Penguin: Second third
Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets
The poems in this 2nd third of the Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets (1986) are copyright and it would be too difficult to obtain copyright clearances for them, some thirty years after publication, so I shall publish only the first eight lines or so of each poem here, a small proportion of the whole 293-page book, which falls within the doctrine of ‘fair use’. Published here under the Creative Commons licence Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives: CC BY-NC-ND. Bear in mind that due to the intractable problems of converting poetry from the page to a blog computer screen, line indents and line turnovers will inevitably be compromised. Note: the biographical notes to the poets are contemporary with the publication of the book in 1986.
Born Perth 1923. Playwright, novelist and poet. Books of poetry include Windmill Country (1965), Rapunzel in Suburbia (1979), Greenhouse (1979). Plays include Chapel Perilous (1971), This Old Man Comes Rolling Home (1976), The Man from Mukinupin (1980), Golden Oldies (1981), Susannah’s Dreaming (1981), and The Fields of Heaven (1982). Lives in Sydney.
The rain falls, the wind
blows in the canyons of the University.
Drinking with the Professor of English
behind the plate-glass windows
the last crocus is whipped to death.
Heidelberg paraplegics; the boy dies in the iron lung,
his 21 kindly candles winking in the last light on the balcony;
the ice-caked windscreen fogs, the Flame of Remembrance
burns like hell-fire in the wintry air by the Psychiatric Clinic; […]
It will soon be over.
I wrap myself in a black cloak
to hide with the English Department in the cafeteria,
but when you come towards me
my body husks and I cling to your hands.
I am too tired,
I will travel centuries of escalators to Richmond,
and think of you all night in Paddy’s Market […]
In the garden, in the morning,
I was like Eve,
I was like sin in red velvet,
I walked barefoot
till my hem was wet, the globes spun
on the lemon trees your body’s weight,
the sun came up, my children slept.
With my hands full of winter flowers
I enter my own house
and open the Art Exhibition. […]
I’ve made it once again,
gone past the pitch of grief,
each time it’s easier and nonchalant.
Slip into it Old Friend; a fatal treaty.
I stretch my limbs, knowing the stages
of withdrawal, irony contributes,
(but not much) it’s giving yourself to pain,
no twilight sleep, cold turkey! […]
[ page 104 / 107 , 133 lines long ]
Death is in the air —
today is the anniversary of his death in October
(he would have been thirty-one)
I went home to High Street
& couldn’t feed the new baby
my milk had dried up
so I sat holding him numbly
looking for the soft spot on the top of his head
while they fed me three more librium
you’re only crying for yourself he said,
but I kept on saying It’s the waste I can’t bear. […]
[ page 108 / 109, 57 lines long ]
Fourth Exile’s Letter
from THE MANDELSTAM LETTERS
You took away all the oceans and all the room.
You gave me my shoe-size in earth with bars around it.
Where did it get you Nowhere
You left me my lips, and they shape words,
even in silence.
Osip Mandelstam, Voronezh (1935)
I come home to find they have cancelled my permit to live in the city,
expelled from Moscow, months in the Lubianka.
It’s spring, Tve sold my leather-jacket
now I wear an old coat made of dogs skin.
Along the Yaroslavl railroad the prisoners are taken to Siberia.
I live in Strunina in the 105 kilometre zone, we eat wild berries in the woods, we live like hunted animals in the taiga.
She spins the yarn and memorizes my verses…
I got into hot water in the offices of Izvestia.
They said, Do you know what happens after you write a poem like that Three men come for you in uniform.
We live beyond the 100th kilometre, sitting out things in these savage times. […]
[ page 110 / 111, 27 long lines long ]
Born Sydney 1923. Many publications, including two novels for children, criticism, biography. Poetry books include Immanent (Lyrebird Writers, 1951), Three Men of Sydney (Angus and Robertson, 1955), Hails and Farewells (Edwards and Shaw, 1977). Edited Australian Bush Ballads with Douglas Stewart (Angus and Robertson, 1955). Member of Literature Board and later Chairperson, Member of Order of Australia.
The Three Ring Circus
Ring one — The three ring circus
My sharp-brained, tart-tongued mother is old and potty
At ninety-one. Her hair flies like white cloud,
(She always wore an ‘invisible net’), all spotty
With milky coffee the front of her clothes no matter
How kind and careful the nurses. Her fingers fumble,
Her mouth mumbles and drops burst out in a spatter.
The nurses love her because she does not cry out
But sings them French songs I’d never heard her sing. […]
Ring two — Sing no French songs for me
Miss Elspeth Kelsey, my mother’s governess
Taught her most exquisite French, and singing games.
She, in her nineties, crazed and memory-less
Twists her fleshless fingers into frames
And flickering signals from her schoolroom time,
Caricaturing childhood with jingle and rhyme.
