First Voices

You would wait in that dark room
for the dawn to create geometric shapes.

You would wait for each square, rectangle,
to mould a door, a wardrobe, a chair.

You would wait for the chest-of-drawers
to colour cream with brass handles.

You would wait for a silhouette to fashion
a lamp with a gold fringe; a book alongside.

You would wait for curtains to flower lilac,
for light to seep through linen weave.

You would wait for a chink to streak
down a mirror; a hairbrush would appear.

You would wait for furry caterpillars to flow
as wavy blue lines of candlewick bedspread.

You would stretch out your legs;
soft toys at the foot of the bed would shuffle.

You would wait for first voices in the house.

Carolyn Abbs (Western Australia)


The Song

In a Muslim handmade noodle place
near the Guangzhou railway terminus
the proprietor must like this song
because he plays it in an endless loop.
I can't tell if it's English or another language
but one line seems to be ‘Everybody loves me now.’
The man pushes the dough into a thick cylinder,
pulls it into a tube, twirls it, then
whacks it on the tabletop with a tremendous smack.
At one phrase of the song he lets out a bellow.
A song, a whack, a bellow can sum up a life.
I could sit here forever, listening.

Fraser Sutherland (Canada)

Death into Life

I get scared of death
So I decided to write it down
So maybe I could move on
Bold and brave and strong

I can’t comprehend death
It’s too hard to understand
The unknown is like the dark
A primal fear for humans

So here I mention death
Put it in front of the mirror
Hold it up to the light
So we can see it a little clearer

Maybe death is just like life
Perhaps another version
Maybe it’s a circle instead of a line
I think we make our own translation

I get scared of death
So I decided to write it down
And now I’m moving on
Bold and brave and strong

Beckie D (Western Australia)


Barely Tame

We are on the quay buying sun-cream —
pelicans and painted fish at arm's length,
day trips to see the whales — when all I can look at
is this dog of sorts, dancing in the sun.

It tugs at the harness with its teeth,
bucks at the end of its lead.
The owner, a girl, tries to calm it gingerly.
I wonder if it’s the heat — the day’s or its own —

sand on its back, soil on its ears,
frost settled around its neck — Dingo.
Driving its tongue into an armpit, eyes in revolt,
pressing its teeth around a wrist — a cub’s neck,

paws pushed against its mother’s face,
fighting for its place in the pack —
creature from a guidebook, outside a gift-shop.
The girl calls out a name, it bounds,

looks into her eyes, then into the sky.
A man shouts from behind a double ice cream
You can shoot that, shoot that if you want.
It howls in mourning and licks her face.

Michael Crowley (UK)
From Michael's book First Fleet