I’m just another artifact you’ve fingered,
pulled from layers of fragile dust
plucked from piles of patina bones
rustling on a dark sea floor,
china breaking at first touch
Put your hands round this filigreed
thing, scrimshaw scratches
one hundred years old
ships scrolled on teeth cutting time
polished bone meaning something
This is me, this is me
Press your breast next to mine, taste brine,
smell iron blood, suck salt skin
my rimu ribs murmuring more than
logbooks carved in time
and lost in wet night
Feel here, my treasure
What’s this, you say, so brittle,
shards breaking, dust sifting
past knuckles clumsy and stiff
your eyes carve grooves
I slide away, heave a little, push
into secret sand
into soft wet
Whisper me back
and I will open again, a mollusc
with her pearl
Trace this crack and you’ll find
the path to my soul
touch it here, and here
—but not here
For those who love the sea and all its mystery, this is a must poem to read. Some of the best and most loved poems in history have been written by those who have a deep empathy with oceans and you won’t be surprised to discover that Michelle is an experienced ocean sailor. Like the sea, her poem has mysterious depths … many layered, it appeals to all the senses. It also stands alone. And yet it was written as part of a duet.
This poem was written for JMWW’s Exquisite Duet series, for which editor Meg Tuite introduces an opening line and two poets write from there. The series includes two poems prompted
by the same opening line, and each time we see two dramatically different poems. You can see this on the page where my poem from the Spring 2014 issues of JMWW appears: Dena Rash Guzman goes to hard ironies and external encounters, with beautifully difficult juxtapositions, as in —
There is a war out every window on earth.
Everyone you know will die.
Cats in the yard make love anyway.
— while my poem traces lines to a quieter internal place.
Other examples of the pairing of poets with surprising outcomes can be seen in the case of Joani Reese and April Michelle Bratten, who began their two poems with the line
There is a place that slams doors before you speak and then Dennis Mahagin and Teisha Dawn Twomey, two poets beginning with the line
I’ve been fitting back together for years…
Exquisite Duet is a marvelous series. Thank you so much for going back to ‘Touch’ today, Helen!
Helen says: ‘it certainly is a great series. And thank you Michelle for sharing your poem. It’s a pleasure to have you, a fellow Tuesday poet, on my blog.’
Do have a look at, ‘Of Revolution by Dena Rash Guzman,’ the other poem in this duet, here.
Michelle’s Bio in Brief: Michelle Elvy lives and works as a writer, editor, and manuscript assessor based in New Zealand. She edits at Blue Five Notebook and Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction and she’s the chair of this month’s National Flash Fiction Day. Her poetry, prose, and reviews can be found in journals and anthologies such as Poets & Artists, Room, Takahē, PANK, 2014: A Year in Stories, and Eastbourne: An Anthology. More at michelleelvy.com. You can also find her at her blog Glow Worm and sailing on Momo.
When I asked Michelle to be my guest on Tuesday Poem she asked right back. The poem I had available was also about touch. Serendipity perhaps. To read it you can go to Michelle’s blog here.
For a stimulating selection of poetry and poetry news return to the Tuesday Poem hub here, where Helen Lowe is this week’ s editor with a new poem by Joanna Preston.