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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  • Custom Article Title 'Dad' by Sarah Rice | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

No one is going to come and save you.
And because of this you must fold
your clothes at day's end

despite the urge to abandon them
to the backs of chairs. You must shake
the crumple of sleep from the sheet.

You must clean your teeth. Wash the teaspoons.
Fold your pyjamas too and lay the neat squares
to rest under your pillow of a morning

despite the fact that in a few hours all
will be done again in reverse. All will be undone.
And there will be no-one to see.

No one will know the bed corners were tucked
into triangles. No one will see the sleeves cross
empty arms against flattened chests and wait quietly.

No one will know if the spoon was licked before it re-
entered the jam jar. And no one will call you to bed
and to the relief of sleep. That midnight hour must be

crossed alone.

The curtains drawn and redrawn, drawn and erased.
Be wary of sitting too long in a warm place, of holding
cups of tea for too long, or lying in bed thinking in the morning.

Be up and doing, up and at 'em. Be the bird
that gets the worm before it eats the apple.
Try to resist writing poetry.

 

 Sarah Rice

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Timing and manner my mum would always say
and it's true, the how and when override the what
of what's said, and the same is true of poetry.

I don't think people remember their tone when speaking –
other people's yes, but not their own. Tone, like texture, is crucial
for the feel of things – is it honey or cactus, metal or water?

And if the words float toward you like ducks on a pond
looking for crumbs, or if they are the hard grit
embedded in a harsh wind as it lashes your face,

the words themselves matter less than the manner of their coming –
words that slip in to visit you in their night gown, or words that slip
their owner's leash and attack in packs and will not be called back.

Some words have tiny green tendrils that climb like pea shoots,
while others bite their nails and yours. It is a shame we cannot feel
the weight and warmth or will of saying, instead of what's said.

 

 Sarah Rice


Recording

'The Saying and The Said' begins at 1:53

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after David Brooks

Red-
tailed Bedouins
of Poetry, black
cockatoos embroider
the sun into us,
seam-rip it asunder.

*

On the Fitzroy's
bank at midday,
cracking seeds of eucalypts
that outrank Council, a hundred
Banks' black cockatoos,
a paroxysm of commas.

*

With their subtler
complex-
ions, the females infinitely
more beautiful
than the ludic-
rously coloured gatherers.

*

The gospel according to the locals:
'Four black cockatoos
kreeing seawards
means four days of rain'
(burkesbackyard.com.au confirms it).
I am not a God-fearing man.

*

Should black cockatoos
know
that theirs are the colours of life?
Indefatigable black
and needlepointed into this
starry orange and yellow.

*

Imprisoned
black cockatoos
long-lived as man
neglectful beneath the same
white sun, its ROYGBIV illusion
destroyed by the tiniest prism.

Stuart Barnes

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                 Woman

the real sea snoring half a mile away
the scrubbed brick walls of the double lounge and its
samples of african drums flood the speakers

Is that your shadow, weightless,
a smudge of grey dust
in the black trickery of the she-oak?

the lyrebird
   in the moon,
with her cloudy skirt, shimmies down

                    Man

There are transparent fish
                                               lifting the mist
          fish, coral
and offspring. The red is too brilliant,
big as Africa

or an infant at the telescope's opposite end

cattle walk over a hill, their eyes connected, swivelling
    now there is no safety anywhere

The moon will fizz like a pill in a drink ...

Stuart Barnes

 

a cento sourced from Alison Clark's 'To the Moon Behind Branches', joanne burns' 'moon', Jill Jones' 'waiting for the moon beyond the disco', Dorothy Hewett's 'Moon-Man', Nicolette Stasko's 'The Moth and the Moon', Caroline Caddy's 'Editing the Moon', Kate Llewellyn's 'Speaking of the Moon', Dorothy Porter's 'Full Moon', M.T.C. Cronin's 'Sonnet of Eggs & Moons', Gary Catalano's 'Nocturnes', Robert Kenny's '[Was moved across these waters]', S.K. Kelen's 'Moon Beach', John Kinsella's 'The Healing Of The Circle', Mark O'Connor's 'Moon Over Mindil Beach', Alex Skovron's 'A Concise History of the Moon', Michael Dransfield's 'Philosophy of movement', Peter Porter's 'Diana and Actaeon', Alan Gould's 'Moon'.

