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2019 Winner of Queensland Poetry Award’s Older Emerging Poets Mentorship Prize: Julie Manning

Unknown genus of Pine

If it were a thousand-
limbed Monkey Puzzle 
seeded against the odds 

by continental seabirds,
or a Mesozoic Bunya Pine
cast out from ancient lands

it would be celebrated
as a rarity, but its aetiology
is unknown – a split-bucket

Christmas gift buried
in a yard now high enough 
to snag sea-mist branches

exploding with songbirds
at dusk its shadow shortens 
as trees become smaller, 

blacker. Not Hoop Pines,
but vase-shaped Norfolk’s 
infused with penal gloom

in ‘60’s surfers’ photos,
see the Volkswagen parked
beneath them, shrouds

behind the breakers,
carpets of panel vans
and needles, but here

is quiet, another genus
each angle of priapic lean
nudging north – butcher-

birds mark each dawn 
like mountaineers
as a mackerel sky swims past. 

Neither is it a Wollemi pine
guarded by mountain-valleys
with a prehistoric silhouette

watch the flight of a falcon
riding thermals over the dark
green needles of a relic

Christmas lanterns
at its edges like red lights
of high festivities, the palm-

like fronts weep all summer
over land that kept it hidden – 
the secret crow’s nest of earth. 

 

Every Dog 

A mile of road train slants
across the ring road into town
dog cage hanging off the back
like a loose bolt weaving side to side
surplus cargo for the long ride
picked up at dawn in a dead-end
siding-town.

Night is falling, outer suburbs
hunker down to TV and daily
afterthoughts, houses ringed with
bush reserves football by day
when evening comes a pickup point
goods from transports heading north.

A dingo-shadow hits the dirt
wreathed in dust from the three-dog-
night of a desert camp, sign here
mate and the truck departs.

Nose down, looking for an exit
every cell alert for danger
one paw useless but anyone will do.
You? You? 

There’s a single car in the blackened park
new blanket on the seat and water bowl
set out by the door – tailgate up
waiting for the leap.  The journey home
he whined and shook but one day later
curled up asleep. Every dog must have its day
this can’t be the one that got away

 

Oscar Imposter

Marilyn, a treble-clef poured
into a dress, all strain
and straps, the elegance
of your sparkling fish-tail 

and trailing sequins. I saw
you on Movie Tone news
in the run-down cinema –
the wind blowing the hem

of your silky spinnaker-skirt.
I practiced the giggle
and footpath pirouettes,
the swirl of a dirndl.

I learned coquetry
and flirtation from your 
breathless delivery, willed
a ponytail to bouncing

platinum waves –
the glimmer, such glamour!
I could leap from a cake,
be Hollywood-cool, the feckless

boys of my school no longer
of interest. I could be white
cotton floss enthralling a room –
not just pretty, I’d marry

a playwright wearing
tortoise-shell specs
and pulled up collar – I’d be
sexy and smart, all this

and more, make it big
from a small town, be loved
for my Mensa score, hide
my secret flaws. I blossomed

inchmeal, piecemeal – movies
and back to print, poured scorn
through the myth when
Germaine hung her breast-

plate on my shelf, the world
now ardent and profound.

Steeped in stress and the mess
of broken hearts, the goddess

fell apart, off-screen
on suicide watch when
I read of the barbiturates.
Stepford was a pretence,

now Superwoman ruled.
Oscar was a pointless man,
and ‘Egghead marries
Hourglass
’ lay in smithereens. 

Egghead marries Hourglass’ was a headline in the popular press in 1956 when Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller, a renowned intellectual and playwright.

 

Driftwood

Eyes closed in a stranger’s body, a memory of grain, tone, spaces and closures, a mind map for the bewildered and sensual – what omen are you seeking on this windswept beach? Smooth hand-held amphora poured of sea-water and flecked with undulations, each symmetrical and hollow like the neck of a bottle with its promise of space, labile with the sinews of streamlined animals – the forelock of a racehorse buried standing up on a beach, a figurehead’s tendrils from a longboat weathered back to the prow, its fissures and hollows gone to hermit crab enclosures in the symbol of a veiled eye. Henry Moore’s coastal model for a reclining woman of burnished limbs and hollowed out torso. You enter into this spirit of abandonment, brushing sand from a nest of snakes the tides have fastened into hair. Your intuition turns found art into prophecy, and you read into the veined, bleached fork and its split chambers the heartwood of separation. The hem of a fringe lifts above the tideline of your eyes and you swim alone over stones and missives of glass worn down to symmetry, carrying it as you would any emblem for love’s vagaries, this remnant of sea roads, this antlering glyph in the carriage of your hands. The ocean is always untidy, a maelstrom of the unknown. Laying aside your need for order the wood hangs above a drift of floribunda and careless petal-fall of rosa.  With what you love no longer visible, you dream of a premonition, and curve to the breakers in your sleep.

 

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Julie Manning is a poet, visual artist and lawyer. Her poems have appeared previously in Australian Book Review, Cordite and the HWS Grieve Project poetry anthology. Her poem ‘Portmanteau’ was longlisted in the Vice Chancellors International Poetry Prize 2019, and ‘Constellation of Bees’ was shortlisted in the Peter Porter Poetry Prize 2020. She lives on Moreton Bay in Brisbane and is currently working on her first book of poetry.

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