Three Poems by James Gering

James Gering Poet Outdoors

The Heart Aflutter

Icarus’s heart flutters like a butterfly and his breaths
come in gasps when he thought
breathing was reflexive.

Darling Audrey tries to make light
asks if the flutters are for her.
Icarus replies with the latest news
about a pig heart for human transplant.
‘Are they available for Jews and Muslims?’ Audrey asks.
But this is unfunny and real – his vitals going haywire.

Word of the day: vulnerable.
But no time for synonym finding today,
Icarus actually needing help.

Anything in the medical kit for capricious hearts?
The Emergency team hook up gizmos and leads
the ward akin to an auto garage, Icarus akin
to a car battery. Now a nurse brandishing
a sharp object. She punctures his arm
and makes off with a vial of his blood.

Here comes another flutter, and Icarus rushes
dizzily up a vine stalk into a land
of strange palpitations and tingling hands.

He discovers golden Audrey, and they run
for the escape hatch. Near breathless, Icarus deviates
into his imagination and up Mount Sinai
for ten commandments creatively revamped.

Thou shalt not be flippant about beating hearts.
Thou shalt not mistake beer for sacramental water.
Thou shalt give thanks at every meal – maybe the last.
Thou shalt write doggedly.
Thou shalt kill most of your darlings on the page.
Thou shalt love many creatures including thyself.
Thou shalt love darling Audrey, even when feeling doldrumy.
Thou shalt scorn con artists and petty dictators.
Thou shalt not covet and steal wives.
Thou shalt covet and steal health and longevity.

‘Hi, my name is…and I’m taking you for an X-ray.
Would you like me to wheel you on the bed
or in a wheelchair?’
‘I’d like to walk.’
‘I don’t think that’s an option.’
Poetic silence and a glare.

‘Doctor has spoken, doctor says bed or wheelchair.’
And reality unfurls like fake grass
at a funeral ceremony.

The pink-skinned radiologist wants to know
if Icarus has a mask.
And Icarus doesn’t say which dark place
he’d like to stick the mask.
Tssk-tssk, goes the X-ray machine.

And the patient is doing feeble mock wheelies
back to Emergency, to robust nurses
and a matter-of-fact doctor.

Compromised Icarus is the fact
his body alien-like
his superhero costume in tatters at his feet.


Icarus Helicoptering

I took my lover’s son abseiling
and he lost control. The rescue helicopter
ferried him from the base of the cliff

to hospital. After discharge, he stayed
extra nights at our place for motherly love
and recuperation.

For my part, I drove into the hinterland
for emergency distraction.

Long ago, I lived near the beach
with my sons. Helicopters flew in when sharks
were sighted or surfers went missing.

One twilight, my son Isaac was out surfing
when a chopper buzzed in low.
I laid down my chef’s knife and hurried
for the beach.

The boardwalk was immersed
in a flurry of activity and the helicopter
was bathing the water in cones of light.

It isn’t always a tragedy
when choppers find nothing.

Sometimes the missing have left the waves
of their own volition, padded unseen
over the sand to lounge high and sofa dry.

My heart was working hard
on the boardwalk that evening.
I couldn’t find Isaac
and was battling to compose myself.

Then a strong hand gripped my shoulder.
‘It’s okay, Dad,’ Isaac said, ‘I’m here,
I’m right here.’

Back from the hinterland
I found my lover’s son doing just fine.
He helped me cook a seafood stew
and we went hiking on a ridge
where I pointed out all the dangers
under a choppy sky.

And I wondered then about a life –
just how much turbulence
one could reasonably absorb.


Sublime Old Fig

Icarus, always an avid outdoors lover,
blesses his care home, how the managers indulge
his craving for trees and sky.

No matter he is over-ripe fig, all blotch ’n yeast.
Here comes Nurse Mascarpone, all smile ’n soothe.
Morning ablutions over, she frees Icarus

of walls and ceilings, and shepherds him outdoors.
She unfolds a deckchair among the roots
of a Moreton Bay Fig, and Icarus settles in.

A discreet tarp strung between branches thwarts
the weather. Fauna and flora abound: butterflies
daisies and bees by the canteen windows.

Cook Pignolet rings his meal bell, and old-timers
clutching penultimate meal tickets descend
on his dining room. Outside, under his canopy,

Icarus says a version of grace, soul and body
clear of gravy whiff, cutlery clank, grey meat
and mash. And a lamb chop comes arcing out

of Pignolet’s window, now a stuffed mushroom.
Icarus snaps morsels off the breeze,
his eye/teeth synchrony sharp from practice

slowing the creep of decrepitude.
Icarus reveres Nurse Mascarpone, her hedonistic
heritage, her delivery of macchiatos

to his tree encampment in the morning,
bubbles come noon, tumblers of gin at twilight.
All is peachy until pizza whizzes in one evening

and frisbees Icarus clean off his deckchair.
He lies spreadeagled on decomposing leaves,
mozzarella garnishing his cheek.

Icarus musters a big-sky salute, lowers his lids and
secures a wisp of cloud, a celestial berth on which
to chill and behold the earthly fanfare.


Writer Bio:

James Gering Writer









James Gering, poet, diarist and short story writer, has received various international awards for his
stories and poems, and he is the Australian Society of Authors Emerging Poet of the Year, 2018. His
writing has appeared in many journals around the world including Meanjin, Cordite, Rattle and Shot
Glass Journal. His first collection of poetry, Staying Whole While Falling Apart, was released by
Interactive Press in 2021. His second collection, Tickets to the Fall of Icarus, was released by the
same publisher in December 2023. James lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. There he climbs
the cliffs and hikes the trails in search of Beveridge’s wisdom, Ernaux’s emotional truth and Kafka’s
dreamscapes. James welcomes visitors at

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