Creatrix 45 Poetry

June 2019

Selectors: Peter Jeffery OAM and Jan Napier

Submissions Manager:Jaya Penelope

Contributors:

Kaye Brand

Ocean Harmonies

Peter Burges

A Post-Uluru Consciousness

Extinction

Gary Colombo De Piazzi

Caught by War

      On a Street

Margaret Ferrell

Flora

Kevin Gillam

on grass

Mike Greenacre

Changing Speed

Snapshots to Now

Ann Harrison

 A Story

Ross Jackson

Communion (Banks Reserve)

peter knight

blood red arose

fixation

Veronica Lake

Instant Win

Performance

Jenny Magann

Pigs Might Swim

Mardi May

Les Murray Laughs

Glad Mc Gough

King George lll Sound Albany Western Australia

Dean Meredith

 I Do It

Question the Trap as you Fall

Peta Morriss

Anomaly

Jan Napier

House Tank

Virginia O’Keeffe

Christchurch

Homesick It Is

Julian O’Dea

Leaving

Paris, April, 2019

Allan Padgett

the puppy in you

Turning Toward Goroka

Joyce Parkes

Without Others

Yvonne G Patterson

 Still Life

Barry Sanbrook

She Mourns

Norma Schwind

A Tale of Tatts

Gifts

Maureen Sexton

That Summer

Thomas Simpson

Frangipani

Native North

Laurie Smith

 One Cent from the Footpath Dust

Rita Tognini

Bête Noire

Colin Young

Northbridge



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Ocean Harmonies

For many moons I swam
Loving your feel
as you sang

Ocean arenas of draping water
Nurturing my soul
with your song

Moving loose limbs free
Eyes seeking the sun
as you sang

Lullabies of waves on sand
Gathering shells
with your song

I blossomed while floating
Listening intently
as you sang

Kaye Brand 

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A Post-Uluru Consciousness

Note: In 2016, First Nations peoples at Uluru agreed a proposal for enhancing the voice of their people and ways toward reconciliation. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rejected the proposal.

For two hundred years already the lights in kids’ eyes,
white and black, have been drowning, and now their songs,
having lost the ways of birds, wander confused across the Land,
or hunker at the feet of dying trees unable to escape
the water-torture drip of our colonialist-convict culture,
its surrealist distortions, the slithering plasticity of its laws,
the spread of its stain until all beauty’s gone
and it no longer matters what anyone says.

For two hundred years Uluru’s been eroding,
and the Land, its morning-purple-evening-red hills,
emerald-brushed forests, stooping gorges have been sucked
into the maws of mines, leaving the Peoples’ words
searching for signs of justice’s trace while the terror
of ‘nullius’, the vastness, swells, squeezes us along
slip-sliding coasts, congregates us into dots where we moan
about the tragedy of distance while our cultured lies
buzz as flies about our backyards until everyman’s
become a neo-conservative draining the Land
for dreams of ownership until all beauty’s gone
and it no longer matters what anyone says.

Yet, even now there may be time to seed a new beginning,
to garner knowledge of Country, to hear our cultures’ cries
from the sandstone cells buried under swathes of delusional weeds,
time to sprout anew, bloom a flower, rebirth rainbow ouroboroi,
Springs, to cover the Land in song again until Beauty—
Its tracks palpable, bright as life-light—
matters, no matter what our Prime Minister says.

Peter Burges

Extinction

Our children are trying to get out
of      this       burning         house.
But we have locked them inside.
Boarded   up   all    the  windows
With      our       dying           light.

They feel the heat bubbling paint
Off walls.                 Blistering skin.
And  when   they turn   on    taps
they hear  just  the suck  of    air
and           clanging                pipes.

Soon    we    will  be  comfortably
dead                             leaving them
as       mere      wingless        hopes
dancing    with            cockroaches
among  the  sepia  ghosts of   trees.

Peter Burges

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Caught by War

Chatter of SLR stirs the dust
echoes rock against rock
as the sun bleeds the land
beige.

Stills the midday air,
a respite as centuries
collect in adobe walls.
Inch irrigation channels

to a rare green
in a land of decay.
How the ant is the
only constant

and flies find the dead
before tears can dry
and a solitary eagle
circles among the drones

as the Mullah calls the
faithful in a world
gone wrong.
Where loyalties flip

rebel and terrorist
among UN allies
building and holding
threads

against ignorance and
mirrored arrogance.
The remote control
of words on the radio

calling in the strike
and the world chokes on dust
and women and children huddle
in corners as a goat bleats.

