and roots entwine,
saved from dreamless flames, cool grass to refine.