Taking a dark turn, this important New Zealand poet explores the legacy of a heretic who was burned at the stake in 1310 for writing a thesis called Simple Annihilated Souls. Answering back, modern souls offer their own lamentations in poems such as "The Tired Atheist" and "Driving on the Bypass."
|Publisher:||Victoria University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.20(d)|
About the Author
Kate Camp has been shortlisted for the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award and is the author of Beauty Sleep, Realia, and Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars.
Read an Excerpt
The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls
By Kate Camp
Victoria University PressCopyright © 2010 Kate Camp
All rights reserved.
The mirror of simple annihilated souls
Of the life which is called the annihilated life
The annihilated barely make an imprint in this world
their beds are given away to others
they sleep suspended from the floor
by their own disbelief.
How this Soul takes no account of anything that might be
With great effort it resists the urge to count
the birds and flies that make fleeting
black lines across the world.
It neither springs forward nor falls back.
How such creatures no longer know how to speak of God
There was a time when he filled their mouths
with a mushroomy taste of semen
but that is not the same as understanding.
How this Soul is compared to an eagle, and how she takes leave of Nature
Like the great bird she is threatened by banalities
the growth of the suburbs and the ever increasing need for corn.
Ah! She takes leave of Nature by the most direct means possible
the world rising up to meet her, punctual death.
How this Soul is balanced between two equal weights, and how she is drunk from what she never drinks
What else is there to say? This world is heavy, she is its balance.
How this Soul swims in a sea of joy
Generations of waves approach laughing from behind
the world's tear enters and leaks from her.
How the Soul has arrived at understanding of her nothingness
Or she says she has.
By what means the Soul has conquered, and how she is without herself
She has conquered by these means: anger, teeth and looking.
She is without herself
as at the moment the door slams
with its key inside
with its lock upon the soft nerves of the fingertip.
How it is necessary to die three deaths before one arrives at the free, annihilated life
The first death is the sweetest, in its novelty round in the mouth.
The next is unremarkable, an act of forgetting.
The third death does not bear thinking about
the body is a cave
and the mind that primitive creature caveman.
No wonder we live in houses, wear clothes and run to the telephone.
How the Soul sings and chants
At all times music is entering and emerging from her.
She is a marvel of repetition, echoing joy
as the canyons of the desert echo.
How this Soul is free, more free and very free
Free by means of her own hand.
More free by the world, its affairs and schedules.
Very free by loneliness, that key
she jingles in her pocket like money.
How the land of the sad is far from the land of the annihilated
Do you want me to draw you a map?
It would be all borders
How the Soul is delighted by the suffering of her neighbours
They live in the dark. They speak not in words but in sounds.
How the Soul who has caused this book
to be written excuses herself for making
this book so long in words, which seems
so small and brief to the Souls who
remain in nothingness and who are fallen
from love into such being
Apologies and excuses of course she doesn't mean them.
They pour from her like golden wheat.
The first time I saw you
I don't know which I loved more
you with your tranquil neck
calmly transporting yourself through the world
or the one who followed you everywhere
trolling the dark waters like a hook.
The strange thing was that
as each other's opposite and negative
we were even visible
I with my tatty winter coat
smelling of reeds
you consisting entirely of surfaces
or should I say one fabulously curved surface
smooth and white as an egg.
I have no idea what you saw when you looked at me
a shadow dully pursued by the shape that cast it
a placeholder reserving a space from nonexistence.
Perhaps you saw God's fearsome ability
to be absent, his morosely taken option
to hoard his riches in another universe.
In anyone else, such a thought would be absurd.
In your case, it was luminous and adorable
shining in the dark location known as me.
It was inevitable I would follow you
the sound of laughing that came
though you never laughed
the sweet nonsensical conversations
in which you remained impassively silent
the pointless journeys you took
your eyes perfectly round.
My desire was the desire to be superlative
I, who had spent years in domestic craft
became selfishly single-minded as an artist
inflicting your beauty on myself
like some ecstatic adolescent
cutting her arm with a pocket knife.
At night I would disappear.
You and the moon would glow.
I hated to think of the dark
covering you over like a mouth.
The piano was something she played with her hands
her hands, of all things
it was full of tiny hammers dark
body of a whale
a piece of musical furniture
and she the Russian doll on a too-small
chair dedicated the song to her mother, small
turn of the head, her hands
not pressing the ivory furniture
but seeming to land and alight, things
at once heavy and weightless as a whale
moving through the ocean dark.
We listened in the dark
confines of the bar, that small
place below the surface, as in the whale
Jonah reached, his blind hands
touching not mere things
but the body's living furniture
in which life sits at home in the dark.
