Anne Elvey’s new poetry collection – Leaf

Anne Elvey has a new poetry collection, Leaf, forthcoming from Liquid Amber Press. It will be launched by Shari Kocher as part of Liquid Amber’s Eco-poetics Zoom event on Thursday 22 September 2022, along with readings from Peter Larkin and John C. Ryan.  The evening begins at 7.30pm. Bookings are free but essential.

Visit here for further details and booking.

replanted

after Psalm 1

dig in deeper
to the river
running living water
my roots dive for
depth strives for
after dusty shallows
rocky fallows deserted
so I’m thirsting
from the working hard
to stay alive
and now it’s simple
to truly thrive
by the source
realigned with this replanting
though the uprooting
from familiar
mud dried up
shook the muck
from my feet and I
am replete
digging deeper
down
into
the river

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SARAH AGNEW IS A STORYTELLER, POET, AND UNITING CHURCH MINISTER. HER POETRY AND LITURGY APPEAR IN WILD GOOSE PUBLICATIONS AS STAND-ALONE E-LITURGIES, and IN EDITED ANTHOLOGIES. HER MOST RECENT PUBLISHED POETRY COLLECTION IS WHISPER ON MY PALM (RESOURCE PUBLICATIONS, 2022). SHE LIVES AND WORKS ON Kuarna COUNTRY.

Three Poems: Jezebel, Makeda, Esther

As a woman, I gravitate to the stories of women in the scriptures. Women balance multiple gender roles and identity tensions. Their stories are often hinted at or mentioned in passing. We get glimpses rather than full narratives. Nevertheless, they are there, often unnamed or in the shadows. Unlike many of the other women, these women are named. They are queens who had highly vulnerable political positions.

Lucia Lukas, Queen, 2021. Markers, oil, photographs, acrylic, and fabric on canvas. 81.7 x 107.5 cm. Artist’s collection.

Jezebel (from Her Foreign Majesties)

Reflected in the mirror, I wonder at my crown.
Who placed it there upon my maiden brow?
A princess of Phoenicia, so foreign to this Land
How can I live authentically in this state?

O Jezebel, how came you here?
What will you do?
What have you done?
Begone!

I did not choose to come here – sold by my tribe for peace…
I come as token gesture – a prize to be displayed
Today I’m claimed as Ahab’s queen, to mother his offspring
My body – chattel of the state – is not for me to own.

O Jezebel, who are you here?
Are you considered human?
Of are you simply of another
Man?

Makeda – Queen of Sheba

Love? No – maybe it was more of a curiosity …
A fascination with a legend.
I have had presented chiefs and princes …
The finest warriors and generals,
the richest men with the greatest lands.

I have no need to search,
But my interest has been aroused
by the tales of Wisdom.
What man is really wise?
Is there such a beast?
If so, might he be worthy of my attentions?

These days, I could be bored,
for my wealth is unsurpassed,
My lands are peaceful,
My realm is stable.

What more could a girl ask for?
I seek adventure … to travel to exotic places,
To meet interesting people …
To see this Temple of wonder
Being built for a single God!

Perhaps I will find more than sights to see?
Perhaps I will find a King worthy of a Queen?

Esther

Reflected in a mirror, I see my exiled face
Who gave me over to become a wife?
A Queen my Master made me – to people not my own
While mine are slaves and foreign to this place

O Esther, how came you here?
What will you do?
What have you done?
Beware!

I did not choose to be here – taken from my people – dispossessed …
I am prize of warfare – a prize to be displayed
Today I’m Queen of Persia – but silent is my role
Do I dare disobey the boundaries of my life?

O Esther, who are you here?
Can you be given voice before your King?
Do you have words
from another Lord?

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Amelia Koh-Butler is Minister, Eastwood Uniting Church, and is currently living on Wallamategal and Barramattegal Country of the Darug-speaking peoples.

Where are you going?

Photo by Pat Whelen on Unsplash.

to the waterfall

to pray with the pine

gushing from the depth of the earth

to the wild field

to pick the flowers

putting them on my head as a bride

to the arctic

to touch the lights

fingers brushing through the night

to the desert

to dance between musical scores

of sand waves bleeding in the rhythm of a didgeridoo

to the ocean

to watch thousands of glittering gold

on liquid silk melting away

to the mountaintop

to blow the resounding horn

echoing in the valley of souls

Will you return?

When the kookaburras’ laughter

and the roaring sound of heaven are joined

by thousands of acclamations

I will return

你去哪里?

到瀑布

和松树一起祈祷

从地球的深处涌出来

到野外

去摘花朵

把它们放在头上好像新娘一般

到北极

然后触摸那光

手指梳刷着黑夜

到沙漠

在乐谱之间跳舞

沙浪在迪格里多斯的节律中流血

到海洋

并观看成千上万闪闪发光的金子

在液体的丝稠上融化

到山顶

吹响号角

在灵魂之谷回荡

你会回来吗?

当笑翠鸟的欢笑

和天堂的轰鸣声

与成千上万的掌声欢呼相应

我就会回来

  

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XIAOLI YANG IS A THEOLOGIAN, POET, AND SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR. SHE LIVES AND PLAYS ON WURUNDJERI LAND AND IN THE MIDDLE KINGDOM.

Aftermath

Michael Sanchez. Source: mysanantonio.com

Following the school shooting, Uvalde, USA, on 29 May 2022.

these children
………. beautiful
………. playful
………. messy
………. precious
young ones
in a blink of a moment
………. panicking
………. screaming
………. running
torn to shreds
blood-spattered

innocent lives—
………. 6 years old
………. 10 years old
………. 14 years old
and many more
………. 6 years old
………. 7 years old
………. 15 years old
………. 17 years old
……
in these days
………. months
………. years

rainfalls
tear-curtains
of our lament
filling the world
with oceans of
………. roaring
………. ranting
………. raging

don’t waste pain
………. time
………. life
any more
………. any longer!!!

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XIAOLI YANG IS A THEOLOGIAN, POET, AND SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR. SHE LIVES AND PLAYS ON WURUNDJERI LAND AND IN THE MIDDLE KINGDOM.

Lasting Light

Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash.

It’s the last Sunday
after Epiphany,
and the seasons turn,
though we have been
more bathed in rain
than cooked by sun
this year, and the sigh
collected …

weary pandemic endurers –
it is not over yet;

anxious fire survivors –
oh, the ever-present threat;

exhales each time rivers’
swelling this time receded –
wait – inhale – hold – flood!

anticipated liberation with
the fall around the corner,
and the freeing it will bring;

… us together
though the Convoys
and ‘Christian Lobbies’,
the letters and
the policies brought
before us sought
to tear us, would
have led us
deep into the dark.

It’s the last Sunday
after Epiphany
and the seasons turn
again, from light
to longer nights
of cozy hibernation,
of frightened isolation –

oh, Holy One of Epiphany,
hold us in the dark
with guiding star,
with who You are,
our sighs, with You,
collected.

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SARAH AGNEW IS A STORYTELLER, POET, AND UNITING CHURCH MINISTER CURRENTLY IN PLACEMENT WITH WESLEY UNITING CHURCH, CANBERRA. HER POETRY AND LITURGY APPEAR IN WILD GOOSE PUBLICATIONS AS STAND-ALONE E-LITURGIES, IN EDITED ANTHOLOGIES, AND AS WEEKLY PRAYER-POEMS AT PRAY THE STORY. HER MOST RECENT PUBLISHED POETRY COLLECTION IS WHISPER ON MY PALM (RESOURCE PUBLICATIONS, 2022). SHE LIVES AND WORKS ON NGUNNAWAL COUNTRY

Beauty and the Beast – the song of my four-legged friend

for too long
I’ve watched
my Beauty crawling over the words
soaring above the sky
dancing between the silent spaces

for too long
I’ve waited for
my Beauty getting up from her desk
walking to the pantry
picking up my favourite bone
          for a good afternoon chew

for too long
I’ve been locked with
my Beauty in this house
down in the garden
observing rosellas fleeting and resting on gum branches
gazing on shooting stars of the galaxy
and the yellow Moon in the night sky

for too long
I’ve dreamed of the day with
my Beauty climbing mountains
smelling fragrances of millions of flowers
chasing every hint of animals
tasting salt of every lake
and leaving my historic marks on every passing pole

Still
nothing is too long
as long as I am with my Beauty

although
sometimes I think
I am the Beauty
when she accompanies me on my royal parade
and I draw the attention and admiration of all
when she is busy cooking in the kitchen
and I sit on the sofa watching TV
when she cleans muck from my eyes
or mops the floor of my fur
when she hugs me tightly till I ‘purr’
or sticks her face on mine till I look aside

who cares who is whom?
We are a happy family
in the castle of Beauty and the Beast

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XIAOLI YANG IS A THEOLOGIAN, POET, AND SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR. SHE LIVES AND PLAYS ON WURUNDJERI LAND AND IN THE MIDDLE KINGDOM. This poem was written during Melbourne’s sixth lockdown.

On Max Ernst’s ‘The virgin chastises the infant Jesus before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard, and the Painter’ (1926)

Max Ernst, The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard, and the Painter, 1926. Oil on canvas, 196 x 130 cm. Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany.

