Provocation – Issue 6, March 2020

It will be 2020.
We’re having an open theme.

Surprise us. What does 2020 mean to you? Knock yourselves out.

We’re open to time, the universe, your biome, any old atom, particle, tear, hiccup. Apocalypse, crazy hope, Pollyanna world view, astral day dreams …

We have changed our submission rules – 1 poem per submission

Starting with issue 6 we will accept one poem (rather than three) per submission. Send us your best work.

Key dates

1 December 2019 – 2 February 2020: submissions open on Submittable

3–21 February 2020: selection

22–24 February 2020: poets notified of selection results

15 March 2020: online publication

30 March 2020: launch at Smith’s Alternative, Canberra (readings by any poets whose poem is included in issue 6)

Introduction to ‘Earth Poems’

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.

Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder, 1965

 

My provocation as guest editor for this new issue of Not Very Quiet, ‘Earth Poems’, focused on the woman who ignited the modern environmental movement, Rachel Carson. Carson alerted the world to the dangers of DDT and pointed out (in the mid-1960s) that ‘we live in an age of rising seas … a startling alteration of climate’. As I noted in the provocation, the springboard for Carson’s superb writing was her keen observation of, connection with, and deep love for the natural world.

When creating this issue (working in concert with founding editors Sandra Renew and Moya Pacey), I looked for strong, original, well-crafted poems that explore the connections women have with the earth, and the energy and joy that can come from these connections. I wanted ‘Earth Poems’ to highlight the extraordinary nature of the planet we live on, the planet we are – in the most literal sense – made of; to offer a counterpoint to the bleak outlook we see so often (albeit with good reason) in the media; to remind us of what it is that we want to foster and preserve.

The diverse poems in this issue celebrate the natural world, drawing our attention to the details. To the welcome release of heat from the ground at the end of a sunny day. To some of our co-inhabitants – lichen, flame lilies, eucalypts; rabbits, a barn owl, the dusky grasswren. To particular habitats – the sea, the wild dry land out west, the talking sky. To particular places – a New Zealand beach, a New York City garden – and to the ways we interact with them, and live within them.

I hope these ‘Earth Poems’ bring you delight, solace and sustenance.

Tricia Dearborn
Guest Editor, Issue 5

When We Were Called Farm Children

we would wake aurora-borealis-early
to have our hands in the fields by the time morning came,
to harvest stones the size our fists would have been,
if we had ever thought to curl our fingers around nothing
and hold it there.

We would stay close behind our father’s tractor,
appearing in a pale thunder with the battered trailer,
in and out of the dust.

That early, everything was the color of stones,
and we only knew the rocks from the ground
by their fossils and quartz glimmer,
by the way they held in our hands
instead of crumbling—

We piled them along the lane
or tossed them on the rock heap,
handy fill-ins for wash-outs.

Around noon, our mother would join us,
after her midnight shift and a short rest,
having traded daylight
for a second set of work,
to keep us there.

This, we believed,
was how we showed
we were part of the earth,

the weight we felt in the rocks
and the faces we made out of clouds

as they mixed with the dirt
we’d take deep in our lungs.

Pause at the center of the last field,
in the shade of one old oak
any modern farmer would have cut out
to straighten the rows.

Katie Assarian

 

Katie Assarian is a poet, mother of twins, and active citizen of Grand Rapids, MI, USA. She has an Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wyoming.

© 2019

Rhythmic Oscillations

There is still light
already diluted
one last morning

you told me
head tilted towards the ground
that I had no sense of space
or maybe that was my own confession.

I might have been jaywalking
across a Sydney street
counting breaths against a backdrop
of honking cars
oblivious.

I breathe out
breath condenses
sound disperses into air
heat into dust.

You sing and there is no song
chords become the body
the body spins
the spin is atoms

time, of course, is up
that’s not news to anyone
I try to be sad, but all I feel
is desire, kiss the ground
lay down and roll
like our dog after it has been washed
cover myself in loose dirt
the sheer luxury of it
coarse against my skin.

Lying here, in imaginary bliss
I know what we’re losing
the price of failure
it’s too much, too little
there is only now

sky-blue, stone-blue
sapphire, indigo
heartbreaking blue
the Earth breathes out.

Magdalena Ball

 

Magdalena Ball is a novelist, poet, reviewer and interviewer, and is the Managing Editor of Compulsive Reader. She has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies, and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction, including, most recently, Unreliable Narratives (Girls on Key Press 2019).

© 2019

Picking Blueberries with Grandma Sabo

We knelt in pools of mottled light
deep within the Norway pine.
A hallowed hymn rushed through their height;
about our ears mosquitoes whined.
Her sun hat tipped, her chin inclined—
she seemed to hear a voice not there.
And every time I fell behind
each trunk concealed a mother bear.
Then cancer took her strength and hair;
it felled her—withered, sick, and frail.
It’s now been years since I’ve been there
my task to fill an ice cream pail.
But in my heart, touched by so few,
live wind-swept pines and skies of blue.

Gina Marie Bernard

 

Gina Marie Bernard is a heavily tattooed transgender woman, retired roller derby vixen, and full-time English teacher. She lives in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her daughters, Maddie and Parker, own her heart. Her chapbook Naked, Getting Nuder was published by Clare Songbirds in January 2019. Her chapbook I Am This Girl was published by Headmistress Press in October 2018. Her work has recently been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize.

© 2019

Out west

Out west
tough, spiny kwongan blankets the ground
every winter
rainfall trickles through cracks in rocks
fills aquifers
and flowers bloom into a patchwork quilt
hiding honey possums and salamander fish
in the strange rainforest

seeing their opportunity
the white men in bulldozers razed the scrub
and
surprised
the roots gave way to bare sand

a great inland beach

but
out west
the rains come every winter
so they sprinkle fertilizer on the sand
drill wheat into the desert
plant vines
and wait for the breadbasket to grow
as men get drunk off the wine

the great aerial ocean
heaves
for lack of ozone
drawing the clouds down south
closer to the pole
and
the rain stops visiting like it used to

out west
once too wet dairy country
gives way to wheat fields
and wheat fields
watch the sunset on the Indian Ocean

there’s nowhere left to grow to

salt creeps up through soil
glitters like a moonscape on top of rocks
the creeks run with it

tap water tastes like children drinking from the garden hose
left baking in the sun all day

out west
there’ll be nothing left to farm
but dead stalks
and sand
and salt

and sand

and salt.

Emily Bourke

 

Emily Bourke is a young poet, originally from Queensland but her heart beats in Canberra. She draws on experiences from her time spent living in other cities and countries to invoke images, smells, and textures for people to connect to.

© 2019

I will fall sick if you photograph me

26 December, 2004.

Infinite decay at the shores of the Andamans.
Rumour of apocalypse on the streets

heavy with the marrow of civilization
caught in time’s suck and blow.

Bones on boats/on trees/ on windows/
on the collapsed lips of the earth.

Except them.

They who gathered the mist of moonfall,
cared to speak to the brindled turtle,

mapped the gloomy haze over hushed waterways,
released tremulous bird calls from their palms.

They rose at the edge of the deluge,
swooned to the wild beats of the dawn

and bribed no expensive gods
to break into a blossom.

Then came the sentinels of culture
to write on the stunned tongues of technology,

“the tribes are alive.”
A triumphant answer to ‘man’s search for man.’

But to the lust of their lenses,
said the finite forest child, “I will fall sick if you photograph me.”

He did not wish to become a shadow in the wind
or the last wave in the ‘age of rising seas.’

With a bow and arrow on his ash smeared shoulders,
he departed – One last sea-lion gaze at the mossy black of the night,

slow and humming into the woody hollows,
perhaps a prayer for rain:

for everyone to drink a little
for everyone to bathe a little

Jhilam Chattaraj

 

Notes:
1. The poem is inspired by a report on the Tsunami, 2004, India published by CBS News.
2. “Man’s search for man” is a documentary on the Andman tribes.
3. “The age of rising seas” is a quote by writer Rachel Carson.

Jhilam Chattaraj is an academic and poet from India. Her works have been published in journals like Colorado Review, World Literature Today, and Asian Cha among others. She has authored the books, Corporate Fiction: Popular Culture and the New Writers (2018) and When Lovers Leave and Poetry Stays (2018).

© 2019

Most Deadly

We glow light deadly.
We be see-thru blue-bell floating
Laugh at your thick meat hang kicks
Tend tenderly to our tentacles. Ribbon beauties
That slap death like crack whips.
If you come here you play by fathom deep rules.
Your pounding blood heart weigh down
Strung out nervy system so puzzle scared of we.
Venom is survival down here. Stay out of our
Tangle way. Is that so hard? You who build
Carapace in multiples to carry all you scuttling
Greed across the seas.
You who cling desperate to thinking you are Gods.
You need us. Breath-take terror hungry gaze: look
How they move like magic. Ethereal murderers stuff of
Your nightmares we tap at your bulbous brain
Dumb mouthed hubris. We will not be boxed
By your jelly name for we.
Watch us translucent pulsing tendril dance.
Be awed. Gape. Jaw struck.
We whisper slip into your dreams to prod:
‘You are not everything you are not even most things.’
Shiver mortal face raised hands clasp
Gratitude. At us mystery.

Emilie Collyer

 

Emilie Collyer lives in Melbourne, where she writes plays, poetry and prose. Recent publication credits include: ‘Local amnesia’ (Plumwood Mountain, 6/2, 2019), ‘What you learn (TV lessons)’ (Slippage Lit, July 2019). Recent award-winning plays include Contest, Dream Home and The Good Girl.

© 2019

a jellyfish quilt, shaped like a family

say imagine a patchwork on a daily tide billowing

gulping

a colony, incapable of loneliness, each for each

attached

 

say a fantasia of yesterday’s frocks, shirts, pyjamas

stitched

summon another dimension of fixings and fastenings

can you?

 

say she is walking, one foot zigs as the other one zags

say she sighs

say she plots

unlatching, surreptitious unbuttoning, working free

 

her eyes are so innocent that they don’t know what her

hands are doing

 

Jennifer Compton

 

Jennifer Compton lives in Melbourne and is a poet and playwright who also writes prose.

© 2019

The dusky grasswren

(Amytornis purnelli)

They live in spinifex
sharp as needles.
Slips of twitchable feather
avoid piercing
by miraculous instinct.

Piping shrilly,
higher than some can hear,
they pop up.
The Scottish word wee
is all I can think of.

Cats relish them,
but the spinifex,
sharp as cats’ claws,
gives them
almost a chance.

