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Weapon on a train

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Eyelash curler, Geelong Train 6.45am                                 
The weapon was extracted
from a small black bag
on a peak hour train
Held sharp and confident as a new razor
against the shunt and shuck
of the carriage

Throwback to industrial tortures
held against the soft wet eye
of a suburban chien Andalou
We reach deep into coat pockets
and turn the private sphere
as if it were a spare glass eyeball
twist it tight as tyrants, keep it safe
An engineer contends with the droop
(eyelash weight to time)
while across the aisle
a smart young man secretly yearns
to borrow a gadget such as this
for his big Friday night
The woman in seat 53B stares —
It's been years since she's seen
the eyes of those she loves up close

This brazen flourishing
of weaponry, as though beauty
could no longer be bothered
concealing machination or end
— was pure contraption within contraption
the pinned back eye
the speeding train
The gaze of the modern
curled in on itself
failing to entreat
rain, steam and speed
to shocking new anything
a quaintness of cold-eyed progress
blinking into the mirror
of hard-eyed futures
already past

Later, in the tamed view of afternoon
Some of us wondered whether the woman
had suddenly seen more
whether we too could slow time
open eyes again
to worlds unlashed

Bird of rights
Es sitzt en Vogel auf dem Leim …
–Erich Kastner

You poets muck it up for birds
this muck is not like rain
bringing seeds and grubs and image
to the dirt-black page again

Well we won't rent out feathered similes
to pacify your game
the lyric tunnel of your rifle-sights
will shoot us just the same

No more supply of birds on wire
No cosy-nested schlock
No holiday hires of wingéd clocks
for sustainable chariots

You still confuse bird war for song
Twitter, chirrup, farrk, croon
our battle cries strung like sentimental flags
on seedless iMac tombs

You fuck over our migratory paths
And yet our call-sign isn't bitter
My soft head catches in landing gear:
And you insist: 'This soaring flight'? 'Where eagles dare'?
_________________________You see why I do not 'twitter'

The will of birds
The parrot, like art, is 'mortal in its cornered sphere'*
of the air and off the air
With their flights assured I inherit the world
and its solemnly metered oxygen tanks
But call and response are less defended than ever
landscape is for dead connoisseurs
poesis for the soon-to-be-dead
With this sobriety in mind
I climb the grey stone stairs
dragging my life behind me in a box
the size of something in which I once interred
a corella as a pious child
A lawyer reads my carbon-coloured will
in perfect sonorous pinstripe
The air soft across my larynx is the same soft air
as that curling about my hand
My fingers open tentatively to sign
I pull a quill from my own skin
and staunch the flow
With every downstroke I seek
to bequeath all to those beautiful fugitives:
wingmarks over the blond paddocks
*From Robert Pinsky, Song from Jersey Rain, 'The Impetus was Delight', c. 2001 

A. Frances JohnsonA. Frances Johnson completed her PhD on the representation of Indigenous voices in Australian historical novels (1989–2006). She has been published in Westerly, Southerly, Meanjin, The New Antigone, Space, Strange, Blue Dog, Antithesis, Arena Magazine, Motherlode: Australian Women Poets 1986–2006 and in the Best Australian Poems 2009 and 2010.


Topic tags: a frances johnson, Eyelash curler, Geelong Train 6.45am, Bird of Rights, The will of birds



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Existing comments

Good to see Amanda turning the daily slog to work into something memorable and beautiful.

john bartlett | 21 September 2010  

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