So, I was whinging to mr oCean just the other day about The Belonging Quartet not yet finding a home when I should have been checking the mailbox. Instead, I only noticed the orange envelope waiting in the box by my front gate today (Sunday, on my way back from a heritage walk at the cemetery), and whatdoyaknow, that gosh-darned suite of poems has won the UQ Ford Memorial Prize.
Hurrah! I know I was up against some mean competition, so I’m a lucky duck, and very grateful.
Anyhoo, here’s the suite of poems:
1 House-sitting in the old suburbs
I try not to hunt for skeletons
in other people’s closets, but here
they wrap their bones
in wood and wallpaper,
and come to find me.
I don’t go out for days.
Clocks mean nothing.
I lie in the clawfoot,
reading the ceiling’s pine calligraphy.
I eat, I sleep, I talk to possums
who won’t talk back. I climb the hill
to the antique shops; later,
clean the house in a burlesque
frock, pillbox hat and 1940s
dance slingbacks—keep my last ten cents
in my snake-skin bag. Who loved
these things before me?
2 Hoping at the city’s edge
I escape for one last night
to my lover’s and fold myself
into white sheets like a secret letter.
My skin is a palimpsest of his touch.
I sleep without hesitation.
Early sun welcomes winter in
through the window, bakes
the wooden walls sweet, illuminates
notes written in lemon juice
on paper flesh.
Later, I sit on the back steps in yesterday’s
dress and watch the sun take slow,
blue gulps of time to make its light.
3 Biding time in the new suburbs
My ghosts come to collect me.
In the place that I must call Home, the bricks
are slick with paint not yet infused
with memories. There hasn’t been time
in all these hurried years to store them away;
they drift like dust through empty space.
I see things in the shadows. I am still afraid
of what darkness might hold
in its questioning clutches. In sullen corners,
things linger that I said goodbye to
4 Growing a museum from seedlings
Here we have the stone I found
by the road in the shape
of a teardrop; a box of poems
and love-letters (mostly unsent, one or two
received); and on a shoelace, a key
that offers only the promise of opening.
line muted plum walls. I type
on an Adler at a desk
with hidden drawers.
I unpack bags in my burlesque
frock, strip myself of what-if thoughts,
and lie down blank to listen
to the hum of history
winding up and then uncoiling
at the foot of my bed.
We try to burrow into sleep,
but with tomorrow dragging restless claws
against the door, we must lie awake
and wait for it to remember
to come in through the window.