The NSW Writers’ Centre has proven itself over decades to be a fertile nursery for new and developing writers.
Australian Poetry runs an exciting series of national e-workshops with some of the country’s leading facilitators.
This is a selection from some of those participating in an AP e-workshop in May 2012
plus others who attended a NSWWC workshop in August 2012.
Archived in Pandora
from Meuse Press –
Benjamin Dodds, Carolyn Fisher, Fran Graham, Matthew. J. Jenkins,
Betty Johnston, Sue Jordan, Cecilia Morris, Moya Pacey,
Ian Pettit, Jennifer Sutherland, Margaret Vermeesch,
Peggy Marks Wahlhaus & Julie Watts.
Amid tour guidance
(Flemington, the MCG)
and the shorthand speak of old friends,
one of the pets they’d just picked up from
a stay at the cattery
pissed and shat itself
in the back of their Yaris.
During the letting-out of all it had held in
for two days of deaf and unresponsive silence,
it skewered me, fellow backseat passenger,
with steady sulphurous eyes.
Bell and collar tamed nothing:
what was in that box
was wild, alive and rigid with hate.
the old horse has teeth as worn as his saddle,
every morning, take him across
the road to the empty paddock where the grass
is lush and long, where he can tear
instead of nibble, won’t need to press
his greying muzzle so close to the dirt.
You’ll enjoy the short walk of his company,
as will he: singled out from the others
to push his nose eagerly into the halter, lowering
his head so you can easily fasten the buckle.
Rest your arm on his warm neck
as you wait for a passing ute,
lean into the could-only-be-horse smell of him,
see his ear turn just a few degrees in your direction,
like an old man cupping his hand, to hear
you say go on. Turn him loose and stay awhile,
watch him graze, lifting his head to sounds
of minute-to-minute living.
After a day of wandering from one
green patch to another he’ll come to your call
at a stiff-legged run, have you half laughing
half terrified he’ll stumble and fall.
He’ll wait, tossing his head as if impatience
is just another testy fly.
Spring the latch, let him nudge the gate
from your hand and rudely push past you, because
a horse on occasion lives life on his terms.
If you listen, so again will you will ring
in the rhythm of his hooves, in the routine
of him leading you home each evening.
Previously published in Island.
Rose of Sharon buds, still blind from sleep,
blink in the first rays.
Overnight drizzle stretches on foliage.
Leaves drop whisper on landing.
Eyes fresh from sleep
capture every frame.
The scent of early damp blends
with the aroma of warming soil.
Ashen half-light stirs the freshness.
Fronds grow green as the garden becomes.
Overhead, pelicans jet-stream the ether.
On the morning-dark estuary
yesterday’s feathers relax.
Like a breath-tossed paper crane
emerging from shadow
dawn turns the corner into day.
Matthew. J. Jenkins
Is there a significance to knowing
that Mark & Anna were here in 96’?
Or, the cleaver taken to your side?
A viscid two-man slice.
Your paunch torso, a gashed
penal hold for a black
no trial: skin father and kin cousin
rifle raided, from bush-camp home
– to tomb.
A confusion of law, as fear becomes
old Gadawon tree.
Shackles ring, a forever verb
against the Cretaceous bark
of your browning.
Cries in the night dark
– cruel eclipse not healing,
like your histories and fear
of a Nikon visitor.
attempting the otherworld,
to grow out of past burdens
and escape the Marks & Annas of us all.
They turned off life
support and yet it seemed life
Adopted, bawled out for wetting beds
he grew awkwardly, inheriting
no gold watch.
Liked Anzac biscuits, the cat’s silence.
Drove me to bowls, was a bit fresh with the girls
diffident, not wordy. A good kid, Col.
Got into trouble though. They said
he drank, did drugs, went too far with a girl.
Left home, not welcome
back. Turned up here one day
checked on cat and garden, hugged us
zoomed off with a tin full of Anzacs.
drunk and disorderly, grievous
bodily harm. Words
and circumstances twist our Col.
Freed then and rumours of a girl
A random car.
Gracie, she cryin,
sniffin so loud everyone lookin at er,
she louder than the plane engine and they loud.
We all sad, me, Veronica n Gracie.
Out the window the Daly look like a snake.
I trace my finger to Umbrawarra Gorge;
we high n leavin our Mary at Umbrawarra
with a bad man.
Down into red Weipa land, white Marist boys get on,
we dont look at em as we off again,
but we know they look at us.
Then we there, in green wet Cairns
ready to go up the mountain to school.
Mary not here Miss,
she not comin.
Miss too busy watchin Gracie,
she bin cryin since the Daly.
Mary taken, Miss.
Her man came to camp, said it’s time.
She no want to go Miss.
Her parents drunk, say she have to,
‘forget school, you had enough’.
We screamin then, Miss.
Our Mary run, not enough -
he tie her legs n arms,
throw her on the truck.
He beat women Miss,
he ugly ole pig drunk man.
She scream, kick and cry
she gone, Miss,
somewhere near Umbrawarra.
Quiet, we near our school now,
Cathlic boarding school
in Herberton - a town full a lotsa tin.
Gracie wanna sleep with me,
she crawl in bed
sniffing and shakin like a baby.
She worried bout bleeding,
if she start,
‘You okay here, Miss
won’t let anything happen’,
but she and me know that not true.
We all finished growing now, cept Gracie -
but she already given.
Miss dont know nothin.