Six sous ci
Six sous fa
Six sous sont ces
Saucissons là! […]
Ring three — Misunderstood, or ‘shagreen’ is pronounced ‘chagrin’
My grandfather’s old-age child and youngest daughter
Was frail and skinny and ‘spoiled’ her sisters said.
And now she’s ninety-one and they are dead.
Before she was out of the schoolroom her sisters were married —
The great beauty, barren; the elegant mother of three.
My mother put up her hair and travelled. She tarried
Bemused by Ruskin in Florence. In gay Paris
My grandmother decked her ugly duckling like a swan. […]
[ page 112 / 114, 79 lines long ]
Female spider — spider female
Legs, wicked, slender, hairy.
Her body surfaces shine.
Her own juices supply
Trap and lure and line.
Dew and early sun
Display the shapes of her cruel
Festoons in innocent trees;
She glitters, a central jewel […]
[ page 115, 36 lines long ]
Born Birmingham, UK, 1923. Arrived in Australia in 1959. She has had stories, plays and poems published in Australian literary journals and anthologies, and broadcast on British and Australian radio. Acclaimed as one of Australia’s leading fiction writers, she won the Age Book of the Year award for Mr Scobie’s Riddle. Lives in Western Australia.
Neighbour Woman on the Fencing Wire
So you’ve bought this place well let me tell you
straight away your soil’s no good all salt even a
hundred and sixty feet down and up on the slopes
is outcrops of granite and dead stumps of dead
wood nothing’ll grow there we know we’ve tried
what the crows don’t take the rabbits and bandicoots
will have your creek floods in winter and
in summer it’s dried the water’s all salt there […]
[ page 116, 22 lines long ]
Born Sydney 1925. Biographer and novelist, co-founder of the Australian Society of Authors and first executive officer 1963-71. Published The Exile (1969), Song of the Humpback Whales (Sisters Publishing, 1981). Lives near Sydney.
A likely story, she said.
You fled to Tarshish from
the presence of the Lord
and now you’re telling us
you were cast overboard.
A likely story, she said,
climbing cold into her cold bed.
In the belly of a whale! […]
[ page 117, 21 lines long ]
Born Melbourne 1927. Works as medical practitioner in Berrima, New South Wales. Has published six books of poetry and edited Poetry Australia for many years.
Waiting for the birth
She is alone now
steers haunch off head down
the old dog does not bark
head on knee he licks my hand
blue banners wave gold words
today is the cold handkerchief
across a face
a child’s nose bleeding […]
Sky is a bronze plate
on scribble gums
she makes a nest
for a thorny bed
other animals back away
watch beyond the shade […]
[ page 118 / 119, 46 lines long ]
Born Melbourne 1933. Concert pianist, critic, poet, editor and short story writer. Books of poetry include Isaac Babel’s Fiddle (1975), Kaddish and Other Poems (1982), has edited Quarry (1981) and Journeys (1982). Has travelled widely and lived in Indonesia, America and Europe. At present a lecturer in the Department of English, University of Western Australia.
MRS NOAH SPEAKS
Lord, the cleanings nothing.
What’s a pen or two?
Even if the tapirs urine
Takes the paint clean off
There’s nothing easier.
But sir, the care!
I used to dream perpetually
About a boat I had to push […]
[ page 120 / 123, 83 lines long ]
The Poet Puts It Away
Keeping his beard on, he moved
into hand-stitched shoes
7-league suits: the buckle’s
wink was dim.
Losing altitude he
entered the ‘diviner heaven of prose’:
getting closer to himself.
Out of gear […]
[ page 123 / 125, 93 lines long ]
Born Heywood, Victoria, 1933. Has published Children and Other Strangers (Nelson, 1975), Winter Driving (Sisters Publishing, 1981). Currently lecturer in Department of English, Monash University, Victoria.
And when Queen Guenevere understood that King Arthur was dead and all the noble knights, Sir Mordred and all the remnant, then she stole away with five ladies with her, and so she went to Amesbury. And there she let make herself a nun, and wore white clothes and black, and (as) great penance she took upon her as ever did sinful woman in this land. And never creature could make her merry, but ever she lived in fasting, prayers and almsdeeds, that all manner of people marvelled how virtuously she was changed.
— Sir Thomas Malory
In the cell for the dying you can see the sky,
‘Not,’ said the priest ‘to pleasure the rotting flesh
But to nourish the labouring soul
With Heaven’s symbol.’ I watch the snow.
The first of winter, soft and insubstantial,
Goose feathers drifting curled in the quiet air.
In Cornwall, storms will be whipping the black waves
As the white gulls twist in the hurling gale, […]
[ page 126 / 128, 75 lines long ]
Early this morning, when workmen were switching on lights
in chilly kitchens, packing their lunch-boxes
into their Gladstone bags, starting their utes in the cold
and driving down quiet streets under misty lamps,
my daughter bore a son. Nurses sponged him clean
as the glittering shingle of suburbs beside the river
waned to a scattered glimmer of pale cubes.
