By ANTHONY HOWELL.
The frogs open their throats on the lake at night
But seem at the mercy of surges;
At times overwhelming the fan
And the eternal scooter as they get encouraged
By each other in the dark. It only takes
One to begin, prompting the chest of another to swell
And join in, and this gets the others
Started. But then the one first registered
Pauses for breath, and that seems to breed
Discouragement, causing the chorus to subside,
Leaving just one who takes his break at last
As the sunset is recalled, and how it hit
A palm or two, west of the concrete pool
Which had become so still with everyone gone,
But here they are again, since one began
Once more and everyone joined in,
Just as frogs do, just as they chose to before.
Thin sugarless canebrakes raise their good-for-nothing plumes
Against the dawn, and in despite of noon, and to the night.
Fluffed or flared or strewn in the road like run-over pets,
They aspire to be Japanese warriors, well and truly bamboo,
And yet so slim in the tube, they snap or fold at the slightest hint
Of strain. These are for decoration only – as with Pampas grass.
Jostling one another, they patrol the kerb on python roads that wind us
Around mountains where the arrow is a snake. It wrestles
Our route through passes admitting us to even steeper ranges.
We take them in first gear, pausing for a necessary pee
Before our serpent leads us up to parking lots below look-outs.
Good air is god air here. You pause for lack of oxygen,
A stiff way still to go. Then, like the monk in red
Who has overtaken you, in first gear for you, you take
The final step into looking there: down, down, down
Into the depths of jungle. You’re so far above it’s only showing
Its canopies, otherwise buried in shadow beneath some green
Elephant of a leaf. Over, on a ridge, the Sakura powders
The forest pink while above some complex filigree of roots,
Intaglio ideals produce the lacework of the lattice trees
That filter light from heat. How tall that singular trunk
Seeking escape, just as the eyes escape from the immediate
Into the immense; out across the mere thread miles below
Of the Mekong, out of this land, into another country,
Its ranges you can barely see dimmer for sure than the moon now,
Half-submerged in blue, as you find yourself sharing the vista
With those good-for-nothing grasses, raising their plumes here as well,
As the monk gets up to the view above and sounds its waiting bell.
Doi Pha Tang
Dope farms do well in the Golden Triangle
As do roofing contractors. You are a dope
If you can’t put a roof or two over your head
Or at least have a hut in which to survive
Under its corrugated sheet where some
Tatterdemalion market congregates on
Parched ground a long walk from anywhere.
The cobra is contracted to provide
Its hood as a roof for Wisdom where
Wisdom sits beneath the fig in Nepal.
Two roofs are better than no roof at all.
A host of lights in a shed with silver sides
Below a hoop of corrugated concrete
Provides the burgeoning heads of Auto
Purple, Grape Bush, Mother Ape Shit,
Brain Damage, Skywalk and Strawberry Pie
With an artificial climate, bright but cool,
In which fantastic hybrids can be bred
Under one roof. The coconut peel soil
That nourishes them can also be marketed.
ANTHONY HOWELL, a former dancer with the Royal Ballet, was founder of The Theatre of Mistakes and performed solo at the Hayward Gallery and at the Sydney Biennale. His articles on visual art, dance, performance, and poetry have appeared in many publications including Art Monthly, The London Magazine, Harpers & Queen, The Times Literary Supplement. He is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. In 2001 he received a LADA bursary to study the tango in Buenos Aires and now teaches the dance at his studio/gallery The Room in Tottenham Hale. He is the author of a seminal textbook, The Analysis of Performance Art: A Guide to Its Theory and Practice. Details about his collaborative project, Grey Suit Online, are here. In 2019, his exploration of psychic chaos, Multilation (with Consciouness), was published by the Fortnightly’s imprint, Odd Volumes. His latest collection is From Inside (The High Window).
Note: A minor edit was made to this page subsequent to publication.