In this episode of 'Poem of the Week' ABR Laureate David Malouf reads 'Visitation on Myrtle Street' which will appear in ABR's States of Poetry - NSW anthology. ABR Editor, Peter Rose, introduces David who then reads and discusses his poem.
Visitation on Myrtle Street
I was woken at some hour
of darkness before dawn by a scent so heavy
on my senses, on the room, that I was convinced
a burglar had broken in
and was loitering
upstairs or in the hallway, or having caught
my step on the stairs above him was lying low
in the laundry, or sitting
upright and unbreathing
in one of the Windsor chairs, unaware it was
his scent that betrayed him.
I checked the door to the balcony, then the door
to the street with its double lock. In the dark front room I checked
the sofa. Stretched full length
on its French blue he'd be hard
to detect. No one was there
but the scent was overpowering. 'What kind
of scent?', K would enquire
at breakfast. 'Was it
musk? Was it pine?' 'No, something sweeter – why
do you ask? Something sharper, maybe cheaper.'
'Because that would tell us,' he told me
seriously, 'what kind
of angel you were visited by.' 'Here?'
I protest. 'In Myrtle Street?' 'Why
not?' I took it in. Sometimes I wake to the smell of coffee
being brewed downstairs. It wakes me. Why not
the smell of an intruder?
When I woke again the scent had faded. What
had not was the change I felt
on my skin, on my nerves.
Later I worked for an hour or two
at my desk, struggling with angels
of another sort, who leave
no trace I would call a scent. Of musk or sweat,
or pine. Only pen-strokes on a page
they have changed with their lingering, when they deign
to linger. Or a dazzling
blankness when they do not.