René Harrison

René Harrison

Modest Humanitarian, Philanthropist, and Glamorous Adventurer, René Harrison began writing poetry at the age of five, when he mistook a fog-covered magnolia tree outside his bedroom window for the three Graeae sisters of Medusa.  He has taught literature and rhetoric at the University of Auckland and Purdue University.

“Blind epistemology and disability studies inform my work on the poetics of blindness and complex embodiment.”


The quick
of leather
on newly-washed flagstone
in front of me,
is the sound of a woman
walking in Europe
made taller by her heels.

I think even the sound of her
cultured bounce
can travel to cities too young
for stone masons,
but not over wet meadows.


Composed to Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten

Not because we are soon blind
are these rocks
shadows of cloud,
and these bells,
lakes of earth.

In the chiselled skull
of God’s eagle, where perch the monks
in dizzying prayer,
I descend,
embracing the cold, as the bell
blows in the wind,
winding down the road to the well,
where the lonely goats
so high yet fearless, are held
by young companions.

These geologies of leviathan:
becoming goat, becoming rain,
becoming Byzantine.
And the old nuns are always happy
to dress you as a woman.

The rain caught before the ladders broke,
where a sea formed these monasteries
to hide Christ’s eyes from images
of the world. The persecutions
of silence, invisible grasses of heaven.

Where the steps fall, cut away from moss,
less solid than an echo of cloud,
the bells of darkness shine alien
like your self. Pressed for truth
beneath painted stones, submitting your face,

And not because you are learning to see
are the eyebrows of prayer
so exposed
to the wounds and necessities
of vertigo.

The keyholes of the face
are rocks, where you climb
to close your senses,
until the icon drops, perfectly veiled
from a cracked and darkling halo.

Time somewhere
lost in a bell,
where the woolly eyed flocks
and aching nymphs are all forgotten
from heaven;
in the inevitable lust
for air and rock,
why all the angry clouds agree
to lighten the sky
and lip the light from these
illegal cloisters of Greece.

First published takahe 87
August 2016