One poem by Kathryn Fry



After Nancy Millis AC, MBE, FTSE (1922–2012)


The aroma from apples cultured in the rolling
     green of Somerset, evoked the Victoria Markets
of her childhood, and her father the fruiterer
     (all his ducks were swans). Like an opening
to another landscape, she knew she belonged.

She chose sick cider to isolate the culprit prokaryote,
     to pin-prick from pea-green plates to set its doubling
in motion in steel-capped tubes of media. She’d
     watch and chart and recall its habits and reactions,
the crude window on the microbe’s soul.

The die cast in her early scholarly life to handle
     stains and solutions and shaped glass, even the acrid
scent of spent bacteria and molten agar. I don’t
     have ground-breaking ideas; I just did the stuff.
In her sabbatical in Tokyo, she joined two men –

their minds overlapping like a Venn diagram – to
     upscale the sphere of Biotechnology. She was positive
as a catalyst for the waste waters in Port Philip Bay
     and they’d laud her for that. And more. Blow that
for a lark she said and more, for instance,

about the influx of students in ’52, the flood
     was nose-high. To the end, she’d vet ethical checks
on experiments, her company sharp. She’d speak
     her mind in a man’s world – they’d laud her
for that. The outcomes I want are curious people… 

If you take on students you should not
                be anything but right at the edge.


Note: Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis was a microbiologist who introduced fermentation technologies to Australia. The italicised words are those she used in an interview.

About the contributor

Kathryn Fry
Kathryn Fry has had poems published in various anthologies and journals, including Antipodes, Cordite Poetry Review, Not Very Quiet, Plumwood Mountain Journal and Westerly. Her first collection is Green Point Bearings (Ginninderra Press, 2018).

Related Articles

Prose poetry by Rebecca Myers

Rebecca Myers is an Irish-born, New Zealand-based poet and playwright.

Two poems by Jules Leigh Koch

In our age of overblown expression, the chiselled lines and deliberate imagism of Australian poet Jules Leigh Koch are a real treat!

2 poems by Brent Cantwell

Brent Cantwell is a New Zealand-born, Queensland-based writer and high-school teacher.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More Like This

A Concrete Poem by Carolyn Cordon

Carolyn Cordon is a writer, poet, and editor of the monthly newsletter Mallala Crossroad Chronicle. She has published two poetry collections (Ginninderra Press)


City dwellers, this provocative poem by Nicole Sellers, with its ironic delivery and thickly packed images, will make you look twice at how you live your life!

2 new poems by Paul Williamson

Paul Williamson is author of five collections, including the recent Edge of Southern Bright (Ginninderra Press, 2017).

2 Poems by Mark Mahemoff

Mark Mahemoff is a poet, critic and psychotherapist with an MA in Writing from The University of Technology, Sydney.

Poetry by Eugen Bacon

Eugen Bacon’s work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Award, Australian Shadows Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans.