Formlessly Collapsing

Socks up on the headrest,
Bare chests
Shining the moonlight;
Breathless.

Windows fogged, Winter’s clogs
Tapping.
An enging in the distance
Forcing a hasty
Rewrapping.

I wore your pants
Backwards, my shirt formlessly
Collapsing
Over your small breasts.

Your eyes gently batting at this
New wakefulness,
This wilful entanglement.
Realising, you offered to take it off.
I told you to keep it.

Autumn Aches

Oh mother God,
I long for that bosom;
For your long hair that once tickled
My chubbt cheeks, spilling
Over me as I fed.

I have found many avatars
And their candles flicker and fade,
Falling in sequence
From up along the palisades.

Autumn is on the verge with
Winter in the wings,
Shoulder-blades scarred from
My hot glue wonderings.

Frost keeps my eyelashes
Sewn and tethered in their place.
I flip the coin a million times
But never see your face.

What are the odds that you
And I would find ourselves
So utterly divorced?
But you were baptised in the rapids
And you knew this river’s course.

Oh Mother, Lover, Sister,
Dearest friend.
I’m smothered, covered, twisted
And I miss the peace you’d bring.

Buckshot

I still have footage of a bucks party for a marriage that has long-since fallen apart. I was supposed to edit it into a coherent video for the friends and family to gawk at. It was a bright sunny day. The blind-folded, machete-wielding fruit ninja; the henna tattoos, leaving messages for the bride; running through a hedge maze nude, chased by men with ping pong paddles; charging at bulls through the paddocks, running for your life as they pursued you back; shocking your genitals on an electric fence; wearing an adult diaper and sprinting through town praying that as few people who knew you as possible were lining the streets; and getting prank-arrested by some too-eager-to-assist officers in the evening. I must admit, it would’ve been a fun video. One for the ages.

But we’re no longer brothers and my duty as memory-keeper has fallen out of recollection from all parties, I can imagine. All parties except for me. I’m worried that if I press play on one of these juvenile clips I’ll start crying, let alone assemble it into a collected form. It is fragments, collected on my hard-drive alone, of a day that no longer seems to exist. The day of preparation. It’s purpose is moot. Preparing for what? The fruits are long-rotted, the branches all tinder, so what use is one scattered root?

If my hard-drive were to fail – a not insignificant concern as my ancient laptop’s wheezing has grown more and more asthmatic – then it seems this event would be wiped from the face of the earth. Maybe one of your mates would remember a moment to himself one day but who would he mention it to? What purpose does the day hold other than a reminder of what is gone? What more is it for me than a duty I couldn’t fulfil? A job I couldn’t be bothered to complete until the very crust of the planet on which that memory inhabited had crumbled to dust.

The Cats Don’t Come Around

The rain crackles on the corrugated roof
Like popcorn exploding in the microwave.
A great blossoming of gloom shrouded 
The patio where we would once sit and toke and sway,
Muted occasionally by the evening air traffic.

The doleful Digitaria stretched its fingers
Wide and swarmed our well-neglected lawn.
The old grass barely put up a fight,
Submitting to colonial circumstance
As the lemon tree grew besieged by this conglomerate of hands.

 

The neighbourhood cats don’t slink by these days.
Once a well-trekked feline thoroughfare,
The sizeable plot sat sullenly, no longer 
Sought after by the curious whiskers 
And slow waving tails of creatures of all shades
Brandishing bejewelled collars and coloured bandanas;
Our fence, no longer the Bifröst bridging suburban worlds,
It’s fresh rotting pine seeming taller than ever.

 

I let you go knowing the sky would grow darker.
Sometimes all that you can do
Is shut your mouth and let the tide pull out
As quickly as it had moved in,
Brandishing the ones we can’t bear to lose.

