“Echo Box” & other poems by Alison J Barton

Taboo statue

You in stone with keynote plaques
No motion
No utterance
Mute like a hall
So vast and empty, I was the one filling it
          writing testimony
          I didn’t show you
You changed me in threes
and asked if it was okay

You counterpoised
           I countervail
Conveyed; the movement mine
           the idea
    that you though strong were not in control
Your silence
          it transforms

My vulnerability and yours
we held it for each other
    suspended power between us
      I wanted to know if you felt it too

You made no demands of me
and in so doing
caused a gulf inside; but not lacking
just love upheaved from its depths

The taboo not yet spoken
    it was the possibility of being known 
       just like you said 

Echo box

Located inside,
a room within a room
and within that a box
   enclosed by folds and folds of fabric
     years and years of cloth
        dense embroidered damask

thick weave 

I’ve tried to sew from that fabric
                      with needles from your kit
                   cotton stitches from your spools
               threaded garments that would not bind

Using my shears
sharpened by the decade between us
I cut through the nap of layered fabric
    angular clip of blade against texture

    the box of worn hard wood
full of writing and script
               talk and voice
I’ve knocked on that box 
        it sounded

Now language sinks silently into flesh

    and I deliver it like euphony
       elocute like water
          orate like disentangled yarn


I watched you construct 
   with your materials
      an edifice around lumpy flesh 

Stringybark of ancestors in thatch-brush loops
     fine strands configuring wispy foundations on stone

Scaffold erected in colonnade 
  support beams framed in parallel 
      on mud-clay base
         atop a mass of cell and tissue

Building your frame
   wooden struts tower
     triangular truss takes form
           bordering soft substance of human matter

Then the steelworks go up
    Smooth beams of silver subtend
            to a point so high         infinite
                                          not into black 
                                                but bright blue sky

Your structure
         A façade
         engineered—parallel with skeleton bone

Breathe in

The nuance of him 
      pieces             lost 
                       the way he wrapped me
          manifest anew in another
You are endless
you feel like the world
your pride
draws us
closer to my throat

I could fall forward into you
the shadow you would cast on my face

sometimes I breathe your name in


Claire has conviction.
She is gentle.
There is ferocity housed in it.

Caramel cream face.
Calico blonde wisp.
She smiles distress in half-coin patina eyes.
She is beautiful.

Claire is loved.
She is trusted. 
She understands. 
She has history words.
She is a totem pole. 
She gathers trauma in streamers. 

Survival bends in Claire’s direction.
Her words fall together on pages. 
Like they were meant to be.
Like you’ve heard them before.

She kept the company of women who knew how to fight.
Now she dances with poets in the early hours. 

Alison J Barton is an Australian poet, book reviewer, and non-fiction writer. She attended writing school in the 2000s but her best expression came from introspection and learning its relation to the external world. Themes of feminism and psychoanalysis are central to her writing. Alison has been published in Otoliths, Underground Writers, Parity, Perspektif Magazine, Rhythms Magazine, and Yarra Libraries Receipt Poetry. Alison also works as a Social Worker.