after Alex Garland’s film of Jeff Vandermeer’s novel Annihilation
it’s true you never could bring yourself to prune
all these Icarus vines grasping at the closest star
only to collapse with the weight of their reaching
sweetpea, wisteria, adventurous rose
rappelling on thorns that hitch sky to dirt
& snag shreds of you: polyester, keratin, ichor
birds collect snarls of your hair from the barbs
they build a nest from your loss you don’t notice
how many rely on you for shelter
even in your own home
breathing alone on your bare mattress you slough
cell dust: the same plentiful gusts
as puffball spore, urchin sperm, pollen from shaken anther
spawning from your skin a feast for mites
without even trying you satiate empires
and that’s without even mentioning your microbiome
see how useful you are
as your body decays around you
even in your lighthouse
up all those stairs
online symptom checker
I have been rehearsing my problems again, so I rage and grieve
pre-emptively. The city I love is built on fault lines
so every day I step inside the elevator at work with certainty
that I will die in there. So far this has not happened
but each morning the conviction recurs. As the doors whirr shut
and the lift shudders upwards, I flex my knees to brace for impact.
I consider which of the randomly assorted people in the box this morning
I would reach out to hold hands with as the lift fell. I politely avoid eye contact.
Then when I walk home I watch the houses skid down the hillsides
like icing slipping off a hot birthday cake
until the harbour clogs with runny buttercream and candle wax.
My dread is cartoonish. I ought to laugh at it.
I am a ludicrous catastrophe inventor.
For instance, I have also made up a baby
paddling in my belly. It prods my abdominal organs
and knots my guts like purple gift ribbons. The little tadpole thing
gargles saline fluids to blow bubbles inside me.
I have taken eight pregnancy tests since January
despite the fact that it would be practically impossible
to conceive. I’m a cyborg juiced-up on prophylactics. I can no longer feel
one of the rubbery matchstick talismans in the softness of my upper arm
but am reassured to picture the lost Jadelle worming through my body; a beacon
of slow-release hormone, a charm against fertility. Unfortunately
anxiety requires an enhanced sense of one’s own specialness
and having read one article about an undetectable cryptic pregnancy
and then several more stories of contraceptive failure
down the rabbit hole of internet complaint,
my weekly negative urine test now means nothing. So much for the plastic amulet,
the protective piss ritual. I pore over the online symptom checker.
Chronicle the headaches, the nausea, the heartburn,
cocoon myself in resolute paranoia and visit a second doctor
to plead for an ultrasound so I can see what’s wrong inside me.
The doctor refers me for a free blood test but says confidently
it will be clear of HCG. Passes me tissues. Asks me whether I have considered
that all my discomforts are symptoms of anxiety. I feel called out but also seen.
The houses cling to their hills. It is only the evening, but dark outside already.
quad bike farm tour
She drives and I straddle behind her, our
helmets knocking together. My hands cramp white-knuckled
behind me, gripping the bike by its metallic pelvis
rather than leaning in and holding her.
Nevertheless the bike shudders our hips
damnably close in the seat’s worn incline.
My shorts ride up. Weathered cracks in the vinyl
pinch at my thighs. Her calves chafe red
in a scaly ring at the opening of her gumboots.
She has shaved her legs without moisturising.
They have the flaky silver sheen of sandblasted driftwood.
Stomping down the gear change,
she slackens her accelerator wrist and rolls to a lurching stop
at the gate. Waits, revving her impatience
before I realise it’s my job to dismount, to unlatch the fastening.
Dust and zinc powder crease deep into my fumbling
palms. Soon we are unstrung
from the powerlines that prop up the sky elsewhere.
Blooming gorse conducts its yellow current up the valley.
Her domain crackles around us, percussive
with bursting seed pods and a flickering pulse of bees.
The bike purrs through the country. She’s cocky,
speeding us in drifts up the metal road and rutted tussock paddocks.
She takes the crest of a hill too fast
and the bike rears up. The hind wheels threaten
to lose traction. She throws her weight
forward and tries to wrestle the hulking metal
down by its handlebars. Yells at me to jump
and I don’t even say how high, I just launch myself from the bike
as though my body already knew what she wanted from me.
shield your eyes for the bright of it
after Alex Garland’s film of Jeff Vandermeer’s novel Annihilation
at dusk we paddle sultry in the mangrove
caress each other’s unshaven calves for leeches
engorged & drunk on us
until at distant brackish splash your bullet cartridge pops like jewelweed
disturbing salamanders crawling upstream to spawn
oh please lay down your arms
raise your spinneret your sting your fruiting vine
welcome to my wetlands my mucous honeytrap glisten
like drosera sundew my kiss
is meant to keep
please stay in my clutches
see: mayfly see: luna moth with no parts for feeding
they are of single purpose do you still have a mouth
show me its functions its gag reflex
its needy congregation of teeth show me your selfish motivations
your useless methodologies your broken instruments
let us speculate in this kaleidoscope of genders & colours
new applications of defunct machinery
see: grenade see: pomegranate
seeding kind rednesses
let us burrow toward that fractal spot & see
how quickly we disintegrate & mingle
our bodies a mobius strip refracting our spectres please
see: me transfixed by this glitter rimmed
geode & the sheen over your eyelids
now blindfold now swirling mercury
now skin velveteen with silver down like a protea petal
see: nectarivorous sugarbird easing its bill into the inflorescence
lyrebird mimics the wildlife reporter narrating
a series of interspecies symbioses
life lusts for more of itself so urgently
oh darling let me inside your shimmering
get our extremities oil slickt & let them shift like liquid
am I you are you me
all encounters fundamentally autoerotic
when my organs understand themselves through yours
saying who is the tunnel & who is the tower today
& how do they glow
how do they go up in flames
Rebecca Hawkes is easily charmed. Her poems have found homes in places like Scum, Sport, and Sweet Mammalian, and she has a collection of poems coming out in 2019 in AUP New Poets 5 with Sophie van Waardenberg and Carolyn DeCarlo. You can find more of her writing and paintings via rebeccahawkesart.com