Climate Control, poems by Jane Williams
These poems are from her latest book Parts of the Main published by Ginninderra Press.
Jane Williams is an award-winning Australian writer based in Tasmania. Her poems have been published widely since the early 1990s. Her most recent book is Days Like These – new and selected poems. Her sixth collection of poems Parts of the Main is forthcoming. While best known for her poetry, Jane Williams writes in a variety of forms and genres for both adults and children, combining photography with poetry and collaborating with other artists. She has been a featured reader at venues in several countries including the USA, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, Czech Republic and Slovakia where she held a three month artist residency in 2016. She coedits the online literary and arts journal Communion with her partner Ralph Wessman. janewilliams.wordpress.com
Respect the wind drawing machines,
give them enough slack to reinvent the wheel
(there’s a lot you can still do
with a piece of string and a small sail).
which is the opposite
Be willing to learn how to Be
pre – effect.
Play around with algorithms
molecules of hair and feathers,
shell grit …
Believe once again that dreaming
is the fulcrum of imagination.
Respond to change in kind,
from zephyrs to twisters.
Acknowledge the kinship patterns
of science and art –
the striving of each to reveal
veracious beauty in the universe,
the symbiotic relationship
between intellect and desire,
between your breathlessness
and these warming winter winds.
Everything about us
Everything about us makes us strangers here. Out of place tourists waking into another Ramadan day. Into a culture we are privy to but not part of. A neighbourhood free from souvenirs, from brochures and itineraries. The taxi driver asks Why ? The memory-making of everyday living elsewhere is a blueprint for home. The call to prayer echoes across tiled rooftops, dipping and rising through alleys and stairwells. Our hosts invite us to celebrate Eid al-Fitr: the sugar feast, the sweet festival. But this morning and for seven days more their first meal of the day must be eaten before sunrise, sate them until sunset. We buy street food from vendors who smile at us curiously. Our cameras become dangerous pets questioning intent; tourists bring back photos, travellers bring back stories. But labels are blankets we hide under, revealing selective truths by torchlight. Empty beer bottles replicate like drones on the laminate bench top, then stop. We moderate. Abstain. Our bodies thank us. A new ethos sidles up to the old one, we let parts of it in – no more or less than we need. Children signal our unbelonging in hand-cupped whispers. The mosque’s blue domed minaret, zigzagged with gold is striking as lightning in a cloudless sky. Motorbikes and pedestrians move in practiced, haphazard synchronicity, suggesting accidents happen anyway, anywhere. Hijabs form part of the landscape – their colours and patterns individual as dreams. A woman and child cross the road slowly, a small sway over their journey’s end. As she bends to his level, the traffic adjusts itself around them. She kisses his left cheek, right cheek, then again – before watching him disappear through the school gates. And this is the familiar. The anchor I hold to. This gesture of loving separation. This unified prayer that all we see in our children will be seen. As we hand them over. As we let them go.
Tonight it’s Chinese food tweaked
to accommodate a Western palate,
white tablecloths encouraging
at least entry level table manners,
attentive waiters, warm wet
hand towels, the ocean in a glass tank.
We’re out with friends,
swapping travel stories,
listing but not naming animals
when a neighboring table
becomes a medical emergency.
a woman has stopped.
Stopped talking. Stopped moving.
Her cutlery and crockery,
the perfect mound of rice –
all still lifes now.
Her panoramic vision turned inward.
The voices of family members
beseech strangers to inhabit their titles:
Doctor. Nurse. First aider.
Soon someone is monitoring
pulse and breath, time and tide.
Someone is whispering mini-stroke.
While the maître d discreetly
scans the room for undesirable
ripple effects the rest of us
offer our kindest clichés and grapple:
Looking. Not looking. Eating. Not eating.
Getting on. Getting on.
The woman’s husband,
(whose only enemy now is inaction)
phones for the ambulance,
strokes his wife’s hair.
Repeats her name over and over
as if it is the last, the very last magic word.
Then he turns.
And we watch as he turns
from mounting anxieties
to the comfort of a single sauce-drenched
spring roll, and this would be darkly funny
if not so familiar
for which of us could deny him
this simple affirmation,
the vivifying sweet and sour of its call.
It was before mobile phones and predictive text. Before GPS. They were out walking together and there was a pothole or maybe a crack in the pavement through which the root of a tree had begun its necessary search for water. And one of them tripped (accidentally or on purpose) and the other was jolted. They became distracted, untethered and before they knew what had happened, she turned one way and he the other. They found themselves walking streets peopled with neighbours who did not recognise the him or her of them. It was a strange skin-tingling tightrope walk. They walked through exhilaration to exhaustion. They walked until they each found a resting place; a prayer room or maybe a watering hole. Where she could let her slip slip and he could run his hands through his hair and they could take stock for a moment, embracing their alien beings. Remembering all they hadn’t yet shared – old odd things they hadn’t thought worthy until now and new startling ones they were on the brink of discovering. They walked on, singly, somehow renewed. And when they turned a certain corner, there they were, more pleased to have been lost and found than they ever had been to simply be together. We must never, they agreed, each catching the breath of the other, we must never stop meeting like this …
© Jane Williams