Poets know words, know routes, know ghosts.

Ghosts know hollows, know sorrow, know words. 
Hollows know ghosts, know dogs, know weeds. 
Dogs know sorrow, know work, know throes 
of ecstasy, tides of hunger, the scent of other dogs, 
dogs they’ve never met, have haunted 
and been haunted by, leaving a trail, 
following a hint today, a scent 
tomorrow, a sign left long ago. Dogs know 
routes, know history. The scent beneath the tail 
they acquaint themselves with when they meet 
and store with all the others in their minds, 
they might not encounter again 
till months later, when they look to their owner 
with ears up and mouth open, but have no way 
to say, that dog was here, the one with 
the red fur, the distracted owner, the one 
we met that time on the beach… Dogs know 
silence, know loneliness. No way to share 
this encounter with their owner any more 
than the owner, finding in a journal the poetry 
of a poet met long ago, could share the pleasure 
of this discovery by reading the poetry 
to the dog, though look, he does prick up his ears. 
An odd poet, taking a winding route. 
There are some poets you travel the routes of 
so often you could feel your way in the dark, 
that turn, that corner, and then the plummet 
towards the end. What does it give you, after all, 
to meet in person in a room? 
A thought the dog doesn’t share, when, 
having known the followed route, 
the stored scent, an affair of the air, here is 
the other dog! Incarnate! Guessed and host! 

Pasture and flock.

Staring up into the sky my feet 
anchor me to the ground so hard 
I’m almost drowning, drowning 
in air, my hair falling upwards 
around my shoulders, I think I’ll hug 
my coat closer. I’m standing 
on hundreds of blades of grass, and 
still there are so many more 
untrodden on. Last night, in bed, 
you said, “you are the sheet 
of linen and I am the threads,” and 
I wanted to know what you meant 
but you wouldn’t wake up to tell me 
and in the morning you didn’t 
remember, and I had forgotten 
till now when I think, who is 
the blades of grass, who is the pasture? 
It is awfully cold, and my coat 
smells of something unusual. 
It almost seems as if it is the stars 
smelling, as if there were 
an electrical fault in the sky, 
and though it is almost too dark 
to see I can see the sheep 
moving closer, and the stars 
falling. I feel like we are all 
going to plunge into the sky 
at once, the sheep and I, 
and I am the sheep and I am 
the flock, and you are the pasture 
I fall from, the stars and the sky. 


Anna Jackson lectures in the English programme at Victoria and has published several books of poetry with Auckland University Press, the latest being I, Clodia (November 2014).