You were almost a sister but that doesn’t sound quite right does it?
Less than kin but more than kind.
I remember every silence.
The awkward pregnant pauses
And the soft newborn sighs.
With some people the gaps between words seem to hold the most value
And I could feel our minds coalescing and

We just seemed to know.

– sam dover

Petulant

Back when our hearts had curfews
We’d catch them sneaking in,
Tell them to be careful out late wandering.
It’s no use.
They must bruise to grow their arteries,

Must come home shattered
[WeepingGaspingShaking]
As we nurse them back to full capacity;
Praying that they will land on their feet,
Whether or not it
Sucks the last air from me –

And you, my first co-parent,
We watched from park bench grandstands
As the children fraternised:
Pushed each other in the sandpit
Helped each other up the slide.

You and I glanced over hopelessly,
Caught in a proxy war
With our two rabid beasts
Tearing us apart
And bandaging our grief.

– sam dover

twentytwenty

an expansive succession of months,

stillness and volcanic movement

a blood-bathed hacksaw 

taken to the hedgerows of my life

unfinished in its infinite divisions

and I never could wrap my head around calculus 

the ungraspable whole

so I draw focus to the minutiae:

rain pooling in the open palms of nasturtium;

the afternoon sun in the bathroom gilding the edge of her pale, impossibly fragile shoulder blades;

the sea foam like an ancient lace collar as we bury our feet, arms heavy with hot paper-wrapped chips and fish 

replanted, a graft of foreign skin

my toes are caked in soil,

a grief muddies the hem of my dress 

I’m gasping at my year and how far we’ve come

to be only two streets over

But here you are, 

always coming home 

when you say 

you will

our mother, burning

the night is still

the sun,

an overripe persimmon

descends through a shroud

five hundred cockatoos take flight

an evening squall:

our warning

from the south

wind like a melting glacier,

an avalanche through a chasm

takes our breath away

we hold our hands to our faces,

stare into the rising cloud

a dark fungus blooming

ash in our hair,

upon eyelashes

a single black leaf

floats onto my arm

Room for Rent;

Here for a good time, perhaps not a long time;
Sometimes our gold years just don’t quite align.

One man’s beginning is another woman’s aftermath;
The scythe of time tearing wheat from the chaff.

The shuttle carries my thread across your weaving;
We all show love through different ways of leaving.

Our hearts have a limited capacity, apparently;
Yours seemed filled with a dozen distant histories.

An angry seaside infant with sand slipping between;
I can’t keep the cork sealed on champagne dreams.

9/9

That Damned Couch.

Your couch never felt so comforting, I thought
While you were mumbling something
About the perfect Way of scrambling
Some nice fluffy eggs, and I was stretching over
The arm of your sofa, the one
With the manly musky odour that borders
On unbearable, but I bear it because I care for you.

So I reached over the drool and fiddled
With the litter of your torn-open disposable cameras,
Trying to summon a flash that finally finds me:
It blinds me and sends me back

To when I crawled up to your doorstep fresh
Off the plane, impossibly ashamed with a boiled egg
Just about the size of my brain, listening
To Julia Jacklin’s ‘Comfort’ in a not-fully-captioned crisis.
But I knew you would never make me dwell upon my vices
Or atone for all my sins – you waited at the doorstep,
Promptly welcomed me in.

There was Callum in his corner and that old furry caterpillar
Couch of course, summoning its well-worn vagabond inhabitant.
I asked you if you thought I should shave off this newfound
Entanglement, but you just smiled and told me that:

“A naked chin is like a half-formed grin:
Awkward and hesitant,”

Or maybe you didn’t,
But that’s what I felt in your yeah-nah-yeah she’ll-be-right
Affectation – the cement that soothes all abrasions.

For at the core of what we are, beyond aesthetic differences
And all the fermentation, we’re not far
From the jars you hide on the bottom shelves of the basement,
Each sour note requires patience, and each new anaerobic arrival
A celebration.

So thank you. Thank you for lending
A rope down the well, for taking me dancing
Or diving into that salty brew when you didn’t need to.

