III You notice something on the avenue. Some perfect system crumbles into gold. The sum of 2 + 2 is always four. Don’t tender something that you cannot lose. The polished-concrete sky is wall to wall. The bent policeman polishes his boots. Too cold out on the balcony today. The park is pruned of any surplus praise. At empty café tables ravens wait. Dead poets tip an obol now and then. The dogs of omen stain the future snow. This is a pencilled list of things to do. You don’t imagine patiently enough. Again we ride the sepia carousel. IV Too much of something. Nearly not enough of elsewhere lining this dishevelled coat. Shackled in mittens, kick among the dank wages of wisdom in the empty park. The merest statues, like celebrities floodlit each night on Dancing with the Stars, at dawn all dwindle into rheumy stone. Your soul? A singlet with persistent stains of sweat no sudsy gyring will remove. The central heating makes you drowsy. Snow is like a promise no one broke as yet. Open the window, let the city in – in winter things are humbled by themselves. A cut-throat rests upon the looking glass. IX Scintillae of electrum, shards of sun. The Lectio Divina blithely skimmed as pebbles kiss a swan-abandoned pond. All the old chestnuts falling apropos the shabby raven like an idée fixe. You wrap the shivered mirror in a leaf torn from A Thousand Plateaus. Time to face the faithless day without a trace of guile. Jalousies drawn, the world discovers you, a truant from true leisure, wandering, eyes clear from grazing bitter herb-of-grace. Except the motes that dim the double-glaze – the poena sensus – you are barely there. An instant diamond cuts the safety glass. XI The New Square on a Sunday: clothing stalls and militaria, in the no man’s land where all combatants now capitulate to spectacles of curiosity. An icy runway for the third-rate rags still smelling of the sweatshop, slightly damp, with care instructions on their faded tags – Colours may bleed. Another cycle spins the mangled bodies of limp mannequins. The feeble voices from the concrete cells, the underground interrogation rooms are muffled by the fibreglass of snow. A cold wind lashes at the merchandise, You wear your scarf pulled tight into a noose. XII Ride to Siberia in a first-class booth; outside the troops in arctic camouflage float to the ground on lacy parachutes. Sink in the crimson velvet of the seat embroidered with a bosky, gold motif; the naval operations of the swans are foiled by ice as hard to crack as code. Sip a botanical aperitif, absently rolling the Platonic die carved with the letters of the alphabet; across the marbled river rumbling fog rolls in on iron caterpillar tracks. The border guards ignore the arctic fox in the word-blizzard. Osip is, is not. XIII The barge stays docked. The generators wheeze like hoary smokers over vodka shots. The smoke chokes silence in a sultry flat, a conversation crackles on repeat. An empty bottle floats among the swans – Odysseus among Achaean ships – full of a fizzy glow, the Diet Coke of revelation by the foaming weir. Sit on the bench and feed the tattered flock that ruffle up for crumbs. The bottle-tops that sink into the mud like medals glint – soon ice will close the coffin of the year – the truncheon holster empty on your soft militia satchel holding books and fear.
The Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize is supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation
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