Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tuesday Poem - The ngaio tree by Fiona Kidman

The ngaio tree

“..we leave best what we have truly loved.”
                                     Lauris Edmond

So here come the kids, skidding their school bags
across the floor, blazers flung awry on the chairs,
                                                     two grandsons
of which there are five brothers in all.
‘We’ve had exams today,’ they say, exasperated,
 ‘And we had to do that poem, the one you wrote
about Dad’s tree-house in the ngaio. We knew
we’d get it sooner or later. Toby said so,
                                                       and Reuben too.’
‘So what did they ask you?’
‘Oh you know, stuff about what does the poem mean?’
                                                       ‘And you said?’
I’m focusing on the hot chocolate now,
                             pouring it into two mugs.

‘That our Dad had a tree-house and you used to yell
 at him to come down when it got dark and raining.’
‘Nothing about bad dreams and conquering fear?’
                                                       One of them sighs.
‘Teachers don’t know our Dad. Our dad’s our dad.’
That’s true enough, more that than my son anymore
and besides, the meaning of the wretched poem
 has shifted.                            The red-headed woodsman
shakes his head regularly over the fragile
branches, the thin screen of foliage,
the tree’s increasing vulnerability
as another gale sweeps in scattering dry twigs
                                                     ribbons in the sky.
‘Don’t know how much more it can take,’ he says,
                                            laconic, commiserating.
But there are some things I do know:
 if we stand on the lawn beneath that tree
we see far beyond us dark fires of sunsets
settling over the bay, pastel new moons
cavorting across the sky, the delphinium
days of summer,  mists resting in the far
 hills like the foothills of the Himalayas
and yes the dark scribbles of the tree’s branches
against stormy skies, even though the boy came down
                                                     from the tree long ago

There is all this and more. At some time
or another, every person I have truly loved,
our close family circle, the aunts
                         (save Roberta who never made it here),
 the old old companions of my childhood,
                                                    all the true friends
 have stood beneath this tree.
                                 And I tell myself
 that, so long as I live, if the roots hold
 fast to the bank below and new green shoots
 appear on the branches each spring, all will be 
                                                   as well as it can.

Another wonderful poem from Fiona Kidman’s recent book Where Your Left Hand 
Rests published by Godwit, Random House. It is a most enticing little book, a gift.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tuesday Poem - The Landscape by Mary McCallum

The Landscape
My father serves lunch, lifts
the salad with servers, offers
a dish of olives,
the muted light stroking his
hands, head bent as if
in a pew, paler
than I think of him.
On the pergola
above, the leaves of the vines
are ecstatic and lime-bright,
a scribble of veins,
tendrils, shadows - a reminder how light
both clarifies and complicates -
how a simple landscape of skin, let's say,
can become a whole atlas.
Here the x-ray,
there the scan.
The chickens
pant in the hedge.
He chops bread

and chunks of cheese, lays
one on the other
passes it across the table
to my mother,
his hand a plate. She's feeling
the heat, longs to be cool
 inside with a book, is looking
up, grateful

for the vines, for the lean of the tree
beside us, its pollen rising rapidly like small fish
in a vertiginous sea.
The olive dish

is passed around again. My father
sweeps crumbs
onto the grass with his hand. (He asks
the surgeon now and then, 'When it comes

again how will I know?') All this
light and still the incomprehensible
scrabble of things,
dark scribbles

that dim
the bright falling. Above,
the sky's open palm,
supplicating leaves.
While I was in NZ, staying out at Eastbourne with Mary and her family, rejoicing in  the view of Makaro Island, she gave me a copy (number 59/100) of her amazing little book - The Tenderness Of Light. The first book out from her own Makaro Press. 
Oh well - it is just a little stunner. One of the poems - After Reading Auden - won the Caselberg Prize two years ago.. 
Bad luck for you, the book is all sold out. But I have a copy - number 59.
I chose The Landscape because of its tenderness, because of its light.

Youtube reading here:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tuesday Poem - Blood Love by Coral Carter

Blood Love

I met my cousin
on Wilson Street
at 16 he dived
into a rock
did time in a chair
now walks with a stick
feet twisted out
like Charlie Chaplin
but no one is laughing
we met last
at uncle’s wake
the ghost of our grandmother came
cursed as she poured the whisky
down the drain
the girl cousins
sang sad movies in their underwear
our cousin broke down
said we didn’t love him
we said
blood love
is deep and red
it stains
that was before another cousin
wrestled him to the ground
in front of 36 Varden Street
to take his keys
not that he had a driver’s licence anyway
we rang a taxi and sent him home
we remembered his father
who won the lottery
drank 12 longnecks a night
until his brain dissolved
my cousin doesn’t drink too much now
he has given up on women
they drove him to it
happier alone
his daughter – up north
his sister – round three with cancer
he wears the Aboriginal colours on his wrist
a twenty year old hat
black jeans skinny legs
I met my cousin on Wilson Street
not the kind of bloke
some would want to meet
blood love
is deep and red
it stains.

Here is a poem from Coral Carter’s new book – Descended From Thieves – which she just launched in Melbourne (with my book Ungainly) and in Port Augusta. I think there are launches coming up soon in Kalgoorlie, where Coral lives, and in Perth. As Coral said – “Everyone wants the free wine.” Or something very like that.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tuesday Poem - A Night At The Theatre by Jennifer Compton

A Night At The Theatre

The play was bad.
The set was bad.
The actors were very bad.
The directing was bad.
The lighting was bad.
The sound was bad.
I wanted to leave at the interval
but my husband said — No, it's rude.
The supper? The supper was good.

Here is a little poem from my new little book - 'Ungainly' (Mulla Mulla Press). I am still reeling from an amazing double launch with Coral Carter's 'Descended From Thieves' (Mulla Mulla Press) at Collected Works in Melbourne. 
'Ungainly' is a little jeu d'esprit, a tiny drama, a wee farouche farrago.
Warning - Contains Traces Of Tobacco.