Archived in Pandora - National Library of
from Meuse Press –
Australian Poetry runs an exciting series of national e-workshops with some of the country’s leading facilitators.
This edition includes work from some of those participating in an AP e-workshop in August 2014.
Coastlines Poetry is an energetic group run out of Brighton Library, Melbourne. They meet monthly
and held a workshop there in December 2014.
An intensive small group workshop was held in Melbourne the next day.
Here is a selection from all three events.
FEATURING: Sherryn Danaher, Wendy Fleming, Jennie Fraine,
Barbara De Franceschi, Christopher Konrad, Janice Lawton, Garry McDougall, Cecilia Morris,
Barbara Orlowska-Westwood, Anne Pettit, Laura Jan Shore,
Ruth Teicher, Anne Thompson, June Torcasio, Margie Ulbrick,
Jim Walton & Deborah Williams
The First Attempt
Night stealth smoulders as
we inch towards the stream
in that exposed green field,
to hours of refuge,
welded to a solitary palm
prominent as the sacred stupa.
Fugitive to soldiers’ sights.
Sweep of their torchlights like
fireflies through our veins.
your father and I
sternum to spine,
bate our breaths.
my warm, swaddled hump,
your wisps of exhalation
speak into my nape.
suppresses your cry,
discerns danger of soldiers’ shot,
till tired of the hunt,
they grudge their retreat?
time separates our bodies
from our perpendicular lair.
Onwards to the river
Escape craft gone.
I'm drinking rosé wine after the film, at Balwyn Cinema, its
wide staircase, chrome railings, black and silver geometry blazed
on mirrors, glass, my glass. My wine has to be rosé. I have to be
alone, an Edward Hopper image, last person in the café window.
Old picture house, a black and white film and I'm reeling
back to how it used to be , protest songs, jazz, underground
in Collins Street; Hungarian refugees teaching us to love
wine, Burrows rhythm, hi-pitched trumpet . Where to next?
Anywhere away from the incessant noise, bombardment
from those who overtook the plot imagined its unfolding
Yellow hordes of reds swarming down Asia to Australia.
We listened with fear then finally learned to yawn.
Now it's that time of day when the wind has dropped,
overhanging bushes flicker shadows on the path, there's
an unusually long pause between trams, the occasional car slinks
past with ease of a cat. I'll cross the road, start walking up the hill
then I'll stop, rewrite the scenes, a long straight road slicing
through empty landscape, splice Charlie and his son to journey
through mean hearts, failure and splendid resolution
It won't be long. The wait for metaphor. I'll let go, surrender
to forgiving air and joy’s surge, alone and free.
Whenever the heat beat
the fight out of even
the toughest grevillea, or
the tanks groaned and screamed
with the effort of drawing water
from a sluggish River Murray,
Dad's watercolour vision
of the school's front garden
provided an alternate universe
of mild weather, certain rains.
I imagined lying cushioned on
the leaf-green lawn at its centre.
There were to be cheerful
flower beds, natives and hardy
immigrants bonding in rich
alluvial soils, creating
with entwined arms a space
freedom, harmony, peace.
Their sturdy growth would
new world order.
This was a painting steeped
in soft Spring sunshine.
Yet one thing he left out:
a fountain healing the pain
for the garden that never
was realised, the world
that grew spiky and dry,
the resentful children crouching
on its hard clods, pulling stubborn
weeds under a blinding white sky.
Barbara De Franceschi
The mourners have gone.
Moods are a queasy drench of grey.
Muscle and bone jostle for purpose.
I need to stop the heart
from leasing its vacancy to aversion –
the loathe of all things vibrant and hopeful.
I decide to douse time in bleach,
exhaust conscious thought,
purge and clean.
Every task is meticulous,
eardrums ting with dizzy rings,
fatigued limbs shriek.
The last post – a blithe room,
floor to ceiling panes consigned to sunbeams;
an empty daybed/ its vain identity bolstered
by plumped cushions and folded quilt.
As the sun hits French doors
hand-prints are outlined – as though the owner
has interrupted a journey to lean
against the lucent panels and peer in at my pain.
I stare in a wish-haze.
Hours pass in a sting.
The hands/ so familiar/ rework reality.
Fingertips swirl in pleasurable rotations,
they speak from a place where quivers
were set on masculine scent;
ring finger has a smudged indent,
map lines between thumb and palm
decode the secrets – how flesh was kneaded
with a subtle squeeze more potent
I feel the night-push.
Yellow chamois flinches.
Touch cannot live on glass.
Trapped under a glass grey sky, like specimens
we are stuck, spinning our wheels
immobilised by mud, thick
and glutinous as the clouds that hang
above the hospital bed
of the Darling.
You refuse to accept. You leap from the ute
Dig. Drain. Reverse, one puddle
at a time while I sit, eyes closed
against the mud, the view, the future.
