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Island Christmas

Island Christmas

Under the canopy of sleeping pills,
people are cramped weathering
the endless storm of loss and disappointment.
There is no battening down the hatches.
Memories float to the top.
They think of loved ones
waiting for the word and sacrament;
the redemption from their subtracted life.
Christmas Island is a cage
of case workers and a thousand men
with a tightrope of a thousand crazy uses.
No longer can I say it is not my fault;
that it is their choice to get on a boat.
What price is hope? I have thought
to swap places with them,
give them my home, my bed,
so they can stretch out their folded selves,
see how strong they can be.
I don't care what religion they are.
These are my brothers.
I want them birthed from this toxic womb
to celebrate Christmas with them.

Marlene Marburg



'Were we led all the way for
Birth or Death?'
Journey of the Magi, T.S Eliot

Oh, they all come some distance
each in their own way like God
brothers, sisters, becoming flesh
for tinselled December 25th,
after a year of voice mail, email,
telephone conversations nothing at all?
       one stepping out of their car   air-conditioned
from some close in suburb
that may as well be as far
as the South Pole;
       another, sliding out of a taxi
that met them at the Greyhound down town
that met them at the airline
that jetted them high over desert
and red outback just greening in the first of the wet

to break in on the Great Dividing Range
   like Dawn.

But who among them will say
they did not wrestle with clinging
to the beds they've made and prefer to lie on
their stubbies or perhaps the pleasure of a cigarette,
the heaven of a barbecue in their own backyard
and the angelic conversation of their old mates?
Who among them will
       think nothing of
   reversal to the womb;
       live the child
   woman   man,
       be glad to take on themselves
   a death?

Pauline Reeve

Old churches

Like scaly frill-necked lizards sitting on a rock, old churches assemble themselves in bush retreats. Weathered and sacrificial, things have flown off: pigeons in the belfry, the roof of the outhouse. They tug at the years like a bell-rope, even the spiders have run out of larvae and moth. The stained windows have stories with lead beading, blues and greens, the colour of eyes that once dipped in prayer. The front door bolts open on wooden pews that line the walls. Ceilings creep upward in silent communion. Porcelain hands like the soft robes of Jesus, reach across a domed fresco from Bethlehem to Nazareth. You discern the old settlers were here by their marble tablets, paintings by the Dutch school. The winds have passed through these buildings, coursing leaves and the aroma of earth. In daylight a wagtail or wren will veer suddenly overhead from an open window, tap at water rusted in its turn. When darkness settles on rocks and stones, old churches shrug back into themselves, back into their timber rafters that squeak a thousand Amens. Only horses on the hillside, listening to the charms of trees, will trickle past in ones and twos, find greener pastures under the shade of a plane tree; where once restless girls studied Psalms and the Book of Matthew, and grew up to ride horses, saddled on the hillside.

Helen Hagemann 

Marlene Marburg headshot Marlene Marburg is a spiritual director and PhD research student with the Melbourne College of Divinity. Her area of interest is the relationship between poetry and spiritual direction. 

Pauline Reeve headshotPauline Reeve is a Melbourne based poet. Her poems have appeared in various Australian literary journals and anthologies including The Best Australian Poems. She works part-time as a teacher-librarian. 

Helen Hagemann headshotHelen Hagemann's most recent poetry collection is Evangelyne and Other Poems (2009). In 2011, she spent time in residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig Ireland, completing a new collection. 

Topic tags: new australian poems, Marlene Marburg, Pauline Reeve, Helen Hagemann



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