It was one of those things
that when I searched the small
household of my bag I couldn't put my hands
on a pen so piano whale
was all I kept that night, piano whale
and how the furniture
was cut short so people rested their hands
on the floor, squatted in the dark,
a crowd of warmly dressed folk singers at small
stature. These are the things
I am saving, the things
that surface to breathe air like the whale.
In Alaska my father saw a small
grizzly emerge from the furniture
of its winter, its long dark
claws, its paws, its hands.
What are hands, are things
to that wintering bear, dark piano, whale.
The world, a doll's house with its small furniture.
The tired atheist
In my hand I hold a mouse
a golden labrador
and a cat, all the same size.
Yes I assume the mythical plenty of a god
where my eyes look become green hills
red houses, skies necessarily blue.
In Córdoba the smell of shit and orange blossom
TVs await the Pope, that puff of smoke
who knows what they burn to make it black or white.
Of course I don't want to live apart from God's grace.
What kind of idiot would force air from their lungs
or retch up water?
No, behold the mismade agonies
of those who attempt to hear with the tongue
or eat with the eyes, forcing crusts of bread under the lids.
Behold the quiet substance of their rooms
the hollow air in the cavities of their bodies
the finity of their lives, tasting like morning
now you tell me, if one knows everything
and one knows nothing
what the fuck are they going to talk about?
The house of miniature art
in the house of miniature art grains of rice
ranged on their rack under glass
inside cupboards the size of dice you find a hammer
and its invisible nails tasting like blood
magnifying glasses abound
the room is suddenly full of enormous eyes
the many parts of the bee
bastarsus and ocellus
through the air they pass as vague bullets
yet in the geometry of their prison home
say to each other I have the poison
I have the flower I have seen the hives from above
and they look like handkerchiefs
dirigibles of borer
flies skating Russian bears
on the window white with sky
the sky a fence the fence a wall the wall an eyeball
crazed with red lines denoting railways
where tiny men in puffy blue hats lean from windows
shouting the world is a tunnel into which I surrender
this unholy locomotive
The totally artificial heart
Into the woods she ran where trees as big as forks as big as trees
were eating up the night in slobbery gulps.
it was backwards crying where oceans wriggled into her face.
it was a form of beekeeping where the only thing that made her peaceful
was the notion that her home was on fire.
Where was she, yes running by the side of the river that ran beside her
completely ignoring the things it said the blue ducks bobbing on its surface
the brown fish so sought after by her enemies.
Everything was hollow and contained every other thing. Every thing
was stuffed full of other things, sucked them and swallowed them
and the raindrops that made it through the canopy were squeezed like
worlds within a body. A body made up of worlds.
But that still didn't make it a universe.
Wherever she travels through the town she encounters eyes
some are good at looking one way some are better at looking the other way
some are infected with words while others decline the privilege of
education. Bandages are applied to those too frightful, pained and
pessimistic. Bandages are applied and reveal their useless miracles.
And when the wrappers were removed she saw the wound was healed
the wound that had been her mouth, the twin wounds of the eyes
the sealed holes of the body against which the bees butted and complained.
The Music Bureau
In China around 114 BC, Emperor Wu
established a government department called the
Music Bureau. Its purpose was to gauge the
sentiments of the people by collecting folk songs
from the countryside.
From the North
Winds return like old friends
teeth and bone.
* * *
What an era is this!
Not even a tree is lonely
nor field mouse humble in his nest.
* * *
Some have been soldiers and find no peace around corners.
Some have been hungry and look at this and that.
Some have been lonely and crumple in on themselves.
From the East
Only we can know what that voyage was.
White dust was the road upon us.
Stars, scattered stars, our wheat.
* * *
Days came upon us, waves, geese and memories.
Where are the ones we lost sight of?
They are in our eyes. They are in our eyes.
From the West
In my hands a wine bowl
through which the sun is visible.
* * *
Bees are the bells that call on honey
work hard, cause pain, sweeten.
* * *
... if you knew love
you would not ask those questions.
From the South
An owl returns at dawn to its rest.
What has it learned in its planet of darkness?
* * *
Every breath arrives from vast distance
and to vast distance travels every sigh.
This is what lovers say
in the mountain ranges of their bedding.
Spider stories tell how small defenceless men or
animals outwit others and succeed against great odds.
The girl is hiding everything she has in a grey box
and when the policeman asks what are you doing here
she answers I am hiding things in the grey box.
The girl with chipped nail polish like ancient maps
avoids the searchlight of the usherette
wooden boards of the cinema floor
for in antique times all stories were felled from forests.
The girl engaging reverse gear backs into disaster
the terrible future receding before her
under delusion it is the past.