Shattered lives in windowless
rooms as politicians count
the spoils and build a false
economy to starve the population.

One more Armani suit
and a propped-up dictator
scowls behind his
international smile.

Gary Colombo De Piazzi

 On a Street

Deep ebony, to burn stained streets
turned red with the lope of alley cats.
The angled view of a barn owl
filtering shadows on a night

with a segment of a moon.
The wind weaves through
every crack, around every stone
until echoes fill the dark

and night calls
with the coldness of ice.
Shuffled and stuffed
into the warmth of corners.

Crusted eyes and four-day stubble
name this face vagabond
with the concrete weight
of a heart that does not belong.

The moment held against
a drunken memory and the gleam
of street lights that bare every
whisper, every secret until

there is nowhere to name home.
Abandoned on pavements
as the tide recedes, this crumpled mass
hides a face, a name.

And the swell of commuters
ebb in a slow curl away as the
morning sun shatters a world
that prefers dark.

Gary Colombo De Piazzi

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Flora

The apartment below us.  More spacious
than ours – no children. She would invite me to visit.

How big these small happenings became.

Musical theatre was part of my family,
and popular songs of the time; classical
a foreign country I had barely entered.

Flora simply talked to me about concerts she’d
attended and her admiration for the Scottish
National Orchestra, played examples of concerto,
symphony and sonata on her walnut gramophone.

She listened, wanted to hear about my
piano lessons. I don’t remember being hurried.  Nor
did she push me to share her favourites.
Mentor. A word I had not encountered at age fifteen.

Later she passed on 78s; a small collection – my first.
I listened; how I listened, captivated by a soprano
singing Dvorak’s O Silver Moon, a tenor’s rendering
of Verdi’s Celeste Aïda, Smetana’s Moldau,
and so much more. 

I was entranced, moved.  Flora opened a window
to baroque, classical, romantic – and opera –
an adventure, a journey for a lifetime.

My interest became a passion,
signalled the way to feeling music inside me.

I recall calm and comfortable times in her company
in that place where another kind of listening was added
to what I already knew and loved.

The gift of a gentle mentor is immeasurable.  We moved
away from that city. Flora and I never met again.
She would not know I deem her gift priceless.

Margaret Ferrell

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 on grass

always taken it as given
that I’d die outside,
on solid ground, on grass,
thought it might be flames
that took the box of me
or some herd, free of fences,
on the graze

no, flies first, a Good Friday
Catholic congregation of them,
beetles gnawing silence,
ravens to finish,
gifting my sinew,
ventricles, my commas
to sky

Kevin Gillam
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Changing Speed

Going through a pile of unfinished poems
I came across a zip-top plastic bag
of locks of your hair

as if a hidden jewel of memory –
your last haircut from Carey
at our place the locks lying in

shades of grey, but untamed
as a work of art, not wanting
to be held down to any set form –

and so too, the tunes at your funeral
led us on a dance through
your life and mind:

‘The Girl from Ipanema’bossa nova
by Antonio Jobim to ‘Your Song’pop/rock
by Elton John, jumping back classical
to ‘Claire de Lune’by Debussy

then quick-step the years to ‘Us and Them’
jazz infused rock by Pink Floyd,
before leaning back to ’60s rock ‘n roll
with ‘Ruby Tuesday’by the Rolling Stones…

and yet there was one song missing
that few would know – ‘My Very
Good Friend The Milkman’

by Fats Waller – a jazz song you said, in
your last days, “followed you around”
from school, to London University

Medical School and finally to
your family lounge-room in Australia
where Greg and I would dig out the 78s

change the record speed and sing along,
like you dad, embracing style and cheek
that counted back the years…

Mike Greenacre

Snapshots To Now

 Click 1: The Narrows Bridge Opening Ceremony,
almost before my time in 1959,
the suit and tie and long dressed audience
sitting as patient guests to history
as the tape was cut, releasing lane-fulls
of walkers to cross to the other side as cars
that would one day take over this town.

Click 2: The Mitchell Freeway construction
on re-claimed land 1967, I was old enough
to work the Kodak Instamatic camera
and catch the earthworks and graders
pull the northern suburbs towards us,
over and under-passes
steering a faster pace to lives.