They lurk,
way below the parrots
who flaunt and flap.
Grant that such tiny brown
still finds islands of spike.

PS Cottier

 

PS Cottier likes birds, dogs, whisky, and the occasional gnome. Sometimes she even relishes poetry.

© 2019

Sisters

We always said we would leave this place
Searching the evening sky for signs
Stars and planets offering silent solidarity
We’d go as far as we could and never look back.

Searching the evening sky for signs
Later, something unseen would slink towards us
We’d go as far as we could and never look back
Like fog rolling silently over the hills.

Later, something unseen would slink towards us
Hungry birds—leave us to our numbness
Like fog rolling silently over the hills
We know these unwelcome guests.

Hungry birds—leave us to our numbness
Fear, violence, grief
We know these unwelcome guests
We know them like family.

Fear, violence, grief
Stars and planets offering silent solidarity
We know them like family
We always said we would leave this place.

Diana Donovan

 

Diana Donovan is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Northern California. A graduate of Brown University, she was recently featured in Quiet Lightning, a reading series in San Francisco.

© 2019

Sermon 1

Lake Tahoe, 2019

is Cock and Bull beer caps
under the picnic table

and the mountain jay
cussing out the ground squirrel

and the ancient lake
holding boulders like secrets

 

is cigarette butts
wedged between pavers

leading to the Port-O-Let
above Emerald Bay

 

is the woman hiding
behind the tour van

while crying loudly
in the universal language for

I’m afraid of something
I do not understand

 

is a speedboat circling the island
like a scalpel excising a tumor

is the child’s bare arms
in a thirty-degree breeze

and her father cupping
his hand around the match

 

is the rock that told my palm
when you learn to love

what is ugly, only then
will you find peace

 

is last year’s charred pines
standing sentry on the mountain

and a master colorist painting
more blues than I can name

Cheryl Dumesnil

 

Cheryl Dumesnil is the author of two poetry collections, Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes (University of Pittsburgh Press 2016) and In Praise of Falling (University of Pittsburg Press 2009), and a memoir, Love Song for Baby X (Ig Publishing 2013).

© 2019

Stone Tree Breath

on Dja Dja Wurrung Country
at Melville Caves, colonially named after Captain Melville,
a bushranger who hid out there

 

Enduring discipline of air

in leaf and shimmer attends

this granite estate

 

of concealment. Its consoling

vistas swing there to

here. Things stir. They

 

shift as if grace speaks

where a great hawk rides

this (in)explicable world of gas

 

this answering science of breath.

Do you say hallowed

mystery or sleuth

 

say there to here say gust to

gale that steps runs through

animates limbs. This stone’s idiom

 

of respect is older

than your guess

as sun plays

 

across leaves’ lances

like the spill of a sore

toward its mend.

Anne Elvey

 

Anne Elvey’s most recent book of poetry is White on White (Cordite Books 2018). She is editor of a hope for whole: poets speak up to Adani (Rosslyn Avenue Productions 2018), and managing editor of Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics. Anne lives on Boonwurrung Country in Seaford, VIC, and holds honorary appointments at Monash University and University of Divinity.

© 2019

Drive-In

High off the graveled asphalt,
we ride the back of the truck,
riding the slow
release of the heat,
the slow waves
of daylight rising
up underneath us.

Backed up in a
ring of pines,
we set the speakers’
crackling sound
on the side,
and sit where we ride,
high
in the pines,

where the tiny lights flicker
and the moon
spins underneath.

Lauren Fancher

 

Lauren Fancher is a writer and artist living in Athens, Georgia. A former technologist, she currently coordinates a non-profit institute for contemporary art.

© 2019

Far and Wild

I never cared for manicured lawns,
trimmed hedges.
It’s the wilderness
that makes me shiver.

Tall grass dances khorovod in a meadow.
Wind shakes me to the core,
pulls me closer to the ground,
my branch ripe with fruit.

Below the ocean,
towards rye fields, towards daisies,
below snowdrifts, below valleys
my roots spread far
towards the graves
of my great grandparents.

They carry the scent of hay,
the taste of thyme,
the sorrow of a folk song.

They drink from a well
of a small village.

Irina Frolova

 

Note: khorovod is a Slavic folk circle dance.

Irina Frolova is a Russian-born Australian poet who lives in Lake Macquarie with her three human and two feline children. Irina’s poetry is intercultural, feminist ,and largely autobiographical. Her writing explores human psychology, cultural identity, womanhood, relationships, and connection to nature. Irina’s poems have appeared in Australian Poetry Collaboration, Not Very Quiet, and Baby Teeth Journal.

© 2019

Underground

They break the air so high—like the slow sound
of a pied butcher bird, like the young on a quest
for the world to join before the heat swells—
the gymea lily up Awaba way, a forest full like
all the moments in your life. They look tame

yet one by one come autumn after the smoke’s
settled, they thrust a spear of a stem or more
and the crown thickens to a fistful filling by spring,
the head a bowl of scarlet swollen with pollen
dangling in green about the openings. These

flame lilies will persist you think (deep-rooted,
drought-hardy); you search for a likeness given
the carbon turmoil—your hands perhaps, lilied
with years of touch or some inner place like
the lily’s bulb underground, something to tap into.

Kathryn Fry

 

Kathryn Fry has poems in various anthologies including Antipodes 2016 and the Newcastle Poetry Prize anthologies of 2014 and 2016. Her poems are also in Plumwood Mountain Journal (2016), Cordite Poetry Review (2016) and Not Very Quiet (2017, 2018). Her first collection is Green Point Bearings (Ginninderra Press 2018).

© 2019

Reprisal

Standing at a sturdy table
in the sunlit back yard,
she splits tough green fibers,
xylem and phloem bursting
in her fingers.
Which are not shaking anymore.
She disassembles the living structures:
petal, corolla, leaf, stalk, thorn.
Lays them down,
precise and orderly,
like the parts of a cleaned gun.

In a stone bowl,
she pulverizes every one
under a stone heel.
Sifts and pours
the bright dust
into a glass jar,
draws onto its label
the shape of Leo Minor:
the little lion, jaws
still adolescent
but ready to puncture.

Elizabeth Galoozis

 

Elizabeth Galoozis is a poet and librarian living in Los Angeles. Her poetry has been published in Faultline. Her scholarly and critical work has been published in The Library Quarterly, In the Library with the Lead Pipe, Amherst Magazine, and ACRL Press.

© 2019

Mastery

(Musee d’histoire naturelle, La Rochelle)

Displayed in semi darkness,
fossil fish swim skeletal
beneath the pterodactyl skull.
First shot, then stuffed, wild animals
face south in ordered rows by genus.
Polar bears come last, leave first.

In attic rooms, first people
lightly touch the Earth in passing,
banished to the anthropology
of strangely beautiful beliefs.
We admire our domination: kill off
species that we need to stay alive.

Kathy Gee

 

Kathy Gee’s career is in UK heritage and in leadership coaching. Widely published online and on paper she has published two collections Book of Bones (V.Press 2016) and Checkout (V.Press 2019).

© 2019

Continuous Bloom

We spend hours on the rose—
elegize, appellation, fertilize, clip,
sequence the genome, all in the name
of the slippery silk beauty of scent, petals
soft as skin, leaves serrated or smooth, stems scabbed
with teeth. Now a new map of genome for aroma
for detailed tree branch twigs across from cousins:
strawberry, apple, and pear.
Perhaps you have eaten a rose
at a wedding, sugared or gold-dusted,
made more beautiful or less, made into something
that says something or that says nothing about dessert
or adoration. Perhaps you have read or written a poem
about a rose or the loss of the garden, the metaphor
of mother or virgin or the disaster of romance.
But have you edited a rose to reduce pesticide
and water use? A less thirsty rose, a camel rose;
rose is another crop, a wheat, a corn, a soy,
not a metaphor, a thing we make and shape
and buy, like all other things, like grasses, like meat,
like photo-altered mornings, like last breaths, like love.

Gwendolen Gross

 

Gwendolen Gross is a poet and novelist with five novels from Holt, Random House, and Simon and Schuster. Her work has appeared in dozens of magazines, including Yankee and Wind. After receiving a PEN Emerging Writers Fellowship, she completed a Master of Fine Arts at Sarah Lawrence College, New York. She teaches poetry, fiction, and essay workshops.

© 2019

There Will Be Noise

All perfectly legal―just
a tank in the market
crammed with lobsters, each
with serial number marked dpi NSW
on a label tied with string. Some tags
are branded with a flower
like the red cap on a banana.
Take your pick from spiny black crustaceans
(don’t worry―they’ll be prettier in the pot).
Some are restless, upended.
Could they be attempting
to escape from the tank?

Perhaps it was like this
on trains to Treblinka,
when people, stamped with numbers
from the Warsaw Ghetto’s Umschlagplatz
huddled at the cracks
of overcrowded railway trucks,
vying for ventilation,
grasping onto life until the chambers
and the screaming.

Now miles from the markets,
I can’t blot out those creatures
climbing on each other, trying to find
a spot to settle. Not being sentient,
they won’t know the end.
There will be noise.
Trapped air expanding in their shells
will begin to escape through the gaps.
They’ll become pink butterflies.
They will not feel a thing.

Hazel Hall

 

Hazel Hall is an Australian poet and musicologist. She has published work in many journals and anthologies. Recent collections are: Step by Step, a tai chi collaboration with Angie Egan (Picaro Poets 2019), Moonlight Over the Siding (Interactive Press 2019) and Silver Fugue (Picaro Poets 2018) for the School of Music Poets.

© 2019

The Lure

Ten, we tied chicken necks to strings; our clumsy hands
forming clumsy nooses forming

deep ridges in the quiver pink flesh. We pulled

until

we felt the loop’s bite

pause

against the rubbery firmness of bone. Then we hung the necks

from the pier and waited, net ready, for the tell-tale tug,

waited

to yank the string upwards and expose

the tiered crabs

clinging

to their prize like a cluster of tenacious grapes,

all red and brown, the colour

of salt dried blood.

 

Sonia Hamer

 

Sonia Hamer is a writer from Houston, TX.

© 2019

Crossings

Drake Passage, Antarctic Circle, the threshold
of old age. Mysterious waters promising
what? Fantastical landscapes? Adventure?
Certainty? Sea ice doubles the size
of this continent in winter. Glaciers
make me feel young. Another
journey, the same restlessness, my parents
still birthing me years after they’re gone. Ice
melts. Water gives way. I’m always
almost there. And why do I fear
the cold and dark. Some primordial
impulse, as layered as moraine. Does it
matter? I stare it down. Only flinch
a little.

