Bloodwork: Alexander Bogdanov (1873–1928)

Chloe Wilson

Joint first prize ($7,500), 2016 Griffith University Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize

  1. Rituals

We discussed the possibilities
while brooding over strategy – the chairman took
my rook and asked – but
                       how alike are we to calves?

I said, do you mean before or after
slaughter? The fish-gasp of his laughter.
            My queen and king

were done for.            We started over.
            He said – how about
                                  in the moment

                                  we move from one state
            to the other? I lacked a satisfactory

            answer, said that dog to dog
            is always preferable,

                                  but it seemed harmless

to remember Denys, who parted
                       the carotid arteries of several
            farmyard residents,
                                  and transferred their blood to men
            with great success; there was, for instance

that boy, dumb in body, who took a lamb’s blood
and revived, pissing out
                       a choler, black and shining
                       like his hair.

Years later, they handed me
            the chairman’s exsanguinated head, said –
            do what you might to revive him.

 

  1. Spirits

They say: grind up tiger teeth,
                                  and stir them into tea,
                       for courage.

Or: owl eyes, swallowed entire,
                       will bring vision
            to the hunstman
who wishes to see in the dark.

One thinks
            of the Iroquois chief
                       who, impressed by Brébeuf’s tenacity
                                  under red-hot hatchets,
            saw fit to eat his heart.

                       It is the same, old knowledge –
whichever spirit
            slips into the circulation
                       will exert its influence.

 

  1. Red Star

We have been undertaking the exchanges.

My wife’s face expands, a rehydrated
                                             apricot. My hairline
                       retakes territories it had conceded.
            We reach for one another
                                             in wonder.

Blood. One more type
            of private property
                                  to be abolished. In the paradise
I’ve designed, it circulates
            like money. All the young

are rich as sultans. I imagine
            their skins
                       taut as fresh-picked grapes.

I imagine setting them out
            in the sun,
            the concentrated sweetness
as they wrinkle; I think
                       of spitting out the pips.

 

  1. Invaders

Blood is a jungle. In a single slide, observe
            the tangle of thugs and roughnecks,

            their nightly riots. Foreigners
may be swept along
            with the pressure-current.

My volunteer had a wheal I did not see.
            A proboscis had gone searching
            through his person, left him teeming

                       with looters
                                  who think nothing
                       of the edifice which they deface.

            A shame. Days later, I am slick and glistening
            with fever. It is a comfort, however,

to think of how I flourish
            throughout another’s vascular forest. He will
                       wake, convalesce, recover,

            not thinking to ask what or whom
might be zooming through the florets
            of his brain matter –

                       accepting the arrival

of a desire to amass flammables,
            or pen the seditious letter – that needling
insistence; that new,
                       communicable itch.


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