We met at half-past twelve in a ward crowded […]
[ page 129, 35 lines long ]
The Black Swans
for Ruth Blair
The children have taken the boat round the point today.
I sit on the sand with the new binoculars
trying to match the coast of this island bay
with my exile’s map. Close by, a white-faced heron
waits for fish. Each hunched in a separate need
we watch the three black swans come out to feed.
The black swans! In Jonson’s day the wits
made comic mirrors called ‘Antipodes’, […]
[ page 130, 36 lines long ]
Born Braila, Rumania, 1934. Published The Alien (Makar Press, 1973), Thirsty Weather (Outback press, 1978), two short novels under title The First Journey (1975). Works as arts administrator with the Australia Council, lives in Sydney.
A freedom fighter, she said
lighting the gas stove.
In the mountains we fought
the words stubborn
weary in the shabby kitchen
with the yellowed fridge
and the tinted photograph […]
[ page 131, 31 lines long ]
Born Maldon, Victoria, 1935. Started writing poetry in 1965. Published The Eye’s Circle (Rigmarole, 1975), Tributaries of the Love Song (Angus and Robertson, 1978) and Passengers to the City (Hale & Iremonger, 1985). Lives in London.
Passengers to the City
This morning she is travelling
eyes steeled on her knitting,
while the man next to her
from time to time turns his head,
glances briefly at the fiery wool
then looks away.
He is silent as a guard, and she
never speaks. Are they together, some pair
perfectly joined by silence?
Or are they today’s complete strangers?[…]
[ page 132, 20 lines long ]
Concerning the Fauna
When I see kangaroos on the screen,
I take in the landscape
at one miraculous jump.
It’s the same with koalas —
my stomach lifts,
I start climbing the nearest tree.
I’m an old hand now.
Once I saw a famous politician
fill a meeting-hall: […]
[ page 133, 18 lines long ]
Born Perth 1936. Poet and woodcut artist. Was poetry editor of Meanjin 1979-82, is reviewer for Sydney Morning Herald. Published A Question of Ignorance (Cheshire, 1962), Nu-Plastik Fanfare Red (University of Queensland Press, 1973), Water Life (UQP, 1976), Shadow on Glass (Open Door Press, 1978), Mudcrab at Gambaros (UQP, 1980), Witch Heart (Sisters Publishing, 1982), edited Mrs Noah and the Minoan Queen (Sisters Publishing, 1983). Lives in Sydney.
How do you know it’s the right one
Can you play it on a keyboard
On one string
Is it partial to silence
Can you exalt it continuously
Can you debase it
Can you look at it curdled and pasty
in the glass after midnight […]
[ page 134, 15 lines long ]
The letter from America
The letter from America drops in the box.
The family is impressed.
The postie walks on
uplifted by the revelatory postmark
and stamps from America.
Someone in the house
stands unlit watching […]
[ page 135, 36 lines long ]
I am in my Eskimo-hunting-song mood,
The lawn is tundra the car will not start
the sunlight is an avalanche we are avalanche-struck at our breakfast
struck with sunlight through glass me and my spoonfed daughters
out of this world in our kitchen.
I will sing the song of my daughter-hunting,
[ page 136, 26 lines long ]
Nothing lovers in their forties do together
that they don’t, you’d say, repeat.
But then, this day, what others here
so feast, rising on the lean threat
of the night apart or so taste
and toast their exquisite lot
Who else at Gambaro’s is happy
With dolphin glances serving
each other, the lovers sit, sea-delight
lightening air. […]
[ page 137, 12 lines long ]
black and white, mostly white:
a style of living
How strangely strut
on days of mild lifting air
our white refusals: watts
rammed down an eye’s well;
scorings of a traffic-glove index
chastening abandoned ways
kerbed henceforth to bear
only blanched bridals
processionally ambulant… […]
[ page 137 / 138, 36 lines long ]
Conforming right now to the norms
neither of courtship nor teaching
the open side of my face spreads out
the closed side tightens.
If this goes on
my head will be a clam slewed sideways
in all the stew of my sea-bed spaces
and will never sit straight on
such the push and wash of its element. […]
[ page 139, 31 lines long ]
The quality of fog is that it has style but no detail.
Though detected in a state of nuance, it cannot be caught at it.
I try with a 2B — softly — with a 6 or 8B — I am gradual as growing —
still there are lines, parts, separations. Fog has none.
When was a photograph of fog, a film of fog moving,
ever so diffuse, directionless, and all-round-clammy
And the incuriosity of fog is beyond everything.