A. Hampford

 

A. Hampford is a writer, traveler, yogi, lover of nature and animals (especially dogs). Currently, she is working on a chapbook inspired by Antarctica and aging. She is based in Connecticut but is spending this year on the coast of Ecuador, enjoying life in another language.

© 2019

True South

No true north
for me. No point
of orientation, fixed
and prophetic. I’m drawn
to what throws me off
balance, the place where nothing’s
familiar, including me. I count
tussocks, petrels, penguins from this headland
above Penola Strait, feel the wind bluster
my jacket, inhale
the salt and guano
air. But what am I? All
these names to identify, sort,
claim the barrenness: Crystal Sound, Errera
Channel, Pendleton Sea, traveler,
yogi, poet, woman. Language is not
enough, of course. Even the air
disorients me here. Lichen
and moss speckle the dark rocks white
and green. I could learn
their names, but I won’t. Their strange
presence a challenge. I am my own
compass. Imprecise. Iceburn,
this longing.

A. Hampford

 

A. Hampford is a writer, traveler, yogi, lover of nature and animals (especially dogs). Currently, she is working on a chapbook inspired by Antarctica and aging. She is based in Connecticut but is spending this year on the coast of Ecuador, enjoying life in another language.

© 2019

The Sea Calls My Name

‘Night swim in the sea baths’

After James Drinkwater, oil on canvas, 2018, Newcastle Regional Gallery.

 

the smell of salt
takes me back

I stand on the sea wall
trust the skin of the water
to part when I dive

I float
through my dreams
patterns and shards of light
swim through blue patches
reflected memory of day-sky

I am starfish, mermaid
angel fish, under
moon’s silver triangles
I climb ladders of light

and when I find
a sea urchin sheared
of its punk hairdo

to a grey stippled shell

I remember
its line of defence
its crisscross of spears

the carapace it wore to survive

washed out by the tides
from mouth to anus
a gift from the sea

its dead self
tattooed with memory

as the past calls me
back to where I began

Gail Hennessy

 

Gail Hennessy has been published widely in newspapers, journals and anthologies and won local and national competitions. She has published three books of poetry, Witnessing (self published 2010), Written on Water (Flying Island Books 2018) and The M Word (Girls on Key 2019).

© 2019

Eulogy: a reef

…built like a chain, the breaking of only one link could destroy it… [i]
breathe in
breathe out:  I am angry – won’t watch destruction – won’t unsee bleaching, plastics, silt runoff, overfishing
no more Jacques Cousteau in his black rubber wetsuit smiling through my black and white TV, lying on the floor close to the set, watching Captain Cousteau and his Calypso, the enormity of his underwater adventures, a world apart, below
no more Ron and Valerie with sharks all around
no more can I watch David, the King, on his Blue Planet– his YouTube Trailers mesmerise me, his TV shorts catch me unaware – I have to walk away

damselfish butterflyfish bumpheadparrotfish pufferfish catfish garfish pipefish anemonefish lionfish surgeonfish triggerfish clownfish – sweetlips and the grouper

…protected from climatic extremes, the tropical reefs are a dazzling confusion of colour and light, pattern and texture, movement and sway…
breathe in
breathe out:  it is the descent into water she is most comfortable with, pressure increasing, colours changing, underwater noisy crackling clear sounds
an outboard brings panic – sounds of her own breathing calm – the sound of air exhaled in silver spheres of carbon dioxide rising to the surface
waves swell and roll, bring a tinkle and scrape of coral, broken pieces of coral hitting rocks, shell, coral, clouds of reef detritus caught in the endless swish, side to side
each wave’s swell rushes quickly overhead, ground below shifts, weeds push open, hidden things rush into view, disappear, reappear – nothing is certain

swathes of luminosity colour endless variations green and blue black orange to red on yellow silver rays shimmering, colour upon colour, patterns upon patterns – movement

…a treaty to which the signatories are an animal and a microscopic plant…
breathe in
breathe out:  entering ocean is like putting on a second skin, water might be her element, her at home place, relief from heat, discomfort of equipment, she rolls backwards over the boat’s side
sight the anchor rope, begin her descent, level her body streamline, long slow kicks and small quick movements of her fins place her, a shrug of her shoulders repositions the tank, settles the weights, checks the mask
after the adjustment the rush looking out into the blue, the world of water she has become a part of, infinite distances of blue – ahead, behind, below, a three-sixty degree world of myriad shades of blue

flicking of life, constant movement, silver shimmers, forms, shapes, glimpses of unknown, familiar, organic shapes, torpedo shapes, flat shapes, box shapes, things swimming into focus, things blurring to disappear on the outer blue edge – big things

Animals on the reef are neither as aggressive nor as culturally obsessed with victory as Homo sapiens…
breathe in
breathe out:  riots of colour which are the small things of flesh and shell and cartilage, ocean meadows miniature landscapes, always changing, surprising
brittle stars and weeds become fish, ledges, crevices, coral as home, anemones and gardens obsessively tended, sacred sites protected, revered, hard coral gardens, soft corals organic shape, rocks become fish
creatures change, surprise – plants become animals, to open and close at the nearness of an almost touch, whisper of a shadow as sunlight is momentarily blocked, hard edged giant clams fleshy insides, octopus as shells move, retract, extend, electric blue neons dart across current

where ultraviolet flashes a thousand stripes, vertical, diagonal, lines curve to move, patterns on patterns black and white and yellow-orange, pink, crimson and red and green, purple blue purple and dots – black dots and large false eyes

…reef can only thrive in almost constant sunlight. Most fish do not wander from one reef to the next…
breathe in
breathe out:  over beds of sand which flick away cover, leaving a retinal image of dots, a cloud of swirling sand an instant recognised as movement
moments when she stopped – corrected her horizontal position to vertical, suspended her legs, took a breath to hold, hover, look up at the surface’s silver underside
lighter shades of blue falling, falling, sunlit rays streaming down in cascades of crisp pale light through darker blue water, falling to disappear below

where yesterday, the silver under skin of the surface formed a layer as glaringly bright as mercury, refracting sunlight rays through water so clear and straight she could have followed their path down to that part of the drop-off where light diffused, no longer penetrated

Overgrazing by sea urchins on temperate reefs can affect a phase shift from macro-algal beds to ‘barrens’ habitat largely devoid of seaweeds [ii]
breathe in
breathe out:  snorkelling, diving easy stuff, warm clear water, good vis, casual, when she can, when its good, only when its good, is good, was good
learn the way of things, chance things, lucky dive things, surprise me now things, what is that creature things
sunlight patterning sand in a dance, watching then, watching now – before it’s too late, nothing hard, nothing dark, nothing cold, nothing murky like

once years back catching scallops, Jervis Bay – the scallop beds old, cold, too cold, way too cold, how long before hypothermia, scallops flick off the bottom fast to land far away in mud, bigger than her hand, skimming over the bottom leaving long silt trails, someone said they’re all gone now
once she dived grey nurse sharks, southeast numbers are critical, only a thousand left they say
long time ago that big old wobbegong, Guerrilla Bay, crossing below her pale belly, down in the deeper part of the channel, slow sideways undulations as it drifted out to sea
summer snorkelling seals, Montague Island, a raft of young males, diving, twisting, together they knew their strength, off the island’s northern tip, near weed beds, where it’s safe, hanging out, away from sea urchin ‘barrens’, those deserts of pink rock, hanging where the ecosystem is still good, still protective, watching two large eagle rays shadowing below
not too long back three large sharks circling a coral bommie, waiting at a cleaning station on the reef edge, Ningaloo, only fifty K’s from where Shell Oil plans exploratory drilling
only last summer that baby stingray in the estuary, before this drought closed the sand bar, the smallest one ever, she could have covered it with her hand
once, years ago, at Greenpatch, that lucky three-in-one day, a weedy sea dragon and two Port Jackson sharks, patterns of camouflage and fragile endemic things
before the earthquake those chilled out turtles off Gili Trawangan, a big Reef Manta swimming against the current at Manta Point
four summers back the lionfish at Lembongan, motionless in shadow under the tourist boat…
this Indonesian dry season, the Komodo islands, a sharp intake of breath…

breathe in
breathe out:  i am angry – i won’t watch destruction – won’t unsee bleaching, plastics, silt runoff, overfishing
no more Jacquesno more Ronno more Valerie
no more Davidnow it all just feels like a eulogy for lives once lived

Elanna Herbert

[i] Unless otherwise noted, quotes in italics are from The Diver’s Universe: a Guide to Interacting With Marine Life, Annemarie and Danja Köhler, New Holland Publishers, 2003.

[ii] Flukes EB, Johnson CR, Ling SD, ‘Forming Sea Urchin Barrens from the Inside Out: an alternative pattern of overgrazing’, Marine Ecology Progress Series (MEPS) 464: 179–194, 2012.

Elanna Herbert has lived in Canberra, Perth and rural New South Wales. Recent poetry can be found in Axon: Creative Explorations (forthcoming 2019), Grieve (7), Meniscus (6/2), Australian Poetry Anthology (6), fourW (28) and Westerly. She was awarded a 2019 Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre fellowship and was runner-up in the Queensland Poetry Festival 2018 Emerging Older Poets Mentorship. Elanna has a PhD in Communication.

© 2019

Love Story

We look at each other
across America.

Through burial mounds
and silver-veined mountains
and hunched wheat,
we look at each other.

Then I get in bed alone
and listen to cicadas
emerge from the ground.

Just when I am ready
to let my life pass in silence,
they rise and sing,
rise and sing.

Wynne Hungerford

 

Wynne Hungerford’s work has appeared in Epoch, Blackbird, The Normal School, The Boiler, Okey-Panky, and SmokeLong Quarterly, among other places. She received her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Florida.

© 2019

Sadness is a Skeleton / In The Museum Cafe

as often I sit here just below
the yellow bones not floating but held
suspended half-disappeared
into brick wall and air

Long Finned Pilot Whale
‘may have been shot’

in front of me around me
all the fishy fast foods
the smell envelopes the space

Scamperdown Beaked Whale
‘stranded on the Younghusband
Peninsula, Coorong, 1931’

fate makes its bones
to become almost immortal
things become part of other things
ground compost trophy
something remade on a beach

Sperm Whale. Adult female
‘stranded alive, April 1990, after having
been entangled in a long line’

as if reality
was singing again through the water
making poems in the deep

Pygmy Sperm Whale
‘may have been hit by a boat’

a pattern now stranded
above the words that try to
explain all this away

Common Dolphin
‘stranded at Brighton, 1936’

the bones of their pectoral fins
open out towards me
like hands mammal to mammal

Jill Jones

 

The texts on the right-hand side are exhibition labels for a group of cetacean skeletons hanging in the South Australian Museum. One text-label has been shortened, all others are as they appeared in the museum exhibit as of November 2018.

