Landscape photographs from Black Saturday by John Gollings
Fremantle Arts Centre, July 2015.

enter a room and find stripes of night on each of the walls

pines have been hushed

black trunks block the light sky
and underfoot the ash is soft, waiting for wind

              there can be no name for this

letters and numbers in degrees
of requiem     so many points
of a pin     where the fire spirit chose to go

a doorway into another room where undressed,
old hills roll in wrinkles
trees like stubble
on anatomy we don’t normally see
roads like a lover’s tracings
on flanks, shoulders

camera is a word for room in another language
– this is a tender lens

how do we forget
the defence of bark
how a hill names a track
the requirement of sun for shadow

photographs on a wall

                paper
                                scissors
                                                rock

Josephine Clarke


A version of 'Aftermath' was published in Westerly’s online edition: New Creative, September 2016.

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– Dwerda Weelardinup

The whistle of the djidi-djidi on the army tank
slices the evening grey. Someone
is walking their dog. I am walking me
around this once defensive hill.

Gun House, Rifle Cottage. Cantonment.
Embers of a campfire through the scrub.
Quarried and tunnelled
– gradient constantly resettled.

At the Gunners’ Cottages,
new stair-rails gleam like epaulettes.
Reticulation runs on rolled lawn;
sand escapes across the footpath.

This hill is knotted with histories
the locals have long fought to keep alight.
What’s left is still
a glassy view of river and sea.

Cars sew a thread of lights across the Swan;
stop-start exhausts rumble at the red
beside an octopus with arms of rubber –
mural on the Navy Stores.

Djidi-djidi makes his
djidi-djidi sound. The lights turn
green; brake lights extinguish
one by one.

 

djidi-djidi – wagtail

Josephine Clarke

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– photograph 1964.

at the bridal table
in front of Mill Hall stage
she is small
and tight lipped       flowers
from somebody’s garden
in a bucket behind her head

the shell of her jacket
loose
as though she has been
deflated
her chest an empty cavity

all that sheen –
hat, suit
damask on the table –
cannot mask the weather
of another century
traced across her face

another hemisphere
hangs in gold hoops at her ears

in the primavera of her growing
great iron cannons
to the East of the Valtellina
blasted a chorus for her nightmares
la prima guerra
cast that strong jaw
her straight stare

did she choose not to understand
the photographer’s request
for a smile?

Josephine Clarke

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we remembered
your face, pink, lit like we’d never seen it
when your hands at your shoulders met his
       for the Pride of Erin
the ease of your gliding
       for the three-four Modern Waltz
that marquisite brooch on the bodice
of your teal best dress

your stepping in perfect union on the dance floor
– how ineluctable your coupling

you could never forget
that quick step to expecting
the slow drive to Harvey
to tell your father, an internee,
or the nuns who sang you a full Mass
despite the rule of the Church

we watched
the slow unravelling
dinner to the dogs
chips of china in the wood pile
tears in the cold wash house
behind the steaming copper

we eavesdropped
on the soft vowels of dialect
with your allies when he was out
magari ... I wish
che pu fa? ... what can you do?
your laughter rippling
a corrugated scale by the end of the pot

we will never forget
you had to ask for money
he always asked what for?

at the end you called him
he sat by you his gaze adrift
you had fought each other hard

but stayed
till the end of the dance

Josephine Clarke

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For my mother

The young men,
friends of our middle one,
camp nights in your bed.
Some leave it with hospital corners,
some leave it like a lair to revisit
and some make cocoons on top.
In most cases
they are shaping up.
On kitchen raids
they all report sound sleep
and I wonder what it is
that breaches their dreams
as they lie down
in this last contracted room of yours?
Can they imagine your life?
Is it the patina of photos, letters, legend –
all that dense action –
that guards their rest?
I wish for an instant
that I could share with them
my montage of you:
the stout baby with black curls,
the girl smiling with her shoulders hunched
at the Southern Ocean,
the young doctor tending
someone in an iron lung;
and sometimes our mother,
simply our mother,
in the garden,
white glints in the air,
flowers that have floated off your dress.
And now abrupt Trojan old age.
No, they don’t see it.
They can’t.
But part of this is what keeps them
coming back, I think,
that and the allure of your
strange come-and-go arrangements.
At fifty-one
I’m thankful
for every second
you have been away
and shown us all
that there is still life
to be lived
beyond convention.