There are times I want to go back to somewhere like beginning. […]
[ page 140, 33 lines long ]
Born Derbyshire, UK, 1936. Lived in Australia from 1962 to 1973. Published Time and Motion (Prism Books, 1975), News from the Front (with D. M. Thomas, Harry Chambers/Peterloo Poets, 1983), The Tenth Muse (Harry Chambers/Peterloo Poets, 1983), The Sea at the Door (Seeker and Warburg, 1985).
The Tenth Muse
My muse is not one of the nine nubile
daughters of Mnemosyne
in diaphanous nightshifts
with names that linger in the air
like scent of jasmine or magnolia
on Mediterranean nights.
Nor was any supple son of Zeus appointed
to pollinate my ear with poppy dust
or whispers of sea-spray.
My muse lands with a thud
like a sack of potatoes. […]
[ page 141, 27 lines long ]
Package for the Distant Future
Since you have dared to open this container
you must be living in some far-distant,
and I am writing from a time of earth
before your world began –
we call it the era of Modern Man
(a bit after the Cro-Magnon). […]
[ page 142, 26 lines long ]
from News From the Front*
Just as I was swallowing my valium
he ran his little finger down my spine
and made me choke. He wanted me to stare
into a looking-glass like that fat Venus
by Velazquez – to make me calm, he said:
‘Women should be calm as the moon no matter
what storms break around her.’ And certainly
the moon was there in painting after painting,
pale and anaemic like a reflection
from a ten-watt lamp. […]
‘Soror Vidante do Ceu, Florbela Espanca,
Teresa of Avila…’ She stopped. ‘Ave Maria!’
I said, and laughed, but she didn’t get the joke.
She lay there telling her fingers like a rosary
and stuck at three obscure names – all nuns,
moved to minor verse by their religion.
‘Nuns have a slight advantage over ordinary women’,
I said, ‘because they can devote themselves
to higher things. […]
*‘News From the Front’ was written with D.M.Thomas. They wrote alternating poems. These two are by S.K. eds.
[ page 143 / 144, 44 lines long ]
I don’t know why it is that lean, lanky
Travelogues of poems with careful detail —
Not too much but just enough to pin
The whole length of the Nile down say —
Generally bore me stiff. It’s not as if
I hadn’t travelled round the world myself,
By bike, and roughed it in Baluchistan
And rounded capes and horns galore. […]
[ page 144, 20 lines long ]
It seems I must have been more fertile than most
to have taken that wind-blown
thistledown softly-spoken word
into my body and grown big-bellied with it.
Nor was I the first: there had been
rumours of such goings-on before my turn
came – tales of swansdown. Mine
had no wings or feathers actually
but it was hopeless trying to convince them. […]
[ page 145, 40 lines long ]
Born Hull, UK, 1937. Widely published and anthologised in Hunter Valley publications. Lives in New Lambton, New South Wales.
Planning to leave again, were you? —
pinchpenny, ponce, pack-rat!
I caught you draggle-tailed
slinking the easy way out,
hoping for disguise
in those shapeless rags!
And what’s in your bag,
rag-tag, slag? […]
[ page 146, 21 lines long ]
Born Adelaide 1939. Published the deer under the skin (UQP, 1971), Hold, for a little while and turn gently (Island Press, 1979), Dandelion for Van Gogh (Island Press, 1985). Awarded the Harri Jones Memorial Prize 1971. Lives in Sydney.
the gulf of bothnia
in the gulf of bothnia near the top the
four to six parts per thousand
flounder & pike live
in the same ‘sea’
also seaweed & freshwater plants sit
side by side
as grandmother & grandfather on the veranda
in their rockers might have done […]
[ page 147 / 148, 40 lines long ]
subjective around lismore
beside a hill
growing a dense,
the hill growing bananas
is like a head
with a short
back-&-sides; neckhigh lumps
[ page 148 / 149, 46 lines long ]
uncle with currawongs
in a rainy kitchen
uncle with cracked
rib & concussion
a bottle a day
in the downstairs
[ page 150 / 152, 94 lines long ]
the poem films itself
Down the slimy rope into the impossible!
The insides heave somehow they got the camera down inside the alimentary tract
The poem as a historical drama or epic
by shakespeare or a drunken lamington by somebody french whose names
our memories’d glided over (elision marked by ampersand: digestion omitted)
will be filmed in prose our new technique (perfect
for moribund structuralism) The costumes
will appear to be modern, say crudely
earlymodern ashbery or o’hara (we will not know either of them well enough to differentiate) […]
[ page 153 / 154, 53 lines long ]
Born Launceston, Tasmania, 1939. Co-edited Dictionary of Australian Poets (1980). Published Universe Cat (Abalone Press, 1984). Lives in Melbourne. Works as a librarian and creative writing teacher in prisons.
The Day We Lost the Volkswagen
During a momentary lull in her head,
the poor old thing lost her grip.
