Jane Gibian Poems

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For Pip and Tom
The mistrusting mountains are silent
in their approval; grudging in their respect
for our clumsy efforts with the earth,

our movements minuscule like ants,
lacking the precision of machinery.
Skittish cows like plastic farm animals

are scattered from the hand of a child —
giant around the tufted ankles of mountains,
who are patient in their watching,

enduring the cloven feet of cattle, marking
their skin with tiny scars. Colonised amicably
by grass, the mountains observe it licking

the feet of trees in the undefined edges
of forest. They are grey with their brooding,
quiet in their mistrust.


Everyone gracious and composed; the party
at your ex-girlfriend's parents' place. Us girls
went swimming in our knickers, the air

steamy and languid; we laughed and shouted
with relief and teased the boys who wouldn't undress
and under the splintered verandah you embraced

me hard, as if that desperate passion might
defy death. Jammed in the car with the flowers
heading back in the late afternoon, all of us quiet

with exhaustion; at the wharf the thick green water
silent under the wooden slats. The dense bouquets
filling the little tinny, each of us clutching

bunches; a miniature funeral procession
chugging through the dusk towards
the unfinished house that held no vases.


with the day's end approaching,
how you stare so long
into this assemblage of flowers
is our uncertain secret:
their soft scarlet architecture
mesmerising in its solidity,
observing you like minor
stars, showering absolution
on your troubles: you are
the flowerbud straining open,
new crimson almost bleeding
through the tight green sphere,
till their quiet deaths unnerve
like half-remembered nightmares,
and the second hand never pauses
on the clock above the flowers;
you move lightly in the arc
of their hot velvet gaze


A predilection for stone fruit
sees a trail of peach
and plum stones in his shadow
You had traced him down
this discreet path to where
his casual touch
was six light insect
feet on your forearm

In the magazine you read about
the ten sexiest women
for April; they all live
in suburbs beginning with W
and wear impossible shoes

You hunt for modern equivalents
of One hundred ways with mince
and watch his hand become
refined under its wedding ring,
the fingers longer and nails less bitten

He coaxes your shoulders straight,
uncurling them with firm hands

but you were merely bent over
with laughter
Now your tongue forks into four:
one part for being good-natured
one for lamentation
the third part of irony
and the last for an imaginary language

You move to a newly-invented
suburb beginning with X
where you will use the four parts
of the tongue with equilibrium


On this slate-grey
autumn morning
the lake is
a churning sea
choppy & clouded,
the tortoise tower
rising still & ghostly
in the distant centre;
too cold now
for embraces
on the concrete
benches, but
starkly beautiful:
branches bend
to flutter
their leafy fingers
through the soupy
green water. In this
chilling greyness
ask yourself: if
your heart
was planted
what would it grow?
You imagine
exquisite blossoms;
a verdant tree,
but before you
can stop it,
your heart has
grown a plant
of strange flowers,
obliquely alluring
but covered in
thorns that wound
at a touch: the lake
stills completely
glassy like worn
stone & almost


look how the land here
warps reluctant to snap
back into the jovial rounded
figures of children's
drawings that constitute
some collective reality despite
a paucity of evidence

here the thick air aches
with the weighted alluvium
of memory clotted like souring
milk each figure
of speech derailing her
ties to the real some tenuous
thread of rotting velvet ribbon

and apathy stuns like concussion
as we sit before the postcard-blue
horizon watching time disintegrate
with a resounding click


waking at this half-lit hour you lapse
into the incredulous body
of early morning, cool with languor
& stillness
there is soon
the retreat into half-dream, your
semi-permanent shell following
the journeys of waking
with gradual daring

in this striated orb
your suddenly immodest body
is drawn to another: gravitates
towards the plane of his moving
in an almost collision of the senses

such precision now in the casual
singe of skins brushing

together with devastation when
the new morning splinters
open like surrender


that afternoon the past dragged
at your heels, trailing
in the wake of your footprints
and coating the door-handle
with a sticky substance

it has stroked your bony shoulders
with knowing grooved fingers,
melting into scuff marks
upon a wooden floor

this day;
when recollection
stabs like broken glass
into the palm when
your thumb is laced with mandarin,
the spacious scent ricocheting
through layers of time and
the clarity of vision
is unrelenting


in the spaces there is possibility. in your pockets
there is emptiness, plum-coloured and gritty.
the spaces between the words resonate

carefully; the signified leaks imperfectly
into its surrounds, words acquiescent
in their failing. the space is a trickle

of water sliding between dinner plates
stacked drying on the sink. the word
evades you, leaving only the space

around the small bird inside
the egg. on the next page
is another space for failing

or falling. then the word means
only the word; today green is no more
than greenness. in the spaces

there are possibilities. finding them
is learning to crack a melon seed
with your teeth into perfect halves.


easy silence
taking the bunch of keys
warm from your hand

just over there
both ends
of the rainbow

tiny winter apples -
she hands me dipping salt
in a scrap of maths homework

on the street of hairclips
buckets of pink crabs
boil in their shells

crowded streets at dusk
a single shirt dances
on the rooftop

outside the temple
buying a white bird
to set free

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