As the cod that's cooked in a mountain
of salt comes out delicate as butter, a fur
of disappearances, unrecognisable,
so have I buried the book of our lives
in the salt mines of Cheshire, twenty
miles of white tunnels, two hundred feet deep.
I have taken a knife and carved out a shelf
and placed there the first time we met,
the bar where I read you my poems,
the movies we watched, the first piece of furniture
you bolted together, the meals that we ate;
I have stored them in salt where they will
be dry, not feel the touch of blight:
these thoughts, these kisses, these places,
this memory of a white fish becoming tongue,
mouth, throat, disappearing into your body
This poem is from Michael McKimm's first book, 'Still This Need' (The Heaventree Press 2009). Published with permission.
Michael McKimm hails from Northern Ireland and currently lives in London. He and I were two of 38 writers from around the world who spent three months in residence in the US as part of the University of Iowa's 2010 International Writing Programme.
The first lines of this poem caught me - the visual and taste image of the mountain of salt, then the texture of the fish takes me to a completely different, white-on-white place. I imagine the flesh of the fish not so much flaking as melting, like the butter. Already I'm thinking about love, then - the salts of the body, and the carving out of things (initials in a tree, a life together in the world). The poem invites me to consider the circularity and eternity of things: the fish returning to salt, memory returning to itself over and over, the bodies of lovers embracing and imbibing each other.
The title, 'Resurrection', takes me to this territory, too. The lasting feeling I take away from this poem is that ache we sometimes have towards precious things - that feeling that is somehow a mix of delight and fear, a thrill of gratitude mixed with the desire to preserve the treasure against 'blight'.
I heard Michael read several times during the Iowa residency, and every time I was taken by his voice - both on the page and in real life. The song in the poem, and in his speaking of it, are still very present for me. You can hear/watch Michael read this poem here:
You can read more about Michael here:
* * * * This week's guest editor is Hinemoana Baker - a New Zealand writer, musician, educator and sound enthusiast who has just returned from the US as writer in residence at the University of Iowa's International Writing Programme.
She has produced several albums, edited several anthologies of New Zealand poetry and published two poetry collections of her own work, 'mātuhi | needle' (VUP/Perceval Press 2004) and 'kōiwi kōiwi | bone bone' (VUP 2010). Last year Hinemoana spent three months in Australia as 2009 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence.
Tuesday Poem thanks Hinemoana for her work on TP this week and welcomes her back to NZ. Thanks, too, to Michael Mckimm for Resurrection. And congratulations to last week's guest editor Jennifer Compton for winning the Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry 2010.