FAW NSW Jean Stone 2016 Poetry Award: Winning Poem

FAW NSW Biennial Awards


by Penny Lane

Breathe: inhale the breaths of eagles,
the breaths of emus, echidnas, kites
in saltbush, spinifex, airy country,
of gangurru, kanguru, kangaroo;

Inhale forty, fifty, sixty thousand years of human breaths
that tussle with scrub and gum and wattle;

Squint to sun glare on metal scrap roofs like salt lake dazzle,
to a cramp of humpies, dugouts, shacks,
flecks, patches, dabs on the red dirt curvature of earth,
barely rooted as a speckling of pebbles breeze-bustled into a huddle,
to mud-slathered stone walls, to wind-rackety roofs on rickety posts;
Inhale the flow of sighs through fifteen decades of opal-burrowers;

Crumple into this humpy here: head dip, slouch through, squeeze into
an earth floored square of stove, cupboard, table, chairs,
buttock-sculpted cushions on a lounging pair,
four footstrides to a patchwork-blanketed bed,
pots atop the stove, a kettle, a metal jug of spoons, knives, forks,
four floral cups and saucers, a pile of plates,
newsprint papering a ledge, moulded to its length and scallop-edged,
a tap, a tub;

Watch through a squat window whirls of wind-worried dirt,
swirls of wind that once fluffed skirts and shirts,
scattered banter, laughter, squabbling;

Slip outside:
Savour the free, whirling, free-wheeling air;
Inhale the breaths of children past, skittering with lizards,
wielding a sparkle of firesticks, counting countless stars;
Tread red earth,
toss ancient water-rippled, wind-stippled stones,
follow footprints of wallaroo, slitherprints of snakes,
run with a scurry of tumbleweeds,
with willy-willies, with wildlife;

Eye-squint beyond the horizon:
on the eastern coast a boast of houses, flats, apartments, villas,
four-bedroomed, five-bedroomed, six-bedroomed,
spa-bathroomed and ensuited,
roofed-in, walled-in, hard-edged gluttony of trammelled air,
concrete-encumbered sky where trees once canopied,
parrots perched and kookaburras, cockatoos, wattlebirds;
Breathe the stale, cornered breaths.

Posted in Competition Results