Poems by Raewyn Alexander

Emma Smith, "If not, Winter" (2011).
Emma Smith, "If not, Winter" (2011).

‘aged famous rockers tour the world’

I explain to the homeless man outside our supermarket
by a tree which serves to hold shopping trolleys back
(some wander in high winds as steel renegades across traffic)
he wanted to know any news
so I spoke and pretended I didn’t remember him
stood downwind to avoid the stench of ancient unwashed denims

we loaded my groceries into the car boot together
while I talked and he listened as if we’d married
stayed in the same house for reasons of children and accounting
stopped any demands for obedience to each other’s rules
but I knew his name and how he liked ice cream
a little melted and yet some still firm
my feelings also thawed enough to take time
desserts and good conversation require a lull

but he tried to tell me we were fated to be together
as if we’d unwittingly signed up for a soppy romance movie
and soon his buddy whispered to him ‘he’d told him so’
they shambled away in late afternoon gold with leaves falling

I wondered for a few minutes what could’ve been if I’d chosen him
instead of the vampire with good map reading skills
who knew how to sneak into my room at night
to sit with his smile for a brain and wait
for my eyes to open then conditioning to polish my reaction
over and over again the same secret
known observer a fright – media man in leather without a pen
but he drew fantasies with perfect recall in black and white

so clean these bare stories in the wind and rain

girls soft as new grass

complicated as seeds
they slid
stories rolled
ideas from pages planted
cool shapes
sounds from sparkly speaker cloth on the radiogram
a remember in the background of their ignorance of fences
while uncles uncurled turf
for lawn

then the day one girl (or was it the other)? pinched
a new baby
through the bars of the playpen
the child cried a sudden squall
then boats of adults huddled to harbour

so she had to tell naughty twin about the Queen of Hearts
her version with a royal burden of resentments
given the task to love more than anyone else even if she was so ugly

how the failure of a storybook royal could teach them
impossible things existed
on the concrete steps where sun soaked
while fragments of know and silly or blur

each others thoughts
between them the way language turns
                                                                   into care
                                           into air

India — Early 20th Century and Other Tales


A painting of a cherub on an eyelash,
offered for sale in a pavilion near the jungle.
‘How rare,’ someone murmured.
The magnifying glass — dropped,
when an elephant crashed through
the canvas and toppled tent poles.
Where gin and tonics clinked,
art admirers then faced sharp
tusks inches from a glass.

Later, Mum told how she walked World War Two
through blackout city streets to her house,
a white line middle of the road in moonlight.
Hummed big band numbers and stepped
a suburban perforation marked on asphalt,
after-dance safety in a tune and paint.
She knew the words and recognised,
any time something could break from tame.
Told children, “Find a good way
home, my darlings.”


Invented rainy day stories golden with deeds
to ensure our parents’ lullaby.
‘Imagine,’ my sister said, ‘cut ourselves out,
two girls from a picture book. Walk around.’
A favourite has us both on a raft we lashed
with Dad’s ties and Mum’s aprons.
Remnants of our old life flapped about us,
while this clodhopper craft sped towards the sea.

In the washed night’s dilated eye something woke me,
my twin in her sleep, calling puppy-sad for parents.
The story sure to finish after a return in darkness,
bedraggled girls with scratches from the river bank.
Our trudge up the path towards orange-lit windows,
where warmth produced the cold idea we weren’t missed.
My twin tells me I remember things stung, too bluely,
‘Just add a lit fireplace to the room.’
She explains we arrived to warm cardigans,
roars of laughter and kisses, like the end of a war.

“aged famous rockers tour the world” was first published in Blackmail Press 30 (2011).