Winter faces falter

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Dancer in midair

Your face

for Robin Grove

I see your face
across busy rooms,
or in a street of strangers.
Your face
familiar and wry,
eyebrows leaping
with the furious farce of it all,
your tears of wicked enjoyment.

Sometimes I hear
your laugh,
generous and knowing,
your irreverence and awe
in quick-step;
your lightning transformations
into joy, from resignation.
You've been gone a year now.
The world is dull
and unillumed.

You moved lightly
with your dancer's step
and your gentle, gracious hands
that knew Mozart and Bach,
soil under your nails,
old-fashioned hymns,
and a child's rounded head.
Your heart was woven with the words
of Shakespeare and Donne and Eliot,
words you gave away
to so many
hungry to hear,
words freighted
with your humble gratitude,
your precise cautions, measured
by your inimitable, dancing self.

 

Facing South

Up in the Arts tower,
below the south lawn's
smooth hill
and subterranean carpark,
the class is facing further south
into winter light.
They are doing Donne on death -
Per fretum feberis -
digging, desultory, for resonance
half-remembered, or learned
rote in Lit One.
Before the poet's obsessions
white winter faces falter,
too alive to feel the grip
of hard earth,
the gnarl and drag
of unimaginable history.
Faces too fresh, tricked
pale in the cold light,
already scan for the hour's end,
the next allotment
of learning before lunch.
And who is she
tutoring in ignorance,
to reignite
those old Renaissance whisperings?
What can the young do
against such wizened knowledge?
            "They thought like that, then,
there was more dying,
           you know, when they were pretty young.
The plague, wars, bad sanitation."
The hour dwindles, uncaring, to its close.
Outside, light shifts
in soft waves, moving
over the emptied room,
not expecting, as it goes,
sympathy or even acknowledgement.
Vacancy braces itself,
10.15 to 11.45,
next class, same topic,
same burrowing blind life
storing up its grains of culture
harvested against stupidity
and the long winter nights.

 


Lyn McCredden

Lyn McCredden is the Personal Chair of Literary Studies at Deakin University School of Communication and Creative Arts. She recently co-edited Tim Winton: Critical Essays.

Topic tags: Lyn McCredden, modern Australian poetry, poetry

 

 

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Existing comments

Beautiful, moving, insightful poems. Thank you, Lyn Mccredden.
Tony Kevin | 11 September 2014


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