• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 02

Not all sheroes wear capes

She’s been here before

Leaned in
a little too far
Lance up        |
Lashed out     –

A moving target

Head down
On all fours
with a mouth
full of dust

Shifting and shaping

The earth
unfurled
shook open a crack        between
her legs
Pushed too two  
halves of her w    hole
apart

There she fell

Still    
with a tight grip
Feeling the ground and
the sky all at once

Read more >
1

An Eiderwork of Shadow Spun

as tall towers to steel frames – shells that swallow spirits whole –
as soft fabric to idleness whittled skin – saddles for straw backs –
as spurred leather boots to moccasins worn, winter-dark, to save
ethics as aesthetics, or a riffed refrain on the same lines of banality
we spend to reassure ourselves that plenty is not enough –
leather bindings for blackly bound mouths show our love for silence –
as lance and spear pinion flesh to a wood-bound existence that incites,
in us, a reminder of the hallowed sallow dark in which we move –
a sharp cutting point, but no escape – we fumble in shadow, down
from where the eider-spun-to-encasing-fabric-bone told truthfully
only of our glutting, down to the road many before us walked
– a crumbling admixture of gravel and once sure steps slipping,
caught in the dragon’s teeth we built to ward off the surety
of ageing – and, in a fit of ever-rising kenning – whispers,
and an assurance to Althing – a multiplicity inside us,
wrought only of ourselves – we, knowingly look up and watch
the assurance of the life we led distend, from hallowed honey
to gum-bitten blood swilled back like mouthwash by survivors
playing house in the remnant of a mechanized horse –
but the ashes aren’t bitter when you’re hungry – black bread,
and weeds, gathered in the moonlight on the sea-battered coast,
the waterwine that fuels the wordwine that sates the senses,
damned always in a search for der kennungsverlossigheit,
for the meaning lost, for an identity lost, and for ourselves lost –
and we fall, in increments, until our technicolour vision
is split – all eight of the spider’s eyes see then for us a composite
of want – yet it is in the strings-plucked cajoling emptiness –
it that unspools hope like needlework by lamplight –

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2

To the Rhythms of Billy Shakes

Who is this watching my greatest failure
    Is it someone I know or a stranger

They’re standing tall and strong with head held high
    As my life suddenly passes me by

Is it my forebearer, viewing abhorred
    The ghost of father’s fathers come before

And with disgust they know where I have erred
    My tilted life, this life filled with despair

Or is it me, the me that once tall stood
    Not knowing what I’d be or what I should

A shadow of the life I might have had
    If I had taken some diverg-ed path

They say they watch over you when they’re gone
    So to whom now is my failing eye drawn

Some other, passing judgement over me
    Or myself if I’d been what I could be

Do they scruntize me, this harbinger
    Or does their gaze add to my garniture

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3

Freeze Frame

The artist has frozen a moment in time for the knight pushed off of his horse, the moment his opponent’s lance has unseated him before his armor-encumbered body clangs and clatters on the ground. In this unique moment when his only injury is simply to his pride, I wonder what is going on behind his visor?

Is his entire life flashing before his eyes as one anticipating death—his time as a page, and squire, learning to ride, other tournaments, lady loves, the bet he made on this joust?

Or perhaps he is asking himself questions: “Will my horse go running on, dragging me if I cannot pull my foot out of the stirrup? Or did I train this beast horse well enough so that he will come to a sudden stop when he realizes my weight is no longer pressing down on the saddle? How quickly will my squire and others reach my side? Just how hard is the floor of this arena?”

He has his arm out. I wonder if he thinks what might occur by using the arm to take the brunt of the fall. Is he saying to himself: “If I destroy my sword arm by falling on it how will I joust again, fight again? If I cannot joust or fight, what will  be my role in the courts?”

Or in this moment of suspended action, is he thinking about the lady love whose patterned silks he vaunts? Does he wonder: “Will she now desert me?” Will her healing ministrations bring us closer?”

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4

Don Quixote’s fights at dinner

To joust means to find soft tissue
through plate, how you pin the tender,
choicest bits to the table, your eye
a big yellow moon in the microscope.

The mollusc moves its slippage
& seepage drips from tabletop
to the spotless napkin around your neck;
you don't want blood on your jacket.

It will ruin it, this armour
of the 20th century gentleman—
the man of gauntlets & rifles,
of rapiers & duels—just before
dawn turns her face towards you.

What I'm trying to say is, what
do you sell to a warhorse if not bridles
& eye guards? Let's pretend you're
Don Quixote flailing after a floating leaf.

Let's say your horse bucks & breaks
& you juggle your body like a man
doing three jobs to make ends
draw close; are you suddenly a stiff
upper lip, a chivalrous gentile?
Sorry I meant genteel.

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5

Washday

Linens lie over a clothes horse,
steaming by the coal fire,
hankies like wet flags
drape a wooden arm,
a tabby sits, paw raised
swots the hankies.
And into the mix flies the dog
mouth slobbering over a dropped sock,
its owner roaring obscenities behind it.
The mutt skids across the stone floor
rucking the mat under the horse,
and the cat scampers and yowls
as the owner clatters, foot catching
on the skewed mat, body twirling,
arms windmilling, legs sliding,
upending the clothes horse,
scattering linens and hankies.
The aroma of damp and singed cotton
hits her before the flames take hold.

6

LA CHUTE

Cold rises from the ground.

White death, bare and flat,
permeates my falling
skin,
infiltrates
bones. The drop inebriates
the body as your
exhale pierces right
through me.

