Where am I?

 

I am desperate for connection.
I must have hit a black spot.
The sun is glaring at me and blinding
my display screen.
All I can see is my own face.
Coarse sand has crept between my toes.
I have wandered too far.
I need to google a map, text someone
who will reconnect me.
This shell, this sand, the smell of rotting kelp.
I poke at dead things with pieces of driftwood.
This strange salty wind, seagulls and whale lookout.
How can a message washed up in an old bottle
compare to my new slate black iPhone?

Karen Knight

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - TAS | 'Where am I?' by Karen Knight
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

Graces Road

 

Rise above it, my mother used to say,
and now she's old, she herself is something I must rise above.
Just now, to separate myself, I turned and drove,
and finding Graces Road, followed its name
upwards to paddocks that a summer of scant rain
had worked into yellow and mauve.
Someone who had loved
this arc of land had turned things so its hay
could harvest the sun, and – who knows? – maybe
without forethought had named its road with a word
that drew me up like first light from grey
to yellow, then caught me in the whole half
circle of the day and removed
me, the dark hills around me like a sleeping herd.

Louise Oxley


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  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

Notes from the inland

 

When he goes into that country,
a man loses his thinking
                                  Patrick Mung Mung

 

A tree opens
a crack in the landscape –

stars bolt from daybreak
and earth themselves in the underworld.

Look long enough
and creatures will emerge from the walls

to spin webs of coppery light
over tussock and spinifex,

cloud will rise and run
from the smouldering fire-stick

of the sun-woman,
long-eared bat will flap out of the gorge.

I will sit here
until the day’s last cockatoo has screeched,

sand frog has dug himself out
and sinks to his belly in a rockhole,

the moon-man has torched the hills
and taken back the stars

and I have held my tongue long enough
to lose the names

I have learned this country with

Louise Oxley

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  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

Woman in Bath

 after Brett Whiteley’s Woman in Bath (1964)

 

There was fog on the windows,
inside and out.
She wound her hair into a bun
and eased into the shallow water.
I stood in the doorway, squinting.
                                          I wanted her
curled into that ceramic curve
like an embryo in the shell.
I stood, squatted, paced about
and stood again at the door, deciding
what to give her and what to take away.
                           The head I’d reduce
to a dented ellipse, tender as a crowning baby’s.
Over the M of her raised knees I’d order an accident,
a blessing and violation: the showerhead
became a crescent moon that creamed
the wine-red cloth I’d placed between her legs;
                                        behind her back
a pair of voyeur taps in housecoat blue.
I’ve captured something of the foetal bird
in the angle of the neck, a subdued alignment
of head and shoulder. Her breasts I figured
full and solid, a nipple hardening
beneath her arm.
                             And for the limbs I thank
Modigliani: buttery dough rolled thin.
I could push them through my fingers.
She kicked out one cramped leg,
swung her haunches to the other side.
                                         I got that right –
the movement she’d just made
and the one she’d yet to make. Later
I painted the living daylights out of the walls
till they were flat and still as the lake at Sigean.
She lifted her chin. You still there, Brett?
I’m freezing my tits off in here!
In art alone I could becalm us.

Louise Oxley

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  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

Reply from the Women of Tangier

 

after Brett Whiteley’s The Majestic Hotel, Tangier (1967)

 

So secretly together do we wear
our separateness, we’re so complete
he gives us the white stare.

Easy to see decay and disrepair
in the spittle and hashish-ruined streets.
But secretly together we all wear

our place and time, our rightness here,
our journey from antiquity.
He gives us the white stare

and calls us names: the Olive Mafia.
We hold our desert gaze, defeat
his envy, and secretly together bare

our hennaed hands, our loosened hair,
our thighs for marriage rites, our feet.
He gives us the white stare,

but cannot penetrate the haze, can’t bear
our vapour-of-midnight eyes, our heat.
So secretly together do we share
ourselves, he gives us the white stare.

