Receiving a past

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tossed on the doona a red
engine with blue trim,
a lemon duck, an A & an
M, a black trouser
fastener, myriad shirt
buttons in several shades
of white, a hook & eye,
a grey button for a cardigan
that long ago lined

the cat's basket. a solid
confetti of odd shape
and size, picked over like lentils,
picked over again. suddenly

the best thing that's happened
all day, in the mix
a lilac disc diameter
nine millimetres with two
holes for the thread not four,
to match the five already
on the purple shirt, to sit
between the second and the fourth,
just over the breasts.

there to survive when the fabric
and the flesh fall away,
sewn into soil with
the slow decay of bone.


Receiving a past

I wind a music box with my heart wrapped round the key, to shield the skin of my palm. It would burn on a sentence spoken, I cannot respond. The mirror is face to the soil. The frame is filigree. On its reverse ants outline a world. Under glass the roses have crimson centres, and leaves are harlequin, emerald-lime. A peacock struts on the back of my brush. One hundred strokes are all that's left of Nanna. Her need for the impossible falls to yesterday's grace. It was all right to split an orange oozing sweet acid. Like a love-lorn cow I lowed, a deep-throated yes. Assent was a texture stitched on recycled card. I dotted my 'i's with lemon pips embroidered into language like tears on the bank of a creek — each after rain clings to a blade. From the glistening trees the chorus of what was said became me, before I registered the sacrifice. Now from the yes, a small face looks up mute. My eyes are still selfish and my ears hunt a magpie's repertoire. She spills it on the blue page.

I lick my thumb. I turn the air.


Sheet music

If there were sheets that night scored
with the labour of cotton farmers
and their pickers,
and certain workers spinning thread
and the giant looms,
there was also the comfort of cloth,
the several skins of the covers
and the skin of night,
and a tattoo
deep beneath skin
that juddered in the intestine
with the question tossed between us

as if you existed
and might have asked something
of me. And
if you had smelled of anything at all,
it might have been clean sheets, crisp air,
autumn, candles, chocolate —
or otherwise the tang of ozone,
heated metal, war and
blood, the pages of Wilfred Owen's doomed
youth, who wrestled all night with a stranger —
and the saying yes
to the otherwise empty air.



Crumbled charcoal
frays the clouds.

Gulls skim
the bay in arcs

sketched swift,
fluid on air

as kelp the current
plays. At the shore

the overwritten line is
redrawn by tide

in every moment
other. This is a word

my father knew —
the susurrus — a voice

that says the sand,
the sable brush

on light,
the resident tongue.  

Anne ElveyAnne Elvey is a poet and researcher living in Seaford, Victoria. Her poems have appeared in several literary journals and in The Best Australian Poems 2009 and 2010. She was shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2011 and has two chapbooks published, Claimed by Country (PressPress, 2010) and Stolen Heath (Melbourne Poets Union, 2009).

Topic tags: new australian poems, Anne Elvey



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Existing comments

Thanks for those lovely poems. As a wife and mother still apt to mend things I loved Buttons, but all of them appealed to me in different ways.
jean Sietzema-Dickson | 24 January 2012


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