Jill Jones has published eleven full-length books of poetry, including The Beautiful Anxiety (Puncher & Wattmann 2014) which won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry in 2015 and Breaking the Days (Whitmore Press 2015), which won the 2014 Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize and was shortlisted for the 2017 Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize.

© 2019

The Solace of Small Things

I know it takes acceptance, kindness, and more patience than I’ll ever have to win the trust—maybe even love—of an injured rabbit.

I don’t know if everyone can do it.
I don’t know if I can always do it.

I know that I’ve been scratched and bitten by most of these rabbits I care for.

I don’t know what they’ve endured.
I don’t know if I want to.

I know that even when you’ve won a rabbit’s trust, the anger and pain aren’t forgotten.

I don’t know if they ever are.
I don’t know if they ever should be.

I know that rabbits are silent, save for a high-pitched scream when they die.

I don’t know if I have words for my pain.
I don’t know if I’m ready to say them.

I know that just because something’s small, quiet, and defenseless doesn’t mean it won’t stand up and fight back.

I don’t know where courage like that comes from.
I don’t know if I have that kind of courage.

I know that, sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed with the enormity of healing, I stand near the rosebush at my back door and watch the bumblebees burrow up to their black fuzzy butts, their back legs pantalooned with yellow pollen, into the hearts of flowers.

I don’t know who planted that rosebush.
I don’t know if she sought solace in the bees.

Rebecca Jung

 

Rebecca Jung is a writer and poet living in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work includes: ‘The Blessing’ (Sky Island Journal), ‘Sweet Retribution’ (The Write Launch), and ‘Passages’ (Memoir). She grew up an expat, returning to the US for her English writing BA from the University of Pittsburgh.

© 2019

he kawau mārō

i come home early
from work

find forty cormorants
gathered on the rocks
at half tide

it’s cold
and close
to winter solstice

the midday sun
lacks energy

the ocean
slaps
at the sand

i want to think
it’s trying
for my attention

you rest in
silent groups

breasts
to the wind

long necks
curled under
like question marks

till one of you
slips in

i love the way
you ride low
in the tide

the way

you could claim
either domain

but you’re always
settling

at the margin
between them

you finish
your fishing

you beat
the water

out of your
wings

you labour
into the sky

a not quite broken
stick

a nearly straightened
arrow

you are the questions
i don’t yet recognise

you are the tactics
and the strategy

i stretch out
my arms

to catch the last
of this year’s
wind

Michaela Keeble

 

Michaela Keeble is an Australian writer living in Aotearoa with her partner and three kids. She mainly writes press releases about climate change, but her poetry and fiction is also published online and in print, including in Southerly, Plumwood Mountain, Cicerone, Mimicry, Capital, Turbine and CommunityLore.

© 2019

Hongoeka love poems

*
Warning at dawn
from the carvers at the pou:
Mana atua
Mana whenua, Mana
tangata: pay attention.

*
Midday, low-tide dive.
Water clear and mind-numbing.
Snakestail star, brittlestar, Cook’s
Turban. Like the man himself
I shouldn’t be here.

*
Well, I was invited,
even if I’m unworthy
of the gift and hardly know
the rules. I’m paying this debt
with Hongoeka love poems.

*
Disturbance on the
water. I wade past the reef
towards the boil-up.
Tiny fins track the surface:
dog sharks, learning how to hunt.

*
Steering wheel molten
in the late summer sun.
Slip through the marae
gates: Hongoeka Bay like
platinum. Like time-travel.

*
Drawn-out afternoons.
Lawns gone brown without winter.
Whiskey in one hand
weeder in the other
you’re digging out dandelions.

*
Pōhutukawa
glows in the heart at sunset.
Sun alive, like us.
Red filaments on water.
High tide at Hongoeka.

*
Moon at three-quarters.
Blood dust on the beach’s lip.
Silver shawl draws up
Rangituhi’s shoulder. I
stand completely still.

Michaela Keeble

 

Michaela Keeble is an Australian writer living in Aotearoa with her partner and three kids. She mainly writes press releases about climate change, but her poetry and fiction is also published online and in print, including in Southerly, Plumwood Mountain, Cicerone, Mimicry, Capital, Turbine and CommunityLore.

© 2019

The Great Remembering

Jane toasts the river
eddying round her teeth
tongue floating in a billabong
gathering in each cheek

A waterfall

cascades
down her throat

she’s swallowing cloudbursts
that played percussion

last night on the roof
as she raises
a glass to her lips—

that simple act
of remembering
the origin of water

She returns the glass to the sink

and pauses
long enough to think;

if my body is mainly water
which ocean am I?

Kathy Kituai

 

Kathy Kituai is a diarist, poet, tanka editor for Cattails, creative writing facilitator and founder of the Limestone Tanka Poets (2010). She has published eight collections of poetry and her poetry has appeared in USA, Canada, UK, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Her latest tanka book was the winner of 2016 ACT Publishing and Writing Award and she gained second place in the International Sanford Goldstein Tanka Award in 2018.

© 2019

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

A Secret Midtown Garden

Our first apartment bordered ugly Hell’s
Kitchen, a place for hanging your head out
The window, yelling for “police, police!”

The back door was my savior, leading me
To jade insertions of a picket fence
That hid a missing piece of Paradise,
Green growing something quite unlike itself.

Here: rose aroma heavy in blue air,
Pink heliotrope lovely as a laugh,
Mature hydrangeas, honey in their cheeks,
Green eyefuls powering up two lives when
The wormy world of midtown leaves the mind
Without its moorings. Secret is our yard,
And lion-lit for us alone, as bold
As some unanswered prayers — — survivor’s way.

When he complains — — “Always outdoors!” he’ll say,
“Bent, knees-down!” — — I plead debts I owe the day.

LindaAnn LoSchiavo

 

LindaAnn LoSchiavo’s plays have been produced in the USA and Adelaide, Australia. Her journalism has appeared in The Australian Women’s Weekly, Cleo, etc. Her poetry chapbooks ‘Conflicted Excitement’ (Red Wolf Editions 2018) and ‘Concupiscent Consumption’ (Red Ferret Press 2020), along with her collaborative book on prejudice (Macmillan in the USA, Aracne Editions in Italy), are her latest titles.

© 2019

The Girl from the Coast

she was a child
young, golden, playing on the
shore, hauling heavy fishing nets

plucked as a practice wife for an
aristocrat
how could such a weakling be a warrior
a hero from the old stories?
bathed in fragrant water
cocooned in light blue silk
feet in Japanese straw sandals

remembering toes clogged in mud
at the river mouth, its bitter smell,
the strong odour of prawns
she once pounded to a powder
every day, at this time

thrown out, when they were
done with her

the invaders came
she woke up old
faded clothing as neat as she could make it
tiny hands and feet wrinkled, arthritic

a bent back dwarfed daily by a large basket
taken out of habit to the dawn market
fewer and fewer sales

always somebody stealing her life

Jennifer Mackenzie

Based on episodes from Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s The Girl from the Coast, a novel based on the life of his grandmother (translated from the Indonesian by Harry Aveling, Select Books Singapore, 1991).

 

Jennifer Mackenzie is a poet and reviewer, focusing on writing from and about the Asian region. Her most recent publication is Borobudur and Other Poems (Lontar, Jakarta 2012), and she has presented her work at a number of conferences and festivals, including the Ubud, Irrawaddy and Makassar festivals. Her new Indonesia-focused project, Navigable Ink (Transit Lounge) is forthcoming.

© 2019

Sirenia at the Lido

I’m not on drugs
or
dancing in the moonlight when
the shape of the water
shifts under me

Dugongs are breaking
in the shallows
Nothing like Bboys, Bgirls—
rappers
hip-hoppers
No jackhammers
freezes
hand-hops
airflares
headspins
kip-ups
no caps back to front

only
cows
of the sea
mild
and slow

Unglamorous beasts
in unsung rhythm in sync they graze
fields of grass among the mangroves
minding their own business

This trio performs the show of the year
under a nightclub sky
for me

But I have one question o solé mio
Where
do the
old
tired
and quiet
go to die?

Julie Maclean

 

Julie Maclean is the author of four pamphlets and one full collection. Her full collection, When I saw Jimi, was shortlisted for The Crashaw Prize (Salt) and won the Geoff Stevens Poetry Prize, UK, 2013. She lives on the Surf Coast, Victoria. www.juliemacleanwriter.com

© 2019

Blamestorming

… never blame the lettuce
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Must be
the slugs
munching
to the music
of the night
or the clogged
soaker hose
or an over-dose
of fertilizer mix,
or malicious
hailstorms
barnstorming
the yard.

Must be
the timbre
of your voice
that rolls my eyes
when you tell me
what to do
or assures every
perfect storm
is my responsibility –
like
wilted greens
and our empty
salad bowl.

Must be
some ancient god
who dabbled
in DNA
and served up
humanoids
who blame
every misdeed
on mothers,
lovers,
friends,
and
expired seeds.

Carolyn Martin

 

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has published poems in journals throughout North America and the UK. Her fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in 2019. Find out more about Carolyn at www.carolynmartinpoet.com.

© 2019

The Nature of Tea

Text of a prose poem.

Diane Martini Richard

 

Diane Martini Richard lives and works in Minneapolis, MN. Her poems have been featured in 45th Parallel, Four Chambers Press, Poetry City USA, The Scene & Heard Journal, Spillway, Dying Dahlia, and MainStreet Rag. Diane has a BA in English; and an executive MBA.

© 2019

Imagine Becoming the Sea

(after Chris Marks)

sucking salt
and spilling syllables into the deep.
Imagine singing lyrics with the humpback
and the blue,
jiggling to their riff and thumping,
sinking subnotes, surfing flatlines of script.

Suppose every sentence
was a bond of molecules, every phrase
a wave, its ocular echosounder. Picture
the pulse and drag, how silence looks
when scribbled on horizons,
tropic lines. How would it be to surf
a cross-hatched graph of secret tangents

and vanishings. Imagine
casting nets into pigmented ink
catching alphabets encrusted with mussels,
limpets, barnacles of significance
and drift. Imagine cuddling a planet,
whispering in its ear.

Victoria McGrath

This is an ekphrastic poem inspired by a drawing of the same name by Chris Marks, held in the collection of the Nillumbik Shire Council, Victoria.

