Apr '14 15

Cheltenham Cemetery. Image courtesy Adelaide Cemeteries Authority (www.aca.sa.gov.au).

Day 15 and it's the half-way mark. Today, some lovely poem-y friends and I went to Cheltenham Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Adelaide. This poem is an early capture of some of my ideas from the visit.

Notes from Cheltenham Cemetery

Here in Cheltenham Cemetery, graves marked
with pale blond sandstone and polished marble
shimmer in caustic sun.
Simple announcements and elaborate shrines,
artificial bouquets and gold-lettered monuments
are evidence of thousands mourned
and then there are the weathered stones:
stories erased,
no traces remain.

beloved husband of Annie Sheeran
died Feb 24 1895 aged 30 years
also Annie, daughter of the above,
died Feb 27 1895 aged 4 years

It's peaceful here
there’s a resigned gravitas
like that which follows a thunderstorm
or a terrible loss
and you try to imagine
Annie Sheeran in the harsh light
burying her young husband James
and a few days later,
her four-year-old daughter Annie

and the traffic sounds die away
and factory sounds fade
and the birdsong becomes stronger.

The elements have had their way with this place.
Along the edges of the path, gum tree roots push the earth to offer up its catch
while elsewhere, the ground has sunk into coffin-sized hollows,
sucking headstones and grave markers with it,
making room for more stratification:
layers of dead
on layers of dead
on layers of dead.

Barbara Joan Heyward,
aged 7 years and 8 months, accidentally killed

The deadly sun and sharp sky
offer no relief
to the ordered rows of

names    names    names    names
dates    dates    dates    dates
in loving memory of    in loving memory of

and jar with the mayhem of
lives lived, celebrated, mourned and forgotten here
and you try to imagine Edward and Joan
burying Barbara, aged seven, accidentally killed.

Here, in the shade of a tree, a modest car is parked
and an elderly woman and her son polish the black stone
of a grave, place fresh daffodils in the jar
on the fresh-turned, dry red dust

and I think of Kilmurray Cemetery
where my father and mother rest,
on the other side of the world,
the earth there is so lush
compared to the thirsty earth here
but it makes no difference:
the end is the same.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 14

Cityscape. Photo by Robert Rath from over here at Robert's website.

It's day 14 and I'm running dry. Today's poem came from snippets of conversations and sad news reports.

Sad news days

We drain the dregs of imagination
from the base of a glass
our desperation rests in a stranger's arms
our tears are laced with traces of hope
but fear remains;
the ocean guards its secrets
while twinkling cities
tell tales of the vulnerable:
the elderly, forgotten, in nursing homes;
a young boy, starved for 14 days;
six babies, buried in cardboard boxes.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 13

Starfishskin. Photo by Robert Rath from over here at Robert's website.

For today's poem I decided to revisit the site Bibliomancy Oracle for inspiration. I clicked the button and got this quote:

Tell me your desire
and I'll rush to fulfill that wish:
a star from the sky
or do you want a starfish?

from Caiçara Song by Flávio de Araújo (translated by Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren)

I decided to use the star/starfish question as a starting point and see where compound words would take me. I also changed the rules after the fourth line (see if you can spot the change).


Do you want a star from the sky,
or a starfish?
Do you want a sun from the heavens,
or a sunflower?
Do you want a bone from the yard,
or a backbone?
Do you want a heart from the butcher,
or a sweetheart?
Do you want a line from a song,
or a lifeline?
Do you want a man from a film,
or a human?
Do you want a ship from the harbour,
or friendship?
Do you want to get on,
or forget?
Do you want life from a game,
or an afterlife?

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 12

Today's poem is made up of titles of poetry books that I grabbed at random from my shelves. I didn't pay too much attention to the titles when I was choosing. I reordered the titles for the poem and added a few words.

What a small stack of books says

On a moon-spiced night
The shadow owner’s companion meets a
Goddess on the Mervue bus and insists on
The colour of saying
Where's Katie?
North she answers, then
Smoke encrypted whispers murmur
The circle game all
Along the line of our
Public dream
Thick and thin lines shape
Stepping stones through
Dark bright doors to
The simple truth:
The poem's heartbeat

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 11


I saw a young woman walk into a pole this morning,
head down, eyes to phone;
she lurched back and regarded the obstruction,
(seemed somewhat surprised at the interruption),
glanced over at her companion
(who shrugged),
she smirked, then continued walking
eyes back to phone

and I couldn't help picturing
a cartoon bubble of exclamations
above her head

and what else did she miss
as she liked and lol'd
trolled and scrolled:
a funny t-shirt slogan? a hip haircut?
an admiring glance? a chance meeting?

Sometimes it seems the more connected we are
the more detached we become
as our online ties sever our offline bonds,
virtual the new reality.

And I wonder did she update her Facebook status:
'I walked into a pole this morning lol'.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 10

In May 2013 the University of Adelaide launched its new brand positioning tagline 'Seek light', '…drawing on the theme of light and the search for new knowledge…'. It ties in with the University's motto Sub Cruce Lumen (Light under the [Southern] Cross).

Today's poem combines this idea with a story about two young girls who suffer from a condition called Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) – an extreme sensitivity to UV rays from sunlight.

On the use of abstract concepts in brand taglines

The tagline is curt, direct; instructs us to 'Seek light'
clipped words tip their type to the Southern Cross
concept fits well in the agency brief.

As I head to the Hub for a coffee
I see all the eager light-seekers
and I wonder how the nocturnal feel
in the glare of this dazzling metaphor:
does it throw their circadian rhythms?

