Monday, April 29, 2013

Tuesday Poem - we are farmed out by Jennifer Compton

we are farmed out

the eau-de-nil cabbage cooling on the plate
the towering aunt with the voice like a shriek
the good child gets sent to the worst place

she doesn't give a backward look when her distracted
father drops her and drives off—she has been told to
be good and she has learned very well how to be that

the big boy locking his sister in the wardrobe
she screamed and she screamed and everyone
got smacked and shrilled up and down the hall

like a flock of angry birds with glittering eyes and sharp beaks
and the cabbage—again—and diarrhoea mince and the spuds
with black tadpole eyes and then the horror of shampoo night

wrenched backwards over the bath like a sacrifice
the amber bar of soap wielded like a flame-thrower
I could hardly open my stinging geranium-red eyes

and after all that goodness, no baby sister, she died
it was home to a sad mother and a drinking father
or maybe I had become a noticing kind of child


Monday, April 15, 2013

Tuesday Poem - The Deep End by Ali Alizadeh

The Deep End


It was pleasant. The cool
evanescent sensations

on my chest. The laughter
of my cousins. All of us

wading in the shallow end
under the hypothetical gaze

of chitchatting parents
enjoying respite from

the bombing raids, this scene
of kids’ water play at my uncle’s

in Tehran. Mummy somewhere
in the background, my father

there too. Warm, effervescent
stuff. Add in ice cubes

bubbly drinks, juicy cherries
on foldout table by the rim

of the pool, and dissonant
babble of wet children. Why

did I stray away towards the deep
end? I knew I couldn’t swim.


The summertime bliss
of a child’s inexperience, my boy’s

hairless body, a slate
clean of all but the most

primal connotations. But where
was ‘love’ – of parents, uncle

my own – when I felt my grasp
slip from the tiles at the edge

of the pool? Had my sociable
guardians’ passion to prattle superseded

the chore of guarding me? Perhaps
they were gossiping about someone’s

daughter losing her suitor, money
wasted on a despised relative’s

fortunately failed venture,
the opulent house purchased

by a favoured relative, and hoping
to awe everyone by finally migrating

to the West – just as my feet
slipped over the drop into the deep

end. Water swamped my nostrils,
ears, mouth. I was drowning.


My father fished me out. Did he
think it normal that little boys be

curious, reckless, tempting
death? Yes, but I never told him

that in my brief descent
I’d seen underwater the azure

of the pool’s walls and
nothing else. No maritime beasts,

no eels or octopi of Captain Nemo’s
abyss (as promised by a book

Mummy had given me) no light
or angels, no finality of an end

(as divined by my grandmother’s
Islam.) Only an absolute, monochrome

void. I’ve never told my father
I’d sunk into the infinite emptiness

of dying. Later he dried his hands,
resumed the talk about his job,

his plans to move us from War-torn
Iran to the West. I coughed up

water, shivered in the folds of the towel
and withdrew. I didn’t care for

– and could never again really care for –
the glass of sugary cold sherbet

Mummy had poured for me.

This poem comes from Ali's wonderful book Ashes in the Air (UQP) which was short listed for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards in 2012.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tuesday Poem - the intercity by Vivienne Plumb

the intercity

i cannot believe I have slept through Levin/our bus is like a needle
as it criss-crosses the pasture/ paddock/ fir/ forest/ foreshore of
New Zealand/ here comes the rain again the wet sheep stand
blinking in it/ one passenger wipes the steamed-up window with
her ugly turquoise window curtain/ i knew those bus curtains
were good for something

This is a very apt poem - I did the bus trip from Sydders to Melbers yesterday and  this poem kept doing mash ups in my mind - stuff like - 'i can't believe we have to go via wagga' and 'these curtains are nearly as useless and annoying as the ones on kiwi buses'.