Click 3: The Stirling Bridge arched across our
days and evenings from 1974, another bridge
linking Perth to Freo along a major arterial road
and we sat beneath as merry sailors, around a
treasure chest of live-music acts and beverages
that sprang from the Left Bank Hotel
a handful of years further down the road.

Click 4: These three bridges have spanned my lifetime
from ten pound pom passenger to now
and like a poem, firm constructions
that travel with the deftness of a fisherman’s net
across the Swan River – collecting and
carrying memories in the ebb and flow
of progress with the gush of this human tide.

Mike Greenacre
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A Story

What is your story
I asked of her
as wonder crept into my mind.
Her eyes full of grief
and a stare beyond this world.
Gently I took her hands
filled with generations of doing.
Long articulate fingers moved restlessly
and words, just words tumbled from her mouth.
They said she was from somewhere ….foreign.
Does that define her, her story….apparently so?
We sat for a timeless period
just being together.
I put the radio on and music filled the room.
There was a tap of her foot
rhythmical, metered
and then her hands wrestled to join in.
Without moving she shifted her stare
and I was fully engaged.
A structured sentence spoke from a frozen mind,
“I was a concert pianist in Vienna, a prodgie.
A Jew.
They came.
Took my piano.
Took all of us….
I am here”.
Her life in staccato.
Sharp, to the point,
its own rhythm.
The stare returned with the tumbled words,
I am now just another audience;
in her life.

Ann Harrison
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Communion (Banks Reserve)

for a Sunday barbecue
in riverside surrounds
Spring’s paint freshly applied
mothers swap wobbling paper plates

toddlers are eggs
nested into fairy gum tree roots
petanque played languidly
to snatches of Franglais

bearlike men bear kayaks
above their heads
gently, as if processing
with religious icons
along river’s folding edge

in shallows nearby
watery communion between
wiry terrier and labradoodle
each emerging, baptised
bedraggled rat converts

human beings at most times
strangers to themselves
and to each other
beam beatitude like sunshine
upon plangent waters

Ross Jackson

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blood red arose

a red rose is radiant sorrow,
thorns blossom brilliant dark blood,
drawn from serpentine veins
that pulse within the black mass below.

blush buds burst to claret crowns,
wrapped in satin folds,
spiralling out, stunning,
to acclaim exposed,

and to strange surrounds,
the changing moods of wind,
the sharp penetration of light,
the advance of decline,
now unveiled and told.

a red rose, beholds all this,
and pales and withers
and weeps.

peter knight

fixation

To once a battleground, often since visited,
i came to view
the perennial flowering forever-glory of War,
thriving upon its sanctification,
blood and bone mouldering in the soil.

I came, i saw and i was confronted
by an immediate and raw sight,
old Diggers, fixed onto frames,
staked out across that old combat site.

On parade again, restored to rows,
with tarnished gongs hung for show,
each man stuffed the same, inside, with straw,
hollow men enlisted, scarecrow sentinels,
a standing skeleton corps.

2.
I had imagined an immaculate interment scene,
like the vast vista of ordered death beside the Somme,
green-grassed, and tended white crosses
plotted across an immense expanse,
marking those named and many others, lost,
renamed ‘Unknown’.

Instead i saw these sad Joes,
each planted by his last post,
fortified with hay and bound with wire,
impaled upon the stakes of war.

No more to step into the breach,
each one in his final Passion transfixed,
each one’s unique sacrifice recorded
upon a standard issue crucifix
pinned into his chest.

peter knight
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Instant Win

Sitting at the sidewalk café
You scratch an instant win of two dollars.
Spaniel eyes are wet with pleasure
as you begin another.
Silence stretches between us.
I watch your craftsman’s hands work busily.
This time – nothing; still there is one more chance

I drink my long macchiato
Realising there will be no jack-pot for us,
Just optimistic scratching on life’s surface.
It can not be enough, nor was meant to be.
The pavement is hard beneath my feet
As I rise through your cry of elation.
Ten thousand dollars cannot make me stay.

Veronica Lake

Performance

Waiting; dusty silence pervades the air,
audience rustles in, fusses. Settles
snug into plush seats, fanning crisp programmes,
side-long glances scope talent sitting there
Anticipation: dimming of house lights,
stage is empty, swept, performance ready,
sets in place, lights exactly positioned.
Expectancy hovers, waiting to delight.

