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Everything that ends



Selected poems



Everything that ends


In God’s eyes, nothing gets lost

- Elie Wiesel


Moment by moment the numbers are rising,


tables of the infected and the dead

on websites updated every five minutes,


the relentless clicking over of lives


like so many fallen leaves, in this country

and that one, and this number critically ill


and these recovered and these newly infected,


all nameless, all faceless, not touching me or you

yet, but coming, as governments and economists


count the cost, close borders, restrict travel,


impose quarantines and self isolation, 

a once fanciful dystopian plot become real.


Tell me your name Roberto, your secrets,


tell me Li of the streets of Wuhan, 

tell me of your loved ones, your plans, your passions,


show me photographs, talk to me


of the stories of your lives

millions of pages cannot render


so that everything that ends, continues. 







The world is flat.


Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.

Bats can’t see.


She loved me.





One person’s fact is another person’s fiction.





Lovely as she was the distance was too great.


Facts were her bedrock, her trident,

the attire she dressed herself in.


No poet can bridge that chasm.




(by Cobber ‘Stumpy’ Malley)



Ern was a good sort.

He would grab you by the imagination and swing you round

until you couldn’t tell which side was up.


The kind of guy you could rely on

if you could find him.

He wasn’t good at appearances.


It’s no surprise I’m a bit like that: it’s in the DNA.

If I could dream, I’d dream of being real:

that’s hard enough they say.


Cobber ‘Stumpy’ Malley claims an undefined genealogical connection to Ern Malley who was fictitiously born a century ago in 1918. He imagines himself as a man from the bush but in fact has rarely left suburbia, a fact that his constant wearing of an Akubra hat and boots cannot hide. Biographical details are sketchy but he may not be who he says he is.




[a found poem]


Like a rivet through the hand

it is necessary to understand

that a poet may not exist. 


It is an ancient forgotten ruse.

It may be for nothing that we are:

but what we are continues.


There have been interpolations, 

false syndromes. 

In a dream of recognition,


momentarily, we awake

towards a purpose darker than a dawn.

No one warned


that the mind repeats.

There’s damned deceit

in these wounds. 


It is something to be at last speaking.

We are no longer young: 

I am content at last to be.



Every word in the above poem has been taken from the sixteen poems of Ern Malley, the fictitious Australian poet whose entire body of work was created in one day in 1943 by the Australian poets James MacAuley and Harold Stewart.



The wild seas of being


Oh, how easy it is to drown in the wild seas of being,

the massive swell of waves from every side


obliterating the tamed shores of the self,

shores left behind and long lost


in the ripping current of momentum;

and how hard it is to cling to lifejackets 


fashioned out of life’s endless complications,

to stay buoyant once innocence departs,


the innocent heart taken for granted until it is gone

in a swirl of inattention, an eddy of growing up,


the drifting detritus of a few thousand days.

To drown again in wonder, astonished wonder,


in lieu of afterimage, the flash flood of recollection,

sepia and faded, is why we seek ourselves in nature,


in the quiet away from concrete rush and babble,

and why we surround ourselves with children,


the unknown little boy who ran to hug and kiss me

when I opened my arms out to my son,


his gratuitous gift tearing wonder anew from my chest.

How many ways we find to depart from ourselves,


to be lost, and then to be returned 

through the agency of a bird or a child, how necessary


this return when we move so much now

in an altered world, through tides of grief and loss,


ever-present wounds and damage 

too visible to be hidden, visible in air and sea,


in ravaged hillside, in tree, in faces, tired eyes,

the slope of shoulders, everywhere we look,


and yet there are children,

there is kindness and generosity,


there is nurturing and care,

and yet there is the opportunity of each moment


to begin again, to forge, to heal,

to make good in this wounded world.





David Adès is the author of Mapping the World, Afloat in Light and the chapbook Only the Questions Are Eternal. His poems have been widely published. David has won the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor's International Poetry Prize and been highly placed in several other prizes.

Topic tags: David Adès, poetry



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Existing comments

How beautiful is the poem “the wild seas of being”.It struck a chord with me.I have 8 grandchildren whose affection I miss but one especially is renowned for his hugs.His mother whispered to him that I said it is what I miss the most in the lockdown.He gives me a secret signal whenever I see his face on Zoom. The hugs of children are so precious.

Bernadette | 23 June 2020  

"Everything that ends" is especially poignant and pertinent in these statistic-saturated times, David. Thank you.

John RD | 23 June 2020  

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