4 Poems by Kate Maxwelll

STINGERS

The ocean is a hushed polite lap lapping dog

that licks along the shore.

It murmurs, never growls

while the Shakespeare Company

throw their voices out from the rotunda.

Tonight it’s Taming of the Shrew.

The bats make raucous audience members.

They screech and cackle in unfunny scenes

and make the shrew shout louder.

There’ll be complaints to council tomorrow.

Later we stroll the esplanade

where women peer through floor to ceiling glass

champagne flutes in jewelled hands.

Like elegant Brolgas they stare

unblinking, as if poised to strike

at careless lumbering frogs.

One balmy evening the Year Six girls

held a graduation party at the sailing club there.

A thin woman filled my glass and cooed

Good of you to come. The girls like to include teachers.

The very one who’d complained all year

about too much, not enough and never good enough.

That night the girls ran shrieking from the water

which snarled with unseen stingers

as mothers puffed and squawked

There’ll be complaints to council tomorrow!

The moon; high, round and fat like a butter whirl

chuckles sweetly over her lap, lapping dog

and tidy well-pruned beach

as we pack up the car

listening to cheeky bats

now clapping far too late.

BLIGHTED

With sad eyes they sigh over me

the untouchable.

It’s just my caste, my roll of the dice

to be marked and pocked

with this slamming fist of God

this chromosome decay

of life disintegrating

into blood and empty egg sacs.

Scraped and sucked

with surgical tools

grim anaesthetic

my body’s confused

at still tender nipples

metallic tongue and shocked

at silence, bewildered by calm.

No more plans

appointments, tiny socks

or singlets wrapped

in advice and tissued

with expectation.

They’re shelved and waiting,

as I am, for another turn.

And they watch a few days

with that glad-it-wasn’t-me

look and measured vials of pity

checking for when it’s over.

My little pea-sized twins

that never were.

Mythical monsters

in their double opaque pouches

black and unyielding as fear

soiling the screen with

their big empty snickering.

How can it be over

when it never began?

I COULD HAVE BEEN A CONTENDER

Nothing hurts more than being nothing

– perhaps cigarette burns or paper cuts.

Wasting into mock woman of the new decade

with my new car, husband, mortgage

and a sensible, more natural shade of hair

to accompany my entrance into mild and mellow.

Or was that always the way things were?

Slashing verse and dark dramas only fiction

like a life of invented promise where passions

are stripped back and varnished to look antique.

Now I eat chocolate to compensate for pleasures

I can’t remember, bread and honey to dull

the ache of my averageness. But being tall

I carry weight like a concealed weapon

that twists itself upon me. Even my fat is secretive.

Are you listening? I ask them from the board

Can you hear my creativity winding down?

Each year they learn and love a little

sparkle or wear me down a little

and I am tired of rubbing rocks

to make gemstones. They glitter while I fade.

Youth is the only polish they need.

Locked into my small and usual place I sip tea,

scan internet to know who’s slept with who

and which stars have broken up, a bit like me

into small pieces. I know nothing

of the economy. All my scapegoats

have fled to climb their own mountains

while apathy and I cuddle on the lounge.

I could have been a contender

I mumble rebelliously to my old self that never was.

But she doesn’t believe me.

THE PROPHET OF THE PRINCE’S HIGHWAY

UFO and Christ Returns

are the only words I make out on his sign

each time I dare to slow down on the highway.

Neat hat, brown trench-coat and a long peppery beard

like the man who fell asleep on a hill

and woke generations later to find

his family and dreams had disappeared. 

Past the Arncliffe Hotel promising

topless or wrestling women

I’ve driven, then down the crest

into the presence of a believer.

Belief that’s faded now

to delicate and watery penmanship

like a missing parchment from the Book of Kells

adorned and detailed with script

too small for driver’s eyes

too small for anyone but Christ

returning in his bloodied UFO

and especially small for atheists.

This Rip Van Wrinkle covers time

with silent vision and exhaust fumes.

Years of his constant message

have prompted subtle transformations

I’m sure his hat is new and his placard’s

been adjusted to be worn, not held

like a carwash ad.

I savour my own beliefs

that he never wanders far

lives behind the footpath where he stands

in that bland red-brick building

listening in his tidy, tiny room

to messages and radio codes

only he can understand.

The herald of an alien Christ.

With a prophet’s mix of urgency and patience

he stands focused by the busy road

while stares and scepticism roll over him

like clouds as he blurs into rear vision. 

About the contributor

Kate Maxwell is a Primary School Teacher based in Sydney. Kate’s work has been published in Australian literary magazines such as Hecate, Linq, Social Alternatives and Swyntax in the past. She describes herself as having been in an artistic stupor for some years now and is ready to wake up her creative muscles again. Kate’s interests include film, wine and sleeping

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