Toad in the garden, which is the same as

a snake in Eden or a crack in a mirror.

Inexpungable blot of evil but

we must try. The castle must be defended

and each can be the mother of an empire,

a pullulating and teeming pathogenesis

threatening to gush out of the gaping mouth

of nightmare, cover the world, flatten the lettuces.


When we were young enough for casual violence

we’d roam through the plush veil of darkness

just beyond the moth-blow floodlights with

cut down golf-clubs and feeble torches, stumbling

and giggling, night-blind and sugar crazy, until

we’d echo-locate the resolute density of a toad.

Wild invisible arcs and that satisfying thump

of bodies. Changeling stones, staring us down.


There was a black plague creeping southward

and Queensland was lost, untouchable and alien,

the language of genocide, not that we knew it then,

the protection of feral snowy river brumbies

for the nostalgia of a poem was years away.

Dot to dot brown spatter of the enemy

laid out on wet season roads and our challenge

was efficient returns, swerving the 4WD in slime.


Inexhaustible armies of malevolence,

but now I can’t decide on measures of

humanity: cold frozen euthanasia over the

gassing eternity of asphyxia. We sling

her kicking and indomitable into her own hell,

the bag crackling in the wheelie bin and for hours

her scissoring legs thump out someone’s punishment

until ants climb the lid, not offering rescue.






Damen O'Brien

Damen O’Brien is a Queensland poet. Damen was joint winner of the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and has won or been shortlisted for many others including Val Vallis Award for an Unpublished Poem, the Welsh International Poetry Prize and the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize. Damen has previously been published in Rabbit, Southerly, Cordite, Island, Verity La and StylusLit.

More by Damen O'Brien ›

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