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Fair Australia Prize

Poetry winner: Chalcedony South

Castlemen are slowly moving out
Of the towering, arranged forest centred
In the rain part of the island land.

A powerful few castlepeople benefit
Measurably from the density of expansive
Accumulations from purchased mines.

Castlewomen are only just being accepted
As a force in the long scorched and tiered canopy.
Still in ascension they are shot at brutally.

Castlemen can afford to move slow with panache,
Colonial quickness packaged far behind them,
Their bracken path sturdy as they decipher gold rise.

I feel I cannot afford to. Everything moving forward
So quickly over the largeness of the ringed land.
My mind lashes back and I fall into loneliness.

I was sitting on our veranda contemplating
The castle that was also a house
And the infinite traffic moving around it.

It was a house with no front door and
The longer I watched I realised that the traffic was
Actually windows darting and drifting,

Lying flat sometimes like windows are supposed to
But also overlapping or sitting diagonally like diamonds,
Or airborne flapping and folding so they looked at times

Like paper planes and at times
Like lines of silver when they caught in the sun.
Some were obsidian and others were darkly transparent

And some were glowing transparent but shot through
With obsidian cracks like spider webs or a scrunched jigsaw.
There were people who came to contemplate the house.

They had stepped out of the traffic
And become suddenly inflated so that they
Were so stretched they could lift it up.

Not being able to enter became irrelevant.
They saw that there was a stringy ladder
On the left side of the house tangled with vines.

They saw that the roof was a canopy.
When they shrunk back to normal size
They tried to tell the darting people

About how the house had looked when they
Became stretched out by stepping back
For a moment from their busy days.

A lot of them said it was inaccessible.
‘That has already happened to me too but
It was more like having a jumbled mess

Shoved in my face. No door.’
‘How are you supposed to get in?’
‘I don’t have time for obscurity, mate.’

But why not present everything at once?
Isn’t that how it occurs and is made to occur?
In density shot through from their canopy?

There was a collection of sticks
And a collection of circles.
There were those who partook

In the practice of stick to circle
When in fact it was the circle of a stick
And not the circle of a circle.

Leaders appointed themselves
As purveyors of this malpractice.
Centuries old traditions were in place.

A solution was hazarded on a national scale.
It was not right for the leaders themselves
To decide. The union of stick to stick

That is the practice of stick to stick circle
And vice versa was to be decided by the population
At the cost of one hundred and sixty million dollars.

Democracy is about the people deciding
What is right after all, like in those gladiator games
In Ancient Rome where the audience could sway

The lowering or lifting of the emperor’s thumb
After the bloodbath. It is now centre left
To say things like this. Am I one of the happy ones?

It is hard to believe that attached to these shapes
And their improper combinations are lives.
The innocent sufferers of disease.

In the outer reaches of the solar system
A forest house orbits with tall walls and turrets.
Its young foundations grow from the outside.

It is surrounded by a great tributary moat
Which feeds materials out and brings light in,
Sprawling with correct fingers right up into the desert.

Moatpeople and aboriginal peoples drown and bleed
In the lucky dream. The moat, which could also be called
A moon with its fragments and molecules flattened out,

Is utilised to sweep them into centres and crannies
Where their days are crammed into their minds
And children locked to metal chairs with bagged heads.





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Joel Ephraims lives on the south-east coast of NSW. He recently had a suite of poems published in The Red Room Company’s The Disappearing.

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