And the directive would be fatal
for the two sisters who must hide from light
because UV rays damage their DNA
and their systems cannot repair it,
so by day they stay in their darkened, candle-lit house
and at night they play and picnic under the stars.

I return and buckle down in my tunnel
watching, hoping, for light at the end.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 9

Today's poem was inspired by this photo, 'A fleeting glimpse', shot by Robert Rath.

A fleeting glimpse

I have felt shifting moods of an old miner's cottage. Fascinated.
I have heard muffled shuffling in a hotel hallway. Curious.
I have smelt sharp odours coming and going in a house where a child died. Intrigued.
I have sensed I'm unwelcome in parts of this land. Subdued.
It's the occasional fleeting glimpse of late loved ones
that rattles me most.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 8

I like the gravity of a cemetery
sentinel heads protect the secrets of skeletons
from cool closet to sun-baked earth
and I imagine and mourn their stories
returned to dust:
the illicit affair
the stillborn child
intimacies with a trusted priest
(him safely dead too)
and I worry about how names and years disappear
as stone markers crumble over time
and yet red gum salvaged
from the bed of the Murray
has yielded perfectly formed
one-thousand-year-old fossilised tales.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 7
Last year Australian author Gail Jones gave a talk called 'Discovering time' which was in the context of her beautiful book Five Bells. One of the statements she made was: 'a poem is a kind of room; we rest there', which inspired today's poem.


It's half past three in the afternoon
time to make a cup of tea and go to my room

lie on my bed
sink into my head

hear the ticking of my father's red clock
wear my mother's cream wool shawl

and I sense how a poem is this kind of room,
that here, within its irregular walls

I can examine the dents in the wardrobe
trace and follow the lines on the floorboards
breathe the memories in shifting spaces

and when I open the blinds it is inside out:
the room contains more than everything outside it.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 6
The small birds scatter

murmuration shattered
in a cold sky
above the indifferent lake

and I watch them take their songs
and I wish that I belonged

to the air
to the space
to the stars

in another, separate curl
in this world's fabric

so that I could see
what caused these small birds
to scatter so.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 5
Road trip

In dim hallways
there's always a chance
to unmute the hush.

It's the shifting shades
of impossible light
on the long straight road
that give you no choice
but to open
your windows.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 4

…now let me draw it across to reveal…

…no, wait,

wait for my furious bones to reheat
wait for impossible dreams to unfold

wait for my thoughts of the dead to repose
wait for the weft of my skin to rethread

wait for the sun to scorch my staunch core
wait for the moon to face and embrace me

wait for my misplaced rage to be laced
with a chocolate kind of silky peace

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 3
And what does day three of poem-a-day month have in store? Another rough-as-guts poem, of course.

This circular six-syllable-line whimsy mixes down two of my favourite pastimes, drinking and music.

The session

…and here we are at the
first bar, our regular
beat semi-remembered,
"How's it going?" "Great form!"
we are sitting in lines;
we pause, uncertain, lean
for a rest then pick up
in the second and third
bars, smooth moves, graceful, we're
feeling playful, pacing
ourselves over the next
thirteen bars; round after
round, doubles, triples, our
signature, from time to
time we almost lose the
run of ourselves, fading,
falling; after a brief
rest in the last bar we
hear: time, gentlemen, please,
so DC al Coda…

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 2
Day two of poem-a-day month, April 2014, and here's another raw first draft.

I decided to take a prompt from the NaPoWriMo website which in turn sent me to this intriguing site, Bibliomancy Oracle. I clicked the button and this quote popped up:

Perhaps you didn't realize
Anything can happen under a sky like this.
Never give in to surprise:

from The Small Self and the Liberal Sky by James Galvin

I really liked the second line 'Anything can happen under a sky like this' so I used it to launch into the idea of 'dropping', randomness and ended up (surprisingly or maybe not) inside out.

drop, slip, turn

anything can happen under a sky like this
supercooled droplets in clouds ice a plane
seabirds plummet for fishy prey
rain umbrellas our hatless heads
apples fall in Newton's orchard
the core of our earth pulls
and pitches us through space
half a kilometre each second
as we stand still
lurching trains with standing room only
hurl us into the arms of strangers
while we cling to handles
and our pride
and the loved ones
we should have let go
while we make everything
mean something
and meanwhile
this sky slips under our skin

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '14 1
Today is the first day of poem-a-day month, April 2014. The associated website is over here at NaPoWriMo 2014.

I will be writing and posting a new poem here each day, so make sure to check back here daily for a new poetic offering.

As always, I include the disclaimer that all poems posted during this month will be raw first drafts!

This morning I saw on Facebook that someone had 'liked' this page: TWLOHA. I followed the link and discovered 'To write love on her arms', a beautiful (US-based) movement and support group that helps those who self-harm, who have attempted suicide or who have suicidal thoughts.

This poem for day one was the (probably inevitable) result, with the first line being the name of the movement.


To write love on her arms
she charms her blades across
her papyrus skin, she's in
the state to inscribe
to bleed dark kisses to a
darker master
anticipating her artistic
immolation to him,
enticing her with mystery
and her history
of lonely loathing
of waiting alone for icy cold
to take hold and permeate,

and yet she grasps a vision of living that may last,
that tenders her strength
to bypass despair, that measures out hope
dares her to care enough about herself
to cope, to believe that she is worthy
and she decides it's worth the pain
of saying no to the knife
so that she can say
to her beautiful life

Posted by Jennifer Liston

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