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Poem of the Week - Maria Takolander reads 'Deja Vu'

January-February 2016, no. 378

Poem of the Week - Maria Takolander reads 'Deja Vu'

January-February 2016, no. 378

Our final 'Poem of the Week' for 2015 is 'Déjà vu' by Maria Takolander. ABR's Poetry Editor, Lisa Gorton, introduces Maria who discusses and reads her poem.



Déjà vu

A poem addressed to Ted Hughes

Death had been peeled away from my husband like a caul.
The months – nine of them – had been long,
but there we were, reborn to the day,
domesticating each fugitive moment,
more in need of such rites of order than before.
It was still morning, the sun marshalled by the kitchen window,
when the aftershocks hit – not him, just me.
They were like flashes of radiation, epileptic jolts,
coming one after another, shredding my
hold on those routines that made the world rational.
Each one dragged nausea behind it like a comet's tail.
As I packed a lunch, drove my son to school,
I stalled and sparked:
but I have done this, I have done this before.
Soon I was so memory-full and memory-less
it was as if I had been contaminated by the galaxy
through which eons bled unchecked.

I should have known that history, time-traveller,
takes any opportunity to repeat itself.
I was intimate with its narcissistic sickness.
Ich, ich: like your first wife I had once sung, tongue-stuck,
ecstatically impaled by a past thrusting
itself upon me like a man-swan.
Back then I consulted an exorcist (of sorts)
and bound myself to the quotidian,
remaining unmolested for years – until that mechanical assault.
There was nothing poetic about it,
and I did not know how to make it so.
Then I began to think of your gambols
with the French mistresses of Ouija and Tarot
– and Sylvia and Assia, of course.
How the ungodly weight of the heavens cracked
and blacked its light upon your sightless head,
not once but twice.
And what poetry you made of déjà vu


Maria Takolander is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, The End of the World (Giramondo, 2014), which was reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Ghostly Subjects (Salt, 2009), which was shortlisted for a Queensland Premier's Prize. Her poems appear regularly in The Best Australian Poems, and have been anthologised in Thirty Australian Poets (UQP, 2011) and the Turnrow Anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry (Turnrow, 2014). A program about her poetry aired on Radio National in 2015. The winner of the inaugural ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, Maria is also the author of The Double and Other Stories (Text, 2013), which was a finalist in the 2015 Melbourne Prize for Literature's 'Best Writing Award'. She is currently working on a novel for Text Publishing and is an Associate Professor at Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria. Her website is

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