Carrion and other poems by Siobhan Hodge


CARRION




One of the cats
who hides in the rafters
of the old racing stable
has left a shaft
exposed
almost – a pride of feathers
jutting from wet sand.
A forgotten scrap of pigeon
or galah – something grey
and picked, I think,
plodding through the mist
on an elderly mare.
She snorts and skirts,
hooves moon-neat
along the verge
as bristled shadows clump.
Beneath the stooping doorway,
gaunt and staring, jaws ache.


I don’t touch the shorn bird,
leave the ripped pillow
of wings and tail.
I spy one cat,
razor thin
beneath a rusted caravan.
She backs away, moans
when I crouch
with tins and soft words.
She isn’t there 
when I return,
but yellow eyes
are there when I
close mine.
On we plod. I don’t know 
the sinews left along the path,
but I try to think of names
they may become.



ABSENTIA




I don’t remember the moment
we stopped calling 


it became too difficult, you angered
at the drop of a cane, lost teas


but the last time we spoke
you held cords made of lace


deft fingers pulling patterns
from the air to the wool


you remembered my mother’s name
swapped for me, bride-to-be


you asked why I sat upon the floor
at my grandmother’s hearth


glancing up right then I knew
that we were departing,


that my hair is hers and my tilt
not entire, mirrored back


your stare was not cold – not yet – 
but I cannot remember


the moment you stopped seeing
a child and unfolded yourself


paper-skin and tight curls undone,
a stain upon your cashmere cardigan


pearl brooch missing, you couldn’t 
recognise the catch – not anymore – 


I wasn’t too see you again after that,
pictured you in the hospital room


staring beyond, reading stories
in a future we both could not reach.



NIGHT WALK




It’s not safe to walk at night
now, or run – it’s best not to be
at night 
anything
unless it is bigger
than the sky. 
Don’t slip in the milk light,
make sure it’s halogen
clear
camera front.
Keep your eyes 
and ears on edge.
Carry key, mask, paper
to twist in a socket at least get 
some skin between your nails
on the way down.
Pocketed hands
feel secrecy, thin as prayer.
I learned to roam 
without my mother’s hand
at Mong Kok station. Now I hold
between lungs
a face ajar – ribs on a slant
never standing
front on. Angles in profile
taking back space
clenched jaw, gouged eye
no room
on the pavement for
this throbbing grief 
that rises inside.
But I still don’t walk at night.



RIOT OR RESIDE




I.
I don’t tell my mother where I am headed. The lift shakes as I reach the ground. Typhoon nearing shore, but only a black rainstorm warning so far. Each step down the hillside threatens spillage. I have to pick lines in islands of pavement, slip taxi taillights to cross. I don’t tell my mother that I can see them. Students in black, clotted on Harcourt Road. Teargas mists between forests of arms, legs, mouths. Theirs is the cry. I hover in air-conditioning, hair in wet ropes. Offer smiles as they sit in the cool, hands on phones, hearts on lips. They rise like water, roar in waves that chisel rock. I slip past the riot shields lingering in the park. Permanent resident, a cracked spine. Toe the steps back up the hill. I tell my mother about the sales, how the posters were torn down. No queues in the MTR. Yellow post-it notes peel like scales down my eyes. Home is a passage, disappearing under the current. I don’t tell my mother where I am headed.


II.
Unvoiced fears purchase paper notes. There are no Hong Kong people. The Basic Law simplifies it all. I find post-its glued all down the subway, secured by plastic. Temporary shelter from the climate. Most are Cantonese. All are love, all are hurt. I hesitate to share. Water could flow in a moment’s notice. Leave a mark among the urgent voices, turn for cover. My identity is scheduled for renewal in 2020 or 2021, Immigration Tower decides. 


III.
It’s ok when I get back to Perth, 
they say. Polite coffee hallways 
and sensible shoes. 
I don’t need to worry
about what colour
I am wearing 
and how
it will look 
when I enter. 
How good to be back
it’s such a shame
what’s happening. How 
are your parents? Is your brother
still at school? 
Open emails and calendar 
plotted in blue crosses, 
ripe as a bruise. I check in
manageable bites.
Bullet holes in a child’s leg,
lungs filled behind masks.
How nice to be 
behind lines 
where ghosts have to reach
to make the guilt fit
more easily. 

About the contributor

Siobhan Hodge has a Ph.D. in English literature. Her thesis examined the creative and critical legacy of the ancient Greek poet Sappho. She is the co-editor of Writ Poetry Review and winner of the 2017 Kalang Eco-Poetry Award, the 2015 Patricia Hackett Award for poetry, and was recently second in the 2019 Ros Spencer Poetry prize. Her work has been published in several places, including Overland, Westerly, Southerly, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Axon, Peril, the Australian Poetry Journal, and the Fremantle Press Anthology of WA Poetry. Her chapbook, Justice for Romeo, is available through Cordite Books.

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