Now the curtains sweep up, revealing all.
Action: the characters move, they talk,
gesticulate, project, pour out their hearts.
Emotions flood an audience enthralled
Curtain drops, a silent moment, they pause,
Then stand; hands clap in thunderous applause.

Veronica Lake
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Pigs Might Swim

The pig floated swiftly
on the Mekong
unceremoniously dead.
I waved a farewell
to its waving trotters,
4 points of accusation
or remorse
rapidly diminishing.
I realised its movement
was because my boat motored forward,
not the result of practised backstroke.

Uninflated pigs swim dog-paddle
when they dare.
Sometimes even a good swimmer drowns;
so how to save a pig
be it ever so treasured?

Jenny Magann

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Les Murray laughs

a warning tremor and
the giggle of sound
escapes like kettle steam

from water simmering
close to the surface
his lava of laughter

a seismic quaking
of horizontal stripes
stretched belly-tight

the volcanic rumbling
beneath humour’s skin
ascending through

the Richter Scale
until the weak seam
of a grin gives way

the graph of a man who
learned to laugh at life
the sheer poetry of it all.

Mardi May

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King George 111 Sound Albany Western Australia

There rise majestic isles in George’s Sound
Where frantic swells beat up their rugged height
Breaksea named for isle Vancouver found
His brig Chatham now safe from ocean’s might
Nearby Michaelmas dawns in trembling light
An isle so named to rest on history’s page
In full sail mapped coastline-crushed-white
To shield heroic sailors from ocean’s cruel rage
And living as I did my childhood years
I watched the waves break o’er the isle
And thought in awe of sailors and their fears
Bravely defeating, nature’s wilful wiles

And older now I keenly appreciate

Their daring now too dire to contemplate

Glad Mc Gough  

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I Do It

I drink despite you
In spite of you
But not to spite you
For that would be a waste

I drink for all I am
With too few hopes
Certainly some
But maybe never enough

I do not drink to you
I do not drink for you
I drink for me
And my selfish self

I thumb my glass
At your tautologies
Your simple definitions
And thesaurus minds

No-one knows another
Their life and pain
Their love and games
Their mad bent rules

I don’t know you
You don’t know me
And never ever will
Step, step, ball-change

Dean Meredith

Question the Trap as You Fall

So he wondered
Where she was
Right now
Where she had been
Back then
Where she wanted to go
In her hereafter

And would I
See myself
In her picture
And who might
Paint whoever in
Not much of a tryer
We gave each other
The benefit of doubt

And her lips
Were like a Martini
And I was the humble olive
On the end of her stick
And she mixed me ‘round
Twirled me in her air
And ate me
Into her night

And she wondered
What he was
And where he might be
Other than in her mouth
He tasted like them
Her lesbian friends
Was he queer?

Dean Meredith

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 Anomaly

my body is a map for pirates
seeking islandic shores
my mind a compass pointing its own
True North

Seek if you will
the bounty I have, visitors…
the wind in my trees
the sea anemone in my pools
the whitest of sands.

‘I’ marks the spot of truest treasure
dug
deep
a chest full of shiny, golden trinkets made from tears,
polished with spit.

at the bottom
a small battered box
felted
within which a pearl grown
with grit –

Its freshwater!
The wildest hue! (a Giotto blue)
heart-shaped and
never
discovered.

Peta Morris

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House Tank

The photo shows Grandad in the dray after carting
this tank from the siding behind old Phyllis and white
faced Blaze, then hefting it with the help of neighbours
on to a timber plinth beside the plaster and hessian
farmhouse. His head is tilted, eyes squinting cloudwards.

Through Summers of red winds and grit that tank contained
sky’s squalls and storms, gutter’s glut streaming
into a language translated by hands tap tapping
rungs, Nanna half filling tea cups, allowing one
full dipper for dishes, grey water sloshed onto mint.

We kids hid at the back of it or called it our fort,
the kelpies slept under it, wagtails sipped drips
from the spigot and the straggle of salad plants
stayed green till March. A great blessingthis tank,
Grandad winked, handing out birthday candy.

But he didn’t say that when the men cursed and took
turns bucketing out dead lizards and possum droppings
fouling its bottom, swilled out an inch of stink
even the chooks wouldn’t look at. Then he called it
something else, glared at grinning grandchildren.

Only a stone chimney shows where the house was,
though the five wire fence still scribbles itself into blue
distance, but the tank, stand long collapsed, lurches
like a drunken farmer on market day, yet endures.

