Elementals (Stuart Barnes)

Who are these people at the bridge to meet me? They are the villagers—
Two. Of course there are two.
First, are you our sort of person?
The word of a snail on the plate of a leaf?
What was she doing when it blew in
What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful?
The courage of the shut mouth, in spite of artillery!
This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary.
My night sweats grease his breakfast plate.
Empty, I echo to the least footfall,
I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root:
The abstracts hover like dull angels:
Stasis in darkness.
A secret! A secret!
I ordered this, this clean wood box
What a thrill—
Bare-handed, I hand the combs.
Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
Love, the world
A squeal of brakes.
Viciousness in the kitchen!
This is the sea, then, this great abeyance.
Off that landspit of stony mouth-plugs,
Over your body the clouds go
Pure? What does it mean?
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Somebody is shooting at something in our town—
It was a place of force—
A smile fell in the grass.
O half moon—
If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You come in late, wiping your lips.
No use, no use, now, begging Recognize.
I am a miner. The light burns blue.
How far is it?
I have done it again.
You do not do, you do not do
This is the easy time, there is nothing doing.

(This poem is a cento; source: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and other poems – The Restored Edition, 2004)


Stuart Barnes lives in Melbourne, where he edits PASH capsule, a Facebook journal of contemporary love poetry. He’s currently working on a manuscript, Blackouts and other poems, that’s dedicated to the memory of Gwen Harwood, who encouraged the eleven-year-old him to write poetry. Poems are forthcoming in Windmills, Southerly, Blasphemy, Mascara Literary Review, & Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry (USA).