In 2013, Irish-Australian poet Lizz Murphy was Highly Commended in the Blake Poetry Prize and a finalist in the UK’s Aesthetica Poetry Competition. Her awards include the 2011 Rosemary Dobson Poetry Prize (co-winner). She has published 12 books including seven poetry titles. She is widely published in Australia. Lizz also has poems published in Canada, China, England, India, Ireland, Poland, USA and translated into Bengali, French, Irish, Polish, Serbian. She lives in Binalong NSW and occasionally blogs at http://www.lizzmurphypoet.blogspot.com.au/

INTRODUCTION TO A POEM
After Billy Collins

A poem
is a black cat walking luck into your journey
See how it twists its spine to land you
on all four legs
What a fine parachute it makes

Take its silk
and fashion a child a frock
a tent for the homeless
a curtain for a poet’s cell

Or spin a deep river
Remember your lifejacket
You don’t have to understand water
to drown in it

THE UNSEEN RIVER

Saffron swirl on painted lotus white necks

A small girl wears soft floral cotton
is a tender garden
is her own hunkering island
Coiling waves separate her features

Her father at the top of the alley sits against
a gull-grey wall Legs rippling forward ankles crossed
like the meeting tides A white spread cloth is a chant
Marigolds yellow and tangerine its garlands

Gold red green kohl embellished eyes

Everyone preparing for Devi Saraswati
Shrines emerging turquoise on street stalls
footpaths kerbs Incense berries flowers
pressed on the palimpsest of the festive city

Shrines like theatrettes Life-size goddesses
bone-beautiful faces under fabric canopies caressed
into sunrays Illuminated in major streets and lanes
Tributaries that might suddenly change course

The goddess transported by the dozen
placed regally along both sides of the open truck
Flamboyant workers off to fragrant fields She cuts
a blaze through traffic sings my breath in her wake

Sculpted slender as swan heads her hands her wrists

The girl’s father the grower of the mango moon
and mandarin sun festoons adorning the shrines
calls to his daughter giddy with her making
River-runs in her head currents playing her fingers

She transforms a broken shoebox with tape and scraps
builds herself a school its bell her bronze nightingale
Dedicated afternoon mothers Vendors by the gate
Lime fairy floss in plastic squares along amber canes

She builds her own city store to sell sarees
of shimmering river water eddies of colour
nets of glistening fish Earth spice monsoon
River stones glinting like rings in a silty display

She builds a ferry to travel her unseen Ganga Ma
take her dolphin-dream dip grow her dorsal fin
swash her flukes in a salvation shandy of life unlife
river banks braised in worship and wood smoke

CASH & CARRY

Birth Mother
what did you think
as they roped you to the table
stuffed towels in your mouth
needles in your spine
your check-up a checkout
for your child

Birth Mother
what went through your head
as they split your body
ripped your bar-coded babe
pre-term from your belly
said she was dead when you could see
her life ahead of your without you

Birth Mother
what did you think
when they left you roughly laced together
of the ache of the rich white
would be mommies
in the queues at adoption hotels
dollar notes at the ready

Birth Mother
what did you think
of the agony of caesarian rape
without adequate anaesthetic
and the emptiness in your womb
in your heart sliced open
like a sample pear on a market stall

Birth Mother
what went through
your head
after they selected
your child
from the baby trade
cash & carry

YOU LIVE IN THE FLATS

You live in the flats? A Ukrainian woman greets
everyone whether she knows them or not and sings
with excitement as she tells in her English that she
will buy a little soo-oo-suit from Big W for her new
grandchild not born yet and how she is here forty-five
Years and five before in Germany So And she shrugs
Off the reality that tells her they would not know her
Over there anymore

But she is happy with her thirty-six dollar coat
because cardigan and cardigan and cardigan are never
warm enough And it is good she has two pair of
stocking on Her feet won’t be cold And this is close to
Everything The wanted to put her in a bed-sitter no
way My family come to visit I have my family and
I can go into my own room and close the door

You live in the flats? That poor girl Only twenty She
doesn’t know where to go He took one boy and bash
no wonder the girl don’t know what to do No good
But it might be a nice day

I watch her black oiled waves as she climbs on the bus
and the driver’s smile when she tells him you cranky
this morning We are taken away for the day Away
from morning coughs and night cries and car theft
deterrents and bike chains And women in nighties
sweeping steps and the broken bones of children