The pepper tree weeps over it now, pricklesome dust
and double gees fringing the base, but a fist thumping
for fun on rusted ribs, earns the dull clunkof Grandad’s
great blessing, his house tank still hoarding the last rains
that graced these sold and shadeless acres.

Jan Napier

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Christchurch

Last night I made a feast of red lentils and artichokes, suffused with saffron,
simmered in cardamon.
I sliced up the eggplants of imperial purple and drizzled them with oil straight from the trees.
Imam Bayildi, stuffed with garlic, crisp cloves, the bark of cinnamon, parsley and onion.
In a tagine stewed the lamb – Keves Im Shu-It , with black eyed peas, tomatoes, green peppersand salt. On the side board was Mastva Khiar, cucumbers and mint, to freshen the palatein yoghurt dripped overnight on the sink.
For a friend from the sea I offered Sayadieh, white fish fillets, almonds and pine nuts,simmered in broth and thickened with rice.
And dessert was melons, Paludeh, steeped in rosewater with peaches on a bed of sharp ice.
These are my offerings to those now lying shrouded, for mothers who can never again stir or spoon
sweet treats for the children their pomegranates untasted
and meat for the men
all
erased from our rooms.

Virginia O’Keeffe

Homesick it is

Homesick it is and I am
for the neatly greened paddocks over east, and thistle down;
for the tiny pickled towns with softened pink brick chimneys
and old ovens which poke out of sagging walls.

Homesick it is and I am
for lilac neatened gardens behind hedges
and pubs with rolled verandahs on the corner
of hilly streets, diving down to churches of Gothic spires by a river.

Homesick it is and I am
for the willows dangling on the current and elm trees
in the park where their roots spread out, you can smell
the till of family in their leaves.

Oh for laneways by the butchers and the ringing of the bell,
for drawn out autumn evenings, and a looping drift of smoke
above the racecourse as twilight’s falling down.
I long for old boards on wide verandahs where
kids were sleeping out under starlight piercing laughter
and the muffled bark of dogs grunt beneath the loquat tree.
Where the names on gravestones are familiar as pictures in an album
and this is where you’ll come; to a community of fellows
when your time draws to its end.

But I want to go home now.

Virginia O’Keeffe

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 Leaving

Most people die in rooms
too small for their lives;
nothing expansive remains;
the spaces get smaller
and smaller, until their
vista shrinks to a hospital
courtyard or TV screen.
There is a lot to be said
for dying far at sea,
like a torpedoed mariner;
or in a singing desert,
like a misplaced explorer;
or disappearing right into
the sky, a carefree aviator.

Julian O’Dea

Paris, April 2019

Life holds out
a blackened branch
Notre Dame is burning.
Where is my heart?
Dying in an upstairs room …

but the bees of Notre Dame
survived the fire and hum
their ancient chant:
“to work is to pray,
to work is to pray” …

we will gather sweetness
from the flowers
of Sainte-Chapelle today,
and make wax for Paschal
candles in our home.

Julian O’Dea

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the puppy in you

we lie on rustling leaves driza
bone under our whispering sideroxylon
and dream of flipping through trees like
swinging gibbons or nattering like
chimps in a secluded glade
we inhabit a secluded glade it is this
one where i say or ask roll over
and i am not asserting my simian authority
and i am not trying to be bossy
you would bite me if i tried
but i am trying to reach under your
fur as i reach back to a time around
twelve years ago when you were mewling
eyes wide shut as the fatal scent of warm
milk sucked you into life and it is this memory
i am reaching for in my struggle to be closer
i want to see again your bare pink skin
i want to tickle again your bare pink skin
i want to suckle share again your rich warm milk
spilt from a bump in your mother’s soft pink skin
the monotreme in me the squiggling puppy
in you the lonely primate part of my soul
the hairy swinging through a jungle part
of me the baby kelpie part of you
the sucking blindly warming kindly loving
already part of you twelve years ago
when the baby part of you the puppy part
of you began its long long walk of black and tan
and now you are gone now you have gone over
and we are left weeping as your belly wet with
tears and trying goes over goes over goes back
to where it all began and that is all that is it
that is where you are now and for us a glow
like streetside neon lighting our remnant lives

Allan Padgett

Turning Toward Goroka

I smiled the day you told me
what your mates in New Guinea call helicopters:
mixmaster bilong Jesus Christ. Another day,
feeding your deeply faithful kelpie, you say:
hey Daulo, want some kaikai? Then,
another week or year,
that man is longlong,
code for: he’s lost his mind –
and doesn’t know which way to turn
to find it.       (I made that last bit up)

You called me bikpela wantok sometimes,
and though I’m over the magic six foot none –
and therefore tower over you, I am not in fact
that big. It just seems that way, it’s
in the side-by-side. But I am your big mate,
so that much is in the bag. And we do speak the
same language.