I will grow underneath
the colours of the forest, slip
down streams
that witnessed the haunting
of our love. I am a knight
bleeding
slowly, surrendering
an armour to the fire, dancing
with the moonlight.

You gave honey to these lips.

But your winter spares no one.

7

Metallurgy Spanish Branch LTD

Today we welcome Don Quixote, global sensation, self-proclaimed knight. Don Quixote kindly tested our latest design during product development in a number of ways.

He tilted at the windmills again.

Leaped into an oxen’s cage and ordered to be carried away left not right for that is where the rocky roads—fragmented in pink granite, powdered in basalt—test wagon wheels and our metal, evidently, and he

Braved lions not so inclined to relinquish a battle.

Rocinante awaits our knight. His rider. And look! Don Quixote jumps on without a human stirrup or wooden lifting device. Our armour doesn’t impede flexibility. He is bending and stretching. Rocinante pawing at the ground.

The crotch! What about it? It is unprotected. Good point. Take notes. Take notes.

Dulcinea del Toboso elegantly designs and engraves in silvery style. Talk about linear precision.

Knee caps, you say. No need. Brave knights are not afraid of a scratch, or two or three or more as is the case with our dear Don Quixote.

ahem

Demonstration is about to begin. Take your seats please. Doña Eleanora stand back.

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8

Spurring Things On

Well, that’s a fine pickle to get into! Tipped up on the kitchen floor on New Year’s Day.

I only popped over for a lark. I thought they’d be amused. A fun ice-breaker to start the new year and maybe make amends for being such a prat last year. I didn’t know they had new strict rules about not glorifying war, or that it extended to not encouraging interest in armour and armaments. It’s not like I took a tank round. Blimey! Uncle Red in the doghouse again.

Since they had the niblings, it seems my brother and sister-in-law have had total sense of humour bypasses. They used to be such a laugh. We all used to hang out and play together since – well forever. Things changed a bit once those two coupled up, but we were still mates.

I thought Sylv mis-understanding the Pictionary drawing was hilarious, but apparently that was just me. I hadn’t seen it as breasts in a bathtub. And anyway I expect both the little darlings had seen her breasts in and out of the bath often enough to not think it odd. Apparently breast feeding during Christmas lunch is fine, but drawing them not? And it was all in their minds! I’d drawn Juliet behind a balcony with ornate scrollwork – a Juliet balcony! Last time I opt for the high-brow.

So, I thought arriving in armour to make a courtly apology seemed appropriate. It’s not like the new floors they are always banging on about aren’t made of slate, ‘designed for living’ as they are always spouting to all and sundry. You’d have thought a little spur scratch wouldn’t cause any harm. And if she hadn’t shooed me out with the broomstick I wouldn’t have tumbled in the first place. Darned heavy these suits. Well, if it hadn’t been for the precious expression and giggling meltdown from young Annie I’d give up totally.

It's not easy losing your life-long best mates only to gain the best new ones

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9

Knights Tend To Topple, Then Fall

He starts well, straight-backed,
lance held in balance,
a weighty presence,
tall, handsome warrior.

In the stands, a woman
watches in disbelief,
at man’s vanity,
witnesses the tumble.

One blow glances off,
wooden batons clash
like arrows in flight
attracted to death.

The next, on target,
is a deadpan thud,
a pantomime act,
fatal direct hit.

Her Knight is unseated,
so futile an action
she believes he knew
it was always a scene,

a picture of greed.
He wanted infamy,
not a loose-limbed war,
this gaudy, slant end.

10

Pa Ave

wonder-who laddie is
all topsy turvy
warrior in metal
off balance but nervy

blue knees and baubles
stripes off his rocker
horse hooves stand grounded
but he is a shocker

his head is a-tilt
and his foot is a-stuck
he wanted to flair
but want wasn’t enough

his polearms are wonky
what a daft gesture
instead of a knight
he’s simply a jester

11

The Destrier Sofa

The child shadow peers,
pleased, over her Saturday
couch cushion fort creation.

Mom now awake, demands
order, cleanliness. Lacks vision—
long shrivelled by age.

Mother doesn’t see the tableau
as it transpired—the charging
Destrier sofa carrying

gallant throw pillow knight
wielding broom handle lance
in defence of Queen’s honour.

Ill-timed tidiness the difference
between victory, and downfall
of the entire weekend.

12

The knight of the Rubik’s cube

To battle the brain, plus ultra.

Chivalry is to mystery as brute force
is to puzzle solving. Upon my honour,
if I could turn this spectacle of spectrum
into a gradient of valour, better still
a rainbow of victories, would this make
me the more decided suitor your mythos
seeks.

Cube your indifference.

Girls don’t make passes at knights
wearing glasses the hokum code has it,
but there are other barbarisms we should
dismember first, not least the one that
sounds like self-pity and manifests as
sappiness.

Chequered is the hunt.

Every joust is at root just children saying
‘Notice me!’, not realising that love is to
be re-arranged on the most fundamental
level, by a lance, a glance, a touch. So:
put me back together?

13

Buttoned Spats

Conspiracy theorists gather round
With an observation I’ll astound
This 14th century, brave sir knighted
Is not a man with honour plighted
For see the crest on his great helm hat?
It’s a patent shoe with buttoned spats!

