without time

hardenbergia knows nothing
of restraint or bulbs or beds
asks why at every tendril
a question mark on the hedge

kennedia has no memory
but sits happily here and now
bright orange and hot pink
hedge the mark on a question

sea urchin hakea sticks its many tongues
at time being ancient
and new, simultaneously
mark a hedge on the question

shaggy wooly bush all saggy
goes when it wants to
there is no battle to lose
there is no mark for the question

in this garden
there is no name for the space between
then and now and tomorrow
tick, tock, tactic,
time timeless

Josephine Clarke (Western Australia)

Pemberton mist

here the evening air does not forget
how much it rained last August

I return middle-aged
walk familiar streets
someone wearing a hat

the karri
among a scribbling of greens
nude in vertical suede
the sun’s must

a boy with long blonde hair
lopes away from the bus
his school bag hollow

dusk is the time
for charcoal kangaroos
that lift their heads
before drumming the clearing empty

I cannot shake off this place
its dewed webs
its months of aluminium sky
the trees that ache in the breeze

Josephine Clarke (Western Australia)

First published in Eureka Street

In the Kitchen

in the kitchen of our growing up
saffron seeped into white rosary beads
sauterne blistered sweetness to steam
we chopped fresh parsley with sage
sprigs of herbs I’d picked for her,
useful at last, springing their
pungent blessings about her hands
milking the mezzaluna

in the kitchen of our growing up
we grated carrots and nerves
sliced dried sausage and self-esteem
never allowed the knives to cross
we sang our favourite hymns
to the flash of dishcloths and blue tea towels
leaned against the Everhot
to hear the world through the ABC news

in the kitchen of our growing up
fresh milk came in the dented billy
we pitched ourselves against each other
one scooped froth, the other the skin
all of us sneaking the buttery top

sometimes love like sponges rose
vanilla scented thick cream spread
with her soft skin spatula arms

Josephine Clarke (Western Australia)

First published in Creatrix


the crisp crack, sometimes a pop, of dry wood
the sliced tongue green stem
cutting with one hand, discarding with the other

you crept up on me
under the branches away from the light
years of dust     spiders’ webs
and the empty nests of wrens
five years dead wood
you joined me there in the spell of repetition
cutting with one hand, discarding with the other

I saw you reaching out with your left hand open
sweeping under the top growth
cutting with your right hand, discarding with the left
snapping long stems into smaller ones
both hands meeting in prayer around the dry sticks
making an even stack
with one hand, with the other

together we filled the bin     raked the space
allowed the sun to reach in onto old wood

five years dead and you
are still teaching me how to garden
with one hand, with the other

Josephine Clarke (Western Australia)

First published in Westerly

Walking into wind

Frenzy crashes over every south-facing part of me,
grabbing my lobes and rushing into them,
raking my hair as far as it will go.

I am reminded that we are on a spinning globe
and the air is racing between vacuums,
spilling itself over me, under my cuffs,
pressing against my skin like a shout,
snaking inside my collar, down my shirt front.

As if walking into a sculptor’s mould,
I am made aware of the shape of me,
where I am vulnerable, my inadequate armour.

It is a relief.
At last,
something to fall into.

Josephine Clarke (Western Australia)

First published in Creatrix


A Calf's Choice


Herds of cattle sweep the plain
Running too fast for the weedy calf
They’ve run out into the sunset
The trampled foliage marks their successful passage
The calf contemplates – what’s a gal to do?

Which way? Well trodden? Off the beaten track?

The calf trots. Then runs. Then gallops for her life.

The tale is over. The calf gets killed for her milk, skin, meat, anyway.

How pointless! you yell.
You’re right.
Apologies for pointing out the obvious.

Christine Della Vedova (Western Australia)


Anxiety (sorry if it's too long)

I understand people's misunderstanding on anxiety
it's not a visible illness
I only cough when it hits peak
I only vomit when it passes peak
surrounded by people proclaiming
I understand that they don't understand
anxiety is feeling fingers in your stomach
softly plucking at rotten butterflies
knowing there's a knife at your throat
so if you fall…
but when you turn around there's no one
not even your friends
I get it that lots of people don't get it
don't know that getting out of bed
is a struggle
I'm sorry that you judge my scars
from when medieval curses
were the only thing possible
bleeding out demons like a mad woman
it's okay that you don't see
that it's not the same as when you are walking
down a dark alley and you feel anxious
we bring the knife to our throats everywhere
we walk on tightrope every day.

Alexia Biddle (Western Australia)


Down by the River

Down by the river
Where secrets are told and cigarettes are flicked
And the man with the ginger beard plays saxophone under the bridge
I go there often
To watch the river flow
To watch the people pass by
To watch the birds fly
To watch the ginger beard of the saxophone man grow

Zak Parsons (UK)

The Therapist and the Sea

Near the mourning beach
where palms catch the sea wind,
throw it one to another
like reckless children at play
in a game without rules or victory,

in a newly painted building,
on a street whose name I’ve forgotten,
the therapist said: ‘And there’s one
child who’s so damaged

I take him for picnics on the beach,
rides in the ferry,
walks along the jetty,
over the sea
chopped and broken by weeds
that wave in the current like hands,
only to give him some pleasant
memories in his night.’

Though you wake
in hell built by generations
whose agony none can measure,
let there be drops of grace
to cool your tongue: the sea,
songs of a friendly voice,
ships, a heron’s flight,
wings mending the sun.

Michael Robinson (Western Australia)