Have you noticed
how the purl and plain of
women’s talk is tangled
and snarled
when a man enters the room?
Suddenly stitches are dropped
in the middle of a pattern
worked on for hours
and the cosy blend of colours
dark and light is
snagged and knotted
beyond repair.
The ropy twist
of mannish yarn
weaves its way
harsh and relentless
into the whispered silk
of confidences,
ruining the rich brocade
of spoken moments
(embroidered daintily
with truth and terror)
and the fine cobweb lace
of lies half told.
No deft fingers
can save the garment now
it falls
in a cambric crush
next to the broken loom –
the last threads hang loose
a ravelment of bombast
and vainglory.

Anita Patel

Published in Block 9

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For John and Bini Malcolm


Just when you think it’s all coming together
And you could take a bit more of this partnership,
Time coughs and observes, it’s been forty years now, more than average,
And maybe it’s time to sum up.

In the road to the planets and stars
The step from the croft to the town was the harshest
Then – for a Scot – the plunge into alien England.
Later to the India Company, an ancestor writing poems in Suthron,
Letters to the Iron Duke from Mount Malcolm, being
General to a chunk of sub-continent, and a local god.

– And then there was Bini, her Afrikaans history
re-uniting Europe with the old, old family home in Africa,
Bini with her wise eye for the World’s old follies
To match John’s shyer, slyer, mode of speech,
Endlessly curious and unshocked at how the world works
More amused than indignant, if eager for better things.
Early-risers, in search of the fourth Transcendental
Ever lively, eclectic, curious and unsated.

In marriage as in an apple grove, half the grafts take.
Some wither at once, snap at the union in winter storms
Or die from delayed sap-strife.
But sometimes the nick of a side-graft takes,
The delicate cambium knits around alien tissue
Till the two inarching stems gladly grow
To a mossy triumphal arch that props a green forest,
Beloved of the birds, red with apples,
Famous for hospitality ...

Sundry sons were among the fruits.
They played and fought like wildcats
Then lengthened their limbs and their dignity
Gained degrees, turned bankers and such,
& attracted lasses
That might turn them into pater familiases

Strange how each generation
Climbs to some ledge unknown to the parents,
Yet would never know how to take up
The empire that grandma and grandpa laid down
Each night by their bedside.

‘He’s not the father of my children,’ a woman once told me,
‘He’s my friend. I don’t like the fathers of any of my children.’
But how much happier is Bini who can say:
I do like the father of my children.

Let us be grateful for this pair
Forty years into their union’s flowering prime.
He with the longest and fittest legs in Woollahra
She with the wisest, sharpest, kindest remarks –
A pair who reversing time’s laws, have turned their wondering children
Into the fixed point for the Wandering Olds
Only those truly stable at home can travel so blithely
Such a centrifugal force demands pivots of humour, and love.

Old Sir John Malcolm may have thought:
‘A soldier, sir, is better accommodated than with a wife.’
But this pair travels as one. Their letters
Full of names Evelyn Waugh would love: Major Fonseca, Father Danny,
Colonel Mohite of Dingley Dell India, the Wadias,
the squirish Patwardans
(Their mansion hemmed in by the Tantric Sex Ashram),
St Godfrey of Iraq, Chestertonian poet,
And his wife Honor, true Vicar of Dibley.
All these are not types but friends, well loved
Their India no Naipaul-ish Area of Darkness.

What can we wish, as the seven-O and four-O numbers come up
For John and Bini, who have used time so richly
But chronia polla – a rich store of time still to come;
And more years to amaze us.
Long may they rise early, and set late.

Mark O’Connor

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Road Closed

was emphatic,
but the rusty sign
hung on an open gate,
allowing him to kid himself
and drive on through –
up the narrow sandy track
in an erratic

of hairpin bends
towards the summit,
and as he continued,
with ever less option
to reverse, he began to forget
the warning, his lapsed

judgement eclipsed
by glimpses of magnificence
beyond – hills, folding
to a pale blue
infinity –
until the sudden, huge stone
fallen into the road.