Louise Oxley

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Green Mountain (Fiji)

 

after Brett Whiteley’s The Green Mountain (Fiji) (1969)

 

The skyward pitch of the hill in its green glory
rising heavy and indolent as the knee of a woman
sunbathing in a sarong,
and the thigh that leads from this knee,
an emerald downswelling syncline,
end where the womb’s elastic triangle,
fronded and flowering, holds three
imperfectly white eggs,
expectant, fragile yet unbreakable
among a tumble of mellifluous treasures –
swollen sacs, pouches and bulges:
a ballooning Polynesian breast,
a giant scrotum of jackfruit,
an intestinal serpent –
all weighted with sunlight,
contented in their curvature
and insinuating themselves into paradise;
above this tumescent anatomy,
sent up from the nest like a dear wish
and stalled, a tracer hummingbird
peers down at the path she has taken,
as if to memorise its precise arc.
She will dart out and return
to warm her eggs again and again
or whirr away over the flank of Green Mountain
and be gone
at the bidding of the mind’s eye.

Louise Oxley

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Window

 

What is the mind that would invent the lock?
What are the pathways of the brain
that must be followed with no ball of string
to arrive at a device
which excludes? Why would you start?

If this slab of the earth
was where you had always been,
there would be no entry point,
no threshold of distrust, only the base
ab origine home and whole.

Cook and Banks cased the place, reported back.
(This mob didn't do disorganised crime.)
'It is a place of curios if it is, at all,
a place.' The Enlightenment understood
locus in its richest meaning.

Meanwhile need, greed and curiosity
(those drivers of all crime)
were building against a coastline
that bound like straps. Something
(by Hegel!) had to give. Someone

had to go. The blue chasm had to
be bridged, the stormy lanes traversed,
the metaphors of danger maelstrom-mixed.
Easier than wriggling through a window
as it turned out, the landing was made.

Tim Thorne

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  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

Waking

 

Note the passive voice in that last line,
the denial implied. ‘People were shipped out.’
The agent with a conscious brain linked
to a hand with a pen or a gun felt his own grip
all along the neural pathways.

Some noises we can sleep through
but even the softest can be an alarm.
Sailboats in the calmest water are still not swans,
not even, despite voyages and size,
albatrosses. This can only, however,

be a dream resurgent after eighteen years.
Too awake for anything but analysis,
a brain will cling in turmoil to whatever
rock of clarity presents. ‘This is not happening’
is not a valid option. Imagine:

not the slow comfort of waking
from nightmare but its opposite.
The colours of no apparent ceremony
covered not only skin but politics,
history. Most of all they hid the will to act.

Tim Thorne

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Theft

 

The maps that teased my childhood were silent.
The imagination they cosseted
was of no use. Instead of song
there was a flatness, a sheet of pastel shades.
I could find Peru, but not food.

And these maps were my inheritance.
Maps can be owned. Land is something else.
Maps can be stolen. When the atlas claps shut
those who are trapped between its pages
have no co-ordinates of place.

‘Grab and go’ is the usual way:
jewellery, cash, phones, then out and off.
It is different when what you take remains.
Too big to move and where would you put it?
And yet what can this be called but theft?

There were no trinkets to steal, no devices.
This was not mere burglary. What was taken
and sold came from the deep and mineral heart
of the place, of the premises.
It was a crime even to call it property.

Maps that are sung, that sing
in and through memory, that are not maps
but the land itself, that dance and are danced:
when these are gone the world has disappeared
and all its denizens are hollowed out.

 Tim Thorne


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On the Mountain

 

Here where clouds soothe rocks, high above commerce,
I could catalogue the sharper images
of evil but to what use? City tabloids
and browsers will unroll bandages
enough to wrap communal wounds.

The bardic robe sits ill. The mist suggests
the insubstantiality of wish.
Summon a future like some old romantic,
some wacko visionary? Too easy,
too absurd. The gesturing hand

needs to lose some knuckle skin,
get some dried blood under the nails,
learn the tendon patterns for fist
and begging bowl and when to use each.
'Redemption' has always been a hollow word.

Punishment was how this whole mess started:
the penal settlement as solution
became problem; so would they all,
even sovereignty. The facts
sit in the gut like stones or guilt.

Tim Thorne

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - TAS | 'On the Mountain' by Tim Thorne
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems