joanne burns: four poems

  joanne burns

  3 short poems [ aurora, scrub, shucks]

  and a prose poem [purchase]

the parsnip lagoon
makes it difficult
to breathe     no air
pockets in the apron
jutting northwards, best
to aim for the ocean
road regardless of a
cordillera of camp ovens
furphying the credentials
of the golden roast

are you aware of
the devictualisation
psalms     last words
last supper     there’ll be
giant fronds of ghost kelp
cajoling through your aura
tonight —


fog in the throat hocked
household lyrics the
garage door collapsing
like a lung the rooms unravel
rows of bad knitting no one
sings for supper when the dunce
corner proliferates up
the walls = scouting for scraps
in the itchy bins tipped
across the verges’ placid
shrubbery reinstall the skeletal
lighthouse some fine white
jokes to be launched through the night


are you really a local
barramundi     sing your tidal
runes like a wishbone lost in
a muddy gob, thalassic provenance
gone to pot     where is the real
atlantis, no stevedore can vouch
for this, beef cake heritage or not;
you juggle the pregunta’s cube like
a soda’s augury but the bubbles
are flat     the air tramps on, its
swag of lumbago     daemonian
ether stuck in a rut —


here is a long dark table with rounded bevelled corners. a finely crafted table. at first sight the wood seems smooth as velvet. one edge of the table is obscured by the absence of light where the rest of the room recedes.

you stand at the edge of the dream. close enough to touch the table but you don’t. there is both an intimacy and a remoteness about its presence. you are aware that it is a new table. a gift perhaps. or a clever purchase. you had wanted to use the word ‘mahogany’ to refer to this table. you like its rhythm and length. but it lacked depth. the wood of the table has a burgundy tint. you know it belongs at present to a man who wants to harm someone through its agency. you don’t know why or how. the atmosphere is unsettling but not quite sinister.

to refer to this moment as poe-like would be inaccurate. presumptuous. even kitsch. all you know is what you feel, so far. that everything will happen slowly. a glance. a short conversation. perhaps then a long lecture. the twist of a limb. the glare of an eye. the quiet pourings from a decanter attendant in the wings.

this tableau might well be a document of someone’s trauma. the floorboards don’t creak but the air shifts in almost imperceptible winnowings. the vertical turns concave. when ‘trauma’ from the greek arrived in the english lexicon around 1650 it referred to a physical wound. it has become so much more than its original denotation. a word of intradermal suffering, damage. there is something compelling about the word, so close in spelling and utterance to ‘thauma’: a wonder, a marvel. such propinquity. perhaps it is language itself that is the deceiver. the agent of unease.

the man moves closer. in his right hand he holds a bic pen. black. cristal m. a sharp line of light needles along its surface. this moment disappears.

two months of dreams later someone offers you a thick booklet of $100 notes in exchange for a small poem. but which what poem. the currency is too bright. the colour of cheap lime cordial. ‘but i don’t do sweet’ you say. ‘sorry’.


joanne burns’ most recent poetry collection is brush, Giramondo Publishing 2014. She is currently assembling a Selected volume of her work, provisionally titled real land, spanning over four decades of book publication. She lives in Sydney.



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