Pervasive Poetry, Amanda Midlam

 

Memory Poem, Watching Life Go By On Twofold Bay, and a Suite of Three Poems: Quondola, Flotsam, and Community Soup

 
 

 QUONDOLA

 

It begins for me with the news

of a body found floating off Quondola

an ending for someone else.

The police say there are no suspicious circumstances

which means an accident

or suicide.

The body is unidentified

and uninhabited

dressed in jeans, belt and boots.

It waits for someone to claim it

not the rightful owner of course

but someone else.

In rough seas fishermen are swept off rocks

and drown

but the sea has been calm.

Uneasiness flows through the streets of our small town

was it a stranger, or one of our own?

No-one knows.

It is several days before

identification is made

and waves of grief drench the town.

 

FLOTSAM 

 

He drifted into Eden down the highway

and floated out of town

five years later on the tide

if Reece looking for humpback whales

hadn’t found him

would we have ever known

he hadn’t hitch-hiked off again

to try his luck elsewhere?

No-one knows why

speculation rises and ebbs

like the sea and waves

of rumours water the community garden

where he worked

and where he ran the monthly market

where people sold goods

and swapped gossip.

But no-one knew his story

and as speculation eddies

 his face floats haunting behind my eyes.

 

COMMUNITY SOUP

 

The market is cancelled this month

and all work has stopped in the garden.

But the community lunch must go on.

Some people, like June and Phil, rely on it

and others may not have heard the word

            Now that Greg has gone.

Peter and Pam can’t be there

and Glenda has gone to ground

Community service has been suspended

so there are no workers to oversee

until there is time to think what to do

            Now that Greg has gone.

But Monday lunch must go on,

the door needs to be open, says Pam.

Old Kenny may need a feed.

And others may turn up

We don’t know what to do.

            Now that Greg has gone.

I offer to open the door and make community soup

In the hall Pam has left a loaf of homemade bread.

Alan brings apple crumble, Shannon makes pasta

and Suz brings fruit

Nine adults and two children arrive for a feed

            Janice washes up now that Greg is gone.

 

 

MEMORY POEM 

 

Mud and mire as I patter down the path

the more the mud, the more the mire,

the more my hopes go soaring higher

then I awake

and ponder how mud can hold so much pleasure

when honestly I hate the stuff

and why my waking spirits stay so high

but the answer flees as my muddled mind awakes

and shakes off the memory of this dream place.

 

But on another night I find that other world

and my feet skip and slip happily down that muddy track

There’s a road nearby but the mud is quicker

and I am in a hurry and my feet slither-slather

in mud, anticipation, joy and hope.

Then I awake.  Where was I going?

 

I try to remember details but they flee my waking mind

sleep images crumble into cornflakes

muddy path into highway as I drive my car to work

but feelings work their way into my city-cluttered day

I can’t help feeling concrete constructions block my way

 

Shreds of dream shroud my pillows and lie in wait

taking me back at night to the twists and turns

and the descent of the narrow muddy path,

the ragged edge of my long dress drags in the mire

but I don’t care about mud on my clothes

because I am going to see them all again!

Then I awake.

 

During the day I dream of this other realm

the smell of mud and horse manure and salt from a not distant sea

the feel of my rough dress, the leafy greenery along the path

at night my feet fly faster trying to reach the end before I awake.

And one night I make it.

I am there in the open glen and it is market day and everyone is there.

Then I awake.

 

I have discovered how to take myself there, to find myself on the path,

the mud and the mire, sweet harbingers of home,

I come to the glen where the market is held,

where people come from far and wide

and I look and remember and recognise each face.

Then one night they see me too and clamour in surprise

Sarah! When did you get back?  We didn’t think we’d see you again.

 

Then I awake.

 

I remember the horses and carts and old market stalls.

My name is not Sarah, not in my waking world

but I search the family tree and find seven generations past

Sarah, aged sixteen, stealer of silver spoons, sent to Sydney in 1792,

She survived as a washer woman purging clothes of their past.

And never went home.  Not in the flesh.

But at night Sarah and I go down the muddy path.

We come to the open glen in glee, it is market day and everyone is here.

 

 

WATCHING LIFE GO BY ON TWOFOLD BAY

 

Sleepy-headed, coffee-handed

on Cat Balou as mooring slips

and catamaran slides

on glassy sea

fur seals on end of breakwater wall

fat-bodied, flat-flippered, sleek-headed,

slumbering cumbersome clumsy on land

then one slides silkily into the sea and

sylph-like glides away

while another, face like a wet dog, pops up

beside us and beckons us to play.

