Reiter's Block

Book Notes: The Glass Violin

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This entry was posted on 12/21/2008 12:39 PM and is filed under Book Reviews, Faith and Doubt, Great Poems Online.

Australian poet P.S. Cottier truly does see the universe in a grain of sand--as well as in a tram ticket, a Caesarian scar, the names of Australian military operations, a shabby bear in the Soviet zoo, a wren visiting a dead friend's garden, and myriad other small details of modern life that she turns into windows on the human condition, in verses both whimsical and profound. Her new collection The Glass Violin (Ginninderra Press, 2008) contains all this and more.

One of the pleasures of reading poetry is finding that someone else has experienced and expressed a precise emotion that you thought was peculiar to you. When Cottier writes, in a poem titled "Forlorn", "The abandonment of teabags is absolute," I feel less silly about my pangs of guilt for turning those neat, dry, nearly immortal little packets into wet lumps of trash. Elsewhere, in "Cutting on Laminex", she reflects on how the scratches on a cutting board outlast the meals prepared there, which segues into awareness of the marks that time has left on her: "I can't recall the accidents, the sharp slice/which scarified, but skin scratches speak/of that open cut, some day, grave of mine." She has kindly given me permission to reprint a poem from this book below.


I didn't want this, not at all.
The rock rolled back,
groaning, rasping,
birthing brightness.
It was meant to
make them free.
But a single breath,
in and out,
a teasing pause,
then they crucified others;
those who walked outside
their straitened view of me.
Labyrinthine irony,
to fill the sarcophagus
in my name.
Those chaotic echoes
darkening on deafness,
I hear them still.
I'd asked them to put down stones
and not to pound down sinners.
To understand, or at least,
not to irrevocably judge.
But when they built their church
on rock, of rock,
flesh was pushed aside,
Golgotha glorified.
A mortar and pestle,
hope ground against granite.
Sometimes when I watch, I wish
that boulder had not budged.
When my flesh was tortured
and my mother's tears fell,
I believed
it would erode
the rocks in human minds.
But I hadn't counted on their
thoughts like drowning pebbles,
sinking in a hard skull cave
just beneath the skin.
Love sealed within forever,
not knowing light.
The third day never comes.

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    • 12/22/2008 6:22 PM Alegria Imperial wrote:
      You’re right Jendi in that reading a poem makes pleasure possible when it sparks something within you. Thank you for this posting. I was following the lead of this poem below that was writing itself when I had thought of visiting your ‘bloc’. Serendipity! I got an answer to my plea--a silken poem that weaves a truth (‘Love sealed within forever, not knowing light.’) thus, covers one more hole in my punctured skull more than stuns and could render me paralyzed as the one I apparently hanker in this poem.

      Plea for a poem

      write me a poem
      words to breathe in
      even if only whispers
      as shouts have turned
      the air into a
      hail storm

      write me some rain
      my heart crackles
      in the draught longing
      for words drenched in
      thought to sip
      in the dark

      i yearn for verses
      snipped from flame tips
      words that dance
      the fire of fallen angels
      saved from their march
      on dying coals

      write me a song
      cadenced in sunsets
      tympanis of words
      rising off the hum
      of meanings
      drums have flattened

      give me back
      poems shredded spirits
      birth in caves midnights
      cleansed poems howling wolves
      hankering for stars
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