Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Chris Mansell Poem

The Hands Of Adonis


He smooths his hands along
her body and softly speaks
her name, Kristina, Kristina-mou.
She likes it even though it’s
not her own, ordinary, name.
She asks him to say in Greek:
If butterflies could speak,
they would speak Greek

and, when he says it, it sounds like
his mouth is stuffed with wings.

Tell me about the eagle, she says and
he tells her, again, in Greek, about the eagle
falling from the sky, his pain, his pleasure.
She tries to wrap her mind around
the sounds she cannot understand.

She knows the eagle is him.
When he holds her and whispers
these sounds in her ears she could stay
forever suspended in these wisps of words.

His English is perfect. He knows
the deep inflections of Bloke,
the subtle declensions of Don’t
Hurt Me, the various dialects of
Come Here, Come Close and
Stay Away. She struggles
with this language. His first
language, he tells her, is touch.
His hands are broad and strong;
his skin so smooth she thinks
he and she are newborn.
He speaks with his fingers. He takes
her body, humming with
whatever was near. She is too
overstrung, he says. She thinks
too much, he says. She disagrees
and talks at length about it.

He is clever, but his first language
is touch and he’s unwilling to speak.
In the end he will use words to say
Come, let me show you I love you.
And he does; he holds her close,
folds her in. She knows then
those strong arms, those strong
shoulders could harm her if he chose.
She thought that he and she were equals
but he could kill her with a blow. He
grasps her neck and she knows
this is touch at quarter strength.
They’ll part, but there’s a rift
they’ll fight to keep. A pain worth having.

Already she remembers being lost
in his body, smooth and strong.
He doesn’t know he is water,
she stone. He runs his hands over her body,
knots his fingers in her hair, kisses
her throat. On the last day and night,
she loves him to grief, each last touch,
each last kiss makes the air clamorous.
She knows what words
he will say: It’s okay. It’s done, but
his hands say otherwise, say,
Keep me, love me, and she can’t stay.

These words make paradise
impossible. She has grown used
to love, Adonis is not enough—
some crevice of heart-talk is unexplained.


Adonis will watch her go. He will
stand on the kerb and watch her
leave him one last time. This is
what happens with women. You
love them, even secretly, and they go.
No matter how many times he said
it wouldn’t happen, that he didn’t care,
no matter how hard he tried to choose,
he came out losing. They leave you
standing in the damned cold June wind.
It should be spring and nearly summer.
He should be standing on an island
somewhere north. There should be light,
but it’s his turn, somehow, to be locked
in the dark. He’s controlled and beautiful
and his mind is a fist. There is nothing left
but to do what has to be done. This is not
the life he had imagined. One day he’ll get
out. One day. He is counting
the days until he doesn’t know
what. Until he is not himself: father, lover,
son. Kristina told him the future’s now
and then pissed off. Some future.
Some now and when he walks upstairs
the apartment is emptier than before.
He turns the music up and gets out
the golf gear. He laces his shoes
and sees that he is crying and tells himself
it’s the cold that makes him sniffle like a girl.
The universe is clanging; the gods
and their daughters are slamming doors.


1 comment:

  1. Chris Mansell is the winner of the 2013 Meanjin Dorothy Porter Poetry Prize. She is a very fine Australian poet. Please check out more of her work. You'll be pleased you did.