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The tyranny of difference


A verb's lament
I often wonder why
it's cool to say
tear up instead of cry.

Suit up. Then add a tie
to start the day.
I often wonder why.

Next bus to work. No lie,
when this is said I may
tear up instead of cry.

But worse, when flying high
I'm told: de-plane. Dismay.
I have to wonder why.

You pig out, bulk up and mortify
me, until, okay,
I tear up, and want to cry.

But wait, the dictionary I hold high.
Palm it, you say.
I now know why
you tear up, and I cry.
indentintendindentind  –Susan Hurley

English mittens
It was afternoon and I was nine:
there appeared a white wicker bassinet
in the corner of the bedroom
by the window where the sun shone
in the mirror

Our mother was sitting
on the pink candlewick
like a cake decoration
My sister and I tiptoed into the room
and peeped into the bassinet

The new baby had his eyes closed
and a pale blue hat on his head
His hands were bound in white mittens
When we asked, 'why?' our mother replied
'So he doesn't scratch his face and cry'

In our Chinese the word for scratch is wah
and the word for cry is hook
so if the baby wah-ed his face
he would hook

I looked at my brother's face:
the folded eyes, the barely nose
flat cheeks glowing like a sixty-watt lightbulb
and that's when it came to me
that's when I knew

that even if we spent the next hundred years
carving roast lamb on Sundays
buttering white bread
and boiling Brussels sprouts
we could never be them
nor they us

because if someone were to hook
an English baby's face
he would 'wah!'
— even if he had his mittens on
indentintendindentindent–Grace Yee

Susan Hurley is a health economist and freelance writer based in Melbourne. Her daughters often use nouns as verbs.

Grace Yee is a PhD candidate at the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. She also teaches English as a Second Language.

Topic tags: Two new Australian poems, A verb's lament by Susan Hurley, and English mittens, by Grace Yee



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Existing comments

I nearly 'hooked' with soft laughter. Thanks for a lovely warm start to my day!

Glen Avard | 05 May 2009  

Thank you, Susan,
Thank you, Grace,
At last Eureka Street has published verse that works for me at a deeply personal level.
Keep it up.

I have so little time in my busy to decypher the obscurities of much modern poetry that it was a joy and a relief for me to be entertained, amused and uplifted by two such precise, clear and melodic poems.

Uncle Pat | 05 May 2009  

very enjoyable poems! thanks all!

James | 05 May 2009  

i run spoken word competitions in a unting church

i would very much like to invite both susan hurley and grace lee to compete

3 pm sunday 31 may and 21 june ; minimum of $100 prize money; no entry fee; free child care being arranged now

geoff fox | 06 May 2009  

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