Yet know your Twain and the truth is clear
Our knight is no imposter here
He’s Hank the Yank: man out of time
Concussed when he was in his prime
Though here’s no crowbar to his head
Here ‘tis a lance coronel instead
But it has caught him near as hard
To send him toppling off his charge
And to say he’s ‘winded’ does scarcely tell
His jumbled thoughts as he is felled
With head fair rattling in its housing
Our Hank is loud apologies espousing
For his unseating ‘fore this crowd
(Who’ve started booing very loud)
Cuts deeper than a broad sword might
His heart has quite lost all its fight
And while smug Sir Sagramore swift dismounting-
Summons his squire with mace for clouting
The Yank: a hero vanquished now
Just lays there on the ground and howls.

And here’s a lesson all can learn

Read more >
14

Quest

It’s just a joust, a tourn-about,
that hand-high topple from the mount,
from height-mare throne, lost dignity,
a tourney shoutout for a quest
to cast from record, shadow rank.
This listless man’s accoutrements,
claw spike for pike, lanced pole and spurs,
a windmill tilt with hastilude -
did he depart the melee, seen?
Shield, banner draped, by squirl less swirled,
silk colour screen, hint tint of print,
who crowns his helmet with a shoe,
sole standing, knight’s tale, pilgrimage
to find himself, soul exercise?

Uneasy read, from form oblique -
with field unseen, no quarter given -
I have to turn it by degrees,
compute the angle, adjust steed,
the level taken hindmost scene?
What was the preface harnessed there?
Who filled the gap in manuscript,
with painted words for frontispiece?
How long to tumble story line,
unjumble clutter, clatter hooves?
Your answer, what that quest’s about.

15

Joust

It was a mistake:
Father could demand
I appear as a knight,
but that did not
guarantee I would
or could perform like one.

Certainly, I could ride.
I had been trained.
I could even manage
a lance, but barely.
And why? Why bother?
That is what I always
thought: To what end
all this manly fuss?

But when young Richard,
whom I adored, got wind
of my feelings for him,
he went to my father
and proposed this sport.
Father, being, oh, so kingly
agreed. What a wonderful
opportunity for his little
prince to perform, to prove
his mettle, to show himself
worthy of throne and crown.

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16

Nighted

(i) rising

sleep
that sunless swale

smears its powdered tincture
across my face

I change buoyancy
in notion’s tide

an epilogue of bubbles
regards my wake

and a dead tree
juggles the sun


(ii) falling

armour tinkles and
rainbows hug the moon

I’m bucked off
by a nightmare

her hooves
like thunder at my cheek

in my helmet seventeen stars
like quilted eyeballs

announce a landing
pillow-short and spear-bound

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17

Half a Tale

Half a page of half a book,
half a page, an illustration.
The words are missing.

There once was verse,
there once was rhyme,
I think.

But that half of the page
went missing,
that half of the book
is missing.

All that’s left is half a page,
an illustration,
the back end of a horse,
a pantomime horse,
a second hand role
that no one wanted.

Toy swords were raised
and spurs got buckled
damaging our opening pages,
leaving the past to illustration.

Time got caught
in the slam of the lid
of the box on the loft
that we left behind us

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18

Suspension of (Dis)Belief

Page eighty-seven, and the others before that—
"As if this could happen in reality," you scoffed.
Of course, it's fiction. Of course, detachment is a must
An escapade from reality at the core of its essence.

After seven thousand days when you declared your dream
Of valor and chivalry in the scorching battlefield,
I prayed to the deities you find oh, so questionable
A chance to listen to you once more, your derision of imagination and all.

But the gods or fellow humans might not have heard my plea,
Now, brother, is my turn to reject what seems ridiculous to me.
Let me stay… on the page when we've worn grandma's quilts
As capes and saddles, laughing at our horse's tail aka toilet plunger.

Let me immortalize our memories… Mother's silhouette on the wall.
Yellow and blue yarn balls. The familiarity of our wooden floors.
No ashes and corpses in our childhood playing field.
Just little voices arguing, "As if this could happen."

19

The Air Before the Ground

I am a knight paid off to fall
from his steed before the lance's point
drives into flesh.
I am at the point
where the world I observe
is just: the multitude of limbs that is the sun,
the clouds in their ephemeral state
and an endless slit of heartbreak blue.

I realize what putting on the helmet meant,
now that it serves to mask dishonor.
Now that it serves as a night,
for the smile slashed on a face surrendering
to vertigo, under the weight of armor.

The crowd, pressing silver between covert palms,
is screeching for my death
but they don't know
that only I can see
the split-second sky.

20

Medieval Rose

The rose water and lace hidden
The rose emblazoned on shield instead of in hand
The stallion onyx instead of white

Flag embroidered with heartache and dreams
Childhood secrets sewn into silken quilt
Her tireless eyes ripping the sacred presence of midnight

Bereft of glass slipper and its familiar step
She stumbles into the embrace of earth
Only to rise with the wine cup in her eternal hand.

21

Falling man

Alongside these others, you deal me now
this seventy-ninth card—
after juggler, papess, lightning-struck tower,
the fool, the moon, last judgement, star,

from the undignified back end of a horse,
an armoured knight is flung down.
You give me something else to interpret,
unfolding across a blank, beige background,

and it must mean something catastrophic
when it’s turned up, disasters foretold—
see, the triumphant, three-pronged lance
of whatever it was he set out to oppose,

and the knight’s own lance, fumbled on impact,
let slip from his chain-mailed right hand,
his head like an egg inside the beaked helmet
is about to strike the ground.