It appears that to bear the weight of mum’s judgement means not only a sore bum but also a dropped halo. It appears that the Aryan half-pint might have again stolen her favourite manicure set from the middle drawer of the bathroom cabinet while he was supposed to be tidying his sister’s bedroom. It does not yet appear that in this act of descending freedom, of vacating a head that others might gild mockingly with thorns, the embarrassing shape of kenotic love is taking costly form. And it’s not as if

there is chaste indulgence here; this act of discipline reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Sistine Christ, this act of judgement upon cobalt and rubicund outlining her own contorted arm and deepening her own overtaxed gaze. A foretaste of arms bearing sin-gnarled stock and hers, those eyes that again will grieve as arms not her own are brought to bear upon her bare first-born, this unexpected fruit in whom her future and that of all shall find shape. And an open roof. Did it fly off with upswing arm so that one who sees everything could weep?

It has been some time too since Paul and Vincent came over, and now this other Paul, and André and Max; seemingly unsedated risk now transformed into dispassion. Was Gala really the benchmark of our friendship, our means of communication, our shared wife? What kind of love did we make to each other in her? And what of love once promised now turned, love now come to assault me? A naked face turned away in a sensuous spell.

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JASON GORONCY IS A THEOLOGIAN, ARTIST, AND FOLK FESTIVAL TRAGIC WHO LIVES AND PLAYS ON WURUNDJERI LAND.

Advent: But then … they appear

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, c. 1558. Oil on canvas, mounted on wood, 73.5 x 112 cm. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium.

After W. H. Auden had visited the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels, and seen Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, he went away and penned the following words:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

The American theologian William Willimon recalls Brueghel’s painting, and Auden’s poem, in his book On a Wild and Windy Mountain (Abingdon Press, 1984), wherein he observes that we trudge past bleeding crosses with a shrug of the shoulders, that Good Fridays are so commonplace among us as to be unnoteworthy, and that tragedy achieves nobility only in the theater. ‘Everydayness and ordinariness’, he writes, ‘become our best defenses, the most effective relativizers of the tragic in our midst. Some young Icarus falls from the sky every day, so one had best get on with the business at hand until the extraordinary comes. For now, go to work, eat, make friends, make money, make love, mind your business – that’s the best way to cope, for the time being, with the expectedness of the tragic. The old masters knew best’ (p. 15).

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Numbering at Bethlehem, 1566. Oil on panel, 116 × 164.5 cm. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium.

Willimon proceeds to compare Landscape with the Fall of Icarus with another of the Dutch masters’ works: Numbering at Bethlehem. He notes the ordinariness of the depiction, a day mundane and unpromising – in its highlights at least – and nothing beyond the expected.

But then … they appear.

They appear. ‘An inconspicuous, thoroughly ordinary young woman on a little donkey led by a stoop-shouldered, bearded peasant who carries a saw. Here is Mary, with Joseph the carpenter, come to town to be counted. They are so easily overlooked in the midst of ordinariness. Old masters like Brueghel’, Willimon suggests (and we might add Rembrandt, for example), ‘were never wrong’. Rather, they understood, and bore witness to in their work, the truth of Emmanuel, the scandal of the unostentatious God living – and dying – with us, of God stained with the sweat of human bondage and soaked – baptised – in the blood of human violence, of God incognito. ‘They understood our blindness not only to the tragic but also to the triumphant in our midst … In life, the Presence goes unnoted as we thumb through the evening paper. And so we wait, sitting in the darkness of the everyday until something extraordinary breaks in. Someday God may break into this world, we say. But for the time being, it is best to work, eat, make love, pay taxes, fill out government forms, and mind our business. The old masters knew it best’ (p. 16).

I have posted elsewhere on the pseudonymous activity of God, suggesting that ‘in the economy of holy love, the locus of greatest clarity equates to the point of greatest incongruity and surprise’. It is precisely that we may see what Willimon so beautifully refers to as ‘the triumphant in our midst’ that we are graced, and that we might witness to the day when good will triumph over all, certain that the grace of holy love will win at last because it did not fail to win at its most decisive time. In the meantime, such seeing typically requires what is another great advent theme: waiting, or what R. S. Thomas, in his poem ‘Kneeling’, referred to as ‘moments of great calm’:

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great role. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

– R. S. Thomas, ‘Kneeling’, in Not that He Brought Flowers (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1968), 32.

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JASON GORONCY IS A THEOLOGIAN, ARTIST, AND FOLK FESTIVAL TRAGIC WHO LIVES AND PLAYS ON WURUNDJERI LAND.