Poetry by Penelope Layland


How was it she had never noticed the manoeuvre by which

he switched and re-switched so it was always he, not she,

at risk of the arc of water, oil and grit played upward

from the passing tyre, to drench his trouser leg, again?

The sleight of hand as he handed her, handled her,

steered her by her elbow, like a surgeon manipulating

a remote machine, a flensing knife or similarly subtle

instrument of kind correction.

And her nylons thanked him.

Her high, beige, suede heels thanked him.

Her dry-clean-only-ness thanked him.

Now, she walks as one winged – feeling unclipped.

The hairs flinch up from her forearm, naked on the street side.


She’s inscribing texts on her arms in needled ink, serif font, starting with Kerouac, from there to Woolf, Plath. As an infant, dandled naked and trusting on my hip, her arm brushed a radiator in deep Canberra winter, raising in an instant a field of ripe blisters, poised for wet blossoming. Each nudge, burn, break, caress, embrace, slip, slap, stitch, incision, leaves its protective carapace on skin. Ink alone is chosen, not chanced, eloquent, not delinquent.

Poetry by Penelope Layland

Penelope Layland is a Canberra-based poet and former journalist. Her most recent book, Things I’ve thought to tell you since I saw you last (Recent Work Press), was a winner in the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards, and was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize (2019) and the ACT Book of the Year Award (2019).

About the contributor

Related Articles

Analog Beauty – Jordan Trethewey

Jordan Trethewey considers 'the dust of unassuming lives' in these two compelling poems

A Venetian Pizzeria at 8 pm

Chloe Marer enjoys gardening, baking, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

John Huey- Flight

Flight I have been rowed across the Volga and seen the sun breach the waters. Gone in the mist in Delhi late at...

More Like This

New Poetry -Roy Liran.

Beached boats at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer He divides the canvas in unequal halves of equal size, a bladed horizon for skies and earth, for man and woman, rich and poor, birds and...

Dick Jones- New Poetry

BERTRAGHBOY BAY Where the ironstone wall gathers fuscia and salt; where the swifts stitch blue air to the scrub-grass; where herring gulls mob the heron; where cormorants hang wings on the...

Isobel Cunningham. Summer On The Canadian Shield

Isobel Cunningham's poetry has appeared in Rat's Ass Review, The Lake and Silver Birch Literary Review.

After The Fight, The Paint

Jill Neimark is the author of adult and children's fiction, as well as a journalist

Poetry- Andrea Potos

My Uncle and the Undertakers They try so hard, the work that none of us would do--the embalming, casketing, the cossetting; and the person dressed in his satin...