The desert dreams of harvest,
of holy writ & rain.

The city dreams of ruin,
of upturned cars
& vine-dressed churches.

The tiger dreams of freedom,
of shaking loose the stake & chain
& racing into shadows
large enough to hold it.

But me?

I dream of you.

There was a time we collected
dolphin's teeth
& smoked fish on atolls,
Do you remember?

We star-peeked and longed for more,
running our hands at the side of the boat,
reading the ripples,
looking for a green tinge
on the belly of clouds
because that meant land & trees.

You told me that
a sunlit lagoon makes a cloud above it
incandesce.

You called me by my true name
& kissed me like I was fireproof,
proof that we
could turn the seam between our bodies
into the equator of a world
conceived in a dream.

When at last we found land,
we swam to the shore,
tossing our heads like young horses,
shaking salt from our hair.

We turned back to look at the ocean
with its broken face & merciless boom,
reflecting in pieces
a private, blood-lit dusk.

 

Omar Musa

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  • Custom Article Title 'Do you remember?' by Omar Musa | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
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One day,
after it has died,
we will hold a vigil for the moon.

We will burn candles,
cheap mimics of its light,
& utter prayers we forgot to utter

while it still lived.
And we will say,
'Remember how it
spoke to us its bone-coloured dreams?
Remember how it gave us hope
when all else seemed savage?'

And some will say it was carved
from whale bone,
while others will swear it was a coin
flicked from the thumb of God.

And Death will come down the alleyways,
ringing its bells & swearing its oaths,
singing its story through
the windows of a ruined world.

And the executioner will cry silently
for those he has slain.
He will caress their shadows
& tell them to run.

But he, they, us,
will have nowhere to go,
no final memory
but a taste of the moon,
who once so sweetly told us
of what we might dream.

 

Omar Musa

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  • Custom Article Title 'The moon (unfinished)' by Omar Musa | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
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We would sit on the wings of his knees
and see-saw our way through stories
              magical suitcases
                           Romanian folktales
              golden apples
                           and sea voyages
Sister                                                     and I
                           bookended
              holding each square corner
              and turning the pages

Sometimes it was pontoon
betting with matchsticks and forgetting
to hold the plastic cards out of sight
in our keen bending over the game

The tooth-cleaning song
upstairs and downstairs
and always ending with pie

Gathering leaves into high dry piles
               with crinkly edges
                in a navy roller-neck
Planting out and potting up
with rubber knee pads over the jeans
engaged in a small prayer service
to the row of terracotta pots laid out on the grass
and after offering fistfuls of potting mix to each
his large palms open on his knees
showed the black grains clinging along the creases

Unwrapping fish and chips from layers of grey grease paper
                         that the oil had already worked through
Singing Irish shanties
                         Scottish ditties
                                      gold rush songs in the car
and walking hand-in-hand across the car-park
               Playing squash together
the two of us in that odd white square
with old wooden rackets and older dunlops
the long reach of his hand letting him sit pretty in the centre
while I wove crazily about him in a mad maypole dance
                of sweat and the rubber slap of shoe-soles
with the tiny ball greying but warming over time
til it was a hot coal burning in the palm each time it was retrieved

Still the love of paprika and garam masala
                dukkah and kimchi
                             fennel seed
                curry powder
                             turmeric
biting on the bitter seeds and smiling
palmfuls flung into the pan with abandon
and the remaining powder clapped away in proud applause

And a very cold night in a tent to see Halley's comet
                       which I never saw
but swore I did with nods and ahs
when he pointed and held the binoculars for me
              despite the fog-smudged sky
and over-night involved a mid-sleep trip
to the concrete toilet-block together in the blackness
and an impromptu run around the cold field
to warm ourselves in the strange emptiness

                         And parties where
                                                 after egg and spoon
the orange wheelbarrow was filled with more than sister and me
           more even than all our small friends put together
                                      We would clasp the plastic rim
and it would buckle and tilt on a crazy angle
but he always got the big wheel turning
                            could always lift us
push us round the garden
no matter how many
how heavy.

 

 Sarah Rice


 Recording

'Dad' begins at 3:09

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For the soft-handled horse-mane hair
of the half moon brush
The gleam of pewter, copper, glass.

For the carpet palimpsest of patterned lives
that lie layered in the deep pile – embedded
wine, coffee, blood, bread, skin, and ash.

For the possibility of preserving presence
and particularity in a photograph.

For the quiet reliability of maps that level
mountains, baptise stream and river
and christen streets. That make a flat
geometry of tower, plaza, town.
And tell you where you are
and where you are not
and where you are going
and how to get there.
That folds the city into squares.

For the iron will of the anvil
and other like instruments
that stay as they are and should be.

For tubes of paint and the infinite spectrum
that gives us sun yellow, yolk yellow
soft and safety yellow, sweet or sour and so on.

For luck on three legs, level tripod,
held steady so it doesn't run out,
with a knowledge the maker of stools
has over the maker of chairs.

For words, spoken, thought, written, read,
unsaid, drawn, erased.
For the silent letter, mute but needed
like the animating principle
that leaves the body lighter at death,
and is the weight of our final breath
The weight of silence lifted.

 

 Sarah Rice

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - ACT | 'Song of gratitude' by Sarah Rice
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

for Wolfgang and Birgit

I failed to sleep last night, I failed to have the dreams
that would take me safe from one day into the next.

I failed to be brave, afraid of the train, its snout of steel
pushing out of the dark into the station at San Pietro,

its sides towering over us blue and white and filthy with night.
It hissed, cracked open, impatient, warm as a belly inside,

I was shaken as it took us like some fallen angel breaking
its teeth on a language too new and too earthly to speak.

I have opened the door to the day without faith in its miracle,
I will cough up the night from my lungs, the city will breathe

and I will see across on the opposite hillside a man on a balcony
move among his plants, touch them, sprinkle them, nodding.

My belly is soft, my head is a stone of my making, I report
that little is known, little is left, too much is imagined.

I think I might try now to go to a church and be prayerful.
I think I can see that the man on the balcony follows some rule.

I failed to sleep last night, after listening to my friends speak
of repairing, slowly, the falling-down church on the hill in their town,

as if too much would be lost, as if angels would drift unanchored
from this town unremembered without its dawn-lit shining omphalos.

 

Kevin Brophy

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - Victoria | 'A brief report' by Kevin Brophy
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

This poem has not yet been written
and before it is I want to say I respect
the President of the United States,
the man himself and his office

and I respect what the people
mean when they say Democracy
though I do not know what this
might have to do with being armed

and having put these points like this
as plainly as possible
on the table here between us
I can warn you I might be saying tomorrow

or perhaps in a few days time
depending on my mood and inner music
that there will be
no agreement, no truce, no bipartisan understanding

and no poem
until the military ceases
to buy the bullets made in the precision workshops
of Missouri, Iran and Africa.

This poem, as you know, has not yet been written
and in protest at the militarisation of education,
work and death,
it might never be written or spoken.

You will understand what silence is
when this poem remains unwritten,
uncreated and forever unspoken.

But I want you to know
this poem, even if never written,
holds the President of Russia
in severe respect, the man himself and his office –

this is
in case you might misunderstand
what is meant
when what must be said fails to be spoken.

 

Kevin Brophy

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - Victoria | 'Before I speak' by Kevin Brophy
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

You woke with a headache
and opened the bedroom window blind.
You bent forward as morning light came in.
It fell on your belly and breasts
and your sleep maddened hair.
I could hear the sickness in your voice
as you accepted a salad bowl to throw up in
and two pills with breakfast.

The new sun tipped itself up over distant mountains
outside the kitchen window and slapped colour on the houses
across the slope from us, oranges and yellows,
a set of green-blinded windows,
and darker green tops of the thick trees behind.
Two gulls floated past the balcony
wondering what to do with themselves
now that the sun was out and a whole day promised.

Coffee, cereal, your emails, homework
all attended to at the table as the headache dissolved
magically you said, kissing me quickly
as you ran out late to your lessons across town.

The plants on the balcony know nothing of you.
They lean out over the traffic fumes below
and do their best to breathe and grow,
                            to do their part as we all do.

 

Kevin Brophy

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - Victoria | 'Magically' by Kevin Brophy
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

For Marianne J Boruch and David Dunlap

 

We walk past the ruined past
pasted to the Academy’s cloister walls,
past broken Latin stones’ fractured inscriptions,
one fragment reading ‘OVE IS’,
and I know that though the sea is coming
and volcanoes are not finished with us,
crossing this garden in this courtyard in the evening
with a sentry in a box by the iron gate
watching black-masked fundamentalist
speeches on a laptop on his desk,
all seems to be falling into place
            temporarily and beautifully.

