Usually when we take the trip back into our archives, we bring back some prose and give you a story or an essay. With the recent passage of World Poetry Day on March 21st, we thought you’d bring you a selection of poetry. Issue 56.1 was published in 2011, around the time of Dennis Haskell’s retirement, and it contains four essays as a tribute to the career of one of Western Australia’s most beloved and talented poets. It is fitting, then, that issue 56.1 contains a sparkling and varied selection of poetry. Here are just four, and if you like those you can read the entire issue in our digital archive!
comes from a shallow place so easily missed
like marks passed over
for want of glasses
it’s never unexpected
till we see the wall is there
these men shaped like sledgehammers
with poetry on their backs
bashing head against brick
till the message is clear
I count seven florets in the centre
of each leaf which would not be visible
except for the open spread of red
that could catapult them like the season’s
pop of Bon Bons. The poinsettias
are fireworks to the eye, an explosion
on New Year’s eve, the first red twirl
of a Catherine wheel. It’s Christmas
in a backyard thirty years ago,
the red combustion of our lives
with none of the prescience
of oncoming dreams. No matter.
The future means change. The house
in the evening held only
by the wind’s disturbance.
A bitterness inside, while outside
the poinsettia is a ruby star.
Each flower driven upward
in its small nature. Perhaps, this is all it can
do before winter’s change, to sway there,
a Frida Kahlo objet d’art,
vibrant and dazzling
in the moon’s eclectic shine.
The memory of earth
We cannot list the victims’ names, we cannot call it a Massacre Site or even a Significant Aboriginal Site, the site is only allowed to be known as a Battle Site. www.pinjarramassacresite.com
The wetlands have watermarked her. Rivers
fill her pen. Pinjarra’s lakes and creeks won’t
stay asleep in their own beds. Her pages
are soaked with run-off. She is an inlet
where tides rise and fall, a blue eye drifted
by clouds. The wild goes walkabout through her
notebooks, scattering grain and spores along
the margins. She hears trees shed bark, seed cases
crack and split, tails slithering through sedges.
Fox and heron make her rooms thoroughfares.
Claws scrape dry sand, paws scuffle leaf litter.
She tracks small prints that vanish at the edge
of soft and damp where savoury marsh samphire
is spreading into the corners of poems.
In the morning now she wakes with the scent
of river gums in her sheets. The ink stains
on her pillows are rimmed with salt. Through her
Bilya Maadjit flows transparent as rain,
cold and clear as the first day she entered
it, turning her fluvial, insistent as
blood but deeper than veins, inscribing her
ochre mapping the history of pain.
Under eucalypt branches, the white threads
of stamen stitch tannin water, but this
Kambarang sunlight is leaded with shades
and a silence like sleep leans on the green
terrace where mia mias clustered before,
the morning that those musket shots shattered.
She is earth from earth, feels the truth buried
here. Holds her pen like a spade, to disturb
the surface, shovels until nib hits bone
and ground cries out this was a massacre.
Flooded gums have forested the red dirt
on her desk. Their roots, webbed over its edge
and anchored in air, hang in tangled skeins
the way that hair comes loose when women weep
hiding their eyes, covering the babies
that cling to them as they crouch in hollows
beneath the Murray’s banks where she sees them
in the watery reflections of trees,
their footholds eroded by time and grief,
yet still alive in the memory of earth.
Background note: I was shown this place by Nyungar Bindjareb leader and cultural teacher George Walley who, in telling me its history, named the dwellings, the season and the river in his traditional language.
Cairn(s): Arcadian Nocturne
stretched across a twisted frame
comes into itself
forms a mark
I want another witness
for which to see
where we drown in ourselves
soot black mouths
breath of tides
I slip under
your words of consolation
towards an axe of light
splitting the stone-black forest
you have carried
into a future which burns