You’ve always made me smile despite yourself,
Despite your own hurting.
But please know you never have to do that alone:
I love you like a brother and on your couch I’m home.

Empathy in the Face of…

The only actions that seem to carry any value in the face of death are those that reduce the suffering of our fellow persons and those generations who are still to come. How many times have I walked roads paved over and over by the long-dead generous of spirit?

Nature is an unfathomable spectacle, but it is also unimaginably cruel and unconcerned with the matter of suffering. Perhaps the more we attempt to transcend these machinations the more heartbroken we become at our limitations and, ultimately, the cosmic indifference our surroundings hold for these pursuits.

I truly believe that – at our core – our species are meaning-makers, sowing seeds in barren ground, crafting castles out of grains of sand, and searching for justice in a seemingly random cacophony. I think this perpetual dissatisfaction with the natural laws, social hierarchies and the prevalence of pain is perhaps our most arrogant of qualities but, paired with our equally powerful impulse to find significance (beyond any evolutionary purpose) in the spiritual value of ethics and morality, provides us with a uniquely empathetic ego.

This can be found in our ability to see civilisation, community and collective growth in the collaborative efforts of our scattered atoms or simply our capacity to find love in a stranger’s face. We feel pain so we can look to the person next to us, see certain reflections of ourselves and say:

“Excuse me sir/madam/other, I don’t mean to cause alarm but, if you’re anything like me, could you spare a second to hold me close. Please, help me understand, what is the meaning of this enduring struggle?”

Now, how successful this interaction is with those who we don’t, on occasion, share a mattress or a bloodline with is yet to be verified. However, I think we can all recall an experience of infinite value in that connection and understanding and I believe it’s one of polite society’s biggest errors to reserve this sense of communion and physical affirmation to lovers, family, and religious groups.

We’re all trying to grapple with the throes of pain and the sometimes-more-jarring interludes of pure unfettered happiness. But we are stuck with a half-built puzzle, refusing to share the pieces with almost all of our fellow puzzlers, often hoping to find all remaining pieces in the box of just one other.

We were born half-formed and will depart the same if we don’t learn the power of intimate and compassionate empathy. To be human is to be trapped in a perpetual bad date with the world around us, lost in the incongruence between our needs for intimacy or purpose and a universe that simply does not share the same values. All we can do is listen to each other, share when appropriate and help move our world accordingly.

Within these universalist statements there is, of course, the potential for flattening or oversimplifying the diverse variety of experiences and perspectives of those positioned along different sociological intersections. After all, the root of many corrupt and unethical socio-political structures started with an idea (or illusion) of unity and equality: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

Modern capitalism can be seen as one of these many dangerous misunderstandings of human need that uses a premise of “human-nature” and “empathy” to homogenize and hierarchize the masses according to one dominant perspective.

This superficial treatment of empathy and “sameness” as a tool to obscure the reality of an uneven playing field or to justify economic inequality is a fundamental betrayal to this communion of being. Real empathy means looking past the bounds of that elitist perspective – putting all of our laws, industry and economy to one side – and truly engaging with those who have fallen through the cracks and whose pain is unheard, unacknowledged, and unacted upon. Only then can we begin to approach the superstructures that sprout around us.

When a large portion of a crop is found to be poisoned, the farmer must re-engage with the needs of the soil before she can sow the seeds of a truly fruitful harvest. I believe this to be true with empathy. Empathy is the soil through which all ideas and connections prosper. If we remain socially-distanced in not just a physical sense but an emotional and spiritual sense, I think we will begin to see both an unravelling of our social lives as well as a crumbling of the castles we’ve built, hand-in-hand, with those precious humans that we’ve all taken for granted.

Hold those who need to be held and listen to those you might be inclined to avoid. They might get the wrong message and they might make you mad but, at a minimum, you’ll get in touch with their humanity and – I believe – a small piece of your own.