Victoria McGrath has been widely published in journals and anthologies in Australia and the US, including Best Australian Poems (twice). She was shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize and nominated for the Best Of The Net award. She lives in Yass, New South Wales, and is finalising her first manuscript.

© 2019

Monet knew what it was all about

He chased the light by standing in one place and watching
how it moved in front of him from moment to moment, brush to canvas,
frantic in his efforts to capture it. Now this one, now that,
the sun moves quickly in the French sky. Look.
Look. You will only understand it properly if you learn
to see what is before you – not what you think you see, but
what is. Absorb it with every sense you have. Taste the
colour. Feel the light. See the breeze that makes those
flickers on the water. Chase them. Catch them. Don’t
let them get away from you. Now paint what you see
and feel – capture everything. The rich layers, the light,
the shade, tell them what it’s like to be here, now.
What impression do you take from this place?

(Inspired by the life and works of Claude Monet)

Amanda McLeod

 

Amanda McLeod is a Canberra-based creative with fiction and poetry published in many places, both in print and online. She is the Managing Editor of Animal Heart Press, a small poetry press. A fan of quiet places, she’s often outdoors with her dog, looking for the perfect spot.

© 2019

Hold

Sacramento

When a nest’s no longer needed, jays leave it to rain’s wet ribbons.
Foxes move on after a den’s done its warm duty.

Wasps complete papery ministries, abandon the hollow cone.
Every several years cicadas clatter then clutter tree trunks with husks.

A hermit crab swaps sea shells.

There’s a wanderer in my veins, blood of railroad workers, pioneers,
poor folk eating soup in dark apartments. Weekly, I look

for the barn owl in the long-needled pine of the vacant lot behind
the house. She hides from dawn to dusk, clues me

with confetti of mouse bones found on soft ground
beneath her perch. Whenever I think of leaving, whenever

I think of leaving, she swoops the night yard,
chastises me with a wind of outstretched wings,

silently as the hollow of my clavicle, large as the space
that follows goodbye.

Alexa Mergen

 

Alexa Mergen lives on a boat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. She grew up in Washington, D.C. and has also lived in cities and small towns in California, Michigan, Nevada and West Virginia. Her poems appear in numerous journals including Inlandia, Turtle Island Quarterly and Virginia Quarterly Review.

© 2019

Tract

Locke, Calif.

In this patch of Delta, grapes and blackberries
Loop through fig trees. Everything ripens
At once by the river; light races

To feed each thrush, jay, finch & fox.
On land where a farm was.
Oh, wonderful wilding.

Alexa Mergen

 

Alexa Mergen lives on a boat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. She grew up in Washington, D.C. and has also lived in cities and small towns in California, Michigan, Nevada and West Virginia. Her poems appear in numerous journals including Inlandia, Turtle Island Quarterly and Virginia Quarterly Review.

© 2019

Synchronised Swimmers Found Dead in Australian Waterway

Synchronised swimming is designed to look / effortless /
like so many athletic and life endeavours where we:
clamour / for attention above water / and then, below
paddle frantically. What a glorious show! Aquatic / aching

Human mirrors nature / or / nature mirrors human / I
can’t remember. Not with the mirror in which I see /
not the sea / but a river / not much a river / but riven
through the land / a sickbed riverbed / lips cracking open

Why such a fish out of water, my darling? / Why do you
expose yourself / belly up / in midday sun / We planned
the dance / so carefully / 138 Olympic swimming pools
to cool the brow of tired earth / 138 – no more / But –

Cotton blows now over the bodies / sticking on the flesh
the bloated fish / over a million synchronised swimmers
fester / The best choreography / our country had to offer.
Pluck cotton from the air. Where’s your gold medal now?

Rosalind Moran

 

Rosalind Moran has written for anthologies, websites, and journals including Meanjin and Overland. She co-founded Cicerone Journal and was awarded 2018 Undergraduate Awards Global Winner for her research into biopics. Her poetry was recently featured at the 2019 Emerging Writers’ Festival. www.rosalindmoran.com

© 2019

Not in My House

The Philosopher says, To kill a spider
in his own habitat is to invite bad karma;
if he comes into my house, it is a different matter.

She has a span as broad as the glass,
and I’m careful as I place it over her,
my palm against the base, my fingers

curved to grip the sides. One leg flutters
and is almost trapped. I hold the glass tipped,
blow gently underneath the thin edge,

and she hunches from my breath.
The hair-like foot is free
and I press close. Everything is still.

I watch as she unfurls, spreading
a little across the faded paint.
balancing herself.

The card is blank, polished.
It slips beneath the glass and nudges up
against the first leg. She hunches.

I nudge. She tests the edge.
It’s not a fight, it’s a suggestion,
a collaboration. I hope

that should I stray across a boundary
I too might be treated gently.
She’s on and now I flip the prison, she and I

at eye-level with the glass wall
in between. I carry her home
and relieve her of my monstrousness.

Diane Mulholland

 

Diane Mulholland was born in rural Australia but now lives in London, where she can often be found beside the Thames. Her work has appeared widely in journals including Under The Radar, The Tangerine, and Long Poem Magazine.

© 2019

The moon gives earth a piece of her mind

Galileo Galilei was first to look at me, declared me ‘smooth’. Since then, I’ve borne the gaze of many men. The Soviets hit on me. The impact hurt, but the photographs they sent back hurt more—too intimate, my dark side …

You kept probing, collecting information about my surface, history. You sent missions to survey my habits, came and went, left your rubbish. I don’t want to talk about Apollo, but let me mention Pioneer, Ranger, Surveyor, Zond, Luna 1 to 9. Bored, you sent in robots—Rover, Lunokhods, Clementine, Prospector, Chang’e from China, MUSES-A, a Japanese machine, and Chandrayaan from India. Now you have the best moon map ever. There’s talk of mining.

Mining!

Never satisfied. Soft landings raise my dust.

Why this invasion of my privacy? I give to earth such worldly gifts. You men are never satisfied. I am your natural satellite, your night sky light, regulate your tides, and besides, I guide humanity with a calendar of months and for your pleasure dance my endless dance—wax and wane in phases, crescent, gibbous moon … so low maintenance. And though some people call me pockmarked, I show the same happy face, pull you gently, slow your rotation, increase your days a little every century while I take nothing in return, except a bit of distance each year

to get away from you!

It’ll take some time, I know. Meanwhile, I confess, the wobble in your axial tilt is my doing—the trade off for you is four seasons, a more or less stable climate that you do your best to fuck

now you know about my water traces—

mere tears for all the years I’ve put up with your abuse. I’ve come to like eclipses best—short respites from your constant  eyes, your prying, dreams of mining

I’ve been called a bowl of fire, a mirror reflecting your perfection, but I’m like ice, a mere reflection of the sun. How I wish the sun would turn your head.

K A Nelson

 

K A Nelson is a Canberra poet who published her first collection, Inlandia (Recent Work Press) in 2018. She has won or been shortlisted in many awards in Australia, enjoyed collaborations with artists, and published widely. She recently had two gigs at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne.

© 2019

Hometown

At the airport my father balks
at the weight of my suitcase, the crushed wheel

that will not spin, the way I’ve had
to drag the bag over grime and carpet instead.

With one stoop he lifts the suitcase by its middle,
hefts it onto his shoulder and walks.

I think of eggplants.
The tight rows he showed us

with so much pride, each green tuft
nurtured by a shoulder carrying water.

The joy when we found one
hidden in the shade like a peeled egg.

Winter on the farm, how he would chew
raw cloves of garlic, eyes smarting, to fill his belly.

His home a night’s train ride from the nearest city:

the rough mud-brick walls with straw
sticking out, the hard beds, the

well with a metal lid to get drinking water
where I once found a fish so tiny I mistook it for light.

Stephanie Niu

 

Stephanie Niu is a student from Marietta, GA who currently studies at Stanford University. Her poems have been published in Metafore Magazine (2019), Rainy Day (2017), Liminality (2015), and Writer’s Block Magazine (2015), among others. Outside of verse, she experiments with art-making through dance, videography, and machines.

© 2019

Vision of America

When I lived on the island the crabs were moving.
A migration based on the rains – they go
after the first heavy downpour, wind through jungle
down to the sea.

Watching them is watching
death, so much of it, so certain:
the trucks that must pass despite the signs,
the wet crunch of shells under

each wheel, the odd crab beneath bicycle tire.
I wonder how in the face of such massacre
they can remember the way to the water.
A park ranger taught me that

they read the land, follow
little patches of water slipping downhill
at an angle we cannot see.
There is the smell of it,

moving water, open water, salt,
a taste just strong enough to become
this mass crawling, the miles, a survival
ritual. On the island the roads go

where the crabs do not and still there is
death, the warm red stench.
But here rain means stop driving, means
watch the beautiful creatures move.

I like to imagine a place built this way –
the land split up only by how the rain falls.
A place where collision gives way to
reverence, where nothing is as sacred as

survival. Where the migrants are so mortal
they are beautiful, are worthy of reaching the sea.

Stephanie Niu

 

Stephanie Niu is a student from Marietta, GA who currently studies at Stanford University. Her poems have been published in Metafore Magazine (2019), Rainy Day (2017), Liminality (2015), and Writer’s Block Magazine (2015), among others. Outside of verse, she experiments with art-making through dance, videography, and machines.

© 2019

Hawthorn Magic

for weeks the hawthorns jostle
everywhere you look 360 degrees
as if they are spinning around you

the countryside is a huge ceilidh
of froth and blossom and they march
along the canals as if they own them

hedges of blush cream burst
each morning with birdsong
an incantation as if to stop time

now the blossom has drawn back
quiet green as if to shut the door
on too much enchantment

Gabrielle O’Donovan

 

Gabrielle O’Donovan is an Australian based near Manchester, UK. She writes about people and places that get under her skin. A member of Second Light poets’ network, her poems have been published alongside art exhibitions, in anthologies and magazines including French Literary Review, Artemis and Orbis.

© 2019

This Lovebite

on my cheek will fade
but the beauty of your folly
fathoms deep
will never seep from my mind.

I was wary of you at first
as you corralled me to your vantage point
and then I saw it–
shimmering-shy on the seafloor–
a boudoir ringed with rolling hills
crested with twinkling treasures.
Valleys carpeted in ebony shale.
Sand swirls of every hue
fin-whittled to perfection!

“For you” I thought you whispered
and I knew that there in that bed you’d dressed
in the finest white sand you could find
I would rest my heaviness. Sink
deep in the cool silky bliss
and pray the tide would never turn.

