For Bill Harwood

 

A theorist of the purest kind,
Your lectures had no human warmth
And faded like a day-time moon.
The crueller said 'cloud-cuckoo land'

And loudly tapped their hollow heads.
Some thought you clinically disposed,
Contemptuous of eveything
Except the symbols on a page,

Myself included till you said
With gravy running down your chin:
'I love to lie curled up in bed
And listen to the pouring rain'.

Graeme Hetherington

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Upper Heights And Lower Depths

 

What heights remain beyond our reach
When dog whistle and tuning fork,
Straining to listen though we may,

Sound notes pitched too high for our ear,
Deserting us yearning to rise,
Freed from the confines of our lives?

Nor can we hear how far below
The scales a crow's cawing might go,
Summoning to a fathomless

Black abyss, as Aeschylus in
His tragedies, at first much too
Profound to be understood with

Such measurelessly dark deep lines
As 'cry sorrow, yet let the good
Prevail, man suffers to grow wise',

Sang the ever-feuding Greeks down
Into the bottomless pit of
A vendetta, till all but drowned

In blood they learnt it's better to,
With many a backward look and fall,
Climb out and up towards the stars.

Graeme Hetherington

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Avila

 

(1)

 The badly wounded and the poor
Move round the city with the sun
And little else to keep them warm,

While time softens cathedral stone,
Plucks eagles bald and breaks the wings
Of St Teresa's doves in flight.

 

(2)

 A fine day shows up broken teeth,
Club feet, ten thumbs and squinting eyes,
The signs of under-privileged genes.
Such people built the city walls,

Served church and king in countless wars.
The past has much to answer for
When sunlight's only kind to stained
Glass windows and bejewelled swords.

Graeme Hetherington


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On World Heart Day

I notice your scars more than usual -
life-saving stuck zippers.

I want to plant kisses
like votives along each one:

along the delicate ribbon of light
between your extroverted nipples,

along the scythe shaped slash
de-freckling your right calf.

Hospital flowers bloomed, petals fell
in the sterile-fresh air that day.

I wove endearments like chainmail
across the terrible divide

as miracle drugs fought to save you,
leaving demons in their wake.

Somewhere in your addled brain
a small piece of trust remained

and you gave it to me -
love’s indefatigable radar homing in.

That first night home we read
Postoperative Delirium over beer

and ice cream the way we once
read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

With no more to wish for we fell asleep
to the tick of your tin man heart.

But they cracked open your breast bone
and I cannot think too long on this.

The pressure it took. The precision.
The stillness of your heart and lungs.

The machine that breathed for you.
The one that brightened your blood.

And the tunnel, that anecdotal tunnel
you say you never saw coming

returning you to me like fortune,
my light-scarred Lazarus love.

Jane Williams


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Part of the main

 

is what Donne wrote when he wrote about men
not being islands and what I’d been thinking
when my friend posted the photo.

Our Lady Help of Christians, Grade 1 -
thirty five six year olds in pigeon grey
with a hint of ascension blue.

Those faces exactly as I remember them -
crushed or beaming, self contained, apologetic,
all burgeoning with mimicry and invention:

the bully, the nanny, the comic relief,
smooth talking con artist, nail biting altruist -
each praying for some kind of fit.

Singing when we thought no one could hear,
inflating fraught hearts until we were sure
there was no more to life than this floating.

Private wish lists and secret codes, our world
internal, eternal, by invitation only,
the bright guileless day dreams, the terrors of night.

It was the year Janis followed Jimmy all the way
down and out and the Vietnam birthday ballot
drew Australian names like bad pennies to war,

the year our parents took to shaking or hanging
their heads, looking at us, just looking at us in ways
we had to trust but couldn’t begin to understand.

Jane Williams

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Swallowing the sky

What can I say about this
spring day but that the leaping
dog cloud has stolen my attention
away from all earthly blooms.
Such fine points of ears,
legs built for speed, for the hunt,
tail set to thump nothing into being,
open jawed, tasting life on the hop.
Yet even as this poem takes shape,
its inevitable dissolve has begun:
a quiver in the back legs then the front,
a reluctant heel to domesticity,
the ears next, nibbled away
by some cunningly
camouflaged predator,
the tail unceremoniously
dropping off altogether
until finally all that remains
is the ever widening
sky swallowing jaw
of the leaping dog cloud
no more.

Jane Williams

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The insistence of now

 

An almost-noir chill day in the cemetery.

A service just finishing, no one I knew.
I walk the line - observer/interloper,
drawn to incongruities, ambiguities.

The way graveside life teems - regardless,
causal. A priest walks by swinging
his thurible, black robes, black puffer jacket.

A child forages tidbits from a mother’s pocket.

An intermittent breeze flaps
the canary yellow tie of a mourner
becomes a metaphor: identity, freedom,
inarticulate love.

The mountaintop an expo of spring snow.

