As when the governess
Clutched to her bosom the damp head of Miles,
Who squirmed, unseeing, frantic for a hint,
Not able yet to guess
What she appeared to see in the haunted pane
Besides the backlit sky: the shape of Quint
Trying to find his way past her denial’s
Hard stare, not quite in vain.
Everything happens fast and then goes –
the new movie you were waiting for
that you’ve suddenly just seen, the tunnel
under the harbour that seemed to take forever
now built and grooved by a million trips.
In winter fruit trees bud, shops
are full of summer clothes; only this
mind is slow, still stalling on the same
questions, never getting it, left behind
by life as by some wild-eyed nag
storming down the street, her hoofprints
pasted in the grass.
Welcome to the feast, piccolo pasero,
A feast that never ends, of loyalty and treachery.
Two are sold for a farthing, little sparrow
Hold the hearts close to your heart:
they’ll feed each other blooms of colour
and the nudity of shapes
until you are bursting
The world presses in,
a towering river of debris glittering
with specks of one ongoing explosion.
All of us are morphing,
our faces layered with many faces, two eyes
gazing upward from the ending of time.
Our skin is travelling from country to country
even as we sit still
and the second hand stays
frozen on the wall clock.
I am in Louisiana with the dogs,
my lost generations of dogs.
How I got there, what budget tour I’m on,
whether my papers are in order,
my visa credible, is a total mystery.
Four in the morning. Stumbling back
to bed, the softness
of my pillow in the spread
of my fingers assumes
again, after so long, the still longed for
round of your head.
Gwen Harwood, who died in 1995, was born on 8 June 1920, in Brisbane, of course, which she went loved dearly. Harwood seems increasingly to have been one of the finest poets Australia has ever produced. She was much loved; anyone who knew her relished her wit, her directness, her inextinguishable spirit. To mark the centenary of her birth, ABR asked a number of her colleagues and admirers to record some of her poems. Happily, there are hundreds of them to explore.... (read more)
Lexicographers, not just newspapers and television, respond to disasters. Language is never fixed, never finished, never done. In recent months, language has been shaped by the coronavirus. In this episode, Amanda Laugesen, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at ANU and editor of The Australian National Dictionary, discusses coronaspeak, the language of lockdown.... (read more)