And ay ay ay the girl was there another day
under the spreading branches of the city
she surrounded herself with items and tags
she sucked on the metallic tablets of coins
in her pants coins were cool and then warm
and in her eyes the coins left their birds behind
so she was the shape of a bird
made of invisible which proved irresistible.
Oh the girl is climbing up the ladder now
she is climbing up the strings and the leaves and the portholes
the mirrors and the green green grass and the waves of iron
the walls of flaccid tongues and the warm woollen mittens
higher and higher she goes the earth spinning like a newspaper
the earth like something she spat from her mouth
now trodden and flattened up up up up gosh it is quiet she says
when you bury yourself this far up in the air.
Japanese Death Poems Written by
Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the
Verge of Death
Where I went giant marlin
threw themselves onto walls.
I did not take up taxidermy
it became interested in me.
The plastic sound when a tiger's tooth
is dropped on a metal table
the smell of goat skin, held with pins
because we all become smaller and angrier over time.
These are the things I want to tell you
that we kept our homes too cold
we should not have just put on another jumper
our mothers were wrong, that is the heartbreaking truth.
Trucks in the street blared the information of our rescue
but it was hard to frighten us
birds were shrieking in the dusky streets
on which the painted outlines of corpses appeared.
We began, starving, but with everything
like some haunted father in a fairy tale
blindly marching his children into the forest
we exiled the ones we knew.
I ask you to draw a picture of me when I am alive
and you draw a line.
I ask you to draw a picture of me when I am dead
and you draw a line.
And you say, what is it that you are now?
And I say, the first blade grasps the hair and lifts it
the second blade cuts the hair
and the hair sinks back into the skin.
The history of my stupidity would
fill many volumes
Let me start with the hysterical origins of the day
appliances spewing linens and the bedroom
an ocean liner creaking a furnace in which this angel
awakes striped and cheery celebrating the upbeat wonders
of the age while the Ship. Goes. Down. Glug.
Naturally one would be embarrassed to admit
that the Virgin of Guadalupe surrounded by glowing light
resembles a vulva pinned to the notice board.
As the doctor himself remarks
The rest is obscure, and quite frankly
no inclination to get more deeply involved.
And yet there was something I needed to say to you
across the vast distance of polite company
not that I believed the seven of cups
a wishing card and found one in the street,
not that a person whose fingers are busy will dream of numbers
not that the gate, the white hieroglyphic gate
the eyes the windows doors and roofs the cosy street
the tired eyes of film stars as they grow old the hands
marvelously long-fingered and holding on to precisely nothing;
it wasn't anything to do with all that.
It wasn't a bit to do with any of that.
It was the vastness of the day
which, populated by myriad life forms like the universe
was nonetheless dominated by blackness.
It was the briefness! Interminable also.
It was a time, no a world, a species
that carried fear in its stomach
that was the bottle
and in it the ship and the churning ocean
and no wonder they said as they inspected her cooling form
oh, when you lick her she tastes salty.
When things get broken we recount their history
On blue and orange lino tiles
triangles of the tulip glass
of the four I bought
from a tent
by the underground city
two with cracks
were nestled in newspaper.
do not love me
One by one
I am smashing
of the past.
To smithereens I blow
the family of owls
and tragically the tiny glass
we drank from
through baby teeth.
When the house was burgled
they broke the mirror tile
saw there a picture
There is all the time in the world
when something is falling
coffee pours up
from the cup
the plate turns
its soft food
towards the floor.
The little miners
The little miners
— maybe dwarves —
they bring pans up
not to put the gold to any use
but to see that it is there.
From a single hut
— no, a tent in the shape of a hut —
one will emerge
in yesterday's dusty leather clothes
and yawning reach his fists
above his head.
The idea of his occupation
is so ridiculous it hovers in the morning
like a scent.
Eventually there are fires
a small railway
but for now the river
running like a radio
and the miner
with his hands
and a blade of grass.
I hardly know what to say to you
that I remained in clockless darkness
while outside you repeated yourself in broadcast loops
your sunlight falling on the overweight masses
with a democratic evenness that sucked the perspective.
That when I sought you in Paris, in Venice, downtown
you were not only absent but had erased yourself
leaving smudges on the faux marble columns
as if this world were your mere skirting board
your bumper car arena to be heedlessly marked.
I sought you in the desert, where water jetted high into the air.
I sought you in the desert, where monuments collapsed
beds and minute cum traces, sticky traces of liquor
reduced to constituent molecules.
God I felt lonely when I realised you were everywhere.
Pascal invented roulette to aid his research
how maddeningly joyless your knowing has made you
I would rather kill myself than hear another of your tricks
is this your card is this your card is this your card
as you split the thighs of the deck.
Excerpted from The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls by Kate Camp. Copyright © 2010 Kate Camp. Excerpted by permission of Victoria University Press.
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