But look at the green and yellow and pink silks,
flapping in the wind, his jockey colours,
and, tumbling backwards, his high-kicking legs
are wrapped in brilliant, sky-blue hose,

and polished, black leather, calf-length boots,
add an extra drama to the performance:
I think now that, after the crash,
Sir Knight will dust himself down—he’ll bounce

right back, all rubber limbs, resilience—
juggler, emperor, spun wheel of fortune,
Read more >

22

The Palace (a poem for Brazil)

Child I can’t tell you
What they’ve done to the palace

(How they tore through the artwork
That so clearly depicts the soul of my country

Yes we are also colourful on the inside.
Meanwhile from the other side of the glass

Someone wrapped up in the national flag
A so-called ‘patriot’

Takes aim at a Di Cavalcanti
Takes a piss on the jacarandá floor

Where torn portraits of former presidents
are scattered amongst pages of the constitution)

My child you know when you read a book
And the good guy wins?

Well, sometimes that is the end of a story,
Sometimes that is just the beginning.

23

The Thing About Jousting

The thing about jousting
is someone’s getting knocked
off their high horse.
Whether it’s the white or the blue knight,
is a matter of course.

The thing about jousting
is an extended neck
will not make the crowd cheer.
It’s not enough to charge bravely;
the winner must steer.

The thing about jousting
is each contestant is given a lance
but whether blades have been blunted
is a matter of chance.

The thing about jousting
is that most knights cheated
and the ones who rode honorably
were likely defeated.

The thing about jousting
Is it’s not just about ramage
The true winner is the one
who emerges
with the lesser brain damage.

The thing about jousting
is it’s a lot like survival.
To be found the fittest
we must outlive our rival.

24

Why bother?

Grotesque as it may seem
To eyes not habituated to dream
There are seams within seams
And being is not just about the routine
But a dash of colours
A visualisation of the extensions
That get added as one comes clean
From years of abandonment
Years of suppression
Hiding the stuff inside
Lacking the wherewithal
To let the blast of spring
Flow and bloom
All over into the outside
From what's hidden within

And the rare blossom may yet,
Bleed
It may be fatal too;
For the one that wears a mask
Must risk having it removed
And once in fullness of things
A spear may pass through the scalp
Decapitated already by scandalizing needs
Which to the eyes of others seem
A transgressive deed
A leeway before a fall
And to the self seems
Like Jesus walking across
Carrying an unmitigated cross

Read more >
25

The Cardinal

And the day started so well.
With the order of ceremonies to hand,
The form and function, and the
Ritual for enacting our desires, we laid out
In even patterns for the Cardinal to view.

We know the rules, even when
We had no hand in their creation.
We defer. We accept his shadowy
Authority as the basis for the order of our
Living. Even of our fall, our dying.

But when the world comes at us
With its own order, not consonant with ours,
When our two orders intersect,
When our disharmonies overwhelm, he looks
On, and does not seem to be displeased.

He lives in shadow, behind a mist,
An outline in the light. More of a sensation
Of aloof pleasure in our pain. He takes
Satisfaction in our fall, our shattered pride.
Especially when the day started so well.

26

Armchair Jousting

One Tweet too many and she’s on her high horse again
or rather off her fauteuil for the next five minutes –
the one with the horsehair stuffing and fetlocked legs.

She has armed herself for the fight, taken up her stance
against the blinkered tub-thumpers with their elon-
gated arguments, and is now bounding up and down

on the squab at the multi-phobic mutterings of men
she just knows are wearing memory-foam moccasin
slippers with impact-gel … men with risible grammar,

but I’m digressing. Another comment has her up
on her feet, lance poised for a charge, one spurred
heel stuck in a stirrup, the other scrabbling in the air,

following her helmed head, vambrace and gauntlet,
as she looks destined to tumble, tasset over pauldron,
onto the Wilton. Her flatmate on the chaise longue

and cocooned in his earbuds, sputters with laughter
at her aerial antics, then goes to her rescue, advising
'You know, you really should move over to Mastodon.'

27

Heraldry

Here I am in my rich finery
My silks and iron
My balls and tassles
My boots black as night
Here I am
Upside-down
The knock resounding
All I can see is a sandy sky - the beige heavens - the neutral firmament
And never mind my blue pantaloons
My golden stripes
My rosy bow
He struck me good and true -
CLANG!
I can't feel my hands
One feels like a foot
This is going to hurt
Oh Lord
Do I at least look good
Going down?

28

Jousting

Only the foolhardy joust
To settle right from wrong, truth from lie.

The gallop towards your antagonist
Is no journey to resolution
No meeting of minds.

The armour of conviction does not protect
The chest imploding conclusion
To any particular slight.

It merely unseats one point of view
And instates a wooden and pointed perspective
As the indefatigable subjugator.

The urge to joust
Is the compulsion to defeat.

29

Time

sunlight melts beige into the clouds' eyes
I blink
my fingers fetal pink, swish past
the typeface lips of the book
the dust in my mouth tastes of tombstones
flakes of sand surrounds the sunny horizon
like flies
sucking pale nipples of juice on rotten mangoes in a dumpster
colors elude and osculate it grotesquely
phosphenes in pink, gold, green evaporate from neon to clarity
the pages of the book that I read, perspire
with Lucretia's sorrow, and my eyes stop there as chivalry demands
the black on my nails is patent like boots
the horizon wilts into a butchery of horses:
bars of brown, bars of crimson red, now bars of grey on my book.
like a tender glimmer of gold is the ecstasy of time

30

Mr. Magoo and Don Quixote

pulled up huge armchairs and pillows,
lifted heavy poles and pedestals,
let a grand sail unravel around them
and sank into a wind of minty breath,
eyes wide open to a sky closing in.

On a day gravity failed, they began to swim
lopsided, falling one way, then another,
and when the clouds began to cackle and fall,
they waited for gravity to restore itself,
recovering who they were on a different page.

