Monday, August 26, 2013

Poetry Monday: Judy Johnson: Stone, Scar, Air, Water

Judy Johnson is one of my favourite poets. I'm really excited that she'll be sharing the bill with me this coming Saturday at the Lake Macquarie Local Writers' Showcase, not least of which because it means I'll be able to grab myself an autographed copy of her new poetry book Stone Scar Air Water. Judy's work has always resonated with me, from the first time I heard her read her award winning poem "Bell" at the Roland Robinson Literary Awards presentation in 2000 (shivers ran down my spine), through her unique books Wing Corrections, Jack, Nomatic, and The Secret Fate of Mary Watson.  I'm sure Stone Scar Air Water will be as wonderful as the sample poem "Opal" which Jennifer Compton has published on her blog here:

Because my son is doing a lovely job of pracising Debussy's Suite Bergamasque on the piano as I type this, I found Judy's poem "Silence" reprinted from Poetry Macao (there's more at the site if one poem isn't enough) a particularly pertinent and moving piece for this week's poetry monday. This is a tranformative poem, as many of Judy's poems are, converting a moment of sensation into an expansive inflation of meaning. Enjoy.


All weekend I’ve listened
to a piano competition on the radio.

The contestants each play
the same piece until the small

velvet hammers at the base
of my neck are struck

before the notes emerge. 
The commentator explains

how much exists in the silence
between strikes.
The judges’ decision
often based on these pauses

of possibility.
That space of becoming

reminds me of the child’s foot
in Neruda’s poem,

not knowing its purpose.
Like hands at a piano

before they swoop
uncertain if they’ve been given

the span of a bird’s wing
in order to fly, or merely harvest

in their low-level sweeping
the miraculous seeds

of quaver and semi-quaver.

Or the heart unaware
it’s moored to the body

before the rope of the pulse
at the wrist  pulls tight.

Or the ear

in the midst of silence,
wondering if it’s an ear

or instead the invisible
music in a far off transparency

of orchard and sky,
wondering if it’s been buried

in the flesh and bone
of the head

simply to bear
all future transmissions.

Or so that one day
it might become

a bird.  Or an apple.

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