He felt the absurdity
as he tried first to move it,
then – back in the car, holding
his nerve – to gauge the space
between rock
and scarp,
all to within an inch

of his life.
And for what? –
the view from the top?
His sense of privilege
was equally a trespass
on the sublime;
He longed to remain

in the melancholy
of his private wilderness
with time
and empty sky his friends,
rather than once again
face the crumbling precipice
of his own folly.

Paul Munden

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With daily practice

his stiff fingers found
a music of their own,
the muscle memory of his arm
a rhythm akin
to the unique routine

of a bird of paradise,
waiting for her to come
to his patch of ground
and allow him to impress.

Paul Munden

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What he overhears

is the tumble of dried fruit – cherries, currants, raisins, sultanas – and the rest is imagined: cinnamon, the grated rind of an orange, sifted flour … then there’s a crack – ‘never mind, let’s try another!’ – and he pictures the smashed yolk wiped from the floor before the comic repeat, but he forges on with his own task, and later lets a quarter bottle of cognac weep into a heavy brass punchbowl, watching the drenched slices of fruit submerge then reappear as he waits for the first guests; and what he sees, deep within the ripples of Christmases past, is the future: tannin stained streams as he walks through the bush, and two crocodiles thrashing in a tinted river, glimpsed from the top of the gorge …

Paul Munden

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(after William Shakespeare, Richard III Act 1, Scene 1)

this winter of our discontent
dead leaves scutter on roads
sad! no one is sadder than me

the sun reports winter as
summer – fake news!
winds carry chill of snow

I won some victories
made crowns of branches
bruised arms stripped bare

fool trees ask the sky for care
stupid! sad! grab what you want
when you cannot prove a lover

fake news! you have determined
me a villain in this my winter
I make great again make bright

this weak piping time of
idle pleasures sportive tricks
was made for me for my shadow

night comes early
dogs bark at me as I halt
I am the saddest

like this breathing world
I am half made built from
drunken prophecies, libels and dreams

Miranda Lello

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I set out one morning to return a book and five years later I have not returned; face
pressed into the dirty skin of the Earth. In the bushes I stare from scrubby branches skin
angry with red rashes trace paths travelled. I remember two of the things I left behind –
a copy of The Brothers Karamazov and a poem I wrote in Mexico. Tears catch in my eyes
at sunset and I bow my head to the night and howl like a beggared king. My raggedness
defends me from seasons such as these. I come to the ocean and remember a story I
wrote that ended that way. I scoop a handful of sand. My wrist aches. Once you could
see the blue veins along the inside of my elbow, my arm, my wrists, my palms now I am
covered with maps of a lake, a bridge, a stand of bamboo with a house behind, a river
hemmed by walls, a tunnel through blackberry bushes. I stand on wet sand. We are born
screaming to this stage of fools because we know what’s coming; we forget. The ocean
catches my ankles and is all remembering. I do not know the way back but I am home
for a time in the water under the clouds. One day the ocean will dissolve into the sky.
The sky is all forgetting. I set out this morning to return a book and in the evening the
sun drowned itself in the ocean. An unexpected development we are unlikely to witness

Miranda Lello

Contains lines from King Lear.

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(for Satendra)


What happened to me

What did I do to deserve that?

I don’t want to be old person.

I’m buggered now, poor fulla me, done, old, like dust.

I should go to doctor, and ask him a question.

He said, ‘Only thing worse than getting old, is not.’
Wise man, Doctor. He’s like light. His eyes know. They see into me. They see that what I
don’t, that I can’t see.

My hands, all busted now. Used, poor fullas, done a good job, soon they’ll be dust.

My head ... He’s cold now. Not much hair, cold gets in from the top. Can’t make it stop.
Hair, all dust now.

And my eyes, water, turnin’ blue ... No turnin’ back.

Soon. Soon. Soon,

all dust.

Paul Collis

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Isi Unikowski reads his poems ‘Grammar Lesson’, ‘You never said it’s a race, dad!’, and ‘Still Life’ for ABR's ACT States of Poetry anthology.

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Geoff Page reads his poems 'No name or rank supplied', 'Flags', and 'The Notebooks' for ABR's ACT States of Poetry anthology.

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