The crime scene that is Australia

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Selected poems

 

From '[Witnesses]'

God is in the pine. 

Walk to the edge of the woods and listen to him preach: 
God loves you and God will cut you down. 

Near as a whisper, as prayer. 

His hands balled in the cotton pockets of his cheap coat,
tattered psalms pressed into skin. 

He smells like dark, sweet dreams, 
a car leaving town down a dirt road. 

God is more adorable than music. 

God wakes up with bed head.
He quotes from poets whose names are now lost. 

He has something on his mind.

No one questions who God will take. 
Someone is always taken.

God created us with absence in our hands.

Can't he see that our bodies are just our bodies, 
tied to what we know?

We're small and flawed, 
but I want to be who I am.

Let us go on.

Take the line of the road, the American galaxy.
Bring the ghosts. Shake the shadows off.

There is so much that clings to us, and wants to keep warm.

Note | '[Witnesses]' is a polyphonic testimony of the Trump and Pence years. An experimental found poem, it draws on the words of residents and citizens of the United States of America. This section of the poem cites the work of Vievee Francis, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Aaron Coleman, Cormac McCarthy, Lucie Brock-Broido, Jay Deshpande, Donald Revell, Sheena Raza Faisal, Tyree Daye, Natalie Diaz, Patricia Smith, Ada Limón, Brandon Kreitler, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cortney Lamar and Charles Wright respectively.

 

 

The crime scene that is Australia

It's difficult to move in this landscape.
Haunted and fragile and tragic,
there's no place that is benign.

A cursed house, the Greeks might say.

Bright and hideous confusion —
a giant noise
that blends into silence.

Willful forgetting.

Assertion of settler presence. Grievous burdens.
Intervention. Deaths in custody. Stolen Children.
Thousands of massacres, shootings and poisonings.

Land absorbed blood as readily as rain.

Note | 'The crime scene that is Australia' is a found poem arranged by the author and cites the work of Jeanine Leane, Robert Adamson, Ellen van Neerven, Elizabeth Campbell, David Brooks, David McCooey, Paul Daley, Judith Ryan and Paul Kane respectively. This poem has amended punctuation and line breaks. 

 

 

The men of Manus

We/I/Us/The prisoners,

                 We have no rights.
                 We are not safe.
                 We are all sick.

[Seven] people have died.
Many others have tried to kill themselves.
Hundreds are kept hostage.

                 Isolated.
                 Forgotten.
                 Made to answer to numbers.

Exiled to Manus — an island/a jungle/a prison.

                 The crime is never named.
                 No sentence is ever passed.
                 So many people being broken.

The sound of the ocean reaches in.
That sound creeps in from behind the jungle.

Note | 'The men of Manus' is a found poem arranged by the author and cites the work of Behrouz Boochani, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, Helen Davidson, Richard Flanagan, and Amnesty International Australia and Refugee Council of Australia respectively. This poem has amended punctuation and line breaks.

 

 

Óiche Shamhna
ending on lines by Charles Wright

When she steps down
the darker and darker stairs
of this Sibyl-spoken night

she'll remember Minoan bull-leapers,
unmoored whirl. Full double full tuck.

She'll remember hearts astray,
swaying and swaggering. Seasilt and saltsick.

She'll remember
how her own heart is stripped and spent.

As a pull of haunting takes hold
she'll whisper, 'Lead us to those we are waiting for,
those who are waiting for us.'

Note | 'Darker and darker stairs' is from 'Bavarian gentians' by DH Lawrence (The complete poems, Penguins Books, New York, 1993). 'Lead us to those we are waiting for ...' is from 'Flannery's angels' by Charles Wright (Bye-and-bye: selected late poems, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2011).

 

 

Truth

I'm allowing
that it doesn't always get better,
isn't always all right.

I wait for the groundswell,
the dark and telling surge —
that pain that rocks your bones.

Up from my wood-smoke lungs, 
from the milk of me, comes a song,
the way truth comes out 

when it's been held too long.

Note | 'Truth' is a cento arranged by the author and cites the work of Vievee Francis. This poem has been drawn from Blue-tail fly (Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 2006), Horse in the dark (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 2012) and Forest primeval (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 2016). 'Truth' has amended punctuation, line breaks and spelling.

 

 

Libby HartLibby Hart is an Australian author of three books of poetry: Fresh News from the Arctic, This Floating World and Wild. Fresh News from the Arctic won the Anne Elder Award, This Floating World was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards and The Age Book of the Year Awards, and Wild was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards. | www.libbyhart.net

Topic tags: Libby Hart, poetry

 

 

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Existing comments

Really wonderful, thank you. I was interested to discover D H Lawrence's "Bavarian Gentians" - his poems about flowers are 'genius at work'.
Pam | 12 November 2019


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