The dream of bodies
Poetry (2/6)

The dream of bodies

Four poems from the forthcoming collection, “Lent”

The Dream of Bodies

My mother calls me into the house. The house
is an earthworks. I don’t really know
what that is, but walls of sod cuts 
drape over a timbered frame and let in a little light.
The sod, studded with dead grass, hangs like 
pelts that won’t dry. We’re looking for the body of my father. 

This earthworks is a body-house. The bodies, preserved,
do not sprout or soften. There are many.
When I was a child, my mother sorted
Lego bricks into piles, and it’s the same here. An impatient
shove to this side, that side. The thing she needs unfound.

There are no familiar bodies, though each is
reminiscent of someone, like a neighbour
I can’t put a name to. We keep on. I wonder

if there is a better way to do this: a pause
we owe these departed, a more efficient system?
My father enters, bending at the low doorway.
He is not dead. He was only travelling. We look up,
interrupted. The brightness behind him indicates
it is already day. Neither of us knows how to stop.

Even now, we are guilty, offering
our dusty hands. Are we released? 
“Toy Rabbit” by Greta Riondato

Ice Sheet

The ice 

at our doorstep thinned

to skin as the sun

broke over it, it breaks

under his small damply booted foot.

Transfixed, he sits. 

Look, he says, not

looking up, look.

I am too busy.

The door shuts gently. When

in remorse I open it again, there

he is looking at the ice which glass

only imitates. He is

secretive in his reverent

curiosity, face bent 

out of my sight.

The frozen puddle vast

as the ice over the earth, 

which once, perhaps,

we all crossed. 

Toy Rabbit

The small brown rabbit sat on the lower shelf of a Goodwill. 

It may be assumed that a child was overcome with longing for the rabbit but lost interest and it became another plastic object painfully underfoot. 

Childhood is a time of inexplicable passions. The genius or religious fanatic is tepid compared to the disastrous loves experienced by children.

Their loves are outsized to their objects, rehearses the squandering of their souls on what is unworthy. 

This rabbit is an example of kitsch.

Kitsch is a loanword from German. 

The study of kitsch was once extensive in Germany, and notably pursued by Walter Benjamin, who committed suicide in Spain by swallowing morphine tablets after being told he would be returned to Nazi-occupied France. 

The other refugees in his party were granted exit visas the next morning, which makes his death especially poignant, or bleakly comic, depending on one’s frame of mind. 

There are other theories and accounts of his death, which I will not enter into. 

Kitsch is easily pressed into service by political ideologies. Fascism, capitalism and communism have all relied heavily on kitsch.

This seems a lot to blame the rabbit for. 

Kitsch is a way to dilute life, and thus bear to go on living. 

And the child? Does the child still think of the rabbit? 
“My father enters” by Greta Riondato


When I think of Anne Sexton’s glasses, I imagine them not on her face, but in the collection of the American billionaire who purchased them after she gassed herself in her garage. He keeps them in a temperature-controlled case like an artifact, a page from the King James Bible, a torn strip of papyrus, bitten with hieroglyphs. I saw a photograph of this man once: innocuous, sweating like over-risen dough. Full of unambiguous goodwill, but something else there, something hidden, the way the desert in Texas where he lives might hide things. Does he gloat over the glasses, think about the woman in her car? Does he sometimes, alone, convince himself he sees her eyes in the frames? I imagine he sleeps in a temperature-controlled room, his white bed square and hostile as a glass case.

Filed Under: Poetry & Prose

Poetry by

Kate Cayley has published two short story collections and two collections of poetry, and her plays have been performed in Canada, the US and the UK. She has won the Trillium Book Award, an O. Henry Prize, and the Mitchell Prize for Poetry.

Illustrations by

Greta Riondato is an Italian multimedia visual artist, sculptor, designer and mother of two. Born and raised in the Veneto region of North Italy, Greta has been immersed in the world of art her entire life.

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