Archived in Pandora
from Meuse Press –
A selection of work arising from 2 workshops at
Dangar Island in March/April 2017.
FEATURING: Lorraine Bower, John Brinnand, Kim Core,
Penny Gibson, Gabrielle Higgins, Garry Robert McDougall,
Margaret Mahony, Alison Miller, Frances Paterson, Ian Pettit,
Kerri Shying, Peter J Wells, Michael Williamson & Kathryn Yuen
I want to be somewhere else. I’m knee deep in bushes
bracing against angophora’s dark bulk
in the cold, smoke curls round the rim of an overhang,
carrying the scent of roasted meat,
shadows swirl behind loose-limbed figures,
air carries the cadence of an unknown tongue,
there is laughter, eyes mirror firelight,
a branch crack is a bullet, a glider thuds to a nearby trunk.
Later, the figures sleep, curled around embers dying to charcoal
beneath rock, sky and constellations,
as wind shakes the trees, water laps the shore,
the dreamers, fire, night, stars, are one.
I am no companion in this scene. My intangible self is drawn here,
to taste the ashes in my mouth.
The overhang is ghostly grey, roof time blackened with soot.
Where oars have dipped the river ruffles,
air curves around space left by the dispossessed.
Walking along the path I look back,
but there’s nothing except the wind, and water lapping the shore.
Where elements rule ancestors replenish.
In the high country, spilling from fragile shelters,
they crackle over frost into remoteness
undreamt by the domesticated.
This evening, in bitter sleet kangaroos grow dark and hunch.
At camp, resinous plumes conjure fitful sleep and fancy
from wells deeper than imagination's reach.
A dingo, singed, nostrils stuffed with soot,
sprints through flaming pillars of button grass,
re-telling gunpowder dreaming: massacre, exile, grog,
spirit punctured, taut, thin.
Mid-morning, reluctantly descending from Murray Gap,
the metered clap of my footfall deepens the silence.
To the left, the high side of the track,
a stirring sweeps windless treetops, quickening breath.
Sun shafts pierce the canopy, magnifying vault and volume,
illuminating the crack between reality and reverie.
Like a becalmed sailor, cheek tuned for faintest puffs,
I'm alert when the song breaks, then floods.
The same forever song: stalking country like a ghost,
re-weaving with hypnotic fugue.
It passes quickly, drafting my reluctance.
Lay On Me... and/or Taking Direction
it’s like Atlas carrying
upon his shoulders
Jesus, nailed to the Cross
it’s like wanting something
put me in the lion’s den
it’s like I can
it’s like we’re in a sonnet
like we are in
the question why/how?
my nanna’s house number
mine as well
you explain that! Some
people are just born
for the job
delivering babies was
bringing them up
was the challenge
I could’ve been
the King of England –
I could’ve been the Pope
the Captain of a ship
the Captain’s mate
Black trunks lean towards each other, consoling.
Through years of drought, they husbanded their strength,
survived north winds and lightning strikes
surrounded by the rough charcoal scribble
of fires. In a landscape of black twisted remains
stark branches mourn
but below, new leaves scramble up blackened bodies,
thick, and quick with life. In another country,
newly widowed women stand gaunt
and solitary, staring with glass-dry eyes
at the burnt out remains of home. Beneath their feet
small blue and white star flowers nod,
hopeful as spring. The dull eyes of the women
search endlessly for their children.
pushes at my clingy soiled-ness:
I am not the tight white buds,
strong in their thin layered folds.
the whispered shouts
of the pale pink blossoms,
the very-here rock daisies
remind me, but of what
I can't be sure,
as I seek reassurance
by the mouthful in
the crowding ordinary,
to fill the chasm
Sometimes though, sunlight
dances through the leaves,
soothing the infant in me,
as I watch the evident wind.
