States of Poetry 2016 - TAS | 'Atonement' by Karen Knight

Atonement

 

I

This clutch of buildings
has long died
but the ghosts are still here
trying to find heartbeats.

We need to lie
the mirrors down
and take a hammer
to them.

Make a mandala
out of all this
scratched
and crazed glass.

This place needs
to be blessed
before the ghosts reach
breaking point.

We need to mend things.

 

II

 

The Beauty of Numbers

On a corner wall of The Barracks
a breakout of numbers
in a sequence of threes and fours
makes no sense
to a maths professor
or an archaeologist –
no one is able to unravel
and decode.

But for someone who saw
the world in fragments,
and had a fixation on digits
finding a wall in this hollow square
of a building complex
and pencilling onto the rendered bricks
the first line
1068, 3241, 3128 and 2620
makes perfect sense.

Whether by brilliance or madness
the author of this
mega puzzle of figures
from the soldier’s nook on the roof
down into this corner
of the former barracks
perhaps had only one aim–

the beauty of the numbers
themselves.

 

III

 

Why Graffiti?
Graffiti writers are urban shamans
and the streets are our modern day caves. Crayone.

I’m a modern day
calligrapher
writing text
most people can’t read.

Writing my name
over and over again
in public places
makes me feel immortal.

It’s a beautiful thing
when I rip the lid
off a spray can
and smell the fresh paint.

When I take on a wall
and do a throwie
I see a new world
in the loudest colours.

It’s a kick in the face
to other gangs
who try to take over
my turf.

Love the rush
of quick bombings
the sacrificial speed
over aesthetics.

There’s lots of long-faced
walls around here.
I have no choice
but to leave my mark.

 

IV

 

All is not lost

When the delinquents put
an end to the greenhouse
with their riotous supply of bricks
detached seedlings flew out
in the beaks of birds
and garden snails found
a new way to crawl over
this stretch of glass beach.

 

V

 

The Garden

Against a tight girdle
of brickwork, weeds
have burrowed deep
into the down-and-out
soil.

 

This was once a garden
of fast growing flowers
planted by a groundskeeper
for the queer folk to watch
from the whey-faced windows.

They would stare
open-mouthed and point
to the sunflowers
growing their big, meaty
heads.

And the groundskeeper
instead of waving, would drag
out dandelion roots
and blow feathery seeds
their way.

 

VI

 

Missing

Like a man
with a metal detector
he fossicks
through the rubble
of crumbling walls
and stone
in search
of his memory
gone astray
after the asylum
he once lived in
tumbled down.

 

VII

 

The art of breaking free

Find an open shed
star-high with tools
and a golden ladder
that will reach the top
of a maximum security wall.

As you climb each rung
don’t listen to the bricks
and their sad history
the willow trees are waiting
for you on the other side.

When you cross
the bridge
don’t look down
at the troubled river

don’t dwell on
the lifers
you leave behind.

Karen Knight


Karen Knight

Karen Knight

Karen Knight lives in Hobart. She has been widely published and anthologised since the 1960s, and has written four collections of poetry. The most recent, Postcards from the Asylum (Pardalote Press, 2008), won the 2005 Dorothy Hewett Flagship Fellowship Award, the 2007 ACT Alec Bolton Poetry Prize, and the University of Tasmania Prize (Tasmania Book Prizes 2011) for best book by a Tasmanian publisher. Karen Knight enjoys collaborating with other poets, musicians, and visual artists. She teamed up with Scottish writer Dilys Rose in 2006 on a long-distance poetry collection tackling the same topics from different hemispheres. This resulted in the publication Twinset (Knucker Press, Edinburgh, 2008). She has just completed a two-year project with printmaker Michael Schlitz, and is currently working on a collection of poems based on Willow Court Asylum, (1827-2000), New Norfolk, Tasmania with fellow poet Liz McQuilkin.