The boat she was towing towed her instead
ponderously down the slip,
backwards into the water.
For a swirling moment she almost floated,
she thought of setting sail.
But her bum tilted, her britches bloated –
she was heavy in the tail –
and the sly seaweed caught her.
[ page 155, 20 lines long ]
Born Tumby Bay, South Australia, 1940. Published Trader Kate and the Elephants (Friendly Street Poets, 1982), Luxury (Redress Press, 1985). Joint winner of the Anne Elder Prize. Lives in Leura, New South Wales.
O is blonde
a pale egg
the shape of arms and legs around you
it is what we say
when we hear of death
but we say it silently of love
because then it is the shape of a bullet
it is too oval to utter […]
[ page 156, 28 lines long ]
Here are two people
walking into a room
I am inside one of them
suddenly they teeter
as if afraid
and fall on each other
like broken kites
they flap and buck
zigzagging across the floor […]
[ page 157, 28 lines long ]
As I lean over to write
one breast warm as a breast from the sun
hangs over as if to read what Fm writing
these breasts always want to know everything
sometimes exploring the inside curve of my elbow
sometimes measuring a man’s hand
lying still as a pond
until he cannot feel he is holding anything
then he dreams he is floating […]
[ page 158 / 159, 45 lines long ]
Let’s face it
Eden was a bore
nothing to do
but walk naked in the sun
but no one had any problems
to speak of
nothing to read
or lunch might seem special
even afternoon tea wasn’t invented
nor wine […]
[ page 159 / 160, 37 lines long ]
Born Adelaide 1940. Published Boy With Telescope (Angus and Robertson, 1986). Lives in Surrey Downs, South Australia.
(for Mona Lisa in the fifth lane)
Lips straight from the Quattrocento, at each end
a secret curlicue on a face as poised and round
as the smiling angel of Rheims surveying the world of men.
and a neck pure Primavera. Her green T-shirt’s skin-tight
on breasts so high and full they’re made to clasp.
Around her, four small boys of seven or eight
bob like apples in a barrel, shriek and splutter and gasp.
The echoes and reflections bounce off water and wall,
cross-currents of noise, drunken ripples of light. […]
[ page 161, 24 lines long ]
Although we loved the gentle horse whose nose
of tired velvet nudged us for rye-grass,
Antarctica come to the suburbs was what drew
us through the heat to trot beside his slow
and straining bulk or swing on the creaking cart:
only the ice-man galloped – through each gate,
bent double over the hessian-cushioned block
that weighed him down the side, around the back
and in with never a knock, boots puddling mud
over lino, till clunked on the chest-edge to teeter and thud. […]
[ page 162, 30 lines long ]
Born Sydney, 1941. Published Ritual Shift (Makar Press, 1975) and Earth Hold (Seeker & Warburg, 1978). Widely published in Australia and the United Kingdom. Died 1979.
I Had a Room
The room is still there
pale and glowing amongst the tall grass.
Once I closed the thick oak door
and the room broke itself off from the house.
Thousands of years ago.
The green-topped desk
still cluttered with papers and books
jiggles its weak leg under my moving wrist
and I am encompassed.
Even my shoe catches in that curl of worn carpet
that softly meets my urgent chair. […]
[ page 163, 24 lines long ]
Born Sydney 1942. Published Invitation to a Marxist Lesbian Party (Wild and Woolley, 1978). Lives on an Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory, where she teaches.
Evening and all that Jazz
I dedicate this cigarette to you
like the other things you lit in my life
that are burning slowly down to the end
another time I would have become
a nun out of reach of the world
the world which fades
slowly with your face into this page
I would be safe from your return
but here which knows no haven
anything can happen
the sky can open and swallow you
before my astonished gaze […]
[ page 164, 20 lines long ]
Born Zadar, Yugoslavia, 1942. Poet and artist. Published Hacedor (Planet Press, 1980), When Sunday Comes (UQP, 1982), With Open Eyes (Queensland Community Press, 1983). Lives in Brisbane.
The first sighting occurred in a rain forest
of the Congo. Being a shy creature he hid
behind thick growth.All I could see
was his brown walnut eyes
and the remarkably manlike feet.
I said ‘hello’ forgetting the speech
rehearsed for such a meeting. Sounds
of crashing timber warned me he was fleeing.
I’m no longer part
of that expedition, having shifted
my interests on the psychic life of ants
(for which you never leave home) […]
[ page 165 / 166, 72 lines long ]
Born Bondi, New South Wales, 1943. Published The Incurable Romantic (Outback Press 1979), She Moves Mountains (Redress Press 1984) and Doherty’s Corner, the poems of Marie Pitt. Currently working on a biography and selection of the poems of Mary Fullerton (‘E’). Lives in Sydney and works in community health.