Gracie scared to go home at Easter
she have to
we gotta go too.
Design for Living
The tea leaves from dreams
read before daylight
In the open living area
two large couches face to face
Wide windows frame
trees and sky turning
black and white.
Fingers in pockets
magpies stride the garden.
The hall is wide for smiles.
At night there is the sigh of leaves
outside the grass is lengthening.
The pond swallows sound.
He’s all leather and slouch
breath like cinders in my ear;
slivers of crescent moons
grime beneath his fingernails.
I liked that last one, you say
so did your father. Lovely manners
on him and a real way with words.
It’s funny how opposites attract.
In the wood, shadows fall
beyond roads and rail lines. Dark
hair; press the flesh of my milk-white neck.
Mark my words he’ll never settle.
That sort never does. This one,
well… It’s your funeral.
No mention of the fox cub
in the wood, searching for her mother.
A Fishin' and A Hopin'
All year, bar August’s cold clear water, we fish the Hawkesbury River and Cowan Creek
systems, expectantly holding those nylon or spiderwire braid lines of liaison,
waiting for the tap, tap, tap, or the tug of piscatorial communication,
the jerk to set the hooks, gently lead them in, play with them as saline freedom they seek,
the excitement of discovering the species as they lie flapping on the surface,
although the flathead’s languor, nicknamed ‘lizards’, their sawing heads, the fighting black
are characteristic, I slide the landing net underneath; aboard I cut their throats,
they bleed into a bucket of salt water, eyes glaze over, rigor mortis throttles
their muscles; in summer we anchor at dawn at Juno Point, coinciding with high
tide, downstream from Brooklyn with Lion Island visible perhaps six kilometres
out to sea, we hope to catch with their orange mouths and concave tails mighty mulloway,
also known as jew- or jewel- fish, similar in appearance to teraglin the school ones:
there are occasional monsters which grow to sixty kilos, but ours are in the two
to four kilos range, we catch up to a dozen on fresh local prawns in five fathoms;
in winter at Akuna Bay, Coal and Candle Creek, we seek the mystical hairtails,
four needle fangs in toothy jaws, eyes black discs, flattened body, silver skin without scales,
they dwell in deep, still water in the Cowan Creek system, we feed out the lines with steel
traces to the bottom and raise them two metres, wait for the characteristic pull
and let out three metres of line, count to ten, then hard in the bony mouth the hook sets,
one to two metres of thrashing whip-body lighting up the phosphorescent plankton,
lift out of the water and drop them into the landing net, sadism, gingerly
grab their necks covered by the net’s webbing, extricate the hook with a pair of pliers,
drop the fish into a bucket, remove head and guts, grill, eat buttered lemoned cutlets.
holding up both hands, Thao reveals
a fairy tale she painted
on her fingernails.
two smoky dolphins leap in blue abandon
over the half moon
crescent of her thumb.
cream peaked waves crash
across each tender finger,
iridescent silver stars cascade in pinpoint dots.
each plate clouded blue framing a picture
my design is love story
she tells me with a smile.
her eyes lift to mine
and she becomes wistful
I am probably childish?
the question hangs between us,
suspended in silence....
with a vehement reassurance,
I shake my head and tell her no.
In place of sandstone cliffs at Ballast Point
caged rocks rear up in shapes resembling ships
with warnings – No climbing or abseiling
at head and arm-stretch height around each prow
hang padlocks glinting silver in the sun
each etched with names of lovers and a date.
Of bronze or red or blue, of diverse
size, some cluster like a bunch of grapes
enlarging every anniversary
a few display a heart pierced by an arrow
a sign I’ve seen pressed in wet cement
scrawled on walls, scratched on battlements
witness to a gift that’s so astonishing
it comes with an imperative to tell the world
in song or sign in every public place.
I lost my mother in a dream last night
Peggy Marks Wahlhaus
when we walked together, did I,
careless, mislay her as I would a bag
or an umbrella?
I called her “Mom, Mommy”
her name, Sarah, pet name Sally,
“Where are you?” - I told everyone
who wondered why I was screaming:
“When she comes back, I will be so angry
with her. How could she do this to me?”
Did she vanish into the crack of infinity,
did the night open for her to thread
through the slit of the sky
using the stars for stepping stones?
She went past me through the cold cloud
of the dark of my dream
rode on the back of the night’s mare
and when I woke I tried to catch the tail
of the horse and pull it into consciousness
like a Chagall painting
of circus ponies pirouetting
for the fiddler on the roof.
But it slipped through my hands,
misted into tiny wisps of vapour
onto my face.
I will search again tonight.
Maslow and the Ladybird
a ladybird fell on my wrist
dropped from afternoon flight
to arid ridge
wandered in forest of down
bright bead on dry bone
and there, almost tapping
at the sharp-edge of shoulder
the russet tapperings
of a quickening bud
gaudy in greens
lusty with aphids
its red flags flapping.
under a leaf's juicy tip
I park my skin urge a path
but this blank speck
whichever way I spin the desert
twist to sly escape it runs amok
scuttled by coercion
dives deeper into valleys
abyss of elbow over
shifting hills of muscle
then Maslow in my ear
and I hang the long wasteland
out across the leaves
and wait for wind waft
the absence of fear
and it flys – wings
translucent as water hinged
sides of an up-turned cup
steering for a stem's high wall
it scales enters the tender summit
vermilion folds a savannah
of all libidos.
MEUSE PRESS publishes this collection.
All work © the authors.