Previously published New Shoots
Garry Robert McDougall
From teahouse peak, rollercoaster ride
besides gorse, because
Portomarin moved from time to time
underwater cause, applause missing,
aa their town drowned
turned back men and women
mourn the dam-to-damn hours
by Helculean estate.
by women's gaze, damned tears
a cause for men's applause
from time to time,
Portomarin moved to gorse hill,
history's teahouse tilt to hill,
cathedral stones journey
Pilgrims walk over hollow hill,
the missing buried 'neath tears,
wayfarers waving, cafe applause
spare ribs and hymns at source,
Portomarin's pilgrims turned away
all regret, no doubt, strides
*Portomarin is a small ancient town in Galicia, on the pilgrimage route to Santigo de Compostela, Spain.
One year on
no trouble passing
to hold on to
did I do well
or slip through
I’m still displaced
outside I’m a stranger
do I wait
or make it happen
will one foot
always be in the past
if I could find the thread
I’d cut it
I will grow old here
but still not sure
how to do it
I never knew.
“You’re the daughter I never had”.
It’s said almost as an aside
to the aide holding the door
as we leave the Home.
I don’t think she knows
how much it meant
to hear those words
from my mother-in-law.
“I only had two sons”.
I nod to her summation.
Then “you’re the daughter
I never had…”
We glide out of the shade.
She: frail and ninety,
me: pushing her chair
together into the sun.
I know too much.
in the summer heat
like a drooping rose-
fills the air,
one day at a time”.
“She’s my only love.
I don’t think of
The future without her”.
Fig at Number 28
Up the hill a strangler fig fills up the block
at Number 28; I write a letter and there
it sits, a white corella, posted home, unread,
while special fig wasp pollinates, and seeds
crunch inside tiny packets of jam. I lean
into his wrinkled limbs, spread and tapered from
the air, to ask him what he ate. Strangler figs
swallowed whole the clay-baked temples of Angkor.
Two leaves sprout from an under-ledge and cities
fall to their knees, less polite than the five-lobe fig
of the old world, a public leaf on a private part.
In the maw of the new, old names survive,
Daranggara in Dharawal. Draughtsman’s
pencil rasps against the straight-edge of the rule;
he freely draws his lines across a pulp of wood
but cannot feel the form of land, its flow, the creek
which drops from pool to pool, which carves with reckless hands,
wreck to regularity. The houses line up
on the hill, disciples to the road. The fig
has grown beyond their tidy mantra as he rains
syconia down. At 26 and 30, twin-
-trunked treelings racket round; the staunch fig
holds his place but cannot draw the line; he can
be chopped like Figtree’s fig to clear the empty block.
I am anchored at Flint and Steel Reef, at the base of West Head
Bathed in the pearly summer sheet of full moon as slowly bled
On the horizon are flashes of lightning, trying to spear
Mako sharks, Southern bluefin tuna, Portuguese man-of-war
Remnant harpoons in knobbly head humpback whales as they give birth
After they migrate from krill feed, cavort, to tropical dearth
Of food where they mate and produce young, suckle, fill up their lungs
I feed out line, baited with fresh prawn, on the run-out tide, tongue
Of squid finds prey, latches on with suckers, I bring it aboard
And hook it gently, balanced through its mantle and in accord
With light sinker, cast its translucence upon the brisk water
I hope the storm clouds won’t zero in on me with their slaughter
There is a quick tap on the nylon line and I hook the fish
Play it carefully and bring on board five kilograms of bliss
In the landing net, it is a jewelfish, named for its ears’ pearls
Jewfish or mulloway, dilated eyes lunar, scales are whorls
Of silver and a refracted purple, orange-tinted mouth
I saltwater fill a bucket, hold the fish’s head, uncouth
Cut deeply into its gills to its backbone, the fish evokes
Her childhood in the mangroves, learning to ambush as she strokes
Among roots, plays with her family, from enemies she hides
She dreams of adult playgrounds, sunken hulls, rock reefs, beaches wide
To hit her stride amongst clean curls of waves, currents and curved rips
