Tabula Rasa

Sixty harvests until the end of things,
until the last Centaur folds from the fetlocks
beside his dry well,
till mermaids shed scales in dulling strips
and wallow in the tepid swell.
The phoenix cannot gather his scattered kindling
in such a wind.
The triffid splits and turns wormy.
The sphinx has no riddle for the occasion.

The bright poppy, which grows best
in soil assaulted by flash flood or blood,
was no symbol of rebirth and morning, after all,
but a red flag of warning, semaphoring.

Sixty springs of diminishing returns,
then the last leviathan will lie bloated on the beach.
Gone, Gilgamesh, Bruegel’s Babel, all of Beethoven,
angels twirling on the bright heads of pins.
Here will be an end to all dreams
of taming the hellhound.

Penelope Layland


Penelope Layland is a Canberra poet. Her most recent book, Things I’ve thought to tell you since I saw you last (Recent Work Press 2018) was shortlisted for the 2019 Kenneth Slessor Prize in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

© 2019