Rosa O’Kane

 

This Lovebite is inspired by the article ‘Role of Huge Geometric Circular Structures in the Reproduction of a Marine Pufferfish’ by Hiroshi Kawase, Yoji Okata & Kimiaki Ito.

Rosa O’Kane was born and grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives and works in Canberra. Her poems have appeared in The Canberra Times, an Action bus and online in Not Very Quiet. Her poem ‘Hydrography of the Heart’ was commended in the 2014 Hippocrates and Medicine Anthology and for the past 2 years, she was shortlisted for the ACU (Australian Catholic University) Poetry Prize.

© 2019

Earthrise

Familiar places, like childhood,
are seen with new eyes
when we look back;
to be close, is to be blind
to the distant view.

The gravity-pull of the heart
does not change
as the flat earth of childhood
becomes the round spinning world
we learn to know,
the long distances of
the Globe we travel.

But the vision of the
whole wide onlooking world
is transfigured
when Bill Anders,
from the outside, looking on,
shows us a small blue marble
rising over the moon.

And America celebrates
Earthrise
on a postage stamp.

Kate O’Neil

 

Kate O’Neil writes poetry for children and adults. Many of these have been published in magazines and anthologies. Her collection Cool Poems was published by Triple D Books, Wagga Wagga in 2018.

© 2019

Abercrombie River Algorithm

Empty wrappers on the back seat we’re having
a good time bouncing along heading for Extinction
small town east of nowhere broken glass winking
on the side of the road tax cuts cost of living
surging at Black Springs the compost toilets stink
of living – at three in the morning no one is wise
lack of toilet rolls and overpriced bottled water
shooting stars wrong motel car keeps coughing
chest infection too much dust too much resistance
to change flat tyres global rubber shortage drought
swirling sandwiches chips cake coffee in this dirt
nothing dirt nothing world – mayhem of dust
running through fences

knee deep in this world of bones the algorithm
wears leather driving gloves self-correcting
like a drunk at a party searching for water to drown
the argument – a line of smudged dirt turns out
to be the river propped up on one elbow
like a skinny curious thing which has married
the earth and these vast boulders are the children
smooth and imperfect – a kind of paradise
in our hearts – council says the septic needs
enlarging – gnats infest the living room
each night peanut butter rice noodles
the farmer will sue if there’s damage to the grid
oh so now the algorithm’s eating chips
with tiny binary salty fingers and counting strange
grey litter on the highway – three thousand
stiff legged wombats pointing to the next life
like oracles of our future.

Christine Paice

 

Christine Paice is an award winning poet and writer. She has published two poetry collections, Mad Oaks, and Staring at the Aral Sea, a children’s book, The Great Rock Whale, and her debut novel, The Word Ghost (2014). Her work has been shortlisted, anthologised, and performed on BBC Radio. She lives on the south coast of New South Wales, where she is an acclaimed observer of driveways.

© 2019

To Ferry Landing

i.

thick grey planks worn and cracked
stained with fish guts and oil,
water puckers around the piles
of the old wharf

like the black-backed gull
you came to see the catch
smell the salt and view the crossing

ii.

ferry me over
this harbour where I learnt to swim

water lapping at the boards, boards, boards
and on the other side
the earth waits like an open mouth

the Whitianga estuary flows blue and green
carries the depths that arise in us
we sing your song fearlessly

throw a rimu leaf on my casket
with your blessing each spiny twig
helps take me home

as you walk the gravel path back to the river
my folks will see me coming from far away

Sue Peachey

 

Poetry, permaculture and pottery are the preoccupations of Peachey. Sue lives in Canberra and is from New Zealand. She has published previously in Cordite, Westerly, Not Very Quiet, Eucalypt, Haibun Today and Kokako.

© 2019

The Sky Talks

The sky talks but no one listens. Or, perhaps, we haven’t learned how to hear it. When your joints ache before the rain, when your ears ring right before sunlight splits the clouds, when you have an unnerving sense that you are being watched although you are alone – that is it. That is the sky talking.

I was about 10 the first time the sky talked to me. Home wasn’t safe, so I ran away and read in a meadow. The wind kept turning the page because she reads faster than I can. The sun kissed my forehead every few hours to remind me to eat and the clouds angled themselves to cast the best reading light.

Those creatures up there were my best friends. They offered understanding that was lacking in my peers, but more than that they offered perspective. They saw what others missed and missed what others saw. Aren’t you curious about what you are missing?

Kailah Peters

 

Kailah Peters is an emerging African American writer who studies creative writing at DePaul University. She writes with Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand around Chicago. Her work was debuted in Rigorous Magazine.

© 2019

One in a hundred years

The rain so blue, so insistent that,
along with the wind, it took part of the day
washing it through the drains and out to sea.

Starting with wet bullets fired at hot tar
the volley soon became
its own war. Shredding the leaves,
the trees bent and broken.
Rain, so strong it defeated the pipes,
gorged drains and pooled into lagoons in basements.

The rain did not stop when rain should
but kept throwing itself upon the earth.
Creating lacunas in the day
so full they could not stay attached.

Eventually the rain became all there was
soaking through the glass of the windows,
transforming the inside air, running down the walls
and across the shelves, filling
all the books, so words floated off
away from their sentences.

Rain could never be trusted as tame
after the drains built to channel storms
were lost;
sunk in the day that could not hold
such blue rain.

Meredith Pitt

 

Meredith Pitt is a Blue Mountains based poet. She has been published in Meanjin and Verity La and more recently in Not Very Quiet and Cicerone. Meredith was awarded the Verandah Literary Award 2018.

© 2019

Westward

Driving westward past the tumble of rocks
and sheep of the Yass Valley, fence lines
all but disappear, rough paddocks fan out

into undulating fields of bright rape seed
rivalling the sunflowers of Provence
in primary brilliance against the bluest sky.

The landscape shifts into moiré patterns
of grapevines, their low-strung tendrils
wrapping themselves lavishly across wires,

hectare upon hectare of flowering almonds,
blossom soft and bridal, havens for bees,
segue into orange groves, all dark leaves,

citrus trees glowing with fruit,
windfall orbiting trunks like gifts,
row upon row of plants flicking by.

Geometric art, it’s intensely satisfying
in an industrial kind of way, but I can’t
help but think about displacement,

crop spraying, cotton seeds coated
with pesticide, the vast irrigation
schemes needed to turn the dry green.

I can feel the road pulling me onward
towards a dirt track somewhere wilder,
uncharted, to a place that defines itself.

Vanessa Proctor

 

Vanessa Proctor is President of the Australian Haiku Society. Her poetry, as well as appearing in journals such as Australian Poetry Journal, Meanjin and Southerly, has been carved in stone, printed on teabag labels and set to music.

© 2019

Pocket Rocks

Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again
And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices

tongue songs

And I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems
the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible
happiness, everything has gone from me but the certainty
of your goodness. I cannot go on and spoil your life.

your wife

She smears a jot from the corner of the page on her life

describe

stows the pen; caps the ink looking again
to green nails breaking the crust of soil. She pulls at sleeves, certainly
hooks her brimmed hat; her walking stick. At the door she hears voices:

voice is

muddled inner ear. Tugs on wellingtons, down the path a possible
thing. Touches hardness loosed from dirt, round and smooth against the seam.
More quickly now, her boots on steps, the flowers only seemed
in bloom yesterday, but yesterday was this life

knife

away. A dragon fly cuts glass oscillating paper wings; its possible
song. She reaches for the fluted crag of water, drawing her on again.
And the voices

and the voices and the voices

She notes the spondee, tapping out her stick with certainty.
Again this earth. She shakes loose hardness in grasses and inevitability,
places these pocket rocks against her seeming
flesh, she’s weight in utterance

muddle mutter

pulling at bubbles air the vowels of her life

esprit sprite spite

will she float—this time, or sink under—wellingtons & water & the weight of Again.
She has no time but she has the impossible
the thing itself;
fracture as in wood. The air whistles burnt currents, war renewed.
This is the swelling lap of decay. Now, the sun, but now it is
the bassoon of her father, the silted notes of her sister. The brother seems
to reach from the surface as she feels the skin of this death

cessation terminus

Annunciation:
river rocks add to hard earth, she is here as presented
but there is no one to witness her parting
from this life
once you choose this—anything is possible.
It seems
the water is cold. It is deep again.

KA Rees

 

The first stanza of this sestina (except italicised lines) is paraphrased from from the text of Virginia Woolf’s suicide note, which was influenced in part by an extract published by The Associated Press April 19, 1941 “Mrs. Woolf’s Body Found: Verdict of Suicide Is Returned in Drowning of Novelist”.

KA Rees writes poetry and short fiction. Her poems and short stories have been published by Australian Poetry, Cordite Poetry Review, Margaret River Press, Overland, Review of Australian Fiction and Yalobusha Review, among others. Kate lives in Sydney.

© 2019

The Earth Accepts Its Daily Prophet: To Mary Oliver

To Mary Oliver

 

You died today, some

time, waking early

to give your body

 

back to the earth as the earth

gave you your mind. Outside

a girl is walking with Whitman

 

under her arm. She does not want

to go inside, to misremember

the loving she finds

 

in the eyes behind photographs

in the bears and the birds

in the women who dance

 

the Daphne, breathe into the trees.

You know trees

are not passive,

 

crickets are not signs

of silence, petals can pray.

Your footsteps leave

 

cool hues on the warming

earth, reminding the sugary grin

of sand and oats, slurring

 

out our secret: living is

constant revival. I listen

for your invisible

 

hand, digging up the bent

bark and I feel safe,

suddenly more aware

 

I have a body. To you,

every hole is not

a burial. I imagine you,

 

winged-back, swan-woman,

walking down from the sky,

neck too long and awkward

 

to be anything but a telescope

for the feldspar and the

fields of fur and fire

 

you sleep in, grateful to

the yellow grasses, blinking

beside the animals.

 

Who, now, is going

to observe the earth,

hear the tree

 

falling

and rebuild it

across the swamp?

 

H.E. Riddleton

 

H.E. Riddleton, whose life is synonymous with writing, is an autistic poetess, functioning as a passionate English Major and a devoted rambler on her infinitely loved Sylvia (Plath). She has been published in TCC South Script, The Ibis Head Review, The Visitant, The Light Ekphrastic, and S/tick magazine.

© 2019

Summer

We breathe again the cool morning air after another stifling night, force our weariness outdoors to smell the tall yellow grass bleached into silence. The eucalypts have shed their brittle strips of bark like dirty laundry about their feet, and on the track the dull shells of Christmas beetles shuffle in the dust. Overhead a raucous cloud of cockatoos, and three discarded feathers, bright as sulphur, fall like treasure and land at our feet.

