Libby Hart was a recipient of a D J O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship at The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne in 2003. Her suite of poems, Fresh News from the Arctic won the Somerset National Poetry Prize in 2005. Her first collection of poetry, also titled Fresh News from the Arctic, was published in 2006 by Interactive Press and has just won The Ann Elder Award for poetry.
I see you there, standing in only your legs
and a cloak as dark as winter night;
your one eye gleaming, as if a glass eye.
And true, it is glass. Yes, it be.
For my doctor, with hands dipped by chemical
performs a magic before me.
In focus, I gather its light
and dare not move.
I feel the weight of feathers.
It’s the fallen bird that keeps me grounded
to this chair and to this room.
To the very stillness of things.
Note: This poem was written in response to Hugh Welch Diamond’s
photograph, ‘Seated woman with bird’ (c.1855). Diamond was one of the
earliest photographers. A doctor by profession, he decided to specialise
in the treatment of the mentally ill and was appointed to the Surrey
County Lunatic Asylum where he produced numerous photographs of his
patients. Diamond believed that photography could assist in the
treatment of mental disorders.
Your Body Bare
‘According to Inuit culture in Greenland, a person possesses six or
seven souls. The souls [are] scattered throughout the body.’
− Annie Dillard
Hold your many souls like a juggler, this is Inuit land.
The chest and arms, all Inuit-souled.
Even the eyes have two souled-suns that burn a gleam
through a viewer’s head.
This is the breadth of your many engines:
a hand, a moon-shaped sigh
a cheekbone, rare
a glimpse of finger.
The turning of the body
You are like a horizon
bending and shaping itself at will −
a balloon of escape,
a lung of tree.
The form of things to come.
Nightfall comes hesitating with light.
It reaches out in short, sharp Morse Code.
Indecipherably lingering, and then it leaves.
All I have are three letters: I.O.U.
Then it’s gone like the wind that’s forgotten its anchor.
Curled and weighted like an anchor
you’re as heavy as sympathy
and as warm as December.
Waves roll in from the half-opened door.