Poems from the collection Electricity for Beginners (Clouds of Magellan, 2011).
The City Gauge
The twenty-first century quits at two
when the water drinks the fusebox and the house blacks out.
Now, we raise our lives higher by torchlight
and listen to the frogs’ admonitions:
your houses are islands, yep, yep, yep.
It’s true. Every hour drowns another front step.
Inside, telling storeys of desire:
we stack poems on clothing on mattress on table
(how high is high enough?)
till our histories loom all around us.
All night we lift, and listen to the radio
our nerves turned electric with news from the west.
All night we listen to talkback callers
whose voices ring out in our emptying rooms.
A woman says her neighbours are sleeping
so close, but too far to wake,
and the water’s rising
and she doesn’t know what to do.
Why does the darkness make voices more likely
to win or break our hearts?
Soon it will be dawn, soon it will be
weirdly beautiful—the water a foot from the floorboards,
high-set verandahs kissing their reflections,
six-foot fences vanquished—and soon we’ll realise
But for now, it’s night, and there’s just
the torchlight, and the radio voices
and the raising things up, the lifting that is like belief:
the best that we can do
but never high enough.
First published in the Australian Literary Review.
I don’t love you
for your beauty
but also for your large
When you say
brouhaha instead of
shops and a
really turns me on.
Tell me all the synonyms
and I’ll tell you what I am.
First published in The Australian. Republished in The Best Australian Poems 2004.
When the suburb sleeps, this bed hums
with the quakes of midnight trucks
that speed west two streets away.
For weeks I thought it was me—
some spasm to do with the heart.
While you slept, I lay here
counting beats, debts, receipts.
It’s these old houses. All tongue and groove
they move and shift in increments, sink
on their stumps, inhale and exhale the heat.
Doors drop on their hinges and refuse to close.
Tonight, late, our flatmate brings his woman home
and the tremors come again—
paperbacks shake on their shelves,
windowpanes rattle and
silverware, girlish, shivers in its drawers.
Beside me, you sleep
moving only your breath, your blood,
your fierce heart. Beside me, you sleep
as the dark house shifts around us.
First published in Re-Placement: A National Anthology of Creative Writing from Universities Across Australia, 2008.