Boat people poems

Myself and other

That other who is so much like myself
as to be asked by fellow-travellers on buses

boats and trains what it is like to live with images
that haunt him: broken branches

when the rows of trees are dormant in the cold time
and the canopy's a maze of cross-hatched twigs

and mummied fruit: how sharp the rows are
in the frost, when green is dream: how like he is.

My father is that vessel I remember full of blood
he paid my mother for her beauty

when the sky poured down its weight of blue
for her; the ocean creatures gave their tears

to wash her feet, the clouds shared rain
to fill her sight with quince and lime, their odour

blowing through the house and mounds of roses
whose thorn teeth would tear her flesh.

–Michael Sharkey

Stilled waters

The ship adrift on my childhood bedroom wall
was plain but sound. Poo brown hull, white sails,
jetskiing waters out to sea. Jibs, spinnakers, t'gallants
and sundry mysterious hankies all billowing, propelling
an eager vessel into deep waters wherein dwelled dragons,
off-shore tax schemes and paradises beyond t' blue.
Islands enticed, outstripping conveyance and passage.
Old Jim Nightingale painted it; a hale retiree who'd wearied not
of maritime watercolours, nor condemned hardtack cardboard.
I stared at the image from my bed, a guiding if unfixed star,
as my younger brother voiced his croup cough
and fancies flew o'er uncharted vistas. As-yet unsung glories.
The next year my handdrawn, pencil coloured ripoff
scored a meritless first prize in an untalented talent quest
A treasured memory, if truly lacking in substance:
doubloons and just-post-pubescent chest.
I yearned for guiding winds.

Horizons dim. Storms blow. Years pass to starboard.

On the port wall, o'er the tub in my family bathroom
lies a faded reproduction of a beached (breached?)
fishing boat pulled to shore. Muted, Italianate colours
may conceal sun damage, pacific torpor evokes
eviscera. Gasping fishheads. The vessel's pulled to shore
sans anchor; calmed waters make a seeming drydock
of a craft that lulls uneasily. Overt bliss
reflects off an oar; or is that the Artist's trick of the light?
Bought after the wreckage of a shoaled first marriage,
the becalmed, calming painting survived a bachelor's anchorage,
flotsam and jetsam, to find love. Peace. Safe, prized harbour
under muted tiles and a stultifying fan/heat/light orb.
Craft designed for open waters creep around shores.
Keels longing for deep surges embrace sand and foam.
Joy in safety lurches, whalelike, against shells of aspiration.
Happiness bumps listlessly against salt-tanged dreams unvisited.
Amphibious I watch, breathe, consider tide's release.

–Barry Gittins

Michael SharkeyMichael Sharkey lives in Armidale NSW, and his poems have been published in several collections and online at the Poetry Archive (UK), Perihelion (USA), Mascara, Snorkel, Cordite and elsewhere.

Barry GittinsBarry Gittins is a Melbourne writer. 

Topic tags: new australian poems, Myself and the other, Michael Sharkey, Still Waters, Barry Gittins



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