 

We chug on towards the further shore

dolphins hear the chug, chug, chug

and answer the catamaran’s call

the game is on

I lean down and see through the sea

dolphins racing in the boat’s bows

three, four, five, six, seven

shining silver bodies thrilling me

we hear a shout, we see a splash,

a white explosion in the blue

a whale is breaching, belly to the sun

splashing back down

in a crash of water

then a smaller one hurtles from the sea

and reaches for the sky

mum and baby humpbacks

on the humpback highway heading south

to Antarctica.

 

Gordon cuts the engine

he’s not allowed to get too close

but whales don’t know the rules

and surround the boat and spy hop

standing upright

behemoth heads rear from the sea

whale eyes regard us

as we hold our breath

then pahhhh the blow from a spout

casts a rainbow

as water from whale lungs

shimmers in the sun.

 

A black ribbon of mutton birds

threads through the sky

migrating from Siberia to Tasmania,

an albatross soars

there’s a bait ball ahead

dolphins circling

seals sharing and whales wallowing

as gannets rain like  arrows

from a mackerel sky

diving for fish.

 

At Snug Cove passengers go ashore,

to lunch on fish and chips

assisted by sea gulls

while pelicans glide overhead

with pterodactyl beaks

feathered bodies full of air,

light enough to float,

graceful in flight, clumsy on ground,

best of all coming in to land

webbed feet tucked behind

then pushed out suddenly in front

aquaplaning with a swoosh

nearby more pelicans squat on lamp posts

growling deep-throated at my yapping dogs

flapping their wings in warning

others jostle with gulls in shallow water

below the tables where fish are cleaned

and scraps are thrown

but a seal decides he wants the scraps

and birds flap and scatter.

 

A pied cormorant and a shag on a rock,

feathers-in-law,

hang out their wings to dry

the winners of bird world

able to fly, dive and swim

watch as a snake bird swims by,

with such skinny head and neck,

I once mistook one for the snorkel

of a friend

and swam after it out to sea.

 

Time to go home up the hill where

pink and grey galahs crop the nature strip,

a slow way to get the mowing done

but they eat the weed seeds

(then redistribute them)

while most birds hop, galahs prefer to walk

waddling like ducks left, right, left

while they graze, tiny feathered cows

and overhead crested pigeons

coo on the power lines

and one pair have a budgerigar friend,

a feather-bed menage-a-trois

and beyond the front fence the bird life changes

but the border doesn’t stop the immigrants

and a fat-bodied cuckoo from New Guinea

perches in the mulberry tree

watching the wattle birds

watching and waiting,

waiting to lay an egg in their nest

as mud larks lark in the bird bath

minding their own business.

 

Time to take the dogs for a walk,

they missed their morning stroll

and we amble across the road

and down  the track to the cliff

a white-bellied sea eagle soars

in thermals, corkscrewing in the sky

a masked lapwing, one tenth its size,

follows its flight and nips with beak

a sea eagle feather floats from the sky

another lapwing squawks as we walk by

because they lay their eggs in scrapes

on the ground then panic

and dive bomb anyone walking near,

the yellow spurs on their wings

inflicting pain and fear

I realise the sea eagle must have spied

eggs or chicks and the assailant lapwing

screams another feather falls

the sea eagle soars off as

we walk on to the pine trees

where yellow-tailed black cockatoos feed

their tough beaks tearing pine cones apart

hungrier now their forests in Victoria

have burned to ash.

 

Home again and time for evening wine

I raise a glass in the sunroom

lorikeets with tongues like brushes

lick nectar from the bottle brushes

on the other side of the pane

soon as pissed as parrots

on nectar that has fermented

hanging upside down

from branches flying low chattering

laughing as a cacophony of cockatoos

scream through the sky

sulphur-crested sulphur-tempered

destruction-tempted big white cockies

bosses of the birds or they think they are

but the lorikeets don’t care.

 

Darkness falls, dogs and I fall into dreams

and possums fall from trees onto the roof.

Ready for the night shift.

 

Download of pdf of Pervasive Poetry

Amanda Midlam

Amanda Midlam is a student in the Master of Arts Creative Writing program at Macquarie University. She has a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Literature and Communication from Griffith University, and a second Bachelor of Arts majoring in Indigenous Studies from the University of South Australia. She is working on a memoir of a hazardous childhood, marred by violence and neglect, and her response including efforts to hide the abuse. This memoir, Good Girl, is not aimed at catharsis but instead aims at alchemy, attempting to look fear in the face and transform misery into literature.

Tagged , ,