That's when the windmills went batty,
their horses lost track of time,
equipment bent into tree limbs,
every supporting characteristic evolving,
and they leaned into reams of dreamcatchers.

31

Mythology of Degree Zero

The Eiffel Tower withstood five lightning strikes a year, but the one-eyed knight in his armour was killed by just one discharge. A melted diamond prosthetic eye was not covered by fire insurance.

The Eiffel Tower remained forever on Paris postcards, but the one-eyed knight was swept away by the Seine. The armour drifted into the sea and sank to the bottom of Tokyo Bay as iron sand.

By the traditional Japanese furnace for iron called Tatara, the knight in armour was revived in mythology. The footprints of the one-eyed giant became a fountain, bringing forth an abundance of spring water.

Far from the Eiffel Tower, a café at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Daidarabotchi the giant who enjoys a cup of coffee with his eternal cold ice prosthetic eye shining in the souvenir postcards.

32

She told me…

she told me I’d never come to any good
my brother always the favourite
and as for cousin “kingmaker”
the sun shone out of his…
Stand up straight Richard,
you’ll get a hump on your back
I never did, they made it up.
Be nice to your cousins, don’t
be scaring them in the dark!
I had to scare them, up there
in the tower, little princes,
little scaredy-cats, more like.
I saw the fortune teller,
she gave me good advice,
how to keep my head down
while the Battle of the Roses is fought,
I’ll live to see a major monarch,
not like you holding your crown
like a trophy till it’s snatched.
She told me I’d never come to any good,
and the playwrights will
send me up, lampoon me as a monster.
What do I care for their skits, their plays?
I’ll play mine out in blood,
with lance in hand and trusty horse.
I’ll spread my enemies’ blood on
the battle field, not the stage.
Who’ll remember your name:
Cecily Neville, Duchess of York,

Read more >
33

Windmills

Sancho – do not desert me
I fear I am unseated
my ancient armour no protection
it has become another burden

I may never rise
my lance broken
where is the justice
where is my army

See how my fine hopes
the bright colours of youth
mean nothing on the road
will be trampled in dust

windmills have grown stronger
arms thrashing a clouded sky
flail in the coming storms
sweep aside others' misfortune

who will take the field
for those ground by the wheels
Sancho – sow more insurrection
plant more revolution

34

KNIGHT TO KNIGHT’S FALL

He's fallen tapsalteerie, heels over head.
Maybe that helmet will protect his daft old brains.
It's hard to see what's happened to the steed,
back legs still planted sturdy-like
but he's a goner, taken the forked lance
in the breastplate—done for.

He was aye getting into fights
strapping on his virtual armour
twirling his mesmerising ankle spurs
grabbing his lance on the way to the supermarket.
Is it any wonder he sometimes came a cropper?
At least when he'd had a drink, he fell soft.

But this year he decided to go noble—
noble causes, noble gear, ignoble upset.
Never been on the back of a nag before,
said my nags had driven him to it.
You would have nagged him too
great fool that he was.

But you know what they say about nothing gained
and at least he had a venturing way about him.

35

Tumble

Tumble

Merriam Webster:

a: to fall suddenly and helplessly

Your sphincter relaxes.
it only takes seconds, but you know
that you might break something.
Even your neck
If encased in a metal suit, you may shrivel
in it slowly like a dead plum.
Pruning.
Nobody will hear your cries
for help, only your own ears.
Your armour rusts.
Eventually it will disintegrate
and metal will mix with
your biodegradables.
Nature will reclaim it all.

b: to suffer a sudden downfall, overthrow, or defeat

They attacked you from behind.
You had set your sights on winning
the battle.
There were those who disagreed.
You first made concessions,
then you attacked.
Your allies left your flanks and back
open for the others’ lances to knock

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36

A Picture of You Falling

There’s a picture of you falling hanging in a museum gallery in an exhibition titled The Illustrated World of Miscellaneous Scenes. You’re wearing your Halloween costume, the one you loved so much you stayed in character the whole night, and you’re falling off a chair, backwards, comically. I remember the scene well—do you remember?—I was there, dressed as a ballerina, or maybe I was a derby roller skater girl, I’m not sure about that part, but I remember we all rolled in laughter when you did that flip: your giant cardboard lance falling on your head, a dude dressed like a lady-in-waiting pretending to faint because of it, a whole play in under two minutes. It was a good night, we had a lot of fun—remember?—we were such a good pair back then, me always along for the ride and you always committing to the bit. Who painted the picture? The exhibition catalogue doesn’t say. Were they at the party? They must have been. How else would they know to paint such a scene. A man dressed as a knight falling off a chair is meaningless unless you were there. The painting was titled “Falling Off a Chair with a Lance,” I imagine they knew that was your name too. (Oh, that was the year I was a derby roller skater, because you were calling me “Debby” the whole night, I remember now.)

37

Playtime

He hadn’t wanted to go. He loved figures, beautiful columns of numbers that he could arrange and record. People just weren’t the same, they were unpredictable. He had no choice. He had to go to the teambuilding day. He thought it was a ridiculous waste of precious time.

