ORANGE PLASTIC MUG- Amy Brown

Once red and always on
the plaid-lined lower shelf
of the cupboard under the sink,
for weak juice and milky tea.

The mug smells of hot tussock
that breathes like baking.
It tastes of the Belgian biscuits
my mother made one summer

and looks like black-striped pink
geraniums. It feels like feet
swilling sand in a bucket of water
gone warm, sounds like the pound

that resembles wind at first, the tide.
It is full of the frustration of playing
children’s Scrabble instead of
the real thing with darker squares

and no pictures, the tired
comfort and outrage of being
put to bed before the fire
is put out, while other children

climb the hill’s seeping shadows,
feeling their way under wire
fences and over dead sheep;
screams flashing like torches.

There are orange plastic mugs
and magenta geraniums and dry
biscuits, tussocks, torchlight
here—but what is the point

in saying that mug is a similar
size or I learnt to swim by
walking my palms along the floor
of a lagoon identical to that one?

It only marks the distance between
here and then. Sometimes I am far
from the country that no longer exists;
sometimes I feel close to nothing.

This mug is not a likeness, a simile.
It is the same mug I drank from then.
I hold it now, but the trees are whiter—
bones clean except for silver leaves

the shape of my father’s and my husband’s
dry smiles. One is here, one is then. I am
tense now. Unsure of when we are. Cold tea
burns my lips. I politely ignore everyone.

MODERN MARY AND THE ANGEL OF FAILURE- Emma Neale

A tiny angel enters the room
in a halo of sungold dust motes.
In Mary’s ear: a high-pitched annunciation
she doesn’t at first quite catch.

It tries to tell her she’s a sweet-hot stunner,
drives life itself crazy with her
scent of coconut and maple,
mango body-butter, coffee,
beach salt, beach towel, sunscreen,
last night’s sauvignon, and see,
the succulent curve and bend of her …

The angel’s touch brushes her
with a faint stirring wind,
the hairs on the back of her neck
quiver like harp strings.

Troubled at these sayings
Mary looks over her shoulder,
asks, who’s there?
Swift as a night nurse
the angel plunges the syringe;
its small prick enters,
the quick sting lifts,
flustered Mary is left
with a visible white swelling
that comes to nothing
but this minor, red-capped
princeling of disappointment,
an itch that irritates:
incarnation of her own
and the world’s
deep imperfections.

To Atthis by Sappho

My Atthis, although our dear Anaktoria
lives in distant Sardis,
she thinks of us constantly, and

of the life we shared in days when for her
you were a splendid goddess,
and your singing gave her deep joy.
 
Now she shines among Lydian women as
when the red-fingered moon
rises after sunset, erasing

stars around her, and pouring light equally
across the salt sea 
and over densely flowered fields;

and lucent dew spreads on the earth to quicken
roses and fragile thyme
and the sweet-blooming honey-lotus.

Now while our darling wanders she thinks of
lovely Atthis's love,
and longing sinks deep in her breast.

She cries loudly for us to come!  We hear,
for the night's many tongues
carry her cry across the sea.

Hélas by Oscar Wilde

To drift with every passion till my soul
Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play,
Is it for this that I have given away
Mine ancient wisdom, and austere control?
Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll
Scrawled over on some boyish holiday
With idle songs for pipe and virelay,
Which do but mar the secret of the whole.
Surely there was a time I might have trod
The sunlit heights, and from life's dissonance
Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God.
Is that time dead?  lo! with a little rod
I did but touch the honey of romance—
And must I lose a soul's inheritance?

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves 
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: 
All mimsy were the borogoves, 
And the mome raths outgrabe.
 

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son! 
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! 
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun 
The frumious Bandersnatch!" 

He took his vorpal sword in hand: 
Long time the manxome foe he sought 
So rested he by the Tumtum tree, 
And stood a while in thought.
 

And, as in uffish thought he stood, 
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, 
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, 
And burbled as it came! 

One two! One two! And through and through 
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! 
He left it dead, and with its head 
He went galumphing back.
 
"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? 
Come to my arms, my beamish boy! 
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" 
He chortled in his joy.
 

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves 
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: 
All mimsy were the borogoves, 
And the mome raths outgrabe.