Why we didn’t go away on the long weekend
Let us go away for the weekend he said
out of the city
into the high country
after all we went to england to see the snow
and didn’t – you arrange it
rang up trains – waited 6 hours for some one
to say hullo – rang up again to enquire times/
bookings etc. meanwhile
governments rose / fell there were 2 coups,
1 1/2 rebellions, a revolution – nearly – the
president died – long live the king. […]
[ page 167, 29 lines long ]
Call Around and See Us
I am alone
the house is empty
& creaks like people
the greeks next door
but one are having a barbeque
I hear them through the
cracks singing loudly
they sound happy
I stood for a while
feeling the warm skin
of the frangipani flowers […]
[ page 168 / 169, 68 lines long ]
I Feel Lousy
Have you ever had one of the social
i caught one myself recently
rashes along the neck
for a week didn’t notice just
scratched happily away patience
i have been told is one of my better
characteristics then i felt a lump
behind the ear cancer off i go
to the doctor just a rash he said
what about the lump your lymph
glands are infected lovely name that
one more medical term to throw around
amongst lay people gave me a prescription […]
[ page 170 / 171, 60 lines long ]
Born London 1944. Published Full Circle (1970), Sparrows (Carcanet Press, 1970), Green Feet (Glandular Press, 1981). Lives on a farm at Candelo, New South Wales.
Mornings : 3
an old morning
from a nest under a diamond mirror
the cold dark
outside a new calf baaing hungry
inside I am searching for socks and a jumper
sometimes I wear only coat and gum boots
easier to find in the dark
two crimson buckets and one brown bucket
hanging above the sink
slightly to the right
one sweep of the arm takes the brown bucket […]
[ page 172, 31 lines long ]
Born USA 1944. Published Singing at Night (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1980), Letters from the North (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1985). Farms at Denmark, Western Australia.
I never got on with my father.
He had these sayings
like dont do as I do just do as I tell you to do.
My mother was always telling me if I didnt mind
he’d whip me.
And he’d come home and you never knew when he was coming
and I had to take my pants down and get over his knee —
on my bare can just like that.
First time I came to her house was on a Sunday
and they were all round the table.
It was like I never saw a family before. […]
I wasnt making any money. I couldnt pay nothing.
I was making nothing no matter how much I sold.
My ulcers were bleeding and I didnt even know I had them.
That’s when I decided to get out.
So I get my tools again you know woodwork.
And I just go round and say you need any work done?
I walked miles goddam miles.
Then someone says yeah I got a job. […]
[ page 173 / 174, 39 lines long ]
Born Townsville, Queensland, 1945. Aboriginal political activist who works as freelance consultant on social issues. Has published Love Poems and Other Revolutionary Acts (Saturday Centre). Harvard graduate with Doctorate of Education. Lives in Sydney.
boils over in the kitchen
you stand at the front door
your baby in your arms
next youngest twisting at your skirts
you listen to the man
from the Australia Party
asking you to become a candidate
in the forthcoming election — […]
[ page 175 / 176, 66 lines long ]
from Love Poems
like the look of you/
moving easily in the street/
stopping to notice the clouds/
the cut-price clothes
in store windows;
Eyes slipping stealthily sideways
to catch your own image in the windows/
as you pass
to make sure you look
as good as you feel. […]
[ page 177, 21 lines long ]
Born Keith, South Australia, 1945. Published My Mother and the Trees (Angus and Robertson, 1977). Has won several scholarships to Italy to study antiquities. Lives in Adelaide.
My Mother and the Trees
She shook the doormat free of dogs,
struck the tank to measure water, as she
marshalled us with iron buckets
to carry rations for the trees.
From fibres of air, she wove
us there the hope of leaves,
and in the flat and tepid dust
she dreamed a dwelling place of shade. […]
[ page 178, 12 lines long ]
Born Townsville, Queensland, 1945. Published books include Poems from the Paddywagon (Cochon, 1973), The Medium (Khasmik Enterprises). Lives in Scarborough, Queensland.
To all believers everywhere I am part of your barnyard.
I refuse to be perfect. I’m no / cool bold baby – I reject
the literary bib. I’ll swap no spoon nor keep
forecasts. I’ll not write the kind of lullaby, the one
set to hold wolves at bay.
