We gather to remember

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Selected poems


Item 23



Her chair goes back. She lifts her pitch.

She’s checked that last ignoble itch.

You know quite well that, on occasion,

she likes a little conversation

and likewise know you ought not feel

ten minutes more would be ideal.

You catch her glancing at her watch.

And thinking of a thoughtful scotch?

Is her smile what it’s been for

as she shows you out the door?

Why is it that you never share

the deeper reasons that you’re there?

Once more the news is far from drastic.

You rummage for your piece of plastic.



Your doctor is away today

but, yes, another one’s OK,

an older man who’s so relaxed

you’d almost swear he pays no tax.

Your BP lately’s been quite high

but he’s an offhand sort of guy

who reads your record off the screen

to check out where his colleague’s been

and talks benignly all the while.

You’re growing to admire his style

and sense somehow that he’s well-read,

more from the tone than what he’s said.

His final phrase though makes all clear:

It wouldn’t be too cavalier...



Your doctor sends you to another

just to see what he’ll discover.

Her worry proves to be ‘all clear’

but, wait, there is a problem here;

that dot she thought was background speckle

or, at the worst, a harmless freckle

is not a form of dermal static.

He thinks it might well prove dramatic

‘down the track’ a year or two.

You’re hastened to the surgeon’s queue

and so on to a skilled excision —

which, luckily, needs no revision.

Although your epic’s not by Homer

your dreams are free of melanoma.                                                      



Anxiety is the state of play;

your BP’s way too high today.

You know your GP won’t have space;

you’re on the phone in any case.

The name they offer sounds exotic;

no time now to be neurotic.

He checks your BP. It’s quite normal.

His manner’s cheerful and informal.

You move on now, with some confusion,

to what you fear’s a small occlusion

in an artery or vein

that’s in the groin — but gives no pain.

He tells you it’s a wisp of plaque

(waving quietly in the dark).



You’re more than grateful in your way.

You think about how every day

from 8 till 6, from Mon to Fri,

she helps defer the day you’ll die

along with others just like you,

who, worried by their symptoms too,

surf them nightly on the net

for all the wisdom they can get.

But sadly when she’s sick as well

your buoyancy is shot to hell.

Where’s the miracle you sought?

What’s not there in that report?

She’s good with death but now you see

there are no tricks for entropy.



A Sentence in Memory of Ralph Wilson

for Kyle and Harriette, his children


Twenty-five years from his death

we gather to remember

swapping anecdotes like bank notes

weathered in our wallets

the one on how as deputy

he’d learn while pausing in a doorway

the names of all three hundred new

Year Sevens in a week

and how when actors failed to show

for one of his rehearsals

he’d stride the stage himself

recite their lines impeccably

and never for an instant

suspend our disbelief

and likewise in that run-through when

he tumbled off the stage

continuing with broken arm

and that play only one among

a lifetime’s round two hundred

our wonder at those two lives lived

a wedge of sleep between them

and how he’d manage both as if

there were no greater calling

a wife and kids offstage as well

thriving nonetheless

the languages we knew he knew

but rarely used outside a class

German Latin French

their lexicons and grammars

vivid in his brain

no need for any trip to Europe

his knowledge of his century’s

savage opening half

its play of light and dark

and the nineteenth to explain it

and then towards the end

his narcolepsy at the lights

the honks that got him going

the party where he nodded off

mid-sentence on an elbow

and woke up two hours later with

a fighting Nevertheless

and so it is we offer up

these readings to ourselves

of things he would have liked to hear

imagining thereby to hold

the timbre of his voice

the substance in his gestures

as if we interchangeables

might somehow one day come to have

a share in that uniqueness.




Geoff PageGeoff Page is based in Canberra and has published twenty-five collections of poetry as well as two novels and five verse novels. His recent books include Gods and Uncles (Pitt Street Poetry 2015) and Hard Horizons (Pitt Street Poetry 2017). His Elegy for Emily: a verse biography (Puncher & Wattmann) and In medias res (Pitt Street Poetry) were published in 2019. Codicil, a mini-selected translated into Chinese, was issued by Flying Islands (Macao) in 2020. He also reviews Australian poetry extensively and has run monthly poetry readings and jazz concerts in Canberra for many years.

Topic tags: Geoff Page, poetry



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Although your epic's not by Homer/your dreams are free of melanoma. Indeed.
Pam | 09 December 2020


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