Big Bridge #9

Poets of Australia


Patricia Sykes

espionage with duck

if it looks like a duck and talks like a duck
it must be a government surveillance device

this not in the wisdom texts
but in the weird science
of an artificial eye whose wine
is calamity in the cellar--
I find you in the museum Weisbaden
is really code for a duck's quack
has no echo
, which is silenced
easily therefore, the shimmer
of plumage and gland of musk
fallen to the gaze, or else to the palate
where transformation is skill of the chef
where the bird who once flew becomes
meat with hot and cold properties,
is a pianist playing, the main course,
with oranges and wild mushrooms
and contextual candles melting
under the heat of Rachmaninoff
but I think for the woman
with cutlery still alive in her hands
the electronic eye makes a worse salad
its vigilance not half as delicate
as the wings on her plate

Previously published in Meanjin: On Food & Drink. Vol 61, No 4, 2002

girl at play on the occasion of her mother's death

the air a cold south and the day not lovely
her father's knife in the yesterday sheep's throat
as the same terror now rushing her pulse, the safe
lamb taken out of her hands, taken out of the cloth
she'll remember the grey chill clouds prolonging
the numb hour, a wallpaper thick and suffocate,
a clag in the lungs, she'll remember every dumb
sodden thing, the bereft horizon provoking
her with its shroud, the ticking omnivorous
minutes, her mother's dress in their wet mouths
her own rage (welcome! welcome!) electric
with new tenure-- are these her dancing feet?
they are grief's own pistons, they cannot
be consoled, and so they rise and fall

and so they crush and crush the day's-eyes
and so a yellow stench anoints the air
and so the death bird is lured
and so she takes aim in its breast
and so the sky blemishes with red
and so scavengers gather to the largesse
and so she spends her breath
among the feathers and the bones
and so it is over it is done
and so the knife a shining elegy

speculation on a possible disaster

when on a day's soft comfort
the child you love breaks through
into violence and all the blame
is foolhardy and mea culpa
the white bird that nested
once in his whatever mind
broken hideously in the pinion
does hate have a colour
does despair, the glaring tic
of the palliative rainbow
is psychotic colour now
remove its shoes, step out
onto the sharp green points
of broken grass, speak his name
to the shattered air, don't give
me excuses, give me glue,
give me concrete, everything
cold and fixative, keep
the eyes dry and sleepless,
to misread the weather now
could activate the hearse

Patricia Sykes is a poet, editor, performer and teacher. She has performed her work in concert, on radio, in cafes, pubs, libraries, bookshops, at festivals and various other venues. Her first collection, Wire Dancing (Spinifex Press), was launched at the 1999 Melbourne Festival of Poetry. She is completing a second with the assistance of a grant from the Australia Council. She lives in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria.

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