'White Cyclamen', a new poem by Jennifer Maiden

White Cyclamen

Nothing is whiter,
like clouds with the sun inside them.
Nothing is smoother,
like clouds and the moon beside them.
But they aren’t pure either.
There is lily-green underside them.
This is the start of an ASIO poem.
Borges said living under dictators
made him expert at metaphors.
But lyricism is direct, adores
the physical, the real. When young,
one knew to recognise a worker
for an intelligence agency because
they knew thorough Marxist-Leninism,
either in favour, or in Encounter,
analysing it at length as if it were
a present threat or promise. No one
else cared about it too much, even
Ho Chi Minh. All our revolutions
were agrarian, unorthodox: Nimbin
or Saigon. So being under fire
from new Marxist-Leninists again,
I naturally think: ASIO. However,
I like much post-colonial anger,
although it dates with colonial power.
Nothing is whiter
than post-colonial angers,
like clouds with the sun inside them.
Nothing is smoother,
like clouds and the moon beside them.
The anti-lyricism of the Leninists
and their Amish dislike of fiction
seem more like that of the occupation
of Prague than of Wall Street later.
I laugh: they’re Diego without Frida,
but that assumes the ASIO position
is not as it always was: too solemn.
And what stories do I know
talking to you of ASIO?
There is lily-green underside them.
When I tutored at uni, the lecturer
asked a guest to speak on poetry, a man
I’d not heard of much, but the explanation
was that he directed ASIO. He came
to talk on his verse, which was pure
no-experiment representation. She wanted him,
being journo, on account of his other function.
I wished her luck, let it go. Another
spy was a young man courting a writer
at an early literary festival, so certain
to be ASIO that a dinner party giver
asked him politely, ‘And you work for
ASIO, do you?’ He blushed to murmur,
‘Yes’, no doubt had prepared a lecture
on the need for Marxist-Leninism
in bookish, demure Melbourne. White cyclamen
are like clouds and the moon beside them,
and seem to survive forever. Here
is the last of an ASIO poem.

Jennifer Maiden

Jennifer Maiden

Jennifer Maiden has published twenty-one books. Her 18th poetry collection, Liquid Nitrogen, won the overall 2014 Victorian Prize for Literature, and was shortlisted for the International Griffin Poetry Prize and the Australian Prime Minister's Awards. Her latest collection is The Fox Petition, published by Giramondo in 2015.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.