Poetry – By Sue Morgan


The Building of Tambo International Airport

I pedal full pelt, pell-mell down