I guess you could say, what use, what earthly
measure breaks bread with such hot air? Other
glad/bags of air & their country cousins, that’s who. […]
[ page 179 / 180, 45 lines long ]
Born Sydney, 1945. Her books include Adrenalin Flickknife (Saturday Centre, 1974), Ventriloquy (Sea Cruise Books, 1981), Alphabetics: Children’s Stories on Language (Saturday Centre, 1985). Works as a teacher and lives in Sydney.
this must be the fifth bloody time this month ive spent the day sittin in this corridor, its a real cold hole deadset. might as well be in Siberia, as if theyd care all them jerks of teachers sittin with their bums on top of the heaters in the classroom all day. she said that Miss Lovall i’m putting you out here near my office for your own good Cheryl, yeah i say theres no need to bung it on i get the picture, that will be enough she said Cheryl, here is a book of maps for you to draw, this will keep you busy, i want you to complete the first ten maps before lunchtime, you might learn something. at least when you’re holding your pen you might be able to hold your tongue. […]
[ page 181 / 183, 2.5 pages long, in prose ]
stacking it/another suicide
on the death of Anne Sexton
and so the poet, spluttering potential
accepts her clot/ignites the requirements
and motors into death:
Muse has no more gears to steer
her into one more poem, the empires
Dido knew the logic
each death has its own
fashioned wardrobe; bridges
and ovens, rivers and General
Motors Ford […]
[ page 183 / 184, 40 lines long ]
she had more friends
than you could fit
into the back of a truck
that’s why she didn’t mind
leaving them parked
on a cliff edge
while she went
for a stroll
with the brake in her pocket
[ page 184, 9 lines long ]
there were so many books, she had to separate them to avoid being overwhelmed by the excessive implications of their words, she kept hundreds in a series of boxes inside a wire cage in a warehouse, and hundreds more on the shelves of her various rooms, when she changed houses she would pack some of the books into the boxes and exchange them for others that had been hibernating, these resurrected books were precious to her for a while, they had assumed the patinas of dusty chthonic wisdoms, and thus she would let them sit on the shelves admiring them from a distance, gathering time and air. she did not want to be intimate with their insides, the atmospherics suggested by the titles were enough, sometimes she would increase the psychic proximities between herself and the books and place a pile of them on the floor next to her bed. and quite possibly she absorbed their intentions while she slept. […]
[ page 185, 2 pars long, prose, .75 of a page long ]
Born New York City, USA, 1946. Published Death as Mr Right (Friendly Street Poets, 1982), Indian Movies (Hyland House, 1984). PhD Columbia University. Teaches and lives in Adelaide.
from Towers of Silence
The shadows circle back and out of sight.
Below, the priest unlocks the park.
The dead above lie open to the light.
The relatives have spent the night
listening to the dogs of memory bark.
The shadows circle back and out of sight.
The Parsees bury grief, they slight
the sleepless worm, the quick, efficient spark.
The dead above lie open to the light. […]
[ page 186, 18 lines long ]
It’s cool in the hills,
breezes dart through houses like trapped birds
beating glass till they’re free.
Its clean up there. Smog doesn’t rain
across the garden, smudging the birds of paradise,
fingerprinting the windowsills.
It’s calm in the hills when the frenzied heat
in the town bullies pedestrians.
The north wind eggs it on: […]
[ page 187, 26 lines long ]
Thuy Ai Nguyen Thi
Born Quang Nam, Vietnam, in 1947. Won poetry prizes at high school and at the University of Saigon, where she studied law. Came to Australia in 1982 as a refugee. A member of the Huong Viet Pen Group, her poems are published in Vietnamese magazines and newspapers. Lives in Sydney.
The Quôc Bird*
Coming back, I follow the old path
Weeds cover the way where there used to be flowers
A thousand clouds accompany me,
insist on walking me to that mountain.
The small bird gets woken,
shaken from the deep of a gold dream.
Listening to footsteps on the damp ground, he thinks
raindrop? tears? […]
* In Vietnam in legendary times, a king lost his land and went into exile. It is said that when he died his soul returned in the form of the quôc bird. In the Vietnamese language, ‘quôc’ means ‘homeland’.
[translated from Vietnamese by Dao Nguyen and Susan Hampton]
[ page 188, 21 lines long ]
Born Brisbane 1947. Published The Brineshrimp (UQP, 1972), Washing the Money (Angus and Robertson, 1986). Farms outside Canberra.
A festive poem
Balanced precariously on the backs of chairs
tacking awkwardly strung together Christmas cards
to the pelmet,
with thumbs feeling like pressed-out putty
and the kids scrambling,
squealing ‘We can touch the ceiling!’
The time of the year we damn auntie
for her ‘thought that counts’ gift of gussies
and brightly choke
our stunted sheoak with tangled lights
only to see them bad-connectedly go
[ page 189, 21 lines long ]
Born 1948. Published Child on the Rocks (Khasmik Enterprises, 1975).
‘What do you think those big balloony things are the
ballerinas are carrying?’ asked Sidney,
‘Probably tu-tu bags,’ I said, leaning over the Opera
House rails to get a better look, ‘They all look so fresh,
their parents look tired,’ I stated. ‘The darkness of the
harbour was powdered with decorative light bulbs around
the walking area. Some mini ballerinas giggled as they
held their small silver trophies close to their chests.’
