The Gardens of Adonis
on a bed of lettuce (in the arbour, yes, Cupid
there too), had any idea of the import of the thing –
in order to honour the adolescent god,
women of Phoenicia would sow seeds of lettuce
the bottoms of earthenware pots
their quick withering (them having no roots)
and being thrown into seas, into fountains,
Lasting – then maybe she’d have lain him on
laurel instead, making of myth a different thing.
from the very start – his boar, her rival in the nether
grove, by the river, the way it held him down
In the photos she is dancing on the wide pink
steps of a French cathedral under sun, black elms.
She is scanning the film on her dad’s Apple Mac.
He is standing on one side, you’re leaning on
the other. Beyond, through his open window’s
the valley you woke to year after year, before green
became variegated, was one plain thrill.
She un-slings her arms, says family hug meaning as
in the albums (sand, lake, tent – the way things once held).
Her arms inveigle the two of you to her.
Her arms are the frequency current flies through.
Lines of Succession
through the body’s unwary door
while bathing say, vague perhaps with absence,
or pondering consciousness – that strange transparency
Spinoza tells us veneers the world –
when you catch yourself holding your hand to your chin
the middle finger lifting so the nail taps the eye tooth,
and wham, you’re back in your father’s house –
It’s summer, there’s a river and a jacaranda tree.
He is sitting in front of the black balustrade
legs crossed, lean in his woven chair,
eyes horizon-high (remember though, they always saw
the traffic beneath the roses).
He is bright with enterprise, devising strategy –
how best build a jetty to accommodate tide,
how season a timbered hull?
His thumb and fourth finger support the jaw
and the sawn-off tip of his index
finger is held to his cheek-bone inches from the eye –
but it’s his mouth! It is parted just enough
so the middle finger flutters between his front teeth,
the nail tapping (you know exactly)
the pad rebounding, and after a while
the soft, ruminative bite.
Heralded by gesture – your father’s, yours,
(his dear presence) – you begin to consider
‘it’s bred in the bone’,
the deep intelligence of the body.
Surprise returns you to that most-forgotten land –
its ruined mountains – though small thoughts intrude too
(the bath’s grown cold, there are essays to assess,
photographs to post to a daughter in the north
of women with marled skin, statues of Eurydice,
Hera’s marmoreal arms).
But the word inhere keeps insisting on itself.
Like breath from a beloved’s lips, its zither passes over you
so you rise from the bath, draw a towel to the rib-
and-tingle of your frame and head for the computer
leaving drips, webbed footprints (gills? hooves?)
along the glimmering hall. Ah, History, your worn
thumb, still strumming away? Still printing? We are
where the hammer falls (more or less). Room though,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jo Thorpe is a Wellington poet, dance writer and lecturer in Dance History at the New Zealand School of Dance. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University in 2001 and her first book of poetry Len & other poems was published by Steele Roberts in 2003.