I remember the lost skirt of Carlton

Nimble and nineteen, perhaps twenty, I saw you;
velvet A-line, satin belt, and my heart dropped open
knowing how you would swathe me in excellence
hang just right, soft as a crop of Labrador’s dark ears.
Student poor, with a world to change, I stood outside,
longing, mental tongue lapping, dressed in thin dream.

Today, girt in husband’s semi-silken wage,
(and the splendid coin of Poesie)
I could command your like be snipped
to the pattern of sweet memory.
But my waist has grown
along with his pay,
so perfect skirt, in time or space,
will always always

PS Cottier


Based on a True Incident, this is a very old, but (I think) unpublished poem. It describes a true first world problem, but both Canberra and Melbourne (of which Carlton is a university infested suburb, or just about) are in the first world, so that’s hardly surprising.

Fashion is interesting in that usually only young people look the best in retro or vintage gear; people assume that middle-aged people have been wearing 50s gear since it was new, and just forgot to change over the intervening decades.

Speaking of change, this seems to mark a difference from the usual socio-political cleverness for which this blog is known by some! And hello to you, dear Some.

Missing Melbourne

Alleys don’t exist here. Canberra has no use
for backways streets, for furtive lanes.
Lies are a different matter, but those
architectural commas, those cobbled
night-cart ways have no place amongst
paradise refined into
quintessence of tedium.
I love my new home’s cockatoos,
their hats of lairy scorn, their satire;
sound-beakers of heavy metal
poured into pure blue air.
But I dip my memory’s lid
to the Brunswick park
with forty tail-flagged dogs,
smaller than some Canberra backyards.
So much oomph, so much poo,
and bocce, like a kiss thrown
against the deeper green,
speaking of a bigger world
of coincidence and trust.

P.S. Cottier

Not Canberra

Not Canberra

I have changed. I no longer miss Melbourne in the way I did when I wrote that poem, about 10 years ago. When I visit Melbourne now, it does not feel like a return home, but a trip to ‘somewhere else’. Even the maps in my mind of how to find things are fading.

When I first came to Canberra I searched for a centre in vain. Now I am enamoured of the space and sky here; a change just beginning in the poem, I think. If I had stayed in Melbourne, I don’t think I would be writing so much poetry, as I had more Things to Do; more distractions. Of course, I have now become more involved in Canberra’s cultural life, but I think the move from Melbourne drove me into my own head a little more than staying would have.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Poetry can be written in a truly urban environment as much as in Canberra’s semi-whateverness. I get truly sick of the fervent rural trend in much contemporary poetry, what I call the Misty Cow School. And last week I felt a retrospective sense of pride to see how many Melburnians ralled against the Border Force* stopping random people to ‘check their papers’. (If they were carrying The Australian, presumably they’d be acceptable…)

But Canberra is my home now, and I feel glad to get off the plane or bus or train here. Zireaux was kind enough to feature a series of my Canberra poems here, with his commentary.

And for further poetry, get on the Poetry Tram. Read the works of the other Tuesday Poets around the world by pressing here.

*Who designed the black uniforms? Or did they just visit a museum of WWII and copy the Nazi uniforms?

The atheist at Christmas

December 1, 2009

First published in ‘The Mozzie’, Queensland, last December:

The atheist at Christmas

Yes, I wish for more, more than these tottering temples,
these building blocks of presents under this most
European plastic tree, dropping leaves unseasonably.

If only it were possible, to unwrap belief, to kiss it quick
like an unexpected guest under mistletoe’s sharply
convenient hangover marriage.

But God is an idea too far, too gaudy, too stuffed,
fills a void of longing with crumbs unreasonably.
The brain must talk turkey, (or mouth gobble on).

Faith desire shines each new born December,
but frail batteries barely make month’s end.
By then it will have broken down.

And then be gone.

P.S. Cottier