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Against the dark

  • 10 September 2018


Selected poems



Against the dark

When I was young I squirmed, squeamish-

uncomfortable, while adults watched

the New Year Edinburgh Tattoo.

Far too military for me!


How I despised it all — except

the piper at the very end,

high on the castle wall, raging

bittersweet against the dark.


Not much wiser now, I know

that noble pacifism's no

defence from friend or country bent

on total war, and never has been.


Desperate to end the war

five centuries BC, the Spartans

crushed their Persian-fighting ally,

Athens, so deep in the dust,


so viciously, that both sides lost.

These days, the military tattoo

is just too sad for words, the soldier-

children twirling, dancing, fluting,


prancing, singing, some with rightful

Maori marks, or cheekbones high

as Indian hills, thin teenage girls

in kilts and fancy Argyle socks,


a few exalted dancers flowing

red with silk on stilts. What

have they to do with war or death?

Yet men strap bombs on ten-year-olds.



Knit one give one

KOGO's angelic earthly army

marshals the willing minions

knitting works of heart and soul

to give away.


Back at the start, everyone fit easily

inside a small Port Melbourne pub,

though I was the only knitter

among the tea-drinkers


to order wine. Now busy battalions

build scarves and beanies, gloves

and booties, vests and blankets

to warm our fallen world.


Squadrons of clever-fingered specialists

confect small lacy wonders to hold new creatures,

and to delight them, soft rows

of teddies, bunnies, dolls.


I'm a mere foot-soldier stolidly slogging through

yards of easy scarves and cosy beanies,

trusting that, however simple, they might bring

some warming hope


to mums in need, to refugees,

remote communities, the homeless,

disadvantaged kids. Even the forgotten

are not forgotten.



Flowerpot hats

We stand together, shy, knock-kneed

on the outer-urban concrete porch

behind the curving steel rail twisted

by our so-young father's careful tools.

Fairyfloss-pink hats

the shape of upturned flowerpots

with fancy rosebud edging

encase our heads — hers angelic blonde

mine ("the clever one") mouse-brown.

Stiff-shiny dresses, puffy pink

over our smooth soft knees,

are the prettiest we ever had

bridesmaid and flower-girl

for our teenage aunt —

pregnant, of course.

The bridegroom her devoted carer now

five decades on.



Jenny Blackford's poems have appeared in Australian Poetry Journal, Going Down Swinging and Westerly, as well as The School Magazine and various anthologies. Pitt Street Poetry launched her first full-length poetry collection, The Loyalty of Chickens, in April 2017. If you would like to volunteer for or donate to Knit One Give One, find out more here.