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Poetry Happening—Liz Quirke

Dark Roses, 35mm Ruth McKee

How We Arrive In Winter|Liz Quirke|Salmon Poetry|ISBN:978191256128964|€12

How We Arrive In Winter

We luxuriate beneath the jacaranda while it rains.
You discard all your coverings, utter a challenge 
as we inhabit this, our first deluge. I keep myself 
together, understand you’re here with me only
because you can’t be there. The water pushes  
into your pores, threatens to flood you with reminders
of how confining our small courtyard 
all the way across the world really is. 

It rains. You scratch furrows into your skin, endure 
this Sydney summer rainstorm like I’ve handed you
an unwelcome gift. She has been dead a month. 
You mind the roadside graveyard where you left her, 
all its lonely territories, so any time life blooms in unexpected 
ways, you clutch it till your body racks and heaves. 
We’re too young in our love to have the words for this. 
No one can tell me when the right thing to say will come.

In this grief memory we are making, for you I can be brave. 
I drop my shorts and shirt to meet yours, experience
the way the confines of this continent shatter you.
I meet you where you hold yourself aching,  
settle in your wake until I am not 23 and awkward. 
Eventually the rainfall slows, clothes migrate 
to the open-top washer, and we endure season
after season until ten whole years pass by.

It rains on ash boughs now instead of fragrant frangipani. 
We root ourselves in dark brown soil, where once
our earth loomed red. At night we see our breath,
and cold to your bones, you say, can you believe she’s dead 
so long. I say I dreamed him the other night but he couldn’t speak.
I’ve forgotten his voice outside of how he said my name. 
This is how we arrive in winter, how we can stand to stay
outside, breathing as all we love turns to mulch. 

Sometimes I wish we suspended time in that shotgun 
house on Camden Street; that we had the safety 
of the middle room, where we nested into each other like fledglings.
When it’s bad, I ask you could we ever go back, 
could we try unanswer the phonecalls that carried us home. 
I see myself back at my desk, the hard yards between Newtown 
and Rhodes soften — worksleepworksleepworksleepwork
weekday beers with Rich and Sam in the Courty.

It’s then I remember times when my phone would blare and it’s him,
always him calling and I describe the platforms I wait on, 
how the air feels acrid and too warm in my mouth
and we talk out all news and non-news through Strathfield, 
Stanmore, lose him under the bridge to Newtown, tell him
I’ll call him again when I’m up on King Street, and when I do
the conversation turns to this and that, I promise him 
I’m safe, I’m nearly home, I’m nearly home, I’m nearly home.

How We Arrive In Winter|Liz Quirke|Salmon Poetry|ISBN:978191256128964|€12