Latin bruise and purgatory itch

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Port Fairy Folk Festival
Like praying mantises, the stilt walkers glide along
Port Fairy’s streets, carnival meadows adrift with balloons.

A statue busks for animation and, later, we sit with him
on the Post Office steps where he washes off his face paint

with a towel. A British actor, with a back complaint,
I can’t bend anymore, he says; and we sympathise

with his damp grass bones, having listened all day

to the Tent 3 bands: The Mojos from New Orleans;

the Habibis, Zydego Jump and from New Zealand:
When the Cat's Been Spayed.

At night, from the football oval where campers
pitch their Macpac igloos beneath the pale March moon,

we hear drinking songs wrecked on a reef of guitars,
the slurred thirst of music's love-loneliest voices.

By day, we stroll past stalls selling plastic beads
and AFL-themed Harlequins, face-painters brushing

children's eyes with colour, as though fun is façade
and glitter maternal. A small violinist plays Twinkle

her cap at her feet. Here, music rises
to be day's first memory and its last. Here sleep is cloud-free,

dreamless, the near earth cold. Soon the locals, relieved,
will tear down the posters and reclaim the glass-free zone.

It's Sunday with Eric Bibb. Only one more day to go.
Wristband non-transferable, invalid if tampered with

or broken, on my way to the gospel gig, I watch
the bible buskers Trucking for Jesus on Sackville Street

Francis Bacon
The melting pope is a postcard favourite,
cherubic angels forgotten in the hustle
of Soho's unconscious dreaming.
To enter a painting you might need
to understand how the artist destroys
each canvas, destroys the past, and begins
again to tidy a workspace. Once, I heard
a priest say, perhaps in a dream,
It's useless to nail oneself to the wall.
I'm not a self portrait.
I see, now,
how he nuzzled his bruise of Latin colour
and stroked the small purgatory itching
behind his art's framed scapulae.
In the gallery, now, a woman walks by
and I notice her headache's neon lapidary
as if an MRI has been conjured from her mind
by implication. Later, in the dark
before sleep, you touch my face, tracing
its contours with one finger, as if
to reassure me that I am not melting.

Haunting the serenade
i.m. Amanda Wilson

Before the funeral we visit Rick Amor's show
at the Langwarrin Gallery. The day scowls
through rolling storms: one for silent thought.
A kind of void rises from the paintings
as though an invisible Ozymandias
broods, yet, over desolate beaches and abandoned cars.
Skinny trees haunt the carpark and a sketched
charcoal breeze digs down beneath our collars.
I'm glad of my friend Alex's presence
the quiet polish of his voice and his silences

as though we are both oil-scarred, scraped
by grief, yet restored to the distant loneliness
that only a funeral's chatter of loss makes real.
Memories haunt our White Lady serenade
and rituals. Words, like jazz, familiar,
improvised, make solid the frame of our days.

Mildura flight
Like Circe the plane overhangs earth's patchwork.
In the cabin we're contained by signage: seatbelts clasped

by two illuminated hands. EXIT signs latched at the end
of the carpet's thin red line will lead us out, safely, we're told,

if the plane stalls, burns, or falls. A couple play chess,
their tray table laminated, sleek as a laptop. Their laughter

thin, pitched high beside the more anxious travellers who
lean back into their headrests, hands clenched, eyes closed,

Below, the Murray's sinuous silver startles awake
as the morning licks clarity from dawn's forms. Restated

antiquity, the river's indifference etches itself
against archipelago trees, the desert's barren ochre blot.

Listing suddenly, the earth below swings out and away
as the plane turns down into Mildura's flat green glare,

into the vineyards, the gardens and the houseboats
tucked along the river, moorings seen as dots along the shore.

The sun unrolls a blushed carpet, swimming pools like the
of gods, touched by italicised gold. Who can see us here

settling out belts, brushing crumbs from jackets and trousers
tray tables put away, the cabin becoming quiet

as we fall purled, embodied — down into the shadowlands
the pools of bruise hovering beneath clouds?

Jennifer HarrisonJennifer Harrison is a Melbourne poet and child psychiatrist. Colombine New & Selected Poems is forthcoming from Black Pepper Press. She recently coedited Motherlode: Australian Women's Poetry 1986–2008 (Puncher & Wattmann 2009).


Topic tags: Jennifer Harrison, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Francis Bacon, Haunting the serenade, Amanda Wilson, Mildura



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Existing comments

Nice to read and see poetry published. The forgotten voice of God.
Jacky | 31 October 2009


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