Maggie Shapley

 

Maggie Shapley is an archivist by profession and a poet by vocation. Her first collection was Proof (Recent Work Press 2017), and her work has been published in anthologies, literary journals and on Canberra buses.

© 2019

Joy

Out the screen door
into the musk
of night jasmine, I slip on
my gum boots,
pass the termite mounds
through lemon-scented eucalypts
to squat, wary of jumping jack ants
on the old wooden seat, overlooking
the moonlit mountain.
A spiral of flying foxes
squabble over palm berries.
The air is charged with the swell
of cicadas, a koala’s guttural growl.
My soles are pressed to packed earth,
head bowed, alone under a kite of stars,
There’s something elemental about damp
toilet paper, the act of balance
over the hole, slapping mosquitos,
picking a leech off an ankle,
smearing the blood.

Laura Jan Shore

 

Laura Jan Shore’s poetry collections include Breathworks (Dangerously Poetic Press 2002) and Water over Stone (IP Picks Best Poetry 2011, Interactive Press). Her work has been published in anthologies and literary journals on four continents including Magma and The Best Australian Poems 2013. She lives on the far North Coast of New South Wales.

© 2019

Consumption

I don’t like to spend time around chickens
because I eat so many of them.

When I make eye contact with a red hen
and see some sentient glimmer spark between us

can I still sweater my shoulders in the refrigerated
supermarket aisle, and look over racks of plump breasts

guiltlessly? Or would it be like the time I met the actress
on Murray Street and saw her shrink deep into herself

while the paparazzi snapped and flashed, no longer
the blond powerhouse in a low-cut blouse

but a bewildered woman in blue tennis shoes,
and I put my camera away?

Jamie L. Smith

 

Jamie L. Smith is a Master of Fine Arts Candidate in Poetry at Hunter College, where she has been the recipient of the Colie Hoffman Poetry Prize and the 2019 Guggenheimer Award, and was runner up for the Richter Award and Academy of American Poets Prize. Her work has appeared in the San Antonio Review (17 July 2019) and is forthcoming in the Indie Blu(e) anthology, This Is What Love Looks Like: Poetry By Women Smitten with Women.

 

© 2019

Small Blessings

1.
Shoelaces strewn on
sidewalk? No, its just earthworms
drowned in April rain.

2.
At least you’ve got your
hair, she tells me, as we think
of small blessings.

3.
Within the yellow sway
of the Japanese rose bush,
finches feed their young.

4.
Under the couch cushion
I find the miniature teapot
your dolls once drank from.

5.
On her thin white hand,
the lifeline’s cracked like a shell.
A razor blade’s ghost.

6.
Gray cat with yellow bird–
sunlit wing still hanging
from his mouth.

 

Skaidrite Stelzer

 

Skaidrite Stelzer lives and writes in Toledo, Ohio. Growing up as a post-war refugee and displaced person, she feels connected to the world and other stray planets. Her poetry has been published in Fourth River, Eclipse, Glass, Baltimore Review, Flock, Storm Cellar, and many other literary journals.

© 2019

The Finch

the green turret tail.

the eyeball, its one black stud.

the golden bit follows

the turquoise tag;

belongs to sky.

the beak.
its little poisoner of song.

once at the sundial and once at the birdbath

told the nervous young to peck at moss
alone.

chooses to sit on the engraved ‘N’,

its three pointers drumming.
a little politician with souffle feathers.

its one black stud

eyeing me at each window.

I’ve seen it but once before.

though it’s clear it knows me more

each peccadillo
ducking beneath curtains.

sweeping crumbs away.

I must make peace with the world tomorrow.

before it crumbles away.

I must make mother’s pea soup.
I must learn when to tell the world
that the tide is low.
I must mould these promises into an earthworm,

fling it out the window;
an appetite at bay.

Katie Stockton

 

Katie Stockton is a Welsh playwright and poet. A graduate of the University of Warwick, she is currently studying a Master of Arts in Scriptwriting at the University of East Anglia. She has recently had a play produced in Norwich’s Maddermarket Theatre and her poetry is included in the recently published anthology Like The Sea I Think.

© 2019

I Kneel to the Muddy Water in Me

I think I could not be any happier than I am right now.

I think this on days when I know I could be happier.

I think this on days when it doesn’t stop raining for hours and
I forego a jacket entirely, running to that artificial stream
reckless in my happiness or unhappiness and

I kneel to the water

to the muddy water
to the muddy water in me

I bow to it.
I bow to it and to all the parts in myself that
could or could not be happier.

I bow to the artificial stream and to
each artificial stream in me I have manufactured to look happier.

someone dug through the earth to put you here, I say,
Someone dug through the Earth to put me here too.

The artificial river does not reply.

Dawn-Hunter Strobel

 

Dawn-Hunter Strobel is 21 years old and is about to begin her last year of her Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Writing has been her salve for as long as she knew of sickness.

© 2019

Desert Poet

(After ‘Desert Poet’, a painting by Elaine d’Esterre)

What the sun sees the sun exposes,
uncertainties, marginal clarities,
eye and ear proficient
in fuddled myths of identity.

Cherished, battered, who can say
which word is guide or misfit?
Red grit tortures the eyelids, the wind
is flagellant. Distressed epiphanies

haunting the cities have echoes here
Lake Mungo’s buried knowledge
mourning like a lost language
each dry whisper a voice

unknown. ‘Desert Poet’ as one
more sandeater, another thirst
parched by beauty. The pink
and purple dunes bed down

in her. Drift burial, mutation’s
palette. Disjunctions of self
haunt the canvas. Exploration’s
daughters belie a resting place.

Patricia Sykes

(‘Desert Poet’ appeared in Space and Place: Elaine d’Esterre & Nicky Perkin, Surf Coast Shire Artspace, Anglesea, 2017.)

 

Patricia Sykes is a poet and librettist. Her collaborations with composer Liza Lim have been performed in Australia, the UK, Germany, Moscow, Paris and New York. She was Asialink writer in Residence, Malaysia 2006. Her most recent collection is Among the Gone of It (English/Chinese, Flying Island Books 2017). A song cycle based on her collection The Abbotsford Mysteries premiered in May 2019.

© 2019

From waltz to rock ‘n’ roll

From east to west the sun’s rich rays spread rampant self-esteem
in playgrounds full of knee-high grass where sheep and cattle dream.
Creeks play chasings, hear them laugh! Rocks tease with hide and seek.
The soil is drunk on water. Cross your fingers luck won’t leak!

The climate spins like whirligigs now carbon’s die is cast.
My heart knows it’s a spiral, but my bones hope good times last.
Did Mother Earth consent to those Caesareans for coal?
La Niña and El Niño switch from waltz to rock ‘n’ roll.

The dry-eyed earth’s repressed emotions rumble deep inside
as dust forms scabs to dress the sores the sceptic eyes denied.
Paddocks, bare as bandages, are barren wastes that bind
my life to anguished Mother Earth, both faces drawn and lined.

The climate spins like whirligigs now carbon’s die is cast.
My heart knows it’s a spiral, but my bones hope drought won’t last.
Did Mother Earth consent to those Caesareans for coal?
La Niña and El Niño switch from waltz to rock ‘n’ roll.

With heatwaves, cyclones, blizzards, fires, Earth bellows “That’s enough!
You big-brains learn some manners, or my lessons will get rough.
Famine mixed with flood creates a placid averaged sum.
You dare to think I’m average? I will crush you with one thumb.”

The climate spins like whirligigs now carbon’s die is cast.
My heart knows it’s a spiral, and my bones agree at last.
Did Mother Earth consent to those Caesareans for coal?
La Niña and El Niño switch from waltz to rock ‘n’ roll.

Robyn Sykes

 

Published nationally, internationally and online, Robyn Sykes’ work draws on her fascination with nature, interest in human behaviour and love of the idiosyncratic. The science graduate has studied crocodiles, peered down electron microscopes, lived in Japan and edited the Yass Tribune. Robyn now writes, observes and learns on a farm.

© 2019

Close to the sky

a performance poem

We live close to the sky.
Its hot wet breath
gathers itself
on the mountainside,
flicks
clothes from the line,
lifts
wisps of our hair,
then tumbles itself
into storm, lumbers down
to the beach, and dumps its secrets
in the sea, while we
fill brimming cups of our eyes.
We live close to the sky.

There are those who see in our contentment
a kind of failure. (Disinherited gods; stunted visionaries).
I see no cause to invite abundance into my life
when I already have everything that I need.
I unravel these country roads
in my fossil-fuelled solitude, I follow them
back to the place we met, at the halfway interlude
between the furthest you could climb
on splintered lungs and dwindling time,
and my limited will to know that I
must reach the summit alone.
In the intimacy of this truth I fell for you –
that is, they always call it falling
but surely – we were rising
in love.

Now we live close to the sky.
And I fold these landscapes into my mind:
these hills slick with cloud-spit,
these sudden egrets spraying sky.

None of it exists outside of time
in this life of not-quite.

But I think this might be enough for me
if it is enough for you.
We live close to the sky.
We tend to a garden of blue.

Sarah Temporal

 

Sarah Temporal is a performance poet and poetry educator. She won the 2018 Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup, and has featured at Sydney Writers Festival and Storyfest. She is the convenor of Poets Out Loud, an event and project platform for writers of all ages in the Tweed Valley region.

© 2019

Dawn Swim

It’s a kind of pink-headed
miracle, this school
of fin-less fish, this hairy
lycra-ed swarm. One that
believes in the safety
of herds, in the buoyancy
of salts, and in the shelter
of millionaires’ coves.

There’s an urge to clump;
an over-ride
to the land-born’s
thirst for shore – yet

something tugs this frothing web
to float it home. Conceals
the slough of tell-tale tails
in sea-grass caves; they whisper

old secrets (those ones
still traded in tongues).

Helen Thurloe

 

Helen Thurloe is a Sydney writer. Her poems have won national awards, and appear in several anthologies. Her first novel, Promising Azra, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2016.

© 2019

Impossible (in Hungarian)

One could only count up to six
in the original Finno-Ugric, a concept
that, over the phone, bristles
my statistician mother, convinced
as she is, of the mathematical capabilities
of her tongue. She cites such proof
as Professor Rubik’s six-sided cube
with its nine squares per face
and 43 quintillion
combinations (though resolvable
in twenty turns). But now
I have eroded the probability
(and inevitability)
of its invention down to P < 0.05
through my philological meanderings;
by uncovering
the pre-decimal incongruence
of our fur-clad forebears,
and inferring our ancestral
contentment with less.