I can’t pretend there is no memory held in the dried coconut hat, (nor)
that the ocean shall carry us and weave us back into the sand’s fabric*

To get between Goroka and Kundiawa, along the Highlands Highway,
you have to climb up and over Daulo Pass, 8,130 feet
above sea-level. That’s a lot of walking for a man
with only two feet –
and then he goes down,
into the ples i go daun, ples daun, into the Asaro Valley,
where no tears fall
and the startling bimbis flutter by
into your startled view.

Another day, I was standing on the ples biling wetim tren,
waiting for the train,
a railway platform underfoot.
There are a lot of feet in this poem.
Clearly it is
pre metric,
though I think you will
understand it –
and if not follow me:

you will recognise me.

Allan Padgett

*He Mele Aloha no ka Niu (a love song for the coconut) – Brandy Nalani McDougall (Poetry, July/August 2016)

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Without Others          

Residing in the country
of Must (you must
organise yourself
a room of your own
under a ceiling

attached to a roof
housing a bed, a chair,
a desk and a locker
without others
having to help you),

saw could and would
enter the field of
aha, where they met
Will; cementing kindness,
building a shelter for

the ones experiencing
homelessness,
who could then sleep
without the stress of having
footwear thieved.

Joyce Parkes

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Still Life

chairs strewn
on mildewed warehouse floor
scattered, lying on their sides

arms torn, backs broken
ghosts of sitters left behind

torn up signs lie mute
childr ns      qu ue     asyl m here

defaced by time

invitations, long retracted
rules revised

rooms life-empty, cold

broken dreams in careless piles
would-be sitters cast aside

one chair holds a plastic doll
in wisps of faded yellow dress

eyes closed
mouth open wide

painted lips enfold
her haunting, hollowed voice

Yvonne G Patterson

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She Mourns

sadness
irreconcilable
within depths unknown
until
the tide changes
and its cleansing foam
resurrects
a glimmer of hope

Barry Sanbrook

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 A Tale of Tatts

A scrawny little fellow my lawn mower man
wears yesterday’s whiskers an earring or two

.      the inking started with Carpe Diem
bold black gothic up one arm down the other

.then his tattoos adopted a holiday look
.        his body a Balinese one-off

.               fine art and folklore
.           a living travel brochure

.  a single hibiscus blooms on his calf
.          petals move as he mows

.    a hindu temple in muted greys
.     honours their culture he said

.names, faces, places and flowers
.  his canvas is almost complete

.then the petals faded from my lawn
.                 he went away

.          found a Balinese bride
lives in Ubud above the tattoo parlour

Norma Schwind

Gifts

First light pleats through trees
.                      opens laneways
soft brushing
.                      shuttered windows

fine cool air spools me
.                     as I walk
the city’s wide leafy boulevards
.                     in early morning quiet

shrouded sleeping roadside stalls
still and silent, only

Kunming’s band of
women street sweepers
.          left right
.                      right left

smooth pendulum strokes
measured sound of
twig brooms
.           scratching
.                      scraping

I see her ahead of me
lost in the rhythm of her task
leaf shadows dance beneath her broom
I stop             beckon her pause

me to you
.          I say with my eyes
.                      and arms offering
a red puff jacket

puzzled          she is unsure

I thrust it in her arms
she holds it close
places a hand on her chest

I smile                        nod
she embraces the jacket
strokes its smooth fabric
.                      smiles wide

I point to the pocket
a tiny hand reaches in
comes out with notes and coins

the sweeper’s small face
fills with joy and surprise

her gratitude tangible
my heart is light

leaf shadows dance
about my feet
through my hair

Norma Schwind

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That Summer

For my daughter, Kathy Adair (1977-2016)

