Autistic Acrostic

Any day now, it will lift.
Under your mask of howls, I see
Two knowing eyes reproaching me,
Incensed that I should try to shift
Some blame, for this, our hell, to you.
Mummy feels like howling too.

Published in Quadrant, Volume LIII, No.4, April 2009

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Mother Love

Wave after wave, the ocean counts the cost
by piling sheets of water on the sand.
I dreamt before your birth that you were lost.
I think I have begun to understand.

By piling sheets of water on the sand
the sea offers its body, slice by slice.
I think I have begun to understand.
I love you knowing sorrow is the price.

The sea offers its body, slice by slice,
heaving itself onto an empty beach.
I love you knowing sorrow is the price.
I start a task whose end I’ll never reach.

Heaving itself onto an empty beach,
the sea still finds the energy to give.
I start a task whose end I’ll never reach.
I give you life, not knowing how you’ll live.

The sea still finds the energy to give.
I dreamt before your birth that you were lost.
I give you life, not knowing how you’ll live.
Wave after wave, the ocean counts the cost.

from Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004

Given

Christmas is in the air.
You are given into my hands
out of the quietest, loneliest lands.
My trembling is all my prayer.

“Five Days Old” – Francis Webb

Given

Poolside baby showers
herald the summer pregnancies.
Sweat caresses swollen knees;
mothers tally labour hours;
giftwrap is everywhere.
Christmas is in the air.

But by the time you come
first frost has been and gone.
A long walk brings you on.
I howl ten hours, a dumb
animal shocked at pain’s demands.
You are given into my hands:

all downy with the smell
of love, my warm wise frog.
Then: eight months of the black dog.
I crawl back from cold hell
that no one understands
out of the quietest, loneliest lands.

Now you seem newly-made
or is it me, new-born?
Chill fog melts in the dawn
and now I am afraid
of how much I can care.
My trembling is all my prayer.

‘Given’ won the 2006 David Campbell Prize for best unpublished poem by an ACT poet. It was also shortlisted for the Rosemary Dobson Prize for best unpublished poem by an Australian poet. It was later published in Swings and Roundabouts (anthology by Random House NZ, May 2008). Lines from ‘Five Days Old’ quoted by permission from HarperCollins.

untitled

when I lost you
my father-in-law planted a shrub.
viburnum, he said.
it’ll flower this time every year.

when I lost you
my friend sent me a shawl.
pashmina, she said.
let it hug you sometimes.

when I lost you
the doctor gave me a tissue.
failed pregnancy, he said.
come back when you finish bleeding.

when I lost you
you gave me a strange farewell.
eleven weeks of food and love, you said.
it was all I needed.

published in Quadrant November 2006 – Volume L Number 11