November Burning.

By Alison Croggon.

“yesterday the world came to visit

it was easter and the world split in two

with the grief of an old crime”

yesterday the world came to visit
it was easter and the sky split in two
with the grief of an old crime

tomorrow will be christmas and the same birth
opening again with the same desolation

what is it that I cannot remember
if I was old if I was wise I am neither
my hands close on nothing my womb is tired
my fingers are scarred with old scrubbings
I have tried staring out of the window
all I can see are old griefs

the old gods walking in the garden
and the child holding a flower
in the painting on the wall of a chapel
where the afternoon sun is a memory already
ancient confusions
the blood that refuses the hunger that will not listen
I would like to know some answers
but can barely shape the questions out of fear
there are no new questions
only questions that have always gone unanswered
must I ask them
every night and every morning of my life
must I ask them although there are no answers
every night and every morning

in the difficult night of prayer
when the gods do not attend
in the washings away of afternoons
in each crumb of solitude given and wasted
in the tough bitter bread of love
that grazes your mouth and leaves you gasping
in the halfheard voices
and the cheek offered and withdrawn
the city’s voluble inattention
the penances of ignorance and sobriety
perhaps the humble one ignites his presence
a balm of water on a fevered forehead
that evaporates before it is sensed
no withdrawal
but further and harder and without colour
holding all colour within it

or perhaps the pure white that one dreams
past exhaustion in a crumpled bed
after all the interactions
that demanded one be other than you are
merely an erasure of pain

o you who were fragrant as Lebanon
the groves of your undoing
now pumped up irrevocable chimneys
the sky a burning glass
and the lands wasted

the child with a flower in the chapel
who was once a child bribed with sweetmeats
scratching lice
and the flower long dust
and the promises made and unmade and forgotten
living in the glance
how easy to lament
to stare with grief across the dying garden
it was always dying

never for my children or my children’s children
will Adrasteia, Amalthea, Ida and Cynosura
bend white studious brows in the college of the bee
the deep caves of water are poisoned
never will the spring


did it travel the oceans from Olympus
heeled with the spite of the dead
is it socketed by ranks of heavy skulls
icythosaurus diplodocus tyrannosaurus rex
a schoolyard chant of bones mounting up
to the delicate mammalian intelligence
is it daubed with hair and ochre on the rock
near the rainy season water
and carved in relief in the tombs of kings
to gaze forever over a dry sea
remembering the stare of a jewelled woman
and the light windowed on her globed eye
measured by a bored painter
each shut of the lid and each dust mote
moist with millenia of blinkings
how far is a glance
as it flickers and rests and moves on

what is it that I cannot remember
if I was young if I was ignorant
the door suddenly still in its movement
and afterwards crystalline with light
that never shone there
as if a god had stepped in that common place
shared by mites and cockroaches and ants
and a mouse running its stink over the floor
as if a child long mute spoke a word
and its echo budded into flame
in the minds of those who heard suddenly humbled
by an unexpected

or weight of the lamb
on a burnt tongue
or the twisted tap
in a smoking garden
a single wing flapping
a lone dog howling
a bent nail

in the bleak Novembers
when the first winds roar from the northern deserts
bringing flame to tinder forests
and ash falls in the suburbs like soft black stars
where frail old women read their fortunes

ravens tilt outside shuttered houses
summoning a red moon
through the blasted twilight

humble wooden houses
up like a match
ash black and grey ash
in the black garden

and the door swinging on its hinges
in a late damp breeze
from an ocean far away
in the cold south

who died? who died?
and next door untouched
the wind seasonally capricious
and the stars unfavourable
Venus low and urgent in the west
yet fifty metres south
honeysuckle dips a curling tongue
into cool air

in such a November
I come to the same questions
in another place
formed by irreversible losses
a landscape of bloated corpses
walls crumbled to ruin
and no sign of rain

she who touches the forehead of the virgin
child sleeping with her hands
closed beneath her cheek as if in prayer
to brush back a lock that has fallen
and moves on a slow breath

she may not perfectly
step between the chasms of illchoice
she may have betrayed herself
again and again
she may be foolish
and no longer hope for redemption

she may shiver with an awe
in a stained church where no one is waiting

she may know a wren is moulting
into the blue of his wedding
on the wasteland past the powerstation
where melancholy scrub bends down
before a salted wind that whips
the endless complaining of seagulls
into a troubled sky

she may know nothing
she is bitten with anger at the old curse
thickening about her throat
she has been silenced too often
her voice rang clear across the silent fields
and then her lids shot open to the choking
on the sky
the choked

she has spoken excellently modest and low
she has been gentle in the ungentle nights
she has bled on the sheets giving birth

she is forced to blame herself
there is no one else to blame

she should never have been silenced

o you
when did you vanish

o moth sprayed to its final agony
crumbling its wings
on a table

you were always
a mute star lost in
brash sodium


the wires spat you out
the smart dollars laughed
in the bars

forget nothing

remember how you lifted the child
running for a train
strong as a god
in the sweet rain





Originally published by Vagabond Press. Republished with permission from Alisson Croggon. The Blood Pudding – August 26, 2020

Alison Croggon is a contemporary Australian poet, playwright, fantasy novelist and librettist. She was the recipient of the 2009 Pascall Prize for Critical Writing for her blog Theatre Notes. More recently, Alison has written CYBERPUNK DYSTOPIAN novels FLESHERS and PINKERS. Pinkers, Book 2 in the Newport City duology by Alison Croggon and Daniel Keene, is out now.