A WOMAN WAITS

The tomb waits sun bright dark cast
the woman on the yellow sand legs forward like a statement one thong half off a shadow tendril between her lips

YESTERDAY
(18th January 1994)

Yesterday a friend who couldn’t afford it lost
400 dollars said I was bad luck (Murphy’s Law
— I warned her) and Los Angeles lay flattened
by an earthquake Residents commented again
and again about loss of control that sense no
sense a man standing in front of us in one piece
said we’ve lost everything we’ve lost our
whole lives A pregnant woman is pulled from
the wreckage to find her nightdress around her
neck on camera and her four-year-old daughter
crushed to death Her scream is sudden

Another raises her hands to her head as she tells
us they have to be prepared for the aftershocks
and realizes there is one right then My brother-
in-law got out with a damaged bathroom and
a mobile phone (another Murphy’s Law — be
prepared) phoned and got through We rang
Belfast with Troubles enough to hear the good
news It’s estranged sons and daughters in wild
weather around the globe (It’s great to be Irish
outside of Ireland — I’ve heard it said often)
George Paul and Ringo are going to beat up
a storm without John and in Sydney now there
are winds A guy there says in disbelief or was
it disgust You just can’t control this weather

HERE WE COME

Our whole lives are broken down journeys
vehicles that spit and fizz with too many mendings
too much age
Wheels worn into the constant blue-black of bitumen
the endless signature inked into suburban arteries
and now across deserts
the red skirt dissected
the stiletto heel stab of rain rare indeed
Only in our heads
despondent as birds standing watch over dead loves
knocked down by speed
pasted to the wake left by two worlds colliding

How concise is colonization
country to country and now planet to planet
Look out Mars here we come
ready or not

WISE WOMEN

Fishguts blood and birth Glinting
knives ever bream and backbone scales
slash in arcs spatter sequins remnants of
sea sluiced in bucketfuls rivulets of grit
and spit changing patterns cobbled stones
Red messes shovelled away

I am walking in the past regaining my
sight I remember the man described as
primitive (he had black skin) who said
why waste a moment of the present
looking at one moment in the past
(frozen by a camera lens)

His wife may have had a different
point of view but the white men didn’t
ask the woman if she analysed the past
to make sense of the present to make
sense in the future

She smiled shyly in the background
or was it quiet mirth Mirth Sense and
Good three gifts the Wise Women bring
and Napisan so that the Boy Child’s
sports shorts would shine white in the
changing rooms

I AM A FOX

A car parked on the shoulder in the wrong direction emergency lights flashing With a towel or a spare cardigan she expertly scoops the wounded bird into the crook of her arm her head cocked to one side cooing reassuring then into the boot hood quickly shut the take-off Its mate a toss of feathers on the bitumen warm white billowy sulphur arc hooking the breeze the back draft I am a fox feathers caught in my teeth mist on my breath a single float of down on my muzzle

COCKATOOS

You hear them arriving
sunlit wings war cries
machete blue
then fading into their journey
the media images they awake
in your sleepy mind

***

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Cash & Carry is from the collection Two Lips Went Shopping (Spinifex Press 2000, e-book 2013) and was also published in Canberra Arts Anthology (ArtsACT/NLA 1999)

Cockatoos is from the collection Six Hundred Dollars (PressPress 2010)

Here we Come is from the collection Stop Your Cryin (Island Press 2004)

I am a Fox was published in Shot Glass Journal in 2013

Introduction to a Poem is from the collection Walk the Wildly (Picaro Press 2009)

The Unseen River was selected by the Poetry and Poetics Centre Committee, University of
South Australia as one of five poems entered in the 2008 Max Harris Poetry Prize ‘considered to be of high quality and worthy of recognition’ and published on their website with winning and placed poems. In 2010 The Unseen River was translated into Bengali by Mihir Chakroborty and published in the Kolkata/Calcutta literary magazine Nandamukh. In 2012 it was published in Yass Valley Voices an anthology by Yass Valley Writers (Yass NSW).

A Woman Waits was a runner-up in the Deakin Writers 28-word poem competition and published in Wordly 2013.

Wise Women is from the collection Pearls and Bullets (Island Press 1997)

Yesterday is from the collection Pearls and Bullets (Island Press 1997)

You Live in the Flats is from the collection Do Fish Get Seasick (Polonius Publications 1994).

***

My sincerest thanks to Lizz for sending me this stunning selection of her poems and allowing me to republish them on here.

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