Tuesday, November 16, 2010

cow poem by Chris Mansell

it is a day for poetry   that is to say
one like any other   full of sunshine   paddocks
and cold at heart

all day I speak to screen poets
the artless machine gives me breath
and words             and

I am sitting in
a paddock far away    a cow roars out

even I can tell distress from love
in cows
in others it’s not so easy

blue seeps in at the curtains
of my cow-isolated study
I warn it off with words

there is too much at stake
to start loving now

the phone nags
and there only people
I don’t love
they make their demands
time    money    an honest opinion
a dance
I don’t want to hold hands
there is no one whose thigh I want
to cross no particular blizzard eye I want to
I make the print big with fine
the cow is giving birth
and someone is in trouble     the dairyman
– I know his name –
will come in slow urgent
paces across the paddock
and watch    not wishing
to disturb her   his girl   full of hope in a field
of good winter feed
there is nothing to the print
the page rolls past like a lowing
poets fall off and fail
clipped by time    they thought they were immortal
and not one was
a comet   the size of a swimming pool
glides over and we don’t notice our near extinction

astronomers should take more care we’re not hit
by the unpredictable
she lows in the paddock
and the dairyman­ ­­– Phil – judges with squinty eyes
it’s a matter of economics this love
I write cheques
to poets     petite commercial haikus of trust
it must
be the end of the financial world
the mail drips in
another poem comes reeling up   this is a bluster
of words
high as a blue sky the cow says
and Phil     the master cowman    strides over the field
of the poem    there is food for thought in this green
he takes the cow by the horns
and speaks to her in low tones

then he grasps the calf by the legs and for a while
there is an ten-legged beast    his two   her four
and the four of the new
she bellows out and Phil
pulls the legs and the poems come up on the screen   too much
too many poems    and the new beast is born

I was spoilt for choice once I had decided to choose a poem by Australian poet, Chris Mansell.  I would describe her as one of the more prominent islands in the stormy seas of the Australian poetry scene. She has been there, like, forever. And is a mover and a shaker. A founder of magazines and small presses, an instigator of poetry festivals, a memorable reader, much anthologised etc, and she has written so much good stuff. 

My first thought was 'cow poem' because I took to it straight away when she sent me a copy a while back, and I put it in my mental folder of Special Poems That I Like Very Much, but then she did a reading recently at the Dan O'Connell here in Melbourne, and there was more stuff I liked very much. In particular a poem called 'Parsley' which tickled my fancy with its 'taste of truth'. But no, I went with 'cow poem', just because.

'cow poem' appears in Letters Kardoorair Press 2009  and is published with permission here.

This week's editor is guest poet Jennifer Compton who was born in New Zealand in 1949 and is based in Melbourne. She was the 2008 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence in Wellington, NZ, and was this year's Visiting Literary Artist at Massey University in Palmerston North. She is writing her way through the backlog of good ideas she picked up while she was there. In May 2011 she will be a guest again at Sarajevo Poetry Days. 

Her new book of poetry – 'Barefoot' – was published by Picaro Press this year. You will find one of the Barefoot poems Rongotai and two other Jen Compton poems on Tuesday Poet sites. 

Tuesday Poem congratulates Wellington poet Diana Bridge who is the winner of the 2010 Lauris Edmond Award for Poetry worth $NZ1000.   


Helen Lowe said...

I like "just because"--we need more of it. But this is a great poem. To use Facebook-speak: "I like."

Helen Lowe said...

Also, I note that I have posted a Tuesday Poem today, Christina Stachurski's Glass Cases (i), although it has not been picked up in the sidebar. Please go to http://helenlowe.info/blog/ to read.

Claire Beynon said...

Helen, I agree - we need more 'just because'. There's so much tension, drama and upheaval in this poem - beautifully contrasted with Phil's low tone, the cow's lowing. . . it makes me think of other 'low' words; bellow, below, lower, allow, fallow. . . many of them to do with poetry and the land. Thanks Jennifer and Chris. A fantastic poem - and great to be introduced to someone I hadn't met till today.

Sarah Jane Barnett said...

Thanks, Jennifer. I really enjoyed reading this poem. It is fluid but so carefully constructed, especially at the end when Phil "strides over the field of the poem" and the reader gets that wonderful realisation that they had been suspending their disbelief.