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  • Custom Article Title 'Moon—' by Stuart Barnes | States of Poetry Queensland - Series One
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... it shimmers, it does not stop, and I think it wants me.
—Sylvia Plath, 'A Birthday Present'

Here's some activity you may have missed:
pompadour-lure hung three days after I
disentangle.
                       'It misses me.'
The fourth: A lot has happened on
Facebook since you last logged in. And later:
Do you know [famous so-and-so]? You have more
friends on Facebook than you think.
                                                               Emboldened,
the fifth: You have new friends on Facebook.
'You can never have enough friends!' O.M.,
M.H. and two others have their birthday
today on the sixth.
                                 Her photophore
shimmers   shimmers   shimmers. I bite, dissolving skins.
Parasite, I atrophy to gonads: deepsea
love for my common black devil, my humpback.

Stuart Barnes

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Nan's budgerigar,
cat fed    squeezing like the morning
fog between oxidized barbed
wire and gorse
with an older cousin
with a slug gun

booting sheep skulls
stripped by gusts, our fathers'
1950s snares    swooped by plovers,
daring: 'yellow spurs! forearms
up!'   shooting star-
lings for laughs

another exhausted afternoon:
a hotted-up Torana: another burnout
to Warrant, to Poison
footy, swimming, cricket
on Pop's prized green, putting
with the wrong kind of club

transfixed by sixpence-
riddled heads hooked over the wash-
board   another hand of Patience
and Snap!   the glass swan
brimming with owl-red water
numb on mother-of-pearl veneer

lake   one more theft—
a short-finned eel, writhing
and crackling—from the Esk
squeal of cast iron frying
pans   slaps on the back   each mouth-
ful of muddy flesh foreign to a South-

erner   on each empty double bed
a leering toilet roll
doll   full moon, mid-
night's deer-sprint to the outdoor
loo   the top bunk's hexagonal wiring sprung,
the mattress oozing through the cells like honey

Stuart Barnes

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  • Custom Article Title 'Fingal Valley' by Stuart Barnes | States of Poetry Queensland - Series One
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From his ebony eyrie
the moon is salubrious,
round as the white lotus' root.
The desert's his adversary.

The moon is salubrious
with his godly left eye.
The desert's his adversary,
spiteful, like a hippopotamus.

With his godly left eye
the moon is neither ossuary,
nor spiteful, like a hippopotamus,
a shape-shifting crocodile.

The moon is not an ossuary.
The desert is a troglodyte,
a shape-shifting crocodile.
The moon's a fresh apothecary,

the desert is a troglodyte.
From his ebony eyrie
the moon's a fresh apothecary,
round as the white lotus' root.

Stuart Barnes

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  • Custom Article Title 'Horus and Set' by Stuart Barnes | States of Poetry Queensland - Series One
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Unexpected on a day like this—
sun shuttling through the 125th Street bridge,
plastic strung in Harlem's elms like tattered wreaths:
unseasonable, unreasonable spring.
Under the red shadow of the Grant tenements
lunchtime noshers clatter china at Bettolona,
dogwalkers spread out on the grass in Sakura Park,
men from the halfway home
drag their deckchairs into the street.
Someone has left a string of Christmas lights
blinking a tired morse on the windowsill.
Someone has forgotten something.
Something is forgotten.
So take the phone off the hook;
pour another drink.
No point in worrying about anything.
No point worrying.
Then, suddenly, clear sky snow
in a cold confetti over the Hudson.
A silent tickertape, that huge white falling
over the sidewalks and taxis,
laundromats, bodegas, outpost libraries.
Is this how the news will arrive
of my father's death?
Settling lightly over the heads of pedestrians
as they hurry from the subway
in black goosedown coats,
evaporating before it even touches their hair
but bowing down, again and again, to the ground.

Sarah Holland-Batt

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How fine it is to mutiny
against my tired mind—

say self, you are through,
to smash into a mirrorball

of echoes all scaled
in dizzying Nordic blue

feel the universe tilt
and infinitely rebuild

to flicker
like a skerrick of spindle silver

needle-quick,
and never be held—

this is the freedom
of the unilluminated world

where corals pulse
in the dark like deathstars, unmoved,

and leaflets of seagrass
witter in the fracas and fray

of elfin shrimp
and the forays of smolts and eels,

and I can forever surf
not between places but selves,

scavenging the ultramarine layers
for other lures, other lives.

Sarah Holland-Batt

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  • Custom Article Title 'Mackerel' by Sarah Holland-Batt | States of Poetry Queensland - Series One
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