Cover art, Strand, by Louise Tomlinson, courtesy of Bett Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania

Other Summers was published by Black Pepper, Melbourne, in 2006. It is available direct from Black Pepper Publishing.

Three poems from Other Summers are displayed on this page:

  • “Man on the Moon” (winner in 2005 of the prestigious Australian Book Review Poetry Prize for a single poem)
  • “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
  • “Summer”

Man on the Moon

(Author’s reading)

(See end of page for CD link)

Hardly a feature in the evening sky
As yet — near the horizon the cold glow
Of rose and mauve which, as you look on high,
Deepens to Giotto’s dream of indigo.

Hardly a star as yet. And then that frail
Sliver of moon like a thin peel of soap
Gouged by a nail, or the paring of a nail:
Slender enough repository of hope.

There was no lack of hope when thirty-five
Full years ago they sent up the Apollo —
Two thirds of all the years I’ve been alive.
They let us out of school, so we could follow

The broadcast of that memorable scene,
Crouching in Mr Langshaw’s tiny flat,
The whole class huddled round the TV screen.
There’s not much chance, then, of forgetting that.

And for the first time ever I think now,
As though it were a memory, that you
Were in the world then and alive, and how
Down time’s long labyrinthine avenue

Eventually you’d bring yourself to me,
With no excessive haste and none too soon —
As memorable in my history
As that small step for man onto the moon.

How pitiful and inveterate the way
We view the paths by which our lives descended
From the far past down to the present day
And fancy those contingencies intended,

A secret destiny planned in advance
Where what is done is as it must be done
For us alone. When really it’s all chance
And the special one might have been anyone.

The paths that I imagined to have come
Together and for good have simply crossed
And carried on. And that delirium
We found is cold and sober now and lost.

The crescent moon, to quote myself, lies back,
A radiotelescope propped to receive
The signals of the circling zodiac.
I send my thoughts up, wishing to believe

That they might strike the moon and be transferred
To where you are and find or join your own.
Don’t smile. I know the notion is absurd,
And everything I think, I think alone.

divider image

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

The cards are dealt.
Tables are scanned in the ephemeris.
Letter by letter round the board are spelt
The promptings of possessive fingertips,
While deep analysis
Draws the invasive fear which grips
Abducted thousands. The altar candles melt.

Who are they all
Who measure magic by the Five of Cups,
Or fancy in the planets’ rise and fall
A future clearer than their children’s eyes?
The draught which interrupts
The séance, did they realize,
Has deeper secrets than the ghost they call.

Let the sun come
To conflagrate the river’s incandescence,
Blazing at dawn like the exordium
Of Thus Spake Zarathustra, eponym
Of light — what alien presence,
Or host of the bright seraphim
Can add one candle to that blinding sum?

So here I stand,
Apprentice to an absent sorcerer,
As with a flourish of that wand, my hand,
Each day to conjure up another day
Which will and won’t recur,
Which comes on call and gets away,
And multiplies the terms of its command:

Cushions of mist
Suffused with lemon light among the hills,
The good will of the dead who still persist
In dreams, the grass that lifts the pavement’s weight,
Breaks it and overspills,
The faces of the compound fate
Around me, the hand that flowers from my fist.

divider image

Summer

A spiritless, grey-lit interior,
Midafternoon, the nadir of the day
When visitors are scarce; as in a mime
Silence informs the empty corridor,
Making all sound extraneous, far away,
As though it were the memory of time:

A closing lift, a nurse’s wordless voice
Monologizing on the office phone
Offscreen, the metal rattle of a trolley
With all it offers those without a choice,
And somewhere hard to judge the sullen drone
Of a polisher spreading its melancholy.

Wards open to the left and right, from which
The stillness wells like stage mist. Ranged in beds
Lie figures from the London underground
By Henry Moore, while in a curtained niche
An intimate family group with half-bowed heads
Out of Renaissance art sits gathered round.

As in a nightmare loop the eye regards
The bowls of grapes, the bunches of bright flowers
(Watered by someone once who then ignored them),
The drinking vessels and the get-well cards
Again, again the faces drained of hours,
Emptied by their waiting even of boredom,

Subsisting in their realm of four o’clock.
Procedure rooms pass by, and linen stores,
And stores for dressings, cannulas, syringes,
And blank, shut rooms where no one comes to knock.
Glimpsed from a junction in the corridors
What seems a painting down the hall impinges

Into the atmosphere, although the glare
That pullulates across it from the lighting
Wipes out its subject from the dazed newcomer,
Till he approaches closer to that square
Of tell-tale glass, which stares clearly reciting
The myth of an outer world; its content: summer.

Who would have thought that blue could hurt so much?
This prospect also has forgotten time:
Along the shore the many-lacquered frieze
Of small waves lays a stationary touch;
The trees, as though self-mesmerized, all climb
Unmoved, you’d say, into a printed breeze

In which the yachts, remnants of an event,
Have long been left behind. Almost without
A cloud, the unimagined sky annuls
All qualms across the bay’s embellishment
Which it exults above — except, far out,
A white dismay among the feeding gulls.



(CD Photography for Beginners Available from River Road Press)


  
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