Issue 6

Anna Jackson
Three poems

Unknown unknowns

Maybe one day we will even teach in schools,
along with Homer again, and the Aeneid,
the equally complex songs of the whale,
graduate students composing theories
to try and explain the mysterious bass shift
in song latitude 61º longitude 15º
towards the end of 1971 –
still, we will never know the secret song
the whale sings to himself,
the heretic variations,
the secret pleasure
he allows himself
in the silence and the dark;
any more than the poet’s biographer,
revealing everything he’s told,
accounting as best he can
for contradictions in accounts,
gaps in the paper trail, can know
where the poet goes at night
when even his wife, lying beside him
in the dark, can’t know where he goes
in the privacy of his mind;
any more than we can know
what other worlds God might have dreamed up
too secret, too sentimental,
too erotic to be manifest
in this universe
of dust and light;
any more than we can know
it isn’t this one after all
that is the imaginary world
too sentimental, too beautiful,
too privately pleasurable
really to be real.

Not looking, feeling

I know not to look at the faces
lined up to judge, just dance
as best as I can, aim for the point
I must reach across the room,
focus on the landing of my feet,
complicated by the need to avoid
the bits of Lego and plastic cars
still covering the floor –
unbelievable that I did not tidy first.
But don't think about it, only
the rhythm and the next step
in the sequence, turning
the skittering into a slide,
the twinge of pain into the impetus
for the most forceful turn
I’ve ever given this part of the dance,
making it the emotional hinge
of the whole affair…
I can’t look up at the faces
when I stop moving
but keep moving,
not dancing now but picking up
the bits of plastic, searching for the Lego bin
and the lid to wedge on top of it,
fitting a sock into a teapot,
shoving the teapot down
into the collapsible toy basket,
past the soft giraffe that came free
with the cough medicine, past
the bear with the wobbling eye,
down past everything soft
and loved and forgotten
to the very bottom where I hit
the dust and paper scraps and grasp
a dream – or a dream grasps me,
entering my fingertips like sap,
rising beyond my wrist
and up my arm, and on beyond
the elbow and above, until
my whole body turns to wood
and I stand here as a tree,
am standing still…These pages
my leaves that talk for me.

The coming on of a maths brain

all over again –
for a real mathematician
a walk round the block must be a symphony swirling,

Though also I guess
there must be ratios that clash –
where I see the green lawn clashing with the blue windows,

what would
be good squares
of window and lawn
ruined by the wrong proportion
of the (I think) beautifully cream coloured front door.

of all
the other
senses, touch and smell
and taste and hearing? My brother
could tell you music is maths, obviously the fall

to note
and the count
of skipped sound amounts
to what music is all about,
but are there similarly mathematical chefs out

tell you
star anise
(being twenty-one)
can sit next to ginger (thirteen)
but in a mixture with saffron (four) could never please,

does not
allow it?
No wonder I get
cooking so wrong, no math brain yet
developed in me, though like late growing wisdom teeth

brain may
I think be
coming on, today
perhaps the day its growth begins…
Tonight when we curl up in bed, I’ll measure our match.*


*If we don’t fit the golden mean I’ll unwrite these lines,
reverse the poem’s onward growth,
hold on to the both
of us as
the maths