Benjamin Dodds is a Sydney-based poet who grew up in the Riverina. Among many other publications, his work has appeared in Southerly, Cordite, Blue Dog, Famous Reporter and the Sun Herald. He has had poems anthologised in Earthly Matters: Science Made Marvellous, Antipodes: Poetic Responses and Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry. He collects Mickey Mouse watches, occasionally blogs at benjamindodds.wordpress.com and is proud to say that his first collection Regulator is forthcoming from Puncher & Wattmann Poetry in early 2014.
Thinning our little herd
we had Baskerville
hounds in our heads
sweeping bold arcs
through feathered darkness
at the porch light’s circle edge.
My father’s too-long absence
and the distortion
of farm-night acoustics
surely exaggerated their size
but the rigid carnage we’d find
stitched to the morning’s frozen
grass did little to temper unease.
A man who was not our father
barked stark instruction
at my brother and me:
for burning a gutted calf.
Our Lady of Yanco
rendered in concrete
stands serenely in a block of the same stuff
inside the sheltering niche of an upended bathtub.
She was built to last— her salmon drapery
applied over two consecutive weekends
to ensure the undercoat dried completely
before the laying on of her blue mantel
in All Weather Exterior.
She’s faded only slightly since then—
mostly in the face.
Who could be blamed
for closing their eyes
to the rippling convection
of such Summer sun?
If a sudden strange amnesia
were to befall us all
and a fresh new generation
true tabula rasa children
sired of ultimate innocence
were to rise
they would laugh
and shake their bell-clear heads
to read dusty tales of risen corpses
and disproportionate paternal
anger over stolen fruit.
And down the years
when one of them unsure
took up an old book
from which he began to glean a trust
in the idea of a lonely being
who created man
exactly as he still appeared
who drowned all but two
of every kind
and still monitored silently
keeping daily scores for all
the others would set this person down
and hand him another book –
one not yet written when
our own antecedents
first entertained such ideas.
Therein he would find
in the knowledge that
of all possible permutations
of individual life
his own came about
when uncountable others did not.
Seek awe in that
and he need never seek it
The slippage is what has really lingered:
the sloughing-off of grey-pelted skin
and thicker sheets of liquid muscle
beneath then the way it all ran
through the floor of that cage
when two boys lifted it out
of the water – an open hammock
of chicken wire supporting
the thousand-sluiced frame
of a fellow live-born vertebrate
as all else sifted through.
Set for yabbies the summer before
this forgotten net drift-shifted
had penned a sleek rat and laid out
for one of us an undeniable homology
that triggered a spill of devon
and white bread—
the sickness of mammalian decay.
Notes on the poems:
‘Thinning our little herd’ was previously published in Blue Dog.
‘Our Lady of Yanco’ was previously published in Bluepepper.
‘Two Books’ was previously published in Australian Reader.
‘Emptying Out’ is published here for the first time.
My sincere thanks to Benjamin for sending me these fantastic poems and allowing me to publish them on here.