The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls, by Kate Camp
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Shortlisted for the 2011 New Zealand Book Award for Poetry
The first Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls caused its author to be burnt at the stake for heresy in 1310. Kate Camp’s fourth collection of poems demonstrates a darker turn in the work of this popular poet. Shortlisted for the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award, it establishes her in the front rank of New Zealand poets.
Kate Camp is the author of three previous collections of poems, Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars, Realia and Beauty Sleep, the essay On Kissing, and Kate’s Klassics.
From The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls, by Kate Camp
The first time I saw you
I don’t know which I loved more
you with your tranquil neck
calmly transporting yourself through the world
or the one who followed you everywhere
trolling the dark waters like a hook.
The strange thing was that
as each other’s opposite and negative
we were even visible
I with my tatty winter coat
smelling of reeds
you consisting entirely of surfaces
or should I say one fabulously curved surface
smooth and white as an egg.
I have no idea what you saw when you looked at me
a shadow dully pursued by the shape that cast it
a placeholder reserving a space from nonexistence.
Perhaps you saw God’s fearsome ability
to be absent, his morosely taken option
to hoard his riches in another universe.
In anyone else, such a thought would be absurd.
In your case, it was luminous and adorable
shining in the dark location known as me.
It was inevitable I would follow you
the sound of laughing that came
though you never laughed
the sweet nonsensical conversations
in which you remained impassively silent
the pointless journeys you took
your eyes perfectly round.
My desire was the desire to be superlative
I, who had spent years in domestic craft
became selfishly single-minded as an artist
inflicting your beauty on myself
like some ecstatic adolescent
cutting her arm with a pocket knife.
At night I would disappear.
You and the moon would glow.
I hated to think of the dark
covering you over like a mouth.