Desk: Not in Attendance
The door opens quietly
as we slip into a realm of ghosts, a hotel
honouring its Moores of the past and their Irish best.
In the solitude of an upstairs lounge
we find photos of Joyce, a picturegraph of
Moore, Shaw, Beckett, Yeats,
cold eyes staring at King William Street.
And in the heart of their collection, verse.
Life, it seems, at the Brecknock is short on cash.
Itís like a poet on a migrant ship
still looking to the shores of Innisfree,
on a downhill trail, desiring nothing more
than bee-loud paddies drinking with their mates
droning on about St. Patís day.
To me itís not a graveyard, just centuries old,
in the wrong part of town, now designed
for hitchhikers sensitive to fumes.
Still, thereís cornflakes, ironing-board toast,
a cavernous trickle, Adelaide calls water.
In the hallway we laugh and joke, crouch under
blinkered eyes, waiting for uplift. (This is a just a note
to others, we didnít leave a tip).
The festival of writers is why we came,
Coetzee in the East tent, Attwood, grey and proud,
Keretís magic piggybank,
or Grenvilleís perfect gaffe.
Not the heat though. Thatís not why we came,
nor the marquis queue, waiting for god knows.
Oh thatís right!
all those authorsí books.
Helen Hagemann, Perth - Wednesday 24/3/04
News of the blind man
He left his country
before the army could pen his number
I knew him, half blind,
well aware of his aggressiveness.
In Adelaide, he left behind winter suits,
vests, ski boots, blood drying in the pockets
of his winter overcoat.
When I met him
he had the voice of a bell,
growl of life, a hunger to walk
inside leather shoes.
Days grew to battles he fell into,
an inheritance of family lies.
He spread the distance between us
with a bottle or two of beer and wine.
No one knew him or was informed.
He gave away his existence,
destroying walls and doors.
At times, he was a husband,
a father, absent from home.
In my sleep heís the lion that canít be caught
smiling from the lettuces, mortar and brick.
Iíve had this dream before
of paint sheds, lilac tins, studio of wooden toys
his children will never see,
or a face without drink.
Helen Hagemann, Perth, Wed 31/3/04 Salt-filled memories
For Edith and John Sydenham
Grandfather got sick of hiring Bullions' boats. From a photograph gone to rust, he says, "all summer, the crowd took them at dawn"' I can picture him standing around bailing his own, that fine piece of hardwood he rowed and baited in, exploding estuary and bay with a waist logic of anchor and chain.
My grandmother stashed Sunday leftovers on the best plank, away from the sun and mop of wave. I reflect on her life, know nothing of his, only they grew closer in '32, fishing for hours until the moon paled over Saratoga, or the whiting skittered past the lighthouse to Box Head. He died there in the boat as the light twirled silver, as the rip deepened, as the bream paced his line, as the briny sea opened its mouth. I remember the lawn hanky at my Grandmother's nose, wondering how she faced the agony of oars. In khaki shorts, Wellington boots dressed for bagging worms, the snapper run, the point's salt-filled memory, she unravels the lines of her mouth. I turned with the food, with a hot cup of tea, I saw him slumped, asleep.' In the burning bay, slightly sweating hair, my grandmother placed a consideration of sunstroke in her hands, moistened his curling lip, as if he was not yet gone.
Helen Hagemann, Perth Wednesday, 14/4/04
for Robert James, 1826
in chains and ruddy eyes he claimed
a sea of imperfection like a curse of his
days he remembered bitten dogs, sewage
streets piled high on population, the squeak
of a loft's rope, fifteen minutes starboard side,
stomach overboard swamped by a sea's roll,
wanting death by waves, anything
other than this salt cake of unfamiliar glare,
the memory of Scottish wigs, hammer
coming down, the amplified clap of iron,
then a harbour dredge of flesh wounds,
the long quiet highway of bird fodder,
sandstone shards sending his boot heels
into a mountain quarry landslide, his
Hunter Valley life, the monumental
family tree growing healthy in the sun
May begins an August Memory
We sit silently in a room where the past
whispers undignified moments,
our August garden, lake, sedge and
log. You with your wayward lunch,
me with a woman's smile. Contaminating
the air, my laughter, too, floats among
the clouds, is distained only by the
traveller who hides behind our life.
We return again and again to our
comic muse, always the moist birth
of our love. Each year a molding
of poems, words defining self,
a cityscape, country breakfast
in a generous shed, new borders.
Every day we play with leaves and
sticks to set the fires trembling.
Helen Hagemann, Perth Wed 12th May.
In the bay, where shells suck
and wheeze in the spillage of tide, where jetties
hollow a thump on boards, and loud boys plunge off ferry pylons,
where line and metal slip into weed and silver bream,
where from the point, in an absence of jewfish and whiting,
fishermen continue to race the southerly-buster home Ė
And on the headland, where Lion Island welcomed strangers to
its sphinx-like shore and Blackwall Mountain shaded summer tents,
its autumn seep dripping forest finch, and when carnival floated
over children raking for soldier crabs,
my home was called holiday.
Back then, my parents, still in love,
raised me to take it in Ė
left me to my wild wandering.
Helen Hagemann, Perth Wed 26/05/04
I have winter stuffed in my pockets
a tissue, paperclip, a silver seal,
nothing of the artic kind. It's partly
from a clever flip of juice I had at lunch. I am
hilarious when it comes to junk,
the little scraps of detail one collects
when writing poems in stuffy gas-fired
rooms. Sneezes stunningly simple to my
coughing boom. Two hairs have fallen
from my headache. I flick them off like
dust. My eyes and nose are melting into
ugg-boots on my toes.
I know I'm not unique.
Helen Hagemann, Marangaroo. 2 June
Poetryetc is a listserv relating to poetry and poetics which provides a forum for poets to debate their critical and creative work. The list has over the years run a number of projects for its members, of which Snapshots has been the most enduring.
Every Wednesday, Poetryetc members were invited to post short poems on any subject or in any form they chose. The idea was to make a poetic collage of instamatic snaps of that day that reflected the international membership of the list. The project has generated an astounding number of poems.
The first two runs, of six weeks each, and the first ten weeks of the third run, are archived at Wild Honey Press www.wildhoneypress.com under Poetryetc Project. The rest - amounting in all to a run of a year - are archived here.
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