1.
I almost drowned
ventured too far, defied
the tides, my feet
powerless to find the ocean
floor, thrashed about
and my hands struggled
to grasp the sky
fear had seized my speech
the ocean consuming me
I dreamed of sounds from the beach
people screaming
as I fought for a
.         breath of air
.         swallowing sea
.         an odd feeling of peace
.         flowed over me through
.         sinking shadows

hands grab me
haul me to safety
I vomit the sea
to shore

2.
cushioned by fluid
you breathe oxygen
from the umbilical cord
until you push to the light
breathe on your own

3.
this winter and my futile attempt
to grab you, steal you
from this hospital ward
all I can do is caress
your forehead, stroke your hair

as you slowly drown
in your fluid lungs

Maureen Sexton

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Frangipani

Buses hiss
through flooded drains
down Beach Street,
throwing arcs
of gritty water
into my shoes.
A container ship teases
my hangover
with its foghorn
and I miss the kerb.
I lay soaked
like forgotten laundry.
I can taste
the oilslick rainbows
around a frangipani
all waterlogged
and rotting
next to my head.
My mother wore
them in her hair
sometimes. She’d even let
honeybees swim
through her golden hair
as they inspect
one freshly plucked
from the tree out front.

Thomas Simpson

Native North

My father tires
of Melbourne. Tight lanes
and peach-tin trams.
He wears his suitcase
down a wind-tunnelled Fitzroy lane,
sounding like a plastic sail,
his spray-jacket
sleeves whipping and cracking
behind.

He’s not worn
shoes this long
on a weekend since his wedding.
How has my brother
taken to this cold
crowded city? How have I adopted
the sandy west?
Why do we deny
our native north?

Thomas Simpson

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One Cent from the Footpath Dust

We are in the Halls Creek Café enjoying a mixed grill,
its been hot, so nice not to be cooking over an open fire.

The old man behind the counter spends his time
attending to a cycle of kids each one announced
by the clack of the fly-wire door.

Mixed lollies, five cents please, carefully chosen,
ten cents’ worth was more than grubby little hands could cope with,
these qualified for a white paper bag.

A tiny tike who could barely see over the sweaty counter
announces himself with a one cent piece,
solemnly requests ‘a cent’s worth of mixed lollies please’.

Bless him, the old shopkeeper takes the request seriously
and treats it as the most important transaction of the day,
ignores the snorted snot; metronomic nasal candlesticks
Clag jumper sleeve and negotiates.

Four eyes focus, two saucers brown, two rheumy bleary,
together they peruse prospects through grubby glass, here’s some:
mint leaves, black cats, rasberries, musk sticks, every one chewy.

The lad’s mind is wracked by indecision. The old man reads it:
one technicolour gob-stopper is being sucked as our kid leaves.
I admire the old man’s grace.
He looks at me and winks.

Laurie Smith

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Bête Noire

Folk say ‘bruscietta’ for bruschetta,
all the time
thinking their pronunciation’s Italian-perfect—
as at Biffi’s or the Via Veneto.

Folk say, ‘bruscietta’,
so satisfied they’ve lopped
the pillar at the word’s core,
obdurate as centuries old olive trunks.

Folk say, ‘bruscietta’,
blind to the stave between ‘c’ and ‘e’,
hard as the hands of the mezzadri
who hoed and tilled the olive groves,
unyielding as the frantoio that pulps the fruit to oil,
unconsoling as dry bread that scrapes the tongue.

A waiter announces the day’s special,
‘Bruscietta’.
I cast an oblique correction.
Bruschettais it?’
and wait for her to notice, then self-correct
as the science says she should.
But it’s a prayer in a hurricane.
The howl of English in her ears,
she cheerfully replies, ‘Yes, ‘bruscietta’!’

Rita Toginini

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Northbridge

It’s not only this,
not only the rumble of car wheels and engines discharging,
and the never-stop people who block
their ears to banshee ambulances.

Not only smells filched at dawn
from street-sweepers and drunks,
odours mysterious with the contagion
of near-death accidents on roads,
and beer vapours that haunt
after patrons have fumbled into sleep.

It’s also about legs staggering up against a pole,
about hobos and shadow citizens in a huddle,
their hands out to the soup ladled into a cup.

It’s about the man who slips under the arms
of a Moreton Bay fig without a word,
and stares and fidgets with an empty stomach.

Or the woman whose smile is buried under a frown,
and pushes a pram with bundled rags in tow,
because her baby’s gone.
Her fingers keep jumbling together,
and her lips are mouthing words to nobody.

Colin Young

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