the priests and the witchdoctors both
will bless your new vehicle; the Virgin
will keep you in mind if you fashion a model
of what you want, attach it to the front of the car

                                                                     a second storey on your house
                                                                        a house pure and simple
                                                                          a swinging baby doll
                                                                        attached to your grille

‘The Virgin won’t give them anything’
shrugs Father Abraham: it’ll be hard work
gets the second storey or the first
good luck or bad that delivers or
                 witholds babies

                                                                 The medicine men pooh-pooh the minimal
                                                                 offices of the Friars - they themselves offer
                                                        in addition to the basic plan, prayers to the earth gods
                                                                                 thrilling rituals and holy smoke

the camera pans round a wall of wax engravings
for the attention of the Virgin of Copacabana

                  here, our gurus advise visualising
                  what we desire:
                                                                 a private welter of wants

                                                                                 I like the Bolivian way
                                                                     heart on your sleeve, swinging dice
                                                                           buffeting the rearvision mirror
                                                                   a decade of the rosary, a burnt offering
                                                                              hey! down here! we’ll take anything!
                                                                                          a shout-out to whoever’s online



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Back at Cranfield Street by 5
Motorway horridness receding into fumey oblivion
We are just in time for Pointless – words ending in ‘air’
‘debonair’ ? – others, phoned at random, knew that one

Two pounds fifty left on my Oyster card once I’ve put it through the barrier at
the delicate, high-slung, white and black, wooden pedestrian bridge over the
Brockley line
all along the route is densely wooded with lanky elder saplings
dock and nettles, layers of green petticoats below the asphalt belt

Wendy’s raspberries are flourishing in her damp back garden
I only notice the hundreds of orb spiders strung on webs between the bushes
when I come eye to eye with one as I bend to gather fruit

Brockley Market turns two on Saturday: I’ll be there.

travel the best excuse to scavenge: any find might be a clue
to the answer you’ve been seeking

I’ve picked up a copy of Worzel Gummidge
           ‘Do tell us how you came alive?’
           ‘... so far as I can mind, it all started with a itching in the head,
           when the turnip began to sprout.’

Three Oxford Children’s Modern Classic authors
ring bells, from the list inside Worzel’s cover
Rosemary Sutcliff, Philippa Pearce, Astrid Lindgren

I know the TV Gummidge, not the book
or its author, Barbara Euphan Todd
who ‘started writing when she was eight’, the little swot

the written story’s charm eludes me
a grim, mirthless tale of mud, muddle and mayhem

           Why do I love England? And yet I do.



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Fed Wendy’s cat, walked to Broadway
Market through London Fields

a month from now these will be
once again names to conjure with

jump on a 236
Newington Green
lured by the memory
of Belle Epoque patisserie
glowing golden in a corner

always misremembered

as Raisin D’Etre

My fellow-travellers clearly
locals despite farflung origins
even on my ninth visit
I’m a day-lily among annuals

When I’m seated at my table
the escargot pastry is perfect
the coffee not

c’est la vie


From Wendy’s bookshelf
I’ve taken Death of a Ghost
Margery Allingham
best-loved Dame of Crime

died a year younger
than my present age

so many books!
beneath an unflattering
photo, her Green Penguin blurb
‘In my family, it would have
seemed strange not to write’

yet I know no other Allingham


my internal satnav (not the Epoque
vendeuse’s doubtful directions) tells me

Church Street is nearby
Abney Park cemetery therefore
in walking distance, a favorite for

the unchecked frivolity
of its riot of nameless
creepers and saplings

gobbling tumbled memorials
rampaging madly on


my lately-penned Will specifies
eco-burial, probably in a polite park


better this rampant decay under
thrusting, immodest new growth
the Victorian way


en route to last things, I detour
via penultimate ones

a light-filled ex-factory
scuffed wooden floors
raised platform at the back
sparse, select items dangling at intervals
and in the wide window

a light-as-air linen swingcoat
faintest oyster blue-grey
made for a small man my size
not too many pounds asked,

enthuse with the attendant
who seems as charmed as I
by the garment, as perhaps she is
leave empty-handed