Can I help? I ask, reluctantly.
‘No,’ you say, ‘Stay there. I will do this!’
In the sodden paddock, sheep shiver
in a north east corner, seek
an alternative vision.
You are perpetual motion, violent
as a radiotherapy ray. Mud
splatters the seat, the dash, windows,
gearstick. The floor caked with mud
Two hours it takes, until I understand
what draws you to this country. We reverse
10 ks to safety. Turn, and lead the storm.
Sky boils, cavitates.
Rain bursts free, wind now a howl. You smile,
triumphant. A light is in your eyes.
Bandar Seri Begawan Airport
I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I ever wanted to he said
no frills, sappy solipsism or perhaps even self-awareness
just your ordinary, everyday Mancunian accent and she
skinned in Versace leather rifles through her ear ring collection
as if surveying every loaded meaning in what he’d just said. At Gate 5
freezing air conditioning inside steaming temperatures outside.
Caught in a crucible of mobiles, lap tops and boredom.
Signs of Islam everywhere and its seven hundred year reach
over this island. A Babel of languages and rustling
of papers, some unidentifiable beeps: the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Cafe
looking down over the airport lounge like a jungle Sultanate.
The Englishman’s benign comment seemed to call out to me
like the Adhan: God is Great. Has god achieved everything he wanted?
In transit the kid across from me is bent over laughing at a text
surrounded by a Weltschmerz of hijabs and baseball caps.
Versace’s killer shot himself in the mouth with a Taurus PT100.
His ashes lie neat at the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in San Diego.
I’m not sure Gianni, who made it as far as the front door
of his villa on Miami Beach, achieved everything he ever wanted either.
Time Out of Step
Time to reflect
A Trouser Ecology
In June 1944, the Marquis' or French Resistance supported the Allie's D-Day landings with uprisings against Nazi occupation. On June 12, forty-three Resistance
volunteers from the Drome's Venterol, Grignan and Valraes were captured and massacred by the SS.
Men of the Marquis
strive where the enemy dare not,
ceding the embittered valley,
our doctor tormented and shot,
teachers beaten before roses,
men shunted to German factories,
the Rhone groaning
our liberation born
of worn trousers and dirty socks.
Under night's wilt showers,
chill cascades and ice,
trousers and I on Venterol's sleeping slopes
my hot breath falling
on a cold weapon,
dreaming of my wife,
a back to stroke, fingers in hair, eyes of smoke
-cheek of the Marquis -
bare blanket only, comforts me.
Sunrise to armpit reality,
lashes entangled in sleepy pining,
forehead a palisade,
a nose for No-Surrender.
When the microscopic invades your scalp
and Nazis your land, all shall itch.
People call for action, and leaders for patience.
In the upland of soiled normality
hiding refugee, airmen and escapee,
learning regimen and drill,
pushing Will uphill to cache and carry,
our legs bearing the Baronnies,
driving our trousers to the world's end,
following the path of Free France of the farm,
hoe and rifle, plough and grenade,
ready for some-day-soon.
Won't the years run Nazi's ragged?
Our leaders speak of springs
welling beneath our dirty boots,
flowing from hills into valley,
nurturing the fruits of liberty.
But we farmers forbid optimism,
the grace to fine words -
infected toes wriggling,
knees a wildlife refuge,
thighs of toad and boar.
Itchiness is spiky time,
all of us thinking,
our trousers bearing the years
as interlude to victory.
There is an age when you are most yourself,
you feel as large as an empire.
A tall Moment .
The Moment knows exactness,
when to speak, what not to say.
Strangers at a distance table smile
as the Moment hears grace then departs.
The Past and Present takeover,
spread clock hands, adjust their
forehead locks, deliver the living timetable.
The past like rusted armour
has fallen away,
a wasted man vanished.
The road ahead buttoned with sunshine.
Sky and sea– denim
smell of eucalypts
voices from the beach
a girl at the net
crowd’s applause cut short
by umpire’s whistle
her body tense again.
Remember years away
beach volleyball at Łeba*
a fishing town
threatened by shifting dunes
its deepened valleys revealing fossils
of ancient trees, insects, animals.
From the town a day’s excursion
to the launch of Hitler’s rocket–
broken concrete, rusty rails
protrude from the sand
smell of pine sap
shattered by the seagull’s cry.
like Łeba’s shifting dunes
burying and uncovering
the fragments of the past.
*Łeba – a fishing town on the Baltic coast in Poland.
Oblivion has been bliss,
but in the haze at the periphery,
doubt now stirs, even in closed minds.
Carbon burns its way into our consciousness
and strikes an uncool balance in a delicate atmosphere.
With innate logic, it moves as always
through the structures of each being,
in carbohydrates, fats, proteins
and DNA, the stuff of genes.
