'And to the other men from Afghanistan,
and Iran and Iraq, who prepared a feast for me
one midday, years ago on my way to work,
laid the clean sheet smooth ...'
A creeping association might doldrum
your bullet points and action items
resembling life grid passing then gone
change my number leave me alone
give no ear to charms ...
Pale ankles in the mountains, divergences
on a quarry. We are witness to it
land and witness to it
some fact of further summer
or things a truck driver might say ...
Just before I left sleep behind
I borrowed a series of chords
so I could swerve my way through
the days I saw yawning in front
of me like graves freshly dug ...
The staff and board of Australian Book Review extend their thanks to healthcare workers around the world. We all know what risks confront doctors, nurses, aides, orderlies, and administrative staff in our hospitals and medical clinics, especially here in Victoria. Countless healthcare workers have been infected with Covid-19, and many have died. We’re immensely grateful to the sector for its commitment and self-sacrifice.... (read more)
The ritual begins by filling a plastic basin with warm water. It is carried from the bathroom to the bedroom. It is placed firstly on a stool, then on to the floor. Soap and a flannel cloud the water. My hands bathe the woman who has removed her nightie. She sits with a sense of calm and pained skin’s need for pleasure. It is like bathing a tired child. I lift her arms, we speak quietly of shared things. This true intimacy is purifying. We have forgotten the things that have strained and estranged us. These mornings our bond is primitive. These days are bordered by routine. I am preparing her for death. I am pleasing her prickling skin. I dry her. I treat her skin with lotions and oils. Liver cancer has swollen her body into a state of pregnancy, distension, emaciation ...... (read more)
The world presses in,
a towering river of debris glittering
with specks of one ongoing explosion.
All of us are morphing,
our faces layered with many faces, two eyes
gazing upward from the ending of time.
Our skin is travelling from country to country
even as we sit still
and the second hand stays
frozen on the wall clock.
Four in the morning. Stumbling back
to bed, the softness
of my pillow in the spread
of my fingers assumes
again, after so long, the still longed for
round of your head.
Gwen Harwood, who died in 1995, was born on 8 June 1920, in Brisbane, of course, which she went loved dearly. Harwood seems increasingly to have been one of the finest poets Australia has ever produced. She was much loved; anyone who knew her relished her wit, her directness, her inextinguishable spirit. To mark the centenary of her birth, ABR asked a number of her colleagues and admirers to record some of her poems. Happily, there are hundreds of them to explore.... (read more)