It was even worse than he’d envisaged: a day of dressing up, eating undercooked meat semi-roasted on a spit and taking part in tedious mock medieval games. He could be making money for the company instead of being forced to dress up in colourful leggings and a suit of mock armour. Even though it wasn’t made of metal it was heavy, uncomfortable and smelt of the anti-bacterial spray used to cover up the previous user’s body odours. He had to feel pity for the real medieval knights wearing metal helmets and chain mail and having to fight at the same time.
He was surrounded by a melee of colleagues, who were teasing each other and trying to demonstrate how brave they were by telling raucous tales and making witty comments. A whole department in competitive lemming mode. They were all relishing the prospect of working together in order to win the games and to be the best team.
There was a lot of jostling, shoving and he was thrust forward as the first to learn how to joust. He didn’t have time to protest or to calculate the risks involved, because within minutes he was tumbling backwards. The physical pain was less painful than the memory of being prodded and pushed about in the playground as a child and of being taunted and called a fool for not being a game player.

He started to laugh, and everyone joined in. He laughed and laughed as they picked him up, made sympathetic noises and patted him on his back because at last he understood what part he played in their lives and hierarchy. His role was to be the jester, who made people laugh but could also juggle with figures and solve seemingly unsolvable financial riddles.

38

Richy

Incessant parade suitably dressed
All tailor! Every cut to impress
Dazzle, razzle, onlooker bemuse
But hollow, quickly covered emptiness

the strut metered by chorus
Coherent corrugating cat calls
From orchestrated agency crowd
None there unless dollar falls

They merry-go-round
Strut, mirror, aloof vanity pose
Gloss, dentine and just trite
Replaced with the punch of scandal
And all that's left is
A faint shadow on the wall

39

Rules

Tumbling, knickers in the air,
Good job she wore her best armour.
Shame she missed that last trick,
Should have seen it coming,
But her opponent is playing it dirty.

Did he know she wasn’t a he?
The fabulous silken covers,
Matching shield,
Might have given it away.
Although they all preen it up for these contests.

She’d hoped for a level playing field,
More than the flat grass
That the horses cavorted across,
But one where pure talent
Would win the day,
Not illicit manoeuvres.

Life lesson,
There is never a field
Without hidden bumps,
And sneaky tumps.
No matter how well dressed.
Do not trust your eyes,
Feel it in your gut.

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40

we’re not getting anywhere like this

it’s the usual
mess, in a way
stressed, day to
day, not knowing
if we’ll untangle
our tendons any
time soon. tenuous
in trepidation.

today, I sit
directionless
driving, deciding
if it’s worth it
to try
and poem this, or
perhaps test this
trickle of mindfulness.

I know
the circus always
called to us. echoes
of honey stretch across
my memory. our silhouettes
creep onto the stage
engage the silks, we
traipse towards the
trapeze, squeeze into
outfits we know will

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41

Nonfiction

In the twilight hours of crisp fall,
I hid my books behind my grandmother's couch.
By the glow of lanterns and flashlights,
I made a smuggler's cove.
Secured by my blanket door and secret password,
I stacked my books tall and wide.
Tracing my fingers into the inky lunar hours,
I read of things that were, or had been, or could be.
Vainly waiting for my mother to return from work,
I read only nonfiction.
Never once pausing to think,
if it made me strange.

42

RIALTO

A jousting accident, no less.

Now the King an unmade bed
a rainbow stud without a mane
Beta Alpha
umbilical curbs,
everything holds from a hoof.

That lady there
grows the herbs,
enjoys a crown of crystals, sports
scepters of wood,
full control of her household

breaks stories
cancels babies
– almost undid the King –
foam from Venus
Ophelia tears
a frog that can kiss
conveniently saying it's January

Alpha Beta

Even
among the mares who fail
to distinguish the berries

and become feral

the witch saddles boldly her aura,
picks needles from Venice,
old wine from the dead,
and settles her enemy.

43

Buckaroo

We’re teaching you how to play Buckaroo
in a pub that’s falling apart at the seams.
The chair legs beneath you are littered
with the crumbs of an egg mayonnaise sandwich,
Crayons, and the red splats of dead blueberries.
You don’t understand why
but you enjoy balancing plastic
frying pans, cowboy hats, lanterns, lassos,
and shovels on the back of a weary herbivore.
You laugh when the beast has had enough
and flings life off its back in freeing anger,
ready to go again.

44

Back in the Saddle

Gwen leaned into the stirrups, felt Thunder move underneath her. The lance felt heavier than usual in her weakened grip but she refused to drop it. There was no way she’d suffer the shame of dropping it here, in front of everyone. In front of Him.

Her eyes searched for the high seat while adjusting the shield on her arm. It wasn’t that hard to find, gilded and decorated as it was. Surprising, given how he felt about it. ”A cage made pretty is a cage nonetheless,” he’d told her.

And there he sat, wrapped in furs and blankets, sipping his beloved spiced wine from a cup he delicately held between his ringed fingers. An unwanted memory of laughter as they went searching for the insignia ring that had somehow ended up under the bed during their lovemaking. She resolutely shoved it away for now; she had to focus.

Her treacherous eyes moved to the young woman that sat in the Favoured Seat, on his left hand. She was pretty, Gwen had to admit, and most likely related to the Royal Advisor that sat on his right side. Something about the dark eyes and the curl of the mouth betrayed it, as well as the golden locks they both shared. Gwen wasn’t surprised. There had been talk that the Advisor’s beautiful and unmarried relative would come visit, to soothe the Crown Prince’s wounded heart as the fifth anniversary of His heir’s death approached.

Gwen scoffed, her fingers gripped the lance until her knuckles whitened in the armor glove. She had heard every possible rumour under the sun by now. Vampires had come and torn the babe directly from the mother’s womb. Werewolves shredded them both to pieces in a lunar fenzy; the full moon had been particularly strong that night. Read more >

45

Falling in Slow Motion

Hands shaking, asthmatic breathing, and
a certainty that I cannot
do what I planned to do is
how my anxiety flares up from time to time.