Lucy Dougan

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In crisis
I go to the local library
and do not take out
the book I find,
this one or that one first,
what matter?
Outside beside my car
sits a strange chrome and vinyl seat,
part of a vanity set,
stranded, hieratic, ruined,
like the beautiful straight-backed
low seated chair-people
of Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche.
I do the visual maths.
Will it fit behind?
– no, there, rightfully, is the seat for our grandson –
I consign its odd allure to my phone’s photo bank instead.
I sit on it only once,
open its cream frayed seat
with its tooled insignia of promise
nothing
What does it mean
for home to be a failure?
What does it mean
for other places to be a failure?
I leave the throne to its own
mise en scène, neither
desolate nor replete
were I to claim it.
There is, after all, no mirror
in front of which to place it
though I fix my hair and do my lips
before I reverse away.

Lucy Dougan

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The old cat and dog
now sleep in our room
in an uneasy truce
between the floor and bed.
It is as if they are not sure
the house exists
once we no longer light it
or move about it,
once we lie down
in agreement it is night.
It’s come to sit on my chest,
their Stilnox camaraderie,
and when I wake in snatches
I have thought different things.
Perhaps we are at sea
and this is our cabin
or perhaps without quite knowing
how or why
the rest of the house is demolished,
its surfaces wrecked, its innards divulged
in a fuselage of darkness.
Mornings are a strange venture.
As I keep night for them,
so they – treading out first –
herald in the day for me.

Lucy Dougan

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The girl on a rug with a cat
is an entirely decorative proposition.
She curls, the cat curls, even the rug
displays some notion of this movement
with its diverting curlicues.
Life, too, is making a start inside the girl
although she cannot know this right now.
Some contract with another is being made,
even as we speak, on the rug with the cat beside her.
The striped ginger cat grows its hairs.
It is not the cleverest cat.
Somewhere some time a worker,
who cannot be revealed in this schema
but who nonetheless has left a signature of sorts
in all the curlicues, made the rug.
They weren’t paid well.
Perhaps they got by.
Were they a girl with life beginning inside them?
And did they own a cat,
perhaps a goat, or duck or a pig?
In this scene a lot remains unknown,
just as it always does.

Lucy Dougan

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I lie on the couch
like a beaten dog
as Philip Mould advances
on his latest art forensics
and there are these absolutely
free and liberated daubs
of greens and browns
in close-up on the screen.
They are of the earth
in a surprising and counter way
to all that sateen, country houses,
rich people by the yard.
And from my beaten dog pose
I potentially fall in love with Gainsborough.
How could I have not before?

Philip Mould’s suit combos are impeccable.
He is always consulting experts,
always moving crisply through the
weak light of investigation sites
– the galleries – but his eyes
look infinitely tired
as if he has done so much
looking for us.
I trust his close-ups.

After enough experts
and trailing about,
there is Gainsborough again
with his louche letters,
and unsympathetic wife,
his treatment of waistcoats
and his small garden tray arrangements
that look touchingly a lot
like the moss tray gardens
of childhood
only more elaborate
with water features
and places to arrange a nymph or two,
a satyr.
They are a step up from what one
could get at the model shops,
though proximate, small feathery trees
and a brittle feeling of those bags
full of fake glittering lawn.

It leaves me unaccountably sad
that Gainsborough had to live with someone
who threw out all his dirty letters.
What a loss Philip Mould’s prim sidekick
says off guard, says passionately,
as the camera hovers over the tray garden
– this little grave of creativity –
and she’s right.

Lucy Dougan

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017 15:55

'The New Maps Keep a Weather Eye' by Judith Bishop

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    Bold shades of autumn leaf – or blazing embers’ light,
    bright to extinguished, as if fires set
    in hearths huddled closely in the dirt were offset
    by pallid oceans with their artificial light.
    Are the colours fire-signals to a planetary eye
    that, like Atlas, feels the weight of earth,