Lisa Jacobson is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. Her first poetry collection was Hair & Skin & Teeth (1995). Her recent verse novel The Sunlit Zone was shortlisted for several major awards, including the 2013 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and the inaugural Stella Prize for Australian women’s writing. Her work has been published in Australia, Indonesia, Montreal, the U.K. and the United States. Her new poetry collection, South in the World, is coming out in 2014 with UWA Publishing. The poem ‘Several Ways to Fall Out of the Sky’ won the 2011 Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize.
See http://www.lisajacobson.org and http://www.fiveislandspress.com
Several Ways to Fall Out of the Sky
Forget to take your wings from where they hang in the hall, the brass hook
silent as a question mark beneath silver feathers.
Remember to collect your wings, having noticed the post-it note on the
bench that says ‘wings’. But in your haste to take flight, forget to fasten their
Become mesmerized by the sun, bigger now than the world below. Forget to
Ignore any doubts about low-flying above a somnolent bay where a
ploughman works doggedly on in furrows of soil, and Daedalus calls out your
Lose faith in the universe, the laws of physics, the invention of flight.
Forget to breathe.
Consider the way gravity swings the planets round, pulls tides up shores,
draws blood from women.
Discover profiles of loved ones in the clouds – your mother with her back
half-turned, your daughter dissolving as you wing towards her.
Remember unwashed clothes, wisdom not yet taught to kids, pets gone
hungry, the goldfish, the goldfish…
Be totally unable to remember the author of The Grapes of Wrath; only that
the Japanese translation was The Angry Raisins.
Find remorse weighing heavier on your shoulders than wings.
Fly into the flight path of pelicans that peck at your hair for their nests –
which throws you right out.
Crash into Mt Sugarloaf, graceless as a kettle crash-landing the moon.
Seek out the floor of heaven, the face of God.
Soar too high in winter. Feel ice freeze your wings over, as it does to all other
high-fliers: winged horses, ghost ships, over-ambitious angels.
Fall asleep in the air. Remember this: no one knows who you are.
Anne Frank’s Sister Falls from Her Bunk
From the well of my bunk
I watch you fall. You do not stir
when I call or scratch at the lice that infect us all.
The cold-booted guard gives you a little kick.
A dirge plays on my frozen lips.
Water and dark earth, to which we return;
that’s what you sound like, dragged from the room.
Three days pass without you here.
The typhus unfurls its crimson flowers.
I try to speak but find I have no mouth.
I’m a black dog, muzzled.
To say ‘heart’ is unheard of.
Each night I climb a few more rungs
up the ladder out of myself
into the attic where we hid once, quiet as bones.
The sky is improbably blue.
I am rising like smoke towards you.
In the beginning there was the wheelbarrow, which they kept in the bedroom
and filled with books, fruit and phone messages.
Later when the sleeplessness got too much, they used it to wheel each other
around the house. Once they filled it with soup that they ladled into bowls
and ate with chunks of bread.
The wheelbarrow was silver. It glittered in the dark and made whistling
sounds like birdsong. Sometimes it hummed.
Once she pushed him backwards into the wheelbarrow and tossed the book
after him, saying, ‘Stay there until you’ve read the first act of Hamlet at least!’
It was a little awkward making love in the wheelbarrow. Its base was cold
against their flanks. But they persisted and, over time, became so used to it
that they felt odd making love anywhere else.
Most wheelbarrows have an innate understanding of love.
Girls and Horses in the Fire
Kinglake, Black Saturday, 2009
Nothing will come between them,
those girls and their horses;
not wind or rain, nor pillars of fire.
If a hand should flick a match
amongst leaves or trunks implode
with the weight of heat, or lightning
blast the wasted trees, still they’d run,
these girls, through conflagrations,
wreathed by flames and embers.
Girls who run towards horses in fire,
may you find your home in the equine stars:
Pegasus, Equuleus. Hush, sleep now.
On Teaching My Daughter to Ride a Horse
Up on the horse,
she is another kind of creature;
equine and winged,
this fire-lit child who says:
‘Trot, mama, trot!’ And,
‘Are we galloping yet?’
Her legs clamp around the horse’s girth
the way they used to clamp to me
when I’d support her on my hip
or stoop to put her down
(too heavy for that now).
Her squealing trill like a horse’s laugh,
a kicking up of the heels,
meadow-grass sound that proves
whoever invented daughters
and horses knows their grace;
the way both toss their manes to the wind,
their velvet (no other word for it)
pelt and skin, their sweet hay-breath,
and a lot of other things.
‘Several Ways to Fall Out of the Sky’ won the 2011 Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize and is published online at http://www.usq.edu.au/arts/awards/bruce-dawe-prize
‘Anne Frank’s Sister Falls from her Bunk’ was first published in The Age (26 June, 2010) and reprinted in The Best Australian Poems 2010, ed. Robert Adamson (Melbourne: Black Inc. 2010)
‘Wheelbarrow’ was published in Psychoanalytic Perspectives Autumn 2011 (New York)
‘Girls and Horses in the Fire’ was published as the epigraph to Adrian Hyland’s Kinglake 350 (Melbourne: Text, 2011) and broadcast on ABC Radio’s Poetica (July 28, 2012)
‘On Teaching My Daughter to Ride a Horse’ was published in Cordite Poetry Review: Indonesia 40.1 (Bilingual issue: Bahasa Indonesian and English)
My sincere thanks to Lisa for allowing me to republish these outstanding pieces on here.