I fall in slow motion
into the vortex of
my self-doubt, fears, and
guilt.

I most often fall into this during
moments of transition –
getting out of bed,
getting off the couch,
starting a new project.
The new thing seems
TOO big, TOO much, and TOO
terrifying.

Sometimes, I fall
all the way down –
unable to shift
from primal fear
to thriving.

Sometimes, I catch myself –
identify the fear, defeat it,
choose the least scary thing to do, and
claw my way back to thriving.

Read more >
46

aliya

shadows box horses
floating under foggy seas
feathers pin mirrors in steel
cloud vision screeching slits
medieval kubrick gold foil flip
ground shifting lost horizons
slip on to particulate splatter
786 enmeshed rusting souls
clicking off bones of sugar
dental clones mud hearts
cut down neapolitan jests
divinest of thee finest slices
angled limbs spin green heat
sigils of wet skies and hot wool
hello hello police headquarters?
sneaky suspicion burning lances
involuntary rosemary tinted june
jousting rubber needle salutes
or switchblade check mates
from deccan sultanates
talikota…vijayanagara
fighter…rama raya

47

Nightfall

Every night it never fails:
the horse intact, the knight impaled
upon a dream of lancing skill
with subtle nuance and finesse
that lasts until a new knight falls.

For even if you lance a lot,
no guarantees it all works out -
You lose a momentary grip;
the horse gets tied up in its silk.
Another knight’s mare keeps you up.

Right now, it’s all just more spilled milk,
and tears to mark the noble shots.
The sponsorships, the easy marks,
all rooting for their jousting wills,
their hometown kin spurred ever on.

Off kilter at a rousting speed,
the balance is an act of fate.
The challenge comes too hard and fast
to counter gravity and weight,
the entropy they implicate.

And so the armor tilts askew.
heads toward dusty path beneath.
Dents will show what pride cannot:
embarrassment beyond a state
where metal cannot save a face.

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48

The Lance Fails

Not by Lance
But by Cup
Is my soul given succour

By Grail
By Graal
By Sangraal

I drink from the sacred cup
And I am made
Remade

Made sacred
Purpose returns to my lips
To my tongue

My joy is in Her joy
My ecstasy is in Hers
My armour falls away

I breathe
I drink Her nectar
And I Am

49

Chivalry Is Dead

“I can lick you,” said a voice from upstate.
The young gallant spoke that way to the boys,
but to his mother he was all “Yes ma’am”
and “No ma’am,” holding doors for the needle
thrummers at church, the whir of their machines
repeating in the faint tremulousness
of their gloved handshakes. But behind the church,
something else was happening that no one
but two twelve-year-old boys could understand.
Ersatz snakeskin boots rustled in the leaves
as they grappled for what seemed like an hour.
A bloody nose answered a bloody lip.
Sweaty palms met in a sweaty handshake.
Chivalry is dead, long live chivalry.

50

Welcome to Hell

There's a silhouette I take no pleasure in seeing
you hid my eyes,
sorrow and blight whole,
so I wouldn't eat through the pages
of your rustic lullabies.

Put me to sleep
the colors of hell
are my next-door neighbour,
they'll find my body
drowned and painted
my torso will leak my name out
and my eyes will stare away from you.

I take no pleasure
in seeing what you do to me.
Here, I love you, is that all you need from me?
I cannot be asked to know,
I merely provide
what the silhouette asks of me.
Looming as you do,
right as you take me down into hell.

51

On the School of Roustabout Violence

Falling out of the light, every shadow cast
Breaks rank between the light and the dark
Within. Whether it is a blue doublet or a rakish stripe,
A gleam from a horse, an enemy of undue proportions,
You are sure to tumble, bow in an inelegant shape,
Cycling back around to a Middle Ages rondelet.
Fashionable blueprint for post-modernist deconstruction,
All strictures aside, all sleek memorized tables of
The rules of jousting rooted in roosts of billiards and
Brilliantine spirals, all negative consequences of
Confronting the enemies at large, such largesse
In painting with the patina of a clown show, an acrobatic
Leap backwards over your own moustache masquerade, so
Beautifully trained, trained to fall while juggling baubles
Of the After, to sandy patched love, and parched reasoning.
We remember you still, like all our fathers, all the conscripts,
Constricted and constructed with ineluctable willful guffaws,
Certainly, a new icon for Tarot, some irredeemable fallen patsy,
Patriarchy’s last romantic fever battle, the ground
and a dried river just beyond the bed, the garden,
curtains in windows.

52

The Tournament

When she let her sheep into the alfalfa
when he choked ditches in a drought
and when war began over a dropped hanky
didn’t they know the sheep would die in pain
that almond orchards would wither, and
that the assembled mass with their weapons
would orphan children and adults alike?
How do men and women move along,
blinkered, a filmy pouch over thoughts,
never seeing what their minds could see?
The determinable outcomes are available.
One will be knocked off his horse, while
another not. One will die of embarrassment
or head injury. The other will die later.

53

Chevalerie

I
sought
a green
girdle badge
of humility…
wore it into the tournament
of imagination replacing fetlocks, pasterns,
hooves with four cathedra corners;
an armchair jouster,
Quixote
zealot
in
a
steel
mail
hauberk,
plate gauntlets
clutched a lance & flail
ceiling fan—my windmill rival—
kicking gilt prick spurs in a cushion steed’s destrier
I championed flex room mêlées
tilting yet dethroning
chivalric
visions—
crushed
quests.

