Big Bridge #9

Poets of Australia


Rebecca Edwards

At Yoshinoya

where a meal costs less than a postcard to Australia
I order: a large warm bowl of greyish rice
strips of grey beef laced with rainbow
and a raw egg to stir in with my chopsticks.
The skinny, pimply student hiding behind the rice-cooker
is glad when I can ask for it in Japanese.

Poor people come here; young men in worker’s overalls
and grey-haired, stubble-faced elders
from the cities of cardboard.
It’s bright
in the 24 hour popmusic
we come for the posters which say “Treat us like family!”
I devour the English on sweaters and tote-bags.

Strangers, we slurp and chew without speaking.

My favourite moment is when I call out “Gochisosama!”
and get out my 300 yen. My fingers brush
against his thin palm.
This, and the rice
gets me through the day.

Plague Animals

I cried when I first saw Tokyo
coming in on the airport bus
with the other Australians.
I couldn’t believe that humans had created
something so desolate
a place where nothing could live
nothing except plague animals: rats, and crows
and people.

I cried because I could not see one tree
from the concrete flyover
because dusk was a nightmare of fairylights
pink and yellow, orange and green
stabbing me from steel hexagons and rectangles
studded with glass.
Because the entire vista was an accusation: this is what it comes to
this is what you do best, you clever,
clever monkeys.

All my muddy rivers, all my pebbles and clay
were stomped into a papier-mache grey of angles and corners.
The filthy wind had nothing to stroke it; no hills,
no branches.
Like a small animal in a comfortable cage
I huddled and wept
while the city kids and the bush kids – all strangers –
chatted and craned and seemed excited
seemed not to notice
where we were.

Rebecca Edwards is a poet and visual artist living in Brisbane, Queensland. Her second book of poetry, Scar Country, was published by University of Queensland Press in 2000. Her third book, the verse-novel Holiday Coast Medusa, was published by Five Islands Press in 2002. Rebecca was Asialink writer in residence at Keio University, Tokyo, 2001, and performed her poetry in New Zealand in 2002, and in Singapore in February 2003. She is currently the recipient of an Australia Council grant to write a book of poetry based on a three-month-stay in Nikko, Japan, from which she has recently returned. She has exhibited her drawings, intimate sculptures and papercuts in Townsville and Tokyo.

Previous Australian Poet      Australian Poet Index      Next Australian Poet