Xanana on the wall


An Adjustment Needed Here
The bed on which I lie
is scientifically sprung
approved by chiropractors –
soft cushioned
sheeted in crisp cotton
white counterpaned                       
and blessed from on high
by Klimt’s clichéd Kiss.
Blazoned across its width
a woven tais –
orange and tropical pink
sunset stripes night shadowed.
Made by a woman –
cross-legged on concrete
to her stick-framed loom
Xanana on the wall
children in the drains
poverty’s jackboot in her back.

Fifty Years after Nirje      
Client 1
A person with an intellectual disability
developing ‘creative talents’
strokes hard pale crayon
on shiny resistant cardboard
to make innumerable                                                         
barely perceptible                                                                           
little lines
four hours stroking
nothing marks.
Client 2
A person with an intellectual disability
in ‘meaningful employment’
tears at used plastic bank bags
with blunt awkward cutters
ninety minutes
for a cupful
of shredded fiscal secrets.
Three cheers for Client 3 !
A person with an intellectual disability
engaging in ‘age appropriate activities’
flashes rebellious independence
refusing, at 38, to colour in any more
cartoon puppies.

Penance Grove – Monga Forest
How right, to bend, to bow the head
beneath arched fronds
to brush the brow with blessed drops,
and almost genuflect,
when entering Penance Grove.               
The boardwalk,
foreign in genus and form
is humble in its quiet response
to reverent footfall,
submitting to the forest’s gentling
of petal, twig and leaf
ascending to fern-spanned apse,
saving holy ground.           
In verdant graveyard, moss-padded,
amputated stumps, lie and lurch -
abandoned monuments.
Pinkwoods weep
and bees intone their requiem.

Black-trunked in mourning,
rejected tree ferns
stand in testament to those gone,
backyard blitzed,
their destinies stolen,
to lace a forest, to age in grace,
or host pinkwood seeds
in moist velvet crevices.
A bittersweet paradise
accepting its name, forgiving,
in slow resurrection.

Baltic Amber

Beautiful, light-eyed Lithuanians.
In convent quadrangles
where naïve 1950’s schoolgirls
giggled and gawked
they strolled together –
those honey-haired young women,
with unashamed sensuous grace
their animated conversations
in secret tongues.
Fierce memories of homeland
war-honed ambition
resolute dreams
in gleaming keepsakes
of strung golden resin.
I saw their tall defiant beauty again
in that small audacious country
on the hill of fifty thousand crosses
in Trakai’s island castle –  
their slumbering burn
in Baltic amber.

Tessa McMahonTessa McMahon’s main life occupations have been as mother and teacher, with 'frequent theatrical distractions and bursts of writing in various genres along the way'.

She writes: ‘The first poem was written after returning from a visit to family in Timor Leste. The second, arises out of my experience as advocate for my disabled daughter. Nirje’s philosophy of Normalisation from the 60s and 70s encouraged equality, independence, self-worth, community integration, dignity of risk for people with a disability.  Developed further by Wolfensberger 70s and 80s. I’m very aware of huge progress in this area but also of the need for vigilance.  The third poem is about a site in Monga Forest, near my home in Braidwood (NSW), where there’s been illegal removal and destruction of tree ferns for suburban landscaping. The last poem revisits my fascination with a group of Lithuanian girls from my schooldays'.

Topic tags: new australian poems, Tessa McMahon, Nirje, disability, Braidwood, landscaping, Monga Forest



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Existing comments

Beautifully written Tessa. Thank you. (Wish I had your talent!)

Pam | 26 June 2012  

terrific poems to read and think upon this morning, thankyou wordsmith, and eureka publisher. I understand where you are coming from, and good to contemplate such subjects.

Julie | 26 June 2012  

an entrancing suite Tessa, mesmerising.

alistair | 26 June 2012  

A wonderful range of poems this morning from a talented poet- I get a real sense of the poet's preoccupations and her range- I enjoyed hearing Tessa's poems read too- though I thought the reading was sometimes a little too fast. It would be great to hear the poet read her own poems...

moya pacey | 26 June 2012  

What emotions are aroused in me. From Poems 1 and 2 - tears of angry recognition and outrage (and a shout for 'Client 3'); from Poem 3 - a settling into quiet contemplation; Poem 4 - from noisy schoolyard to Trakai - the journey, the memory, the rounding-off. An experience of great reward, these four powerful poems. Tessa, thank you for your keen, intelligent eye and your ability to commit that to poetic form for our deeply personal responses.

Susan Kennedy | 26 June 2012  

most beautiful - thank you tessa for your words

susan | 26 June 2012  

Great poem about the disabled.

Jim Jones | 27 June 2012  

Thank you Tessa, I appreciate your writing, particularly as I too have a disabled child, now forty with Down Syndrome. I also write poetry .

jean Sietzema-Dickson | 28 June 2012  

I very much enjoyed these powerful and evocative poems. Tessa writes with great sensitivity. I particularly enjoyed the quiet and reverent Penance Grove and the power of contrast in An Adjustment. Hope to read more of this fine writer.

ROD COADY | 11 July 2012  

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