In the hallway, she holds her breath, waiting
for the voice again that calls from there, and just there.
In a white nightdress, she is a ghost, feeling the walls
as though they are faces, locked tight with stories.
In slippers and night silence, she strains for a whisper that says
'hello, how are you?' and reminds her not to put cans
in the microwave, or to fall asleep in her chair, or to
forget that the most important things have been, and are going.
Somewhere in a drawer, there is a letter that contains
delicate things, and some words about gardens and the weather.
She calls a name and then cries it, trying to force it into
the paintwork like an indent, a foothold.
And the red crabs feast
Red crabs' diet consists mainly of fallen leaves, fruits, flowers and seedlings. They are not solely vegetarian however and will eat other dead crabs, birds, the introduced giant African snail and palatable human refuse if the opportunity presents itself.*
Christmas for crabs; their island blooms
with a rare largesse of flesh
mashed to pulp on rocks —
such 'palatable human refuse'.
They too migrate, ten million scuttles,
on their yearly prickly walk from forest to sea.
But roads are cleared for them, cars parked,
as the needful eggs pull them down —
a crimson shawl over grinning cliffs.
We make space for the moon-mad crabs,
their urgent surging back to sea.
A wooden shell, a thin plank hull,
is no match for a carapace.
That homely self that moves
and so always has just room enough.
P. S. Cottier
*Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website
The boat people of the New England Highway
|An animate darkness
||deeper than understanding
|Rain from the day of creation
||when belief filled the oceans
|swamping and exposing
||the reef we had become
||at hummingbird speed
|hovering above surrender
||I gripped the wheel
|as if it turned the earth
||the gelid breath of spines
|attuned to survival
||Our metal carapace
|a reed-thin membrane
||between parallel worlds
|of dry security within
||gale-force immolation beyond
||room at the inn
|a sanctuary of function
||food without flair
|the next day
||limned with our hope
|for better weather
||waited the other side
|of the pillow
||For others launched
|upon an unbarded sea
|welcome is uniformed
||the inn is surrounded
|by razor wire
||hope is finite
|and days innumerable
||threat grows inward
The more he spoke, the more it seemed,
his lines were all rehearsed,
and English was his second language —
Yeti was his first.
Alyson Miller lives in Geelong and has recently completed a PhD in scandalous literature at Deakin University. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in Staples, Verandah and Groundworks.
P.S. Cottier's new book of poems The Cancellation of Clouds has just been published by Ginninderra Press.
Paul Scully is based in Sydney and has been writing poetry on and off since his teenage years, having been inspired by his father, the poet John Dawes. He has been published in several Australian journals.
Damian Balassone is a Melbourne poet whose work has appeared in various journals, magazines and e-zines. He is currently working on a second collection.