You say goodbye, we say goodbye,
and we drift away down a hillside
past a bar where young people under awnings
drink and talk into the evening, seeming
to know how to live deep into this night
how to make the harmless sounds of conversation.
We want to sit here too with them on the hillside,
a scooter waiting outside
and an unearthed monstrous stone foot or hand
propped artfully somewhere nearby.

The bluestone cobbles tire our feet as we go down
to a tram where more people out of the night
talk, drink, lean a cheek on the black window glass
of a swinging electric lozenge whose brakes hiss.

As a child I was impatient for night to come properly down,
as if doubt could infect the universe if dusk lingered.
Doubt was the rope that tied hands behind backs.
Doubt was the door left half open.
Doubt would keep you from the confessional.
I dragged blankets over my head,
wore soft napped cotton pyjamas
as the night at last came down over me neatly.
I wanted it there, then I wanted it gone
when I opened my eyes.

Night, larger than any cathedral, larger than our suburb,
was the thing squatting over us more ancient than childhood,
always interested only in itself.

Tomorrow the sky will reveal a smog-grey streak
swiped across those distant mountains.
We will walk to the top of a nearby hill,
I will remember your legs over me in the night,
your shoulder against mine,
we cannot untangle these bodies, their unreadable parts,
we are Gullivers to the ropes and threads of the night.

We will walk to the top of a nearby hill
and remember something
as the hill falls away below a low wall
all the way down to a river that rolls like a prisoner
in its narrow cell until its mouth spits the broken
vowels and letters of the past out in an unheard howl to the sea.

This night in the Academy’s cloister
we passed a beautiful stone coffin,
the sliced off tops of columns,
a cocktail party under arches,

and we feel right, we are right,
we step out into the night
and drift down the hillside past a bar
where people sit in semi-dark talking
of the life they have or would have,
glancing up at us as we walk among them,
the night perfect, us perfect too.

 The sea is moving strangely, insistent,
and volcanoes are considering
what sounds they might make.
The enormous ruins are held down
and scraped back by many bony hands.

The sirens we will hear tomorrow
from the park where we walk
will never cease, they will go round and round
sweeping up whatever they can in their path.

 

Kevin Brophy

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - Victoria | 'Siren' by Kevin Brophy
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

 we know that the sun comes up when we pray,
that it's here to bless us every day,

we know that communists boil children
to fertilise their socialist fields,

we know that Italy has the most beautiful
secretaries in the world,

we know that there are giant rats swimming
in the Tiber,

we know that the heads of Royal personages
rattle when they fall,

we know that drugs are merely chemicals,
and happiness is a chemical too,

we know that the Virgin Madonna was too young
to be a mother,

that Joseph was a hundred years old at least
and should have known better,

we know that dictators go weak at the knees
when US dollars are crisp and new,

we know that slavery is still a preferred arrangement
for the most successful capitalists,

we know that eleven o'clock on a Sunday morning
can be the most segregated hour in the week,

we know that children will hug to themselves
the bombs that kill and cripple,

we know that somewhere soon a last wild cat will stalk
past an automatic camera,

we know that hatred is its own relentless river,
pushing us with it,

we know what it means to stand in our shoes
with the truth at our backs and another in our eyes,

we know what we read in the news could be true,
but that all we've learned can only mislead us,

we know the facts we know keep changing their colours,
their loyalties, names, addresses and income,

we know that the buttoned-up banks are our true confessors,
fattened on the grease of our secrets and sins,

we know that the bats swooping in
to hang from the trees that line rivers of lies

must be blind,
and we too will close our eyes at last when the long evening comes,

we know that the soul
is a myth, that our hearts might stop beating so hard

if we could close all the doors and shut up the windows
and seal up our homes and turn up the heaters,

we know that the wolf falling from the building in front of our eyes
is a message we can never be sure we've received.

 

Kevin Brophy

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - Victoria | 'What we have been told' by Kevin Brophy
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The Docklands cranes that hoist containers
from ship to shore and back again
are giraffes according to my friend's four-year-old.
Residents of the urban zoo sleep on their hooves,
work all day and eat stars instead of leaves;
now there aren't many left in the city.
Perhaps they live on bats, as the bats eat flies –
double swarms obscuring church spires.
The four-year-old wears a Batman costume
padded with muscles and adores yelling, Emergency!

 

Extract from Our Effects

Amy Brown

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - Victoria | 'Cranes' by Amy Brown
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