Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Last Day of Earth

The sky is a terrible colour to make the two girls cry,
but I sign that it is colour of lemon juice.
Other happy yellows I can remember
jonquils in winter daffys in spring
a plastic sippy cup passed between them as babes
the liquid gold of sun in winter entering a room.

Anyway, it’s a day and what is there to do
but go to the outside laundry
take the wet clothes from the machine
and hang them out to dry,
bring in yesterday’s sheets.
I shall teach you my children
how to survive the end of the world:
first you take one corner, then you take another
and you walk together like this,
it’s a dance.

Tiger doesn’t want to help, misery gutsing,
but Sibbi, the youngest, likes the work.
You sleep in the sheets, I sign to Tiger’s face. You sleep here,
you can help. I am not your slave.
We stew tea, eat the last of the bread.
When will Daddy be home? Sibbi signs.
I press my thumb in my palm, dip my finger: Later.

I fill the kitchen sink with water
look out the window at that awful shrinking sky.
Tiger stands beside me, picking up a towel.
Sibbi squirms in under my arm.
I draw them to me and we take it in turns to
name the colour
with our fingers:

Dandelion, duckling, bananas, best dresses.

Sicky-bub, I think. 
Urine stain 
weeping pus
Tomorrow it will burn.

I sing them to sleep in cool clean sheets.
Everything I have ever made,
I have made with these hands, even their names.
Even the song of their names.
When finally they drift off
the silence I live in is complete.
I wait for their father to come home.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Profit and Loss

"You taught me language; and my profit on't 
Is, I know how to curse." 
Shakespeare, Tempest

my own words
splinter from my
daughters' tongues
the curse I taught them
profit and loss

I have given them spears
they will hunt
the little birds

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


She comes home and a man says
you can’t live here anymore.
Before she has a chance to look inside
at the furniture poised for flight
(coffee tables on ballet feet tiptoing about,
all the silly wingback chairs looking for a way out)
he shuts the door.
Three children play watchfully at the garden’s edge
and they are almost her children –
oldest girl with dust-brown hair,
middle child with starfish eyes
round morphing toddler made of both his sisters,
his hair cut in a perfect bowl
with blunt scissors.

She has stayed too long staring, the man appears
at the window and shoos her away,
curious neighbours have begun to gather.
She looks around and doesn’t recognise a soul.
She waves herself on, ‘Never mind,’ she calls,
‘My mistake.’ Are the children sorry to see her go?
Who knows. The oldest scoops the youngest up,
the baby wraps his arms around his sisters neck.
They keep playing, in murmuring whispers,
their serious game. She walks up the driveway.
They disappear into the outsized ornamental grasses.

As she walks up the road it as is if she is dragging
something conspicuously heavy behind her.
The faster she walks the more it’s there
until it grows its own shadow.
Oh, she says, taking a breath, It’s you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Elise in Emptytown

On Oakwood Street Elise walks down
to meet her friends outside the shop,
flips open cokes and drinks them down,
there’s no one home in Emptytown.
She’s made for more than this she hopes.
For now she doesn’t say a lot.

She’s not fifteen, knows nothing much
of science, maths or poetry.
School drags on and stays the same. Such
a pain. Sometimes she longs to touch
the boy beside her (any boy).
She lives for friends and loyalty.

On Saturdays her parents drink
they start up early afternoon
Dad begins: ‘You know, I think…’
opening beers over the sink.
Elise can’t have the girls around.
Not Beth the gossip, staring June.

Elise walks down to meet her friends
They loll and watch, they wait for boys
discuss the ones they like. “Depends!
Girls, do you want boys? Or men?”
Elise likes Tom but doesn’t say.
She’s easy lost inside the noise.

Weekends, down the hill they come.
What secrets in Kasey’s house, or Beth’s?
People say June’s dad left her mum,
and Emma’s dad, he’d prefer a son.
There’s no one home in Emptytown.
Her fists are clenched. She holds her breath. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Solitary Dung Beetle and the Vast Milky Way

A beetle tumbles its elegant wad
guided by the galaxy’s streaky rim,
diffuse directional cue or distant god?

Head down, moving steady but backward,
kicking the ball along with his hind limb.
a beetle tumbles its elegant wad

in straight lines. He stops to climb aboard.
and looks to the stars. (Do the stars observe him?
Diffuse directional cue or distant god?)

He knew a god once, when he was a word
drawn on walls: scarab beetle, painted twin.
A beetle tumbles its elegant wad

and considers the whole universe, plaid
patterning of the stars, high and pale and thin
diffuse directional cue or distant god?

But time stops for no beetle. Plod plod plod.
Before sky goes dark and stars grow dim
(diffuse directional cue or distant god?)
a beetle tumbles its elegant wad.

Based on this article, linked to on twitter by @bluemilk 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pelicans, Melbourne Zoo, Australia Day

When I get home I read that they starve their babies,
feeding only the biggest fledgeling,
that boy pelicans attract girl pelicans
by throwing sticks and dead fish into the air,
that they kill other birds, 
pinning them underwater till they drown,
and they have invaded Indonesia.

I can imagine them at K-Mart,
lining up to buy the singlets, the boxers,
the stubby holders,
the temporary tattoos.

How soft I feel in front of them,
how tender hearted and pulpy, 
sipping my latte,
perambulating my undersized young.