Yet without us all even coming to know
and wonder at the energetic trail of carbon
- from air through plants to food to cells,
driving life powered by sun -
it seems fraught.
It’s not carbon itself that is to be pilloried,
or feared as savage chemistry unleashed.
From fuels razed to meet more extravagant energy needs
- unearthed from plants and animals long-dead,
themselves once powered as we all are still -
cast skyward as carbon dioxide,
it now warms in excess,
Reckless fortune hunters ply their trade
and would convince us otherwise,
but the future shines on our choices
to leave this carbon buried - and de-fossilize.
Laura Jan Shore
Like a hermit crab without a shell,
she skitters across the sand
to cower in the shadows —
no longer sheltered
by the barriers
of breeding and good taste,
the carapace of sophistication,
that cocktail hour sarcasm
that masquerades as wit.
Without her smouldering cigarette,
are merely gaps —
no longer the brooding
vitriol that seeped out
with her exhaled smoke.
Frail and soft,
her still-elegant hands
smooth tousled downy hair.
She sits and stares
then as if shuddering awake,
scans the beach
for another cast-off shell —
all the particulars that separate,
a dwelling place
of judgements, fears, beliefs —
but already, she’s forgotten
what she’s lost.
prev published Poetry Monash
World is stilled
Silence sits heavy
on her heart,
in and out,
in and out,
in and out,
never had she felt
The clock strikes half-past one
rain casts down
the next-door radio blares
radiator stutters snaps
the tip of the oak tree tap-raps
only my little white dog
pit pat innocent
comes to my defense
impatient to go on
a walk shoots down three flights of stairs
waits below the final step
sits then spins spins then sits
outside guzzles water drops
yippi yap happy
makes the shuddering rain
Stopping on roads in late afternoon
(after Robert Frost)
This highway a metaphor
acceleration is all.
Behemoth bearing down upon coupe
equal before the law of giving way
traffic snarls, blocked arterials
frustration, red-faced shouting
screech of brakes
relief when the way is clear
I am late for dinner, storytimes
promises broken by journey’s end.
How did we come to this?
plastic, vinyl, fatigue flickering light
spectrum reduced to red and green
ages to go before I sleep.
there’s a strange kind of sick feeling
lurks around behind my throat
makes its way up into my mouth
sounds a siren against my teeth heralds
some kind of oncoming
I don’t know where it comes from
look backwards over my left shoulder
if there’s a clue to be found
in a past that memory witholds like hide n seek
the gaze my mother never held the eyes
that looked past or through me
a stomach malnourished she nearly killed
my brother she told me once
some kind of cluelessness she explained to me
coated in shock incredulous
blameless the same kind of starving empty eyes
looked up to me the same kind of blank cold absence
must have looked back at him still not there
not here wanting things to be different wanting to be far away
wanting some other kind of life than the one she had
Transit of Venus
Slipping from the cylinder masts straightening
Quietly we abridge the floats of ice
Embarkation only a hint in the stop bottle moon
Our science is too primitive for this
Leave it to the Renaissance flummoxed oceans
Wrap their capes indifferent to journey
The long haul pulls incessantly knows its strength
In the blink of eclipse penguins ride polar bears
Boundary markers sparkle shifting spheres
Alternating helix bubble in the pharmacist’s jar
The finger’s tug in mizzen circumnavigate a myth
In deep water dreamy fluorescence makes it possible
To see the waves tumbling shoulders slipways of chance
Anchor over the palette of waxing awakening
prev published Bukowski On Rye - Mythic Poetry Series
A sliver of shore is before me, small and unremarkable.
Plain white headstones on manicured grass stand to attention around a spreading tree.
I tremble as I sink into sand, to read the final letter of Sargent Robert McHenry.
I see him as he tumbled toward the bank, just twenty-one years old, he believed in the fight.
To be cut down, his cry unheard over gunfire as his blood seeped into the soil.
There is a drop of silence as the busy backpackers and tourists stop.
I roll back one hundred years, to read Robert’s words. I falter on his final line.
‘If I ever get through this war, I will be a better fellow in many ways’.
Sargent Robert McHenry, a baker, who played footy on Saturday,
hushed before he ever reached full voice.
His final letter passed down, reveals what he never lived to say.
‘The Australian boys are looked upon as a grand fighting body of men.’
‘Never a thought of defeat enters their heads, I feel proud to be one of such a body.’
The letter flutters in my hand like a trapped bird; I see it through a blurred mist.
Those around me weep as Robert’s words echo in Anzac Cove.
We are together in kinship; the living and the dead in this sacred space.
The breeze whispers to the sea, she continues to ebb and flow beneath a huge blue sky.
I sway with her rhythm as the unbidden words reverberate.
MEUSE PRESS publishes this collection.
All work © the authors.