Poetry | Two poems from Ismene’s Survivable Resistance

Two poems from Ismene’s Survivable Resistance



Ismene after the Royal Commission



the truth is I went back

to the ruins of the house

I paid with my being to live in


the gate like an opening and closing in the heart


my dead mother  still living in the one room not burnt out


the floor forever giving


someone swallowed a mouthful of her dressmaking pins


you have a persecution complex she would say


now they stand accused

I watched it burn


my history wearing a meaning mask


don’t cause conflict she would say


I couldn’t save my mother


my heart is not banging in the walls

it is the vulnerability in my chest

the wall of words I push through

realising it’s a bead curtain


you are over sensitive


I go to say something and …

there is a vacuum

there is an empty space at the table for me


I couldn’t save my sister


forgetting is a stone


the only place she looks alive is in my dreams


the pretending was so profound it became forecasting


all that is left of the window is the brown crucifix of a wooden frame


the floor tilting towards the viewer


emptied of arrival


there are three wooden chairs summoning resurrection







Ismene’s Patent Foramen Ovale closure



was I just a plot device in Antigone’s story

a disposable body at a crime scene

her shadow still on me

a gatekeeper in dreams


a disposable body in a crime scene

the fourth wall dismantled

gatekeepers dream

separating like oil and water


the fourth wall dismantled

the child in the photo looking out from engagement and enquiry

mind and body separating like oil and water

smiling at the photographer


the child in the photograph looking out of engagement and enquiry

standing room in the heart only

I was thinking the best of the photographer

Underneath it all emptied of story


standing room in the heart only

I put you away in a tabernacle

underneath it all emptied of story

I sit till the sediment settles


I put you away in the tabernacle heart

pinning myself to the page with every word written

I sit till the sediment settles

like skinning an unconscious mouse


pinning its skin back with every word written

revealing its chest to see it beat

skinning an unconscious mouse

I wake feeling I have been running


I opened its chest to see its heart beat

when I’m pinned madness feels like freedom

I wake feeling like I have been running all night

don’t fall in love with the messenger


pinned madness is freedom

he said I’m happy if I’ve fixed your migraines as well

don’t fall in love with the messenger

I didn’t say I’m glad my body was of service in your story


my cardiologist said if I’ve fixed you I’m happy

in the ultra sound I saw the four chambers 

I didn’t say I’ve advocated for this for four years of specialists on chesterfields

I saw the wall thickened were the metal device is in place


the four chambers of my heart a flap waving in the flow

her shadow still on me

the wall thickened with the metal device in place

no longer a plot device robbed of story





Claire Gaskin

Claire Gaskin has been writing and publishing her poetry extensively for over three decades. A Snail in the Ear of the Buddha was published by SOUP Publications in 1998. She completed her next collection of poetry a bud in the receipt of an Australia Council Literature Board grant for 2003. A bud was released by John Leonard Press in 2006, and was shortlisted in the John Bray SA Festival Awards for Literature in 2008. http://johnleonardpress.com/ Her poetry has been anthologised in Australian Poetry 2009, Motherlode, Australian Love Poems 2013, Best Australian Poems 2009, 2010, 2013 and in Contemporary Australian Poetry and Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry. Paperweight, was published in 2013 by Hunter Publishers. Eurydice Speaks is forthcoming with Hunter Publishers https://hunterpublishers.com.au/. Her fourth full length collection with the title, Ismene’s Survivable Resistance is also forthcoming, with Puncher & Wattmann.

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