In the cemetery I peer through a screen of oak leaves
squint at the flat Yuri had, with Teresa the mad landlady
a few years back, overlooking this tangle of rubble
deepest green shade


the passage of years
sickeningly vertiginous
when it’s your childrens’ years
you’re reckoning, let alone
amongst tombstones


outside Epoque earlier,
two girl cyclists hugged goodbye

stalwart in Birkenstocks,
tortoise-shelled by Freitag backpacks
full of calm and poise
grounded as I wasn’t

I thought of my reading at their age
how I longed for each new
Drabble, bound to be bursting
with important

tips for living my modern life

all forgotten

Margaret is coming
to Writers Week, I’m reading
her new books, elderly heroes
all passion spent


Margery’s spectral tale from 1934,
in my backpack, is a painter’s story
Lafcardio, RA
Royal Academician

my ghosts today are clamorous
not unfriendly



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a tablescape

drooping roses near death in a jam jar
dull Ian Rankin in a yellow cover lying upside down
Mongolian phrasebook
sample tube of Sensodyne
Cinema ticket: The Great Beauty
opener for the Italian Film Festival
password to Smartygrants
for accessing two hundred applications
business card for Phnom Penh silver and gemstone jeweller
a blue and a black biro
invitation to popup arthouse fundraiser at Goodwood School
receipt for Geranium Leaf Aēsop cleanser
Yuri’s business card at the Apple Store
with the bitten silver apple on gloss white
white enamel teapot with red-rimmed lid
remote control for Smart TV
another Scottish crimemeister, Stuart McBride
Close to the Bone, his back to me
at the far end of the table
this pen

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  • Custom Article Title 'A Rich Full Life' by Cath Kenneally | States of Poetry SA - Series Two
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Cath Kenneally 240Cath Kenneally is an Adelaide poet and novelist whose book Around Here (Wakefield Press, 2002) won the John Bray National Poetry Prize. Of her six volumes of poetry, the latest is eaten cold (Walleah Press, 2013), in which each poem responds to one in the volume Cold Snack (AUP) by Auckland poet Janet Charman. Kenneally’s two novels are Room Temperature and Jetty Road (both Wakefield Press). She works as a print and broadcast arts journalist, being Arts Producer at Radio Adelaide for many years and responsible for Writers Radio, an award-winning national community radio books and writing program. She was the inaugural CAL/J.M. Coetzee Writing Fellow at the Coetzee Centre at Adelaide University in 2016. She holds an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide. Her work has appeared in many national and international journals and anthologies, and been translated into several languages.


A Rich Full Life

Allingham at Abney Park

Island Time


Super Maria Brothers

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in my end is my beginning – just

a rat’s nest coiled in back-shed dust,
a tangle of demented knots

gothic as the Grimms’ dark plots,
a thrumming song of wreak and wreck

(whose satin bed, whose trusting neck?),
the tautened threat from fist to fist,

the carpe diem tug and twist.
My image haunts your DNA,

that tiny ruthless shadow play.
I’m hairshirt-hallowed, gallows shred,

bog-buried hair and voodoo thread,
discord from a black mass choir,

devil’s helix / heaven’s tripwire.
My dreams are rope, I nightly string

up rank despair, the summer swing
to grace the judas tree’s green spread.

Crumble up your holy bread
and feed the crows spaced out along

my cousin wire who codes this song.


This came out of a workshop exercise, a version of Kim’s game – translating objects on a tray: pebble, spoon, nut, string, thimble etc. JJO

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Indoor Cricket 

Insects are nature’s netsukes, and, by jiminy, crickets are such bright creatures. JJO

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This ‘structural scandal’, tongue’s yen for kin
as family is a sort of chime, the thrift
of loaves and fishes unconsumed by scorn,

is natural as natural history
with all its modulations of again –
seed, crystal, comet, crocus, rain.

Even our code’s in rhyme – adenine,
cytosine, guanine and thymine – turn
and turn again (cynghanedd rules the cells).

Call cousin metaphor a silent rhyme,
flashy matchmaker signing What a catch,
this link and latch of things.

