States of Poetry 2016

You ought to ring up
The farm may have disappeared
Into the river – as it does from time to time –
Or the trees in the orchard bloomed with stars
Or the geese may have rowed
in the blue dinghy adorned with hundreds
of marigolds to the island
with six of them sitting straight up
on the bench, the other two heaving an oar
while the rooster watches ...

I was the dressmaker's daughter
our dialogue was fabric, colour,
embroidery, pins and scissors.
The almost silent sound
of snipped cloth falling
on the table round my feet.

A bodice of pins drew down
over my head like a scaffold.
I spent my childhood in the sea
or standing on a table – 'A sway back!'
she said proudly.
Once I wore a tab ...

is the poem nonchalant enough to reference sufjan stevens :
or is he, too, passé : it's a poem in the same key
as his chicago : piped in to the auditory cortex : a private music :
that the world resounds with : the city resonates
from the inside : lights light up in unison : traffic stops

& starts : office-buildings with a swagger to their stillness :

a beetle enamoured with my lamp : a harbinger
of spring : as if the tree blossoming
on the footpath opposite was not enough :
or the budding persimmon : or the bottlebrush flowers
i didn't notice until today : there's evidence of spring :
in abundance : the enduring dusk : that's holding
still : days that are shifting south : subtly :
to an alternate frame of ...

A day in parallax – duco-blue –
a crop of borrowed gold,
in focus, replete –

fibrous stems of light, agitated,
and, over them, the bales
of cloud dispersing.

The motor ticking
long after it is silenced.
And the impulse it honours: this.


Thom Sullivan


after Paul Muldoon's 'Why Brownlee Left'

Where Brownlee went, and why he went,
is no mystery – Brady's bar.
And if a man should have fixed intent
it was him; two shots of whiskey,
one of Bushmills, one of Redbreast,
a cheer and a slab for the house.
He was then seen going out to piss
in the March morning, sure and surly.

I wonder what happens
in Seb's kitchen, I see
him round the corner
into the room, sun shining, cat
ready for food, a grin
that is mixed of resignation
& amusement eyes alight
for the opportunity
each day brings. I always
liked the way he understood
things – things I've
never understood –
as an open secret, knowledge
with w ...

We've been in mourning just over a year,
or just under, depending on the date we're marking.
Not always celebrations, anniversaries
have a way of keeping their appointments:
they're ticked off at the level of the body
and brain, our biochemical wakes.

I've felt strange all week, sick and sleep-obsessed,
a willed agoraphobic. Show me the cave
I need to ...

Casuarina leaves disable the dog.
He halts on the track ahead, scratches,
then sits and sulks, his undercarriage
a matt of clinging tendrils.
My hands prickle with casuarina scales
so small they're almost unseen,
but my palms know they're there
and the dog does, too, his eyes accusing.
The she-oaks shouldn't have been a surprise,
but were. We came up ...

They toll hours. I trace the peak and trough of raven-call
through brick veneer walls to the hospital – an hour away –
with every throaty rattle, to my Aunt, morphine
pump filtering sleep. She's comfortable, her nurses say.
Housebound with telephone, I'm waiting, listening
for whispering oxygen, for rattle-claws on tiles,
black birds stalking roofs of this cind ...