child protection week collided with poetry week ...

Secret life of birds
marked in the soft Barcoo,
crying for a bright pain
folded in the child air.
Sidney Nolan

Australian Poetry Week (with a double ‘e’) collided this year with National Child Protection Week (also with a double ‘e’). To mark this moment one of my friends wrote some poems, some unspeakably sad, others poignant, and most, filled with fury. Ernestina Oberon is the love-child  of the famous poet, Ern Malley, and the movie star, Merle. Because of her renowned parentage I've agreed to put her poems on my website (along with some of my own).


Sydney, bonsoir ...

The sea had never
seemed sadder,
ending as it did
on a crumpled beach,
in a scum of French-letters,
the aftermath
of the nuclear
rape of an atoll
in Paradise.

Inner secret

Hidden inside
is an interference,
often called
‘the incident’,
or ‘a situation
in chaos
at great cost
to the child,’
or, simply as
for no more
ice-cream ...’

If you go into a bar in most places in America and even say the word poetry, you'll probably get beaten up. But poetry is a really strong, beautiful form to me, and a lot of innovation in language comes from poetry.
Jim Jarmusch


POETRY WEAK (with an E, A)

(with a double E)
with the week
that explores
the weakness
of children,
their defence-

say the slogans,
& the slow non-bogans
who write them.
We need to co-
                    or –
                      is it

The posters
gleam with plastic
faces in poppy-red
and powder-blue.
They beam
from simpson-ite
in a place
where everything
is picture-
perfect – a pastiche
of pleasantness.

But who does anything about
(who even sees)
the lurking menace
of the centuries
of misplaced
between mother
& son; uncle
& nephew; priest
and unsuspecting
child; grandfather
and any number
of offspring?

Who cures the ku-
klux cancer of self-
loathing borne
of a thousand years
of untreated abuse?


The dwarfishness
of the language
of the politically
- don’t offend me
- don’t offend anyone
- be inclusive
I’ll take carriage of that –
- jargon the words to death
with your style guides,
rob them of all meaning –
speak the gibberish of fools

After grief

I wanted to put it all back together again, to weave life and love
into an impossibly simple blanket that would keep us warm.

For you, my great-great grandchildren

I wrote a poem
about grief
and insects,
about tomb-stones
and the fear
that surpasses death ...

but I burnt it.

My soul was too bright
with pain
to bear it.

Blood leeched
from the words
to become a tangle
of terrifying
which threatened
to strangle
my soul.

Torment seemed ...

But now, imagining you
there is singing
and bone
melody, and mind-
and flowers
and mnemonics
and me and me
and sometimes three
The ones
whose names
are unspeakable.

There is laughter
laced with the lithe
bodies of children,
and rhombic shapes
carefully painted
onto the sides of cups
to make the honeycomb
cells in which hide
monks transcribing
golden words
from somewhere
and the tinkling
of timbrels
in psalms –
and hymns
sung loudly
with gusto
and triumph
and there is the elegant
chaos of shouting on rooftops.
And outrageously loud applause
as all the world watches you shimmer
on the sparkling screens of their minds.