From Seasoned with Honey
A day of tests,
uterus, balloon-belly, squashed-breast tests.
They click at shadows on the screen,
I stay still, concentrate,
they prod, and look, say hmm, ah . . . yes,
measure my lumps.
I hold in, hold out, too full, about to burst –
think of something else.
I will be good – yes, I will be good.
And still, I will be still.
Will I be in this room forever?
My thoughts swim in the dark,
flooded with H2O.
How many times can you drown?
How many times can you be this washed up?
Free in Portugal (1981)
He said you’re free and young and free – can I help you –
and free, and
different, different, different because you’re free, and yes –
it must be beautiful for a woman to walk free.
And you’re beautiful for me, he said, because you’re free.
You are older than me?
May I touch you? Não? But you’re free, (for me, for me).
You’ve never been with a man? Impossible – you’re older than me.
And you’re free, you’re free. You’re different, you’re free.
I want to be like you, I want to be free.
He said you think very clearly, you are intelligent,
I, a teacher, can recognise such qualities.
You must be thirty years old, look at your hands.
You are clear in your mind. You have made love with many men –
And you travel alone.
And you do not want to marry, have a husband and children!
You do not want to make love with me? You will not be used by me?
I think you are crazy.
Robbed of Speech
An army of ravens covets the hill,
caw, caw, caw, caw,
waves across the valley, heralding
the plunder camouflaged by eucalypt,
the seasonal robbery of nests.
Against this menace
as wings blacken the air,
beneath a grim sky
fledglings wait out the spring.
At day’s end
a silent sunset follows the slaughter.
The ravens drift back to the treeless side,
replete in their fierce indulgence
aark, aark, aark, aarrrk . . .
And at the site of tree-top havoc
a quiet hysteria marks its final beat
before the muted pulse stops and
the weaker flock are robbed of speech.
From The Season of Chance
Getting Home from School
Two girls run the checkpoint guns
their frowns a map of concentration.
Their legs skip up, their backpacks jerk,
their small arms swim the air,
past a line of soldiers,
ready, steady with their aim, they all know
this is no game of truth or dare.
In class they learn the business of right and wrong,
breathe in vengeance and longing coloured in song.
Boulders of bitterness defend this land
where the man from Palestine died King of the Jews.
Suffer the little children, he said.
Suffer the little ones, driven home by guns.
Being here with you telling me
your sunset is still full
of vermillion and purple hue
amidst a glow of probability. Each day
you show me your enormous will
to live, loyal to domestic detail,
defying the on-screen drama
we encounter too often, that theatre
of fear. Your swollen legs tread silent
footsteps in damp sand. Your resignation
peacefully clear and determined
not to simply wait. I can forget
you have almost lived your life. Though
on other days as sunlight glitters
on a glassy lake, you catch your breath
moving from room to room.
A tired jewel, you remind me
of the daylight left and my grief seems
premature to this gift of the moment
exchanged in quiet company,
calming last minute desires
to tie up loose ends. You and I have
always loved with questions,
our silence determines what is said.
This limbo a happy enough place
without the need for tidy solutions. Uncertainty
will have the last word when all is done.
Hidden words, smooth tongue,
hollow belief, speak in absentia
from shallows congested with acridity.
Man of appearances treads empty of trust,
adjusts his sensible tie, his measured frown,
his election speech. Prods emotion
astride false candour.
Binary man, waiting in the wings
for the well-timed retraction.
Finger raised, now wait a minute
did I say, did I, did I say that?
His double–talk steals our thoughts,
smug like a knave, he makes the grade.
Full of contradiction and calculation,
his cardboard smile betrays
a well-mannered logic of discord,
a pretence to debate. I said, I said, I said
make no mistake. His rational eyes
on the next take – his words add up
to popularity, a lack of originality,
a standard conclusion, still scoring a pass.
Generic expressions of regret display,
a cheap brand of sorrow,
opportune, cleared of historical weight,
compassion or the promise of tomorrow.
Now off you go, off you go, off you go –
his adoration of a harsh god,
petrified like a statue in the park,
the future of his delusion
greater than the sum of its parts.