PAUL SCULLY is a Sydney-based poet and reviewer who has published two collections, An Existential Grammar in 2014 and Suture Lines in 2016. An Existential Grammar was shortlisted for the Anne Elder Award. He has also been shortlisted for several major prizes and his work has appeared in print and online journals in Australia and the USA. This is his first publication in the UK.
TERENCE JOHN has lived in Galloway for thirty years. Initially, he was an escapee from the City of London, where he worked for some time, before enlightenment released him from his Dickensian drudgery and he crossed into Scotland, following a few years spent on the west coast of Wales. He writes full-time and is currently compiling a new collection of his poems. Many of these have been published elsewhere in The North, Orbis, The London Magazine, Acumen and The Poetry Review.
The Triune Brain: Reptile, Limbic and Neo-Cortex
I scramble free of the scrub’s darkness, up the gantry ladder
to the lookout, I am a clamour of breath, a riot of blood,
the run of my spine is a watercourse, the sun at its peak–I check
the perimeter is clear, my gasps subside, I drink in the distance.
The bay beckons through the squall, our barque feels
its way round the headland, our hearts in our ears. Later,
we will decant this cargo into the manifest of memory,
weighed and checked, our preconceptions into ballast.
The night is a city we sense at our doorstep. Words prowl
the street glow: stylus or pen, dactyl or discourse, we will mull
what is written. An oboe plays, our ears incline to its staircase
of notes; seduced, we fold into conclaves, ours is a quiet harvest.
The Sage of the Stomach*
A coffee table, a galaxy of books in small print,
a bleating sun at the window. I have read
my eyes into plasma.
John the Beloved, a summit-clear statement,
the beginning was a Word, the covenants
of love came later. Poets applaud John.
Hindus apply an ominous, sonic twist.
More apt for musicians. The world
is the theatre we grow within ourselves
The Tao Te Ching:
Lao Tzu cautioned, though, that which can
be named is not the constant way.
Our cells must do the living.
all things are a waving maybe ─ probabilities ─
until deified by measurement. One
for mathematicians, those vernier adepts;
for me innumerable torsions of the mind.
Next I embolised what I had read into sutras,
recited them aloud, sampled the void
and came to know the truth of this:
Much speech leads inevitably
I read once of a dairy cow blinded by fixing
its gaze on an arc welder as irrigation pipes
were installed in its paddock. Its four stomachs
did not consider the cow risked losing its sight,
they were haunted by other ruminations.
Hence the sage
is for the belly,
not for the eye.
Grandiose Ideas Of Islands
They surface from a perfect sea
when I think of them laid out for my pleasure.
I approach them at dawn through the sun’s first
tracery and atomic
flush, its gilding of the Autumn ferns.
I hear the foliage crack
on Canna or Chios, hear the sea go before the prow
in white shoals dancing and hissing, feel the Hebrides
rustle my skin in the polythene light.
We’ll go again together to the south we said
and did, following light’s trails across the Cyclades,
tacking in a northerly
with each flap. How the sea responds, draws breath,
alarms, balances us like jockeys
in their irons, sweeps across the deck
to remind us all of each and every lashing shread
of its mass and power,
its gentle approach on the island beach,
wrapping its film about our feet, or scattering the
shingle with pearls.
*All non-title phrases in italics come from Lau D.C. (trans.). Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching. London: Penguin Books,1963 (1978 reprint).
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