Say reason follows suit when politics spells peace.
Note In the beginning was the Word and it rhymed:
quark, antiquark, spin, counterspin.

Left and right are the first and best of gifts;
hand clap, bird flight. Born binary,
we lose and use our balance stepping out,

or, for embodiment of rhyme in tights on a roll,
ape Clem on his circus wire with music and meaning
weighting the opposite ends of the balancing pole.

Remember when first couplets of smile-frown
made enemy-friends with knee scabs for paired badges
as right played tag with wrong and gang was the full stanza?

And how sound conjures friend from stranger
– song belong song, half riff or exact pact,
sun moon one tune, a double cadenza,

with any word an aria centre stage
through (cymbals, please!) full frontal rhyme,
that glitzy tenor of derring-do. Soprano, too.

Irresistible, these prophets of philander,
intuition’s viceroys, double agents all:
Apollo tipsy, Dionysus in tails.

How they’ll subvert a poet and serve a clown!
Their Mercury conjunct Uranus warns
it’s no go the status quo, no go the Fall,

so if you want the moment’s CPR,
the breath and beat of second chance – yes no? –
rhyme’s team will clinch the deal.


The first line quote is from Roland Barthes’ ‘rhyme is a structural scandal’. I like rhyme’s tensile strength, its echo of the pattern of things, the way it can surprise and validate, and sometimes usefully influence a poem’s narrative. JJO.

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after the painting by Jan Vermeer

Two strands of pearls, warm cream, cool blue,
are spilling over a coffer and onto
a crumple of ultramarine against a wall
below a yellow curtain shifting the muted light.
Four gold coins and a silver ducat
wait to be weighed along the table edge,
but the sidelong mirror’s narrow sliver can find
no avarice in its harvest, this calm face:
the soft mouth and downcast eyes are
tender for the scruples of the world.
Her raised right hand is testing the miniature scales,
her left hand’s at the vanishing point,
and on the wall behind, a sprawled Last Judgement
murkily segregates saved from damned.

This seems no cautionary vanitas –
there is nothing in the balance here
but the commerce of light and air;
emptiness equals emptiness in the level pans
the way our moment is aligned with hers:
the chaffer of maids, the scritch of a broom in the hall,
the downstairs tap and squabble and thud
of Klaus repairing a boot, Nienke haggling for cod,
and next-door’s boys at quoits in the lane.

This small room stood when a single spark
sent the Arsenal up ten years before,
along with the whole Second Quarter of Delft;
the immense shudder of sound hit Haarlem.
Death slips easily into a town, a poem.
Jan Vermeer has framed it out of a scene
where time keeps testing true.


One of a series of poems on the paintings of the seventeenth-century Dutch painter Jan Vermeer of Delft. JJO.

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Heaved up or fountained down, the wooden slats breathe a shirr
and clattered repeat of the mill of their making, a satisfactory thud

like the outcome of a stock plot. Half hoist, they hang askew with a
pained smile, and bell pulls for self-service which pirouette

to a glut of knots. Tilt by tilt they’ll orchestrate your day, underlining gloom
and overruling light. Or clapped full shut on the heat, let laddered thread holes

shimmy the sun down beaded falls of bright. Late afternoons, the whole blank
bamboo book concertinas up to bare the view as the scooped weight

calligraphs its lines of cord – left, middle, right – to bunched boustrophedon loops.
And to lie beside the summer-tilted blinds in a sun-stripe shift of brown

and gold, with the scent of thyme from the hidden garden’s dog bark,
bee buzz, biplane snore, is to you dream you wake in the aqueous light

of green glass louvres, the sliced ice of your long-ago brother’s room,
a sleep-out with terrazzo floor, Buck Rogers comics under the bed,

night fears in a secret language, and morning’s, the first sun
totting up ingots: yesterday’s best feng shui rationing parallels out.


Mundane things can turn odd, explorable: Venetian blinds are particularly evocative with their hint of intrigue or nostalgia – from their name maybe: degrees of tilt as communication or secrecy. JJO

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