Their hair was piled up like debutantes. […]
[ page 190 / 191, 60 lines long ]
Born New York City, USA, 1948. Published Living Alone Without a Dictionary (Makar Press, 1974), has work in Island in the Sun (Sea Cruise Books, 1980).
You try to get out of the fear
you try to get out of the fear
by going into it
like quicksand it holds you
like a mother it will not let you
all year long you woo it
like a father it tells you to keep on
for one day you will marry it […]
[ page 192 / 193, 39 lines long ]
I am sitting on a staircase. Below me, steps rise and fall. Above me,
the pattern repeats itself. I am a figment of my own imagination. I
The room around me, down the stairs and to the right is full of green
couch. And the one window which hides a fence which attempts to
hide the next house (which is probably constructed of green couch) is
clothed in brown velvet.
If you were to sit on the couch there you’d be facing a black and
white picture of an impossible edifice, a water mill constructed of
three levels separated by pillars. Look again. The water flows into […]
You asked me what it was like, being married, and I told you it was like sitting on a staircase, below me the steps rising and falling. Above me, the pattern repeated itself and I rested like a slow intermission.
The room around me, down the stairs (if you’re inclined to literal motion) and to the right was full of green couch. If you sat on the couch — I used to invite people into my marriage and they’d sit on the couch, surrounded by earth colours, also comfortable abstractions of earth. Lips moved up and down, voices rose up and down the steps.
This was my landscape. […]
[ page 193 / 194, 42 lines long ]
Born Trier, West Germany, 1948. PhD University of Wiesbaden. Works as radio journalist and critic. Chairperson 1986 Writers’ Week Committee of Adelaide Festival of Arts. Lives in Adelaide.
For weeks they did nothing. They lay in hot rooms on whose
ceilings, at night, the streetlamps contrived strange patterns.
Lilies, moons, star-cores.
They read books whose expansive style embraced whole worlds
particularly their uncertainties. Read without dreaming. Outside
the landscape brooded. People scratched hay together, bundled it
into squares. Olives ripened, and grapes. […]
[ page 195, 33 lines long ]
Born Sydney 1948. Trained as an architect, now teaches art. Published Were All Women Sex Mad , Italy, Leaving Queensland and The Train (the last with Barbara Brooks, 1983). Active in the Poets Union and is the publisher of Sea Cruise Books in Sydney.
Drawing The Fruit
the children draw the pineapple
and paint it yellow or orange
more simply and clearly than the other fruit.
they put in the fruitbowl
under the fruit but not around the fruit.
the fruit are on the bowl not in it.
they sweep through the classroom
which is quieter after they leave than before
they order things by uprooting everything
they put things where they should be
they don’t leave them where they are.
[ page 196, 12 lines long ]
What a man, what a moon
What a man, what a moon, what a fish, what a chip, what a block, what a mind, what a tool, what a drive, what a car, what a tent, what a pitch, what a scream, what a joke, what a suit, what a flash, what a view, what a jump, what a pain, what an arse, what a tree, what a trunk, what a boat, what a sea, what a blue, what a song, what a root, what a jerk, what a pump, what a drink, what a mouth, what a guy, what a doll, what a smash, what a hit, what a fight, what a fuck, what a rock, what a ring, what a stone, what a jar, what a whack, what a jaw, what a sheet, what a mess, […]
[ page 196, 17 printed lines long ]
You show me your child. You’re standing so close to me,
whispering. I can feel the hard material of your harsh black
suit and your bony elbows underneath it. You are controlled.
You look controlled. You’re about to tell me the tragedy. We
look at the child with dark eyes and dark hair. I look at
your wife standing behind you. She’s blind. This must be the tragedy.
I grab your elbow out of pity. The wife and now the
child. But you smile and say. No, the child can see — isn’t she
beautiful. The child isn’t tragic, you and I are tragic. […]
[ page 197, 34 lines long ]
The Map of the World
The map of the world is felt from the inside. Rough around the coastlines and smooth over the hills and sand dunes. Warm and moist through the rivers which lead outside to the forests like long hair then sparser like shorter more bristly hair to the touch. Reading a globe of the world with its topography in relief. Reading with the fingers as though blind. Feeling it with the back, down the spine. Making contact with the nipples and the nose only. Moving at a fast rate underwater through the oceans and large lakes. […]
[ page 198, 12 lines long ]
We could smell the salt in the air at Parramatta
That was where the city began in those days
Then everything had a kind of sameness until we hit the city
Everything seemed old and dirty, running beside the tram tracks.
Newtown seemed particularly old and Redfern not at all red or fern-like
This was one idea of old, but not like the mountains which were ancient.
And in between this old and this ancient was European old and the
Of the Mediterranean and Asia. But I didn’t know that, it was a blank
for me like Parramatta […]
[ page 198 / 199, 42 lines long ]
END of section 2 of 3