Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This New Place by Robert McGonigal

For Rose's baby

Body as Road Map

Body sees the 'you are here' sign,
then finds alleyways
and highways, which connect
the limbs and torso.

An inner guide helps body
explore, create meaning,
detour round slips.

Along these routes,
body seeks a dwelling
and to be nourished.

Body as Telephone

Body answers
a ringing from the pelvis.
It wants to spend all day,
wires connected
with other phones.

Often body sits by itself
an unanswered siren,
or it pushes buttons
for operator instructions.

Soon body learns
which numbers to dial
and which to leave on hold.

Body as a Somebody

Body is very pleased
with itself. This body
knows exactly where it's headed.
Legs stride
over the open ground,
arms reach far.

But some days,
eyes gaze out the window.
Fingers stretch,
tap the windowpane,
how they long to explore
the contours
of the fantail in the plum tree.

Body as Racetrack

Adrenalin circuits
the body in anger,
to sweat out
knots in the system.

Later, as it cools
a stillness ensues.
This is the end of the contest.
A time for bodies
in flow with each other
to rub two sticks together.

Body as Electronics

A wise touch on the crown:
this is the edge
between form
and the void.

Body knows how
thought-forms jolt
and tingle. As it
unplugs from these
the spine above the head
distils a higher voltage.

Body as Walking Stick

Body looks down the goat track
towards the next domain,
lit up by silver hair.

Before it goes
it reveals the meaning of

chiselled-out etches
on the skin.

These will support
other bodies who walk here.

TP Editor : Janis Freegard

I've chosen this poem in memory of its author, Robert McGonigal, a fine poet and a friend of mine who died far too young. Rob and I met in Greg O'Brien's poetry workshop at Victoria University in 2001 and kept in touch afterwards, occasionally swapping poems for feedback. 'This New Place', originally published in Turbine, is my favourite of Rob's poems.

Rob lived in Edinburgh for some time. I last saw him in 2006, when I was visiting family in South Shields (in the North-East of England) with my partner, Peter. We arranged to meet Rob in Berwick, on the border of Scotland and England, a sort of halfway point none of us had been to before. The three of us spent a lovely, happy day together, exploring the town, stopping for lunch in a little pub and walking along the old town wall.

It was always a treat to get a poem in an email from Rob. I hoped I'd be reading his poetry for many years to come. He was a talented writer and a lovely, gentle young man who is sadly missed and fondly remembered. Thanks to his family for permission to repost this poem.

Janis Freegard's first solo collection, 'Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus' will be published by Auckland University Press in May. She has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, and won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award for short fiction in 2001. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand, and blogs at http://janisfreegard.wordpress.com/ and http://janisfreegard.blogspot.com/


Claire Beynon said...

Thank you, Janis.

The stanza

"A wise touch on the crown:
this is the edge
between form
and the void"

becomes a bunch of keys for me - keys to the rooms of Robert's poem and to the wider world of birth, the body, life and death. The poem seemed all the more potent and poignant when I learned at the end that its young writer is no longer here and writing.

Lesley Wheeler said...

I particularly love "the ringing of the pelvis." The whole poem is deeply strange but feels right, too, and there's a kind spirit throughout.

Helen Lowe said...

An interesting and thoughtful extended metaphor, carried successfully throughout the poem. I am sad for the loss of the poet.

AJ Ponder said...

It's such a perfect ending to what had been a humorous series of analogies. I'm so impressed by this choice, and saddened by the loss of such a talented poet.

Mary McCallum said...

I like the voice here very much - humorous, thoughtful, pragmatic, enigmatic - and I love the body as material for a poem (my poem this week chooses the body too). I am still puzzling the final section: Body as Walking Stick. Is it the passing on of experience to those coming behind that provides the walking stick? Yes, I think that's it. Lovely. Thanks Janis - and for the personal story too.

Kathleen Jones said...

This is a fascinating poem. It really made me think.