Helen Thurloe

 

Helen Thurloe is a Sydney writer. Her poems have won national awards, and appear in several anthologies. Her first novel, Promising Azra, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2016.

© 2019

Species, Manifold

Inside my hands
a centipede unhooks its feathered feet.

In shiny defiance
her kind are multiplying.

She likes the flavour of sun on bone,
bone on stone, dry, clod-covered stones.

Her eggs. Translucent, licked, pearl light,
they remind me

in this clearing, in the toffee coloured soil
a mother is born every minute.

Under a tree that invites lightning
inside a ground split like mango

she reminds me,
all of the spawning, the arthropods

like trees alight
they mock us

with their thrum, their creamy ovum songs
their bare aching, their bright bare luck.

Catherine Trundle

 

Catherine Trundle is a writer, mother, anthropologist and academic, based in Wellington, New Zealand. She writes flash fiction, poetry and experimental ethnography. Recent works have appeared in Landfall, Plumwood Mountain and Flash Frontier.

© 2019

Little ’berg in the big city

i.
I find my way to the sublime
just as the absurd attaches itself
to the raw coast: Borne in
on the human pathogen.

There is a cruise ship the size of an iceberg
(or the other way around). There is
a small harbour crammed with both, and
an infant iceberg nuzzled up to a little jetty.

Paid to be very serious about it
the dock workers confer, straddle, strain
with pulleys and packing straps, lever, lift:
‘Woah there, wild wee ice-bronc. Get in behind.’
A cabaret of the Western, in Eastern Greenland
as they try and coax the little berg
into the dark den of a rusty container
with ropes slippin’ and it’s Charlie Chaplin
till finally at noon, they winch
a hidden grin into the hands of whoever
holds the chequebook. Lock it in.

We are ignorant tourists with a right of query:
“On the way to an exhibition” they say.
A museum. A gallery. In London.
Or New York. Or somewhere
where people are a bit stupid
from all the fumes.

Here your lungs burn clean, to breathe.
Here you will die of the beauty
of whales and mountains
And in winter you will die literally
of the cold. But now it is spring
when glaciers drip and everything sprouts petals.
And true, spring lasts longer and longer
each year. Dogs bored and sleds beached.

Take the message if you reach land.
Mime it blue. Swim like
it’s going out of fashion.
Swim ’cause we are running out of ice.

ii.
Berg baby goes to the big city.
The captain trills tobacco
the whole way. Hand to hand
the refrigerated mystery, to be
star of the opening night.
I imagine pronged women
that teeter and sparkle. Red wine.
Very small food.
While between velvet ropes, one broken tooth
from the mouth of Tassiilaq
melts on the mirrored floor. Flaw?
Even here
a comedy of (t)errors.

I made art of an iceberg, too. In my camera caught
a fisherman with one foot off the edge
of shore. Sure? Silhouetted by white
the voiceless mammoth behind
paper thin with distance, blue
with light, with unspent oxygen
He breathes just once a millennium
and is now on the slow
exhale.

Yes this his kin
keening to the deep toes of the fjord
as a Parisian janitor, lacklustre,
squeezes his brother out of a dirty mop.

Susan Wardell

 

Susan Wardell is from Dunedin, New Zealand, where she lectures in Social Anthropology at the University of Otago, while raising two small humans and a few potted plants. Her poetry has been published in Landfall, TakaheNot Very Quiet, and Plumwood Mountain.

© 2019

Gathering Snails in the Mani

Across this landscape’s epic span
move women summoned by the rain,
transient as water-drops on rock –
lured by gleaming trails of gastropods
that forage for new shoots,
threading pebbles’ camouflaging labyrinths,
where moisture performs random acts of tenderness.

The women gathering the snails
are dwarfed by mountains, dark, immense,
cowled in violet shadow from the cloud
about their crests.

The women come from villages of narrow
towers hewn from stone, the trees that were
like wells to them charred skeletons
a fire has left, in place of quinces’ green
and gold, the saving grace of olive groves.

Lit by the sea’s refulgent light
they move across the limestone shelf,
vigilant and vulnerable
meeting in a common quest.

The Mani is a region of dramatic history and terrain
in the southeastern Peloponnese, Greece.

Jena Woodhouse

 

Queensland-based Jena Woodhouse is the author/compiler/translator of eight books in various genres, including three poetry collections, the most recent being Green Dance: Tamborine Mountain Poems (Calanthe Press 2018). She has worked as a journalist in Athens (Greece) and has in recent years been awarded writer’s residencies in Scotland, France, Ireland and Greece.

© 2019

Shelled

Crab legs litter the freezing shore. Blood-orange, ripped from crusty root, sharp as the mossing whale bones memorialized on the cliff above. These severed limbs hint at living hosts, unbalanced animals hiding in the surf. Perhaps all these are all that remain, gull-swallowed bodies just ghosts blending in with the mist. I remove my boots and step on one, splintering the pincher in my skin. It’s a toss-up: which bites more, the piercing or the Pacific wind? Seawater crawls closer, pins-and-needles me with its cold, comes away blood-orange and numbs my fresh cut, stings with its salt, gives and takes crispest sensation on this beach. No wonder the crabs lost their legs. The ocean licked my sole and so it is hers now. I would give her anything she wanted, too. I limp towards the waves.

Kylie Ayn Yockey

 

Kylie Ayn Yockey has been published or is forthcoming in Glyph Magazine, Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit, Night Music Journal, Gravitas, The Stray Branch, and Ordinary Madness. She’s edited for Glyph, The Louisville Review, Ink & Voices, and is poetry editor for Blood Tree Literature. www.kylieaynyockey.com

© 2019

Thou Art a Magnet

Thou art a Magnet
Great Old Mulberry Tree
Drawing down sun-power
From your high bright throne—
Such a downpour, a landfall
Of deep blue violet!
Berries on my bent shed rooftop.

Thou art a Magnet
Great Old Mulberry Tree
Pulling an ocean of sky and cloud
Into your grand green net—
Such a far-flung haphazard
Of deep blue violet!
Berries on my winter-weary lawn.

Thou art a Magnet
Great Old Mulberry Tree
Catching quick squirrels and sly birds
From the four corners of late spring
With such deep blue violet!
Bits of wine.

Thou art a Magnet
Great Old Mulberry Tree
Pushing shadows far and lost
Such deep blue violet!
Bursts of hidden light
Into my heart’s forgotten landscape.

Yvonne

 

Yvonne (aka Yvonne Chism-Peace) was the first poetry editor of feminist magazines, Aphra and Ms. She has received several awards including the National Endowment for the Arts for poetry (1974, 1984) and a Leeway (2003) for fiction. Online publications in 2018–2019 include: American Journal of Poetry, AMP, Tiny Seed Literary, Poets Reading the News, Rigorous, Headway Quarterly, Collateral, WAIF Project, Brain Mill Press’s Voices, Cahoodaloodaling and Edify Fiction.

© 2019

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On performing gender

by Sandra Renew, Issue 4 editor

Welcome to Not Very Quiet Issue 4, Performing Gender. It has been exhilarating to read the 202 submissions to this issue (around 400 poems) from Australia and many other countries.

This issue is dedicated to Judith Butler whose philosophy and theorising about the complexity of gender performance was our inspiration for this collection of poetry.

Performance of gender is the struggle every one of us undertakes throughout our lives to ‘get it right’, to refuse and rebel against confining restraint, to present our conservative and radical selves to the different worlds we inhabit. Performance of gender is universal, lifelong, playful, serious, a life and death concern that, like the weather, is always already there. It demands our thoughtful engagement within the social and political structures of all households, communities and governments.

Selecting poems for this issue was extremely challenging and strongly debated by the editorial panel. We looked for ‘good’ poetry that moved us, that reflected widely and inclusively many possibilities of intersectional gender performance.

The poems selected use many poetic forms to engage directly with the choices made in living and performing gender, sexuality and desire. They give us fresh, new content and poetry that is memorable and thought-provoking, from perspectives reflecting class, race, gender identification, age and other social divisions.

I’d like to thank the other founding editor of Not Very Quiet, Moya Pacey, and Guest Editor for this Issue, K A Nelson, for their belief in Performing Gender as a substantial and provocative theme, and their enthusiasm for reading to find excellence through the blind selection process.

A new section for our journal showcases a poem from each of our editors, Sandra Renew, Moya Pacey, Anita Patel, Lisa Brockwell and K A Nelson, demonstrating their different relationships to the theme.

A very special thank you to Production Manager Tikka Wilson, whose new section, a photo-essay on performing the feminine, has contributed hugely to making this exciting Performing Gender theme accessible.

I am just a girl

Pissy and smoking a cigarette walking down Troy Avenue in my stomping boots.
Dead-broke shouting at the ATM on Lincoln Place, crushing my bare foot outside
The worst bank in all of Brooklyn. I am small.
You can find me too proud to ask for help
Clothes pooling at my feet in front of a near stranger. Dinners of white wine
All my writing shoved into a heavy manila envelope.
Hanging with the big dogs, thick whiskey and fish eyes
Dice game on a piece of cardboard, working all the time.
Look at me, losing my lighter to an old friend
Pissing between cars
Addicted to smoke and neon. I can talk trash with the best of them.
I am not afraid of death. I am not afraid of walking home at three in the morning.

Joanna Acevedo

 

Joanna Acevedo is a writer living and working in New York City. Her work includes ‘What Do You Know About One Night Stands’ (Seventh Wave Magazine), ‘Indianapolis’ (Rigorous Magazine) and ‘Pigeon Apocalypse’ (Flying Island Literary Journal).

© 2019

Weed Garden

Every morning I oil up
in ribbons and mask

enacted as dance in the garden
watering can waving

a patch of weeds left to grow tall
Chickweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, Sorrel

unadorned, fed with defiance
self-seeded, leaning towards light

bite down the envy, spin and spin
until I’m too dizzy to speak

stifled to meekness, this private
performance made public

inside spent and made up
a picture of compliance

tomorrow I will wake and walk and walk
not stop until I’ve left the farm

lost my body with all its false softness
broken to sinuous fibre
too tough to digest

Magdalena Ball

 

Magdalena Ball is Managing Editor of Compulsive Reader. She is the author of several novels and poetry books, most recently, High Wire Press (Flying Island Press 2018). She has shortlisted in or won a number of literary prizes including the Queensland Poetry Festival Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award and the Newcastle Poetry Prize.

© 2019