2 Poems by Gayelene Carbis


Here are the crumbs you left me,

fallen on floorboards in a line

that leads to the closed front door.

Here is the softness that’s come

over me, the swollen tenderness

bruising at the slightest touch.

There are the cards you hold

in your hand, cryptic. Someone

wrote to me using the word

quicksand and I reeled from it.

I tear at cuticles, the edges of

skin bleed. A friend said still,

you keep bobbing up to the surface,

you’re still swimming. And that’s true,

but who wants the love of their life –

their life – summed up as quicksand?

I head out the front door. I leave

a trail so you can find me.


Suddenly a black cow outside a fence

a strange strangled sound everywhere

all the cows calling I stop singing

an ancient knowing in its old eyes

I see how it watches as I move past

careful and slow leave it standing there

forgotten till dinner when I tell Joseph

he pushes peas and gravy aside

rushes out in the black night searching

It’s not one of ours. But they’re bloody expensive,

you know. I don’t know. The closest I come is roast.

I am a city girl frightened of a cow outside a fence.

I see the streets of Spain where the bulls ran

butting backpackers, an Australian

or two, the bulls gone mad and let loose.

Creatures are capable of anything.

Then the next day along that same road

up ahead four horses trotting along then grazing

and slow then quick shadows that seem like people

surely that’s a small frame a girl in jodphurs a cap

tiny beside the horses. I keep to the side of the road

as the chestnut veers towards me as if it might nuzzle

and say hello or never stop but go right through me

and I hold my breath keep walking the way you do

with dogs never show fear I’m not sure about horses

but it turns in another direction just before it nears

it turns away from me heading straight ahead

so that the others look up and canter to catch up

with this one who has somewhere to go.

Two women in a ute at a snail pace

with a window down slow as they near

Are you looking for horses?

One has wild hair exhausted eyes a hard face

up too early or too long and now I speak

like a local with my knowledge of territory.

They’re up McNamara’s Road – the next road

to the left. It’s as if she’s never heard of it

can’t quite work out what I mean her lost face

I point she nods and they’re gone and now

I wish I took that extra moment to ask

where they’d come from those horses,

heading down the road so far from home

and where they’re going.

About the contributor

Gayelene Carbis is an award-winning Australian/Irish/Cornish/Chinese writer of poetry, prose and plays.  Her first book of poetry, Anecdotal Evidence (Five Islands Press) was awarded Finalist - 2019 International Book Awards for Poetry. Gayelene teaches Creative Writing at universities and Sandybeach and English/EAL at ACU, and is a Poet-in-Residence in primary schools.

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