54

ROCKING HORSE

Steeped in European history at school,
I, a first-generation post-colonial,
am a lonely child enthralled by medieval tales,
and during long, hot tropical summers,
I proudly perch on my wooden horse,
with its scraggly coir tail and chipped paint
even though the oscillations make me dizzy.

In a spectacular display of obstinacy,
I persist in imagining myself as a knight
on his loyal steed, off to joust,
because the role is so much more dashing
and gallant than a damsel, whether distressed or not.
I swathe myself in my grandmother’s silk sarees,
and wear oversize sunglasses as a visor.

In my hands, I heft a long bamboo pole
as a stand-in for my lance and rock
hard enough that the horse scoots
a paltry few inches forward on the tile floor.
But in my mind, as trumpets blast,
my royal silks flutter in the breeze,
as I head into the lists at a steady canter.

Of course, in my equine reverie, I forget
that the pole is much longer than my horse.
When its tip strikes the wall,
the impact pushes me backwards,
and I barely stay in the saddle
held in place awkwardly by tangled silk,
my head dangling by the coir tail.

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55

The Nimrodian Anomaly

It was the best of the ideas, it was worst of the ideas, that sometimes occurs to the best of us. Schrödinger’s idea that is both heroic and ridiculous. To compromise one’s identity and to do for the first time since the fall of man, that is to speak to the cursed, is worse for an Angel who cannot but endure. This is what I am doing, in an art museum. One shall fall and one shall sin. When an Angel is condemned to be amongst the humans, it takes many hundred years in heaven for everyone to forget her and stop saying what they always say – fallen Angels tempt to sin. But, I am not without my morals. Seashores where heaven and earth meet, I never go, for I shan’t see children playing. I shan’t have to blemish innocence.

I was with God the day Babylon was created. Everyone was loud and nobody was able to make out a word anyone said, they were punished and made to speak different languages. I had forgotten about that day until today when I saw the painting of Nimrod, the mightiest in earth, who wanted to avenge God. Everyone in heaven and earth has forgotten him. Everyone in earth, I cannot say.

Something very perplexing happened at the museum today. A group of young people, perhaps students, staring at a painting, perhaps studying, exclaimed, not without a dint of mockery, and I quote, “what a Nimrod!” It is not unusual for me to hear slighting remarks about the paintings. Even so, why someone who looks at, what I think is a young knight tumbling down his horse as he was dining on top of it whereas the table-spread and his own armour and cape are all colour-coded alike, would be reminded of the mighty Nimrod is strange. Based on his predicament, the person who attacked him, by all chances, is his own father-in-law. I have been looking at it for two hours.

56

YOU HAD TO FALL

You had to fall
and break your jaws.
For too long,
you had strayed
and tainted saints
along the same old
rough, barnacled roads.

For too long
you had gagged the gong
that sounded to call you home
and passed around word
of a war
that never came.

You had to fall
and break your armour.
For too long,
you heard the children cry
of death and decaying flesh,
of their friends who
were made to die
and carried yourself,
like a God on your chariot,
around those rough, barnacled lands where they bit the dust.


Read more >
57

The Joust

It was the shoe that brought me down, really. Up
Until that point it wasn’t so bad; I could buy what I liked without fear
Of running into someone I knew. But up-
Rooting oneself for Florida doesn’t fix everything.
My family came for my birthday: balloons, streamers,
A tablecloth like a scoop of Neapolitan unfurled on
My dining room table. All dressed in slacks and polos. My past
Approached: I readied myself,
Arrayed in flannel and jeans from home.
I pictured myself safely armored in beige,
While the Miami me wore a shining jumpsuit, pink puffed slippers, sunglasses like a visor
Deflecting the criticism of my family. I let the usual parade
of their complaints pass by without challenge, but
Just then my kid sister, the little usurper, held aloft
That day’s purchase, tissue paper floating to the ground: the little black and white boots
(So stylish with their Victorian button-up sides),
Crowing: How much are these worth?
I raised a threatening forkful of cake as she lunged – as in slow motion,
one boot rolled through the air like a juggernaut,
Tilted toe homing in on my forehead–
I fell awkwardly amongst the folds of the tablecloth, pulling it down with me,
Bested.

58

On Circus Nights

A woman on a horse on a chair
perched in open air exhales,

then tumbles.

In the process she unleashes airs
alongside layers of locks, rocks,
and curiosities

balls of dust settle
legs of metals rattle
piles of books shutter

Ooh, Aah, Woah,
the audience mutters.

Not that it matters –

the woman seems neither
uninspired nor eager to retire

The soil beneath her feet cracks,
the movement of her limbs stops.

The world does not wait,
lights neither dim nor
confiscate. Space leaves
no trace. Fingers paint
silhouettes and shadows.

The woman waits. Fellas frolic.
Queries of intentional dares air.

Does she have heirs, one asks.
Don’t we all, another quips.

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59

Neon Lights

Stripe the horizon
As in a banner of silk-
Shiny yellow, dreamy pink
And a brightly green.
Hanging down
Inscribed with nothing,
Nothing at all,
What could it mean?
Death is coming—
It has made its home in the attic,
Broken the lock, thrown the soldier
Off the horse, he must have fought
With his blood and heart.
Through the cobwebs and layers of dust.

It is many years since
My father had fallen and I visited
My ancestral home.
The room was dimly lit on an unguarded roof
Where nothing had existed ever before.
Death was cheating—
Lying in wake at the end of murky pathway.
Who could be up?
An excavated mind
Having returned memory after memory,
A life damaged with time,
A life on Sabbath.

60