A ginger cat plays hide-and-go-seek
with patches of light and shadow and
                                me.

Daisies cover names and dates insisting now.

A pine tree severed to its stump, the fresh
cut scent intoxicating and guilt-ridden
as any pheromone.

Amoung the rows of marble and granite
a stop-red For Sale sign advertising
its vacant plot
three tiers, a mobile phone number.

All this cordoning off, alphabetizing
unsustainable degrees of separation.

Beneath our feet the herculean ants carry on.

Above us plovers swoop miss swoop again.

In the rising bark of bitzer dogs all our unchecked
daydreams off lead, indistinguishable, giving chase ...

Jane Williams

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Casualties

(Willow Court Asylum, 1827-2000, New Norfolk, Tasmania)

 

Squatting in the bitumen
by the old mortuary
suckering weeds
of blackberry.

Around the hem
of the exercise yard
runtish holly.

Under the scum and stench
of the Frescati pond
rotting water ribbons
and frogs.

An ash sapling
tunnelling too far
is trapped in the pipeline.

Wisteria and ivy
in a race to the high wall
have growth-spurted
through the fire escape.

A solitary elm
scrooches down
in the empty avenue.

Lombardy pine
has surrendered
its heartwood
to a colony of bees.

A laurel has died
but the earth holds fast
to its mouldering roots.

The golden robinia
has lost its vitals –
creamy pea flowers
kidney seeds.

Man-fern
has closed its fronds
to the light.

At death’s terminus
a palliative cocktail awaits
contorted willow, alder
and oak.

Tree of Heaven, 14. 5 metres high
watches over a funeral cypress
with ruin on its mind.

Karen Knight

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Winter

Snow laced the lower slopes
of the mountain today, trees
hooked to filigrees of light,
sky tethered to the mountain’s bulk,
its table cloth of white.
Possibility was everywhere,
the embroidery of snow, illuminating.
Out of the corners of our eyes we spied
our own footsteps like animal spoor,
faintly articulated in the white blanket,
a trail to chase, all day.

Adrienne Eberhard

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Atonement

 

I

This clutch of buildings
has long died
but the ghosts are still here
trying to find heartbeats.

We need to lie
the mirrors down
and take a hammer
to them.

Make a mandala
out of all this
scratched
and crazed glass.

This place needs
to be blessed
before the ghosts reach
breaking point.

We need to mend things.

 

II

 

The Beauty of Numbers

On a corner wall of The Barracks
a breakout of numbers
in a sequence of threes and fours
makes no sense
to a maths professor
or an archaeologist –
no one is able to unravel
and decode.

But for someone who saw
the world in fragments,
and had a fixation on digits
finding a wall in this hollow square
of a building complex
and pencilling onto the rendered bricks
the first line
1068, 3241, 3128 and 2620
makes perfect sense.

Whether by brilliance or madness
the author of this
mega puzzle of figures
from the soldier’s nook on the roof
down into this corner
of the former barracks
perhaps had only one aim–

the beauty of the numbers
themselves.

 

III

 

Why Graffiti?
Graffiti writers are urban shamans
and the streets are our modern day caves. Crayone.

I’m a modern day
calligrapher
writing text
most people can’t read.

Writing my name
over and over again
in public places
makes me feel immortal.

It’s a beautiful thing
when I rip the lid
off a spray can
and smell the fresh paint.

When I take on a wall
and do a throwie
I see a new world
in the loudest colours.

It’s a kick in the face
to other gangs
who try to take over
my turf.

Love the rush
of quick bombings
the sacrificial speed
over aesthetics.

There’s lots of long-faced
walls around here.
I have no choice
but to leave my mark.

 

IV

 

All is not lost

When the delinquents put
an end to the greenhouse
with their riotous supply of bricks
detached seedlings flew out
in the beaks of birds
and garden snails found
a new way to crawl over
this stretch of glass beach.

 

V

 

The Garden

Against a tight girdle
of brickwork, weeds
have burrowed deep
into the down-and-out
soil.

 

This was once a garden
of fast growing flowers
planted by a groundskeeper
for the queer folk to watch
from the whey-faced windows.

They would stare
open-mouthed and point
to the sunflowers
growing their big, meaty
heads.

And the groundskeeper
instead of waving, would drag
out dandelion roots
and blow feathery seeds
their way.

 

VI

 

Missing

Like a man
with a metal detector
he fossicks
through the rubble
of crumbling walls
and stone
in search
of his memory
gone astray
after the asylum
he once lived in
tumbled down.

 

VII

 

The art of breaking free

Find an open shed
star-high with tools
and a golden ladder
that will reach the top
of a maximum security wall.

As you climb each rung
don’t listen to the bricks
and their sad history
the willow trees are waiting
for you on the other side.

When you cross
the bridge
don’t look down
at the troubled river

don’t dwell on
the lifers
you leave behind.

Karen Knight


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