Angela Costi

What Mama Told Me

You came out of me like a fish
Your toys were books, I let you play with them
At the Fish shop, you slept on the couch at the back
When you woke, I made you hot chips
You even ate the oysters!

Quick, strong, uniformed Mama at 20
the 100 % Cypriot and ‘Non-English’,
frying food, making clothes, sneaking kids
into backrooms, she was the force in work-
force, the 85 % boost the White lads
didn’t expect when they opened Station Pier
to women from ‘those lands’

Your Aunty Ava was from Germany
Your Uncle wanted her to be Cypriot
We lived next door to them, it was bad
One day their Michael snuck over to play with you
They never wanted you over their house

Green-eyed, fair-skinned Michael was a minor %
in the early 70s, a boy of few words with an odd
accent strung from Cypriot dialect German proper
and Aussie lingo, he jumped in my wardrobe
when his mum came stomping into my room —
to gain acceptance, he wouldn’t talk at school.

Aphrodite Was Resurrected

IAphrodite Struts
— Spring Summer Show, Milan, 2001

Divine ease to bounce my breasts in tune
with the beat of their furrowed brows

Dare I disrobe to awaken their folded arms
display the place where my worship begins

A love nest with rich spread of skin
curve of grace from waist to hip to navel

A touch designed to tremble the most ardent of fingers
so heavy’ they reek distaste, ‘rotund, disfigured’

Silicon lips move into a synchronised shudder!
My pride bellows the rise of creation

to bowl over their prized brittle bones
and watch them fall like tenpins.

IIAprhodite Is Tested
— Khindi Hospital, Baghdad, 2003

Not even I can transplant a bomb’s gift
its boxed-in horror rams through all that softens,
a bouquet of bitter orange claws
has pierced life’s thread

We are all armless here, rendered in marble
tears frozen between the pause of blasts
a torso, a face, a groin, one leg or half
arranged on beds like toppled plinths

The Gods of War have chewed, swallowed
spat, licked, left torn bones to console
quaking hearts on makeshift tables
held by thumb and scalpel

If this were a brothel or monastery
my steps would gain significance,
between constant lust and prayer
there is refrain of love

The smaller bodies are the quietest
a pink veil shifts, little fingers tread air
a girl with blood-soaked eyes
smiles in sleep, she feels her mother

Here, I reach with timid breaths
planting invisible tracks of desire
— a memory of dancing to song
lifting one to walk the mountain.

IIIAphrodite Judges
— The Poetry Parnassus, London Olympics, 2012

I listen to words used like swords in a battle to death
I shine to words like rare wine from sun-kissed grape
I dance to words sprung from the mystery of womb
they please the ear       soothing as dusk’s light rain

Moving from silhouette to shape are the simple words
of love in winter       alive with lyrical spill from Sappho’s
cup       they marry curves to literature

There!       In the moon’s glow, She with marble gaze
offers her poem as honey cake, gathering circles
of swoon       with Erato and Kalliope singing her verse.

Angela Costi is a writer whose poetry, stories, essays and reviews have been published nationally and internationally. Her fifth poetry collection is, An Embroidery of Old Maps and New (Spinifex 2021).