'The Book of Interdictions' by A. Frances Johnson | States of Poetry Vic - Series One

 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come ...
Song of Solomon, Verse 11-12

Tow

Lo, the cell phone sleeps in its cell.
The raven deactivates the horizon.
There is water for everyone,
but not the kind you can drink.
The interdiction crews bring slabs
of plastic bottles and one-syllable words
deployed with biblical clarity:
no, tow, flow, go, foe.

Lo, watch the oil on the water
shimmer, a miracle of evidence.
Wounded iridescent rainbows
leak from under the hull. For two days,
the hawk drone has shadowed
its nest of wood, dreaming of
the time after rain, flowers appearing
on the earth, the singing
of birds, the time come.

Fuse

Wire was once a useful thing.
Piano wire brought song,
made the piannola in the desert
unspool melodies to support
a soldier's farmblock optimism.
Wire brushes cleaned the mud
from workboots, penned animals
inside their stalls. Fine gauge
fixed the porcelain fuse so a light
globe shone over air-conditioned
Bethlehem. And here, razor wire
taught children what to expect.

Photograph

He avoids dining out
on his award-winning photograph;
its forced correspondence nags;
the camp's hall of mirrors looks
nothing like his shaving mirror.
He has seen this room before,
filed many versions of the same shot.
He knows how the poem goes
before the poet has written it:
war, movement, hunger, displacement,
incarceration, hopelessness, suicide, image.
He will not dine out on it; on the one of many.
But the next night he books a restaurant,
a good one, eating past life.
When a little death on a plate
arrives, he cuts the image
away like an army surgeon.

Birds

Do not alight the old way.
No longer seek boughs bending in the breeze.
They do not recognise a non-segmented sky;
nor sing in the face of obstacles
Overall, the sighing cloud
is less trained, less orderly
than the Hummingbird would like.
This does not stop it moving close to the wire,
behind which, disorganised families
prepare meals of goat and bitter greens.
Radio Afghanistan can be heard far distant;
lovesongs fit the desert city like soft shoes.
The bird does not care. It tracks and targets.
And where necessary, drops its payload.
The young corporal on headsets listens in,
Discharge, a pure lyric.
He and his birds are never fooled
by the ghazal in the aviary.
After some days away, the bird flies back,
lonely at 18kph, whirring perpetual dawn.

 

A. Frances Johnson


 

Recording