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Our Lady of Perpetual Retail

Shopper carrying bags














The new house

last night in a dream
you sat on my bed
in the new house

hidden in my bedroom
we pretended I was sick
his anger on the other side of the wall

your creased fingers stretched then clenched
your soft pink face wet
on the lino daisies dared not move

and the plywood wardrobe door
its thick lacquer of varnish
the shell of your modern hopes

in the dream we moved off to a petrol station
sat on the brick wall in the sun
under Mobil's red Pegasus

unnoticed and warm


What will they?

We leave this house of their growing to enter the house
of our aging and they, what will they remember
best? Five in the bed on mornings without sport,
busybusystopstop, 'Marco!' 'Polo!' 'Marco!'
'Polo!' on the other side of the fence, the hospital
calling at night, the wooly bush Christmas tree?
Will they miss the light through the vine, the Robinia's
popcorn snow, the sacred bamboo where we watched
singing honeyeaters grow, the cat kept inside?
The year everyone died? A rosemary roast,
my marmalade curdling, yeast breathing out on the sill?
Who knows what they will remember?

From five to six we've grown since the July wedding —
that was the beginning of this house's shedding.


The city

Our Lady of Perpetual Retail lives here
pilgrims arrive to the hiss and gush of bus brakes
and it is always the liturgical season of steel

dockets fly like white moths
we communicate in glances
Our Lady of Perpetual Retail lives here

all the lost apostrophes hang in jewellers' windows
everyone carries their own mirror
this is the liturgical season of steel

even vacancy has a price;
only the food is anointed in oil
The Lady of Perpetual Detail lives here

T-shirts advertise our shape and size —
it's the Royal Show without the horse shit
You have every reason to steal

in spring Boronia brings its breath of silent
spaces not for sale in this temple
here it is the liturgical season of steel
Our Lady of Perpetual Retail lives here


This autumn morning

the blue grey river full of moon,
a swan dipped to graze on a shore I couldn't see.
The scroll of neck, velvet black sinew,
slipped silently between wet and unwet.

Such grace:
the unravelling of an S
and its perfect retraction.
From the red beak,
a single drip of river.
Beneath folded wing, a peek
at white feather.

Such grace
was all it took to undo
what was submerged.

Grief floated,
shining — salt on my tongue.


Pemberton mist

here the evening air does not forget
how much it rained last August

I return middle-aged
walk familiar streets
someone wearing a hat

the karri
among a scribbling of greens
nude in vertical suede
the sun's must

a boy with long blonde hair
lopes away from the bus
his school bag hollow

dusk is the time
for charcoal kangaroos
that lift their heads
before drumming the clearing empty

I cannot shake off this place
its dewed webs
its months of aluminium sky
the trees that ache in the breeze


Josephine ClarkeJosephine Clarke lives and writes in Fremantle. She is an active member of Out of the Asylum Writers’ Group and helps run Voicebox — monthly poetry readings at The Fly Trap. She has had poetry and short stories published in indigo, Eureka Street, Cordite and Westerly.

Topic tags: Josephine Clarke, poetry



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