In praise of the rituals of others

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Selected poems


In praise of the rituals of others

Today I frosted the kitchen window because

before it finds the mountain through the glass

door of the balcony it must pass through

our shared hallway and the new neighbors

are moving in just as we'd started to befriend

the old ones. There is nothing to hide but the usual

human foibles and vanities but we have learned

privacy by rote all our westernised lives

and can be driven to distraction by our own

self-view. So thank God for the rituals of others —

the unofficial town criers and underseers

of business as usual. Disrupters of complacency

and conviction. Thank God for the shift worker

laundering at 3am, the self-talker shooing

imaginary unwanted guests with nothing

more than the thinning straw of a broom.

Thank God for Bollywood and daytime TV.

For the all night partyers and marathon

love makers. For the hash brownie bakers,

the nut crackers and pot-stirrers.

And yes even the drum-beating banjo-twanging

wannabe musicians. But special thanks God

for the incense wafting up from the first floor

through our bathroom vent — frankincense

I'm tempted to think on this particular day

discovering the tonal shifts and rapid firing

of water through old pipes is in glorious fact

the ululation of women at the door of number 1

where a daughter is newly born and Lipton tea

is spiced with cardamom and cinnamon

and the curtains are never drawn.



(I) Confirm humanity
(by not clicking the check box)


But by way of being this breath

elemental conceivable



By way of rare and habitual song.


By way of moving my body

in tune seasonally in love.


By way of speaking by design

light-filled words without end.


By way of this hand in that.


By way of scars whose origins

I own and admonish and pardon.


By way of depth of sorrow breadth of joy.


By way of honoring rainmakers stargazers

keepers of story and promise and faith.


By way of the heart's defiant trajectory

looping back on itself across the fissures.


By way of my nature both real and imagined

both creaturely and eternally seraphic ...




The world gifted back to itself

A tractor is levelling the beach

erasing yesterday's tourist tracks

and because its driver in his wisdom

finds no sense or joy in separating

the hum of the engine from the hum

of the sea caressing the edge of the world

he is also able to divine in the tyre prints

such marvels as the migration of birds

flying backward through time.


Further along a runner stops and drops

to a squat just long enough to mark out

a small grid above the tideline and

a near-perfect circle in its centre square.


A father plays chasings with his small children

zigzagging in and out of reach until their laughter

collides bringing them down in a circus tumble of

good to be alive, smiles stuck fast with

incalculable grains of sand.


A boy sits cross-legged by the water's edge

head bent and willing (surely this

is his super power) the water to flip

the belly-up-fish back to life.


A husband photographs his wife knee deep

in breaking waves, the lenses of his rheumy eyes

blinking her in and out of focus. Perhaps they

have been married a long time, long before

the fickle fashion of it. Perhaps he re-remembers

each year her wedding dress, once white, taking on

all the colours and contours of the ocean bed -

the light in her eyes angling, still angling him





The Dogs of Cat City

If I were a dog or a cat person

I would probably be a cat person but

I am neither. You could say I'm simply

an admirer of Nature's work in general.

Dogs however, find me stepping

gingerly to one side. A psychologist friend

of a friend says this could be a trust issue.

Also, in their company I am often guilt edged

and some prodigal version of homesick.


Today I am in Cat City Kuching

where I find only dogs.


Here's one now, rounding the hotel corner;

a medium sized collarless mutt loping along

followed by another and another ...

They are uniformly black-brown except for

the jigsawed one which could be

but probably isn't a miniature Friesian cow.


Soon they have multiplied and my susceptible mind

has quantified and qualified them into a pack.


When I google the pack dogs of cat city

I am lead to council initiatives:

Capture-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return and

Operation Roaming Dog Removal.


If I dwell on these I am sure to become

more than a little fearful. I am sure to recall

the rabid details of Stephen King's Cujo.

But such projected fear is outweighed

by even the kernel of real and present

sorrow. Poor dogs — unwitting scavengers

in the wastelands of our fair-weather friendships.


For the lucky ones adopted into the House

of Human, there are bones aplenty

and a diggable yard it takes long enough

to circle. Some live to see a boy through

boyhood, are loved truly, that is, beyond

measure. They foster, in return

a discerning sense of smell and fair play,

of when the moment calls for nothing less

than the gleeful chase of a ball.


The blessed few of course, untamed,

untamable, roam the mountain ranges

and desertscapes of parallel worlds,

howling their homes into being. Each night

dreaming of the hunt — (and why not

in this version?) creatures mythic as man.



Jane Williams Jane Williams is an Australian poet based in Tasmania. The author of several books of poetry, most recently Parts of the Main (Ginninderra Press 2017). She coedits the online journal Communion with her partner Ralph Wessman.

Topic tags: Jane Williams, poetry



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Love Jane Williams’ poems (not just because I’m her mother), particularly In the praise of the rituals of Others as the poem comes alive in my mind as I read it. Thank you Jane and Eureka Street.
Rose Williams | 04 November 2019


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