Finding kelp on gravel to chase yellowtail, grasp with her lips
She learns to dance a waltz and pirouette to a humpback’s song
Her tail is ‘en pointe’ as she spins across the stage: “Am I wrong
As ‘Anna Karenina’ to seek freedom from a husband
Who is conservative, dull as a fishing knife with a band
Of rust?” She perceives the veil is falling, like a climax, flecks
Of celestial bodies as her mind joins the rotten wrecks
Bury the Lede
We are our own stories now
unpinned from places times
sans the facts minus the figures
people trade in futures
please don’t tell them
more rustic hocus pocus superstition
fit for peasants those that
don’t have one foot stuck hard in the IT door
the element of suspense drained
our once-wetland of wonder shoved
into the twenty-four-hour news
cycle day-in day-out no rinse all spin
when you take the delicates from the pillowcase
where they used to hang it all just looks tawdry
the story it is me
the story it is me and you
the story it is
how I feel about
me-and-you-against -the world
who I say the world is
what I see from this pile
this stuff and nonsense heap
minus a yard and give or take these forty acres and a mule
they fought for freedom
other ways to measure land
fibre air and sea no space
but here inside
hell what a balcony
out here on the terrace
we sit exclaiming what a view
Peter J Wells
When he said Harris she heard
Paris and willingly agreed
but thought it strange when he found
a cottage by the sea;
before too long
her hopes were stranded
on his Scottish isle, with no boulangeries
no French-filled Latin Quarter
just one wood stove
in the workshop
keeping out the mist
the damp while
he spent days
his tribute to
from the hollows
of his dreams; long fingers
calloused by the stone
and bone of art
ain’t this fine, he said one day
in long black coat and slippers
well it ain’t Paris, she replied
but fine you say and fine it is
across our treeless isle,
all cairn and stone
across the ground,
all wafer thin pathways
down which we walk
and sing our songs
our ragged rhyme
ALIVE AT NIGHT
Living in sharp sketches,
proficient empty, blind, after
the tight blur of the office, I need
to roam my own verandas and see
openness. Next door her clarinet's
purple moods overture the moving sky.
Evening clouds are rusty, patched stone-wash
blue, though half-past nine at night
Silk grey curtains swoop along
deep horizons, over chinks of saffron lights.
A table cloth of lightning flaps
over the whole land, a flash of silence
suspended for the dawdle of sound, yet no
thunder. Every two minutes a spark
cruises up across the darkening south.
Around the night, the surf of traffic.
The giant shawm of a closer jet
fades into a distant rubble of sound.
Behind, a dark blue siren thrills itself
shut. Almost at arms' length one more
white and ruby chandelier roars over
our nightfall valley. As I bend back to see,
my metal chair screeches to end
this chronicle of sky and flight
Dark time rings. Timelessness
ticks in the shadows, and with one step
into his night sky, enters our possum.
Ode to a poem I’m TRYING very hard to like
Who the f#%k is Derrida?
…sorry I believe it’s pronounced Deruda
Like the airline? Hah.
And who do Sappho and Batho think they are?
Why do you keep appearing in poems
I’m trying so hard to like??
You three have trespassed
onto my private poetry haven!
Nuked my pleasure.
Like nose rings and nipple
rings and ‘greek flute’ rings
on a Christian minister or
You don’t belong!
Get! and take Icarus with you!
DBS (or apology for the poem I just wrote)
Homer of Simpsons
And MadMen of TV
Turn polite and attentive to
their partners or comforters
Like mere mortal males
There is an uncomfortable
Dangerous Buildup of Sperm
During the ratings and mating
a Rorschach blot on
Brad Pitt’s butt.
The inkings of a drug-sick
Who’d rather paint walls flyyyyy
Icarus with concrete boots and
wings stiff with copious birdshit there are
Turns of phrase to end hostilities or
Kiss away sorrow or tweak pleasure Words
Re-created as a hard bowel movement ahh
The alchemy of turning honey into $%#^!
Is ordinary everyday immanence.
MEUSE PRESS publishes this collection.
All work © the authors.