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Auctioning Jane Austen's hair

P. S. Cottier |  16 September 2008

Modern Ovid

In the back of the ute,
linked by two thousand year chain
see them; half man, half beast
leaning round the bends.
The car itself is half lion,
and the field's wattle gold
are the round medals
of too much self-regard,
mirroring vanity, puffed
into tiny tree suns.
Cane toads, carelessly
squashed into tarmac,
are transformed politicians
still spreading venom,
and that endlessly running tap
was a sportsman who urinated
on ordinary people in bars.
Ovidian justice isn't blind,
but apt; appropriate.
That unfunny comedian
laughs at his own jokes forever;
a kookaburra's rehearsed glee
at his own pattering routine.

The lock

'...a lock of Jane Austen's hair has just sold at auction for £5640 (on today's exchange, that's AU$11,640.73)...'

The Australian Writers' Marketplace blog, 24 June 2008. A photo of the hair appears in The Guardian, 2 June.

It has been shaped into the crude representation of a tree.

Do they stroke it with avid fingers, this palm tree lock
that once grew from the full head of quietest genius?
Scalping would be too much, headhunting too tropical
but buying the hair of a dead woman you can't know
is quite the thing. Your age, Jane, would craft sad crap
like this weeping whale-spout from bits of loved ones,
so willowy wrists were always kissed by absent lips,
dead, or gone to Australia. Perhaps the buyer loves
your wit and grace, balanced like a cat walking over
a bark of craning dogs; the way your corseted matter
could expand beyond tight binding without showing
the pumping. Or perhaps your dead snips are stalked
by modern zombies of celebrity, shameless and bloody.
A bit like Bath, but bigger. Personally, I blame the BBC.

Dressing down

Their clothes retired before them,
long ragged procession of rejects;
threadbare corduroy, shiny moons
rubbed into being like lamp genii,
or pink crescents of flesh, peeping
through faded denim skies. Jumpers,
unravelling back to wool, sheepish
in folds of drawers. These scarecrows
of themselves, superannuated coastal
ghosts, wake at night and stroll beaches,
scaring owls and sandy midnight roos.
Neat and immaculate, the shedders
of these wretched snake-skins wind
their way through work's roundabouts;
parallel-parked universe of skirts and ties.
The old rags wave like surf, ageing sirens
croaking your time will come. Tatty livery
of yawning holes and motley patches await
the some-day procession of leisurely,
sloppy, beanie-crowned, ug-boot kicking,

P. S. CottierP.S. Cottier is a Canberra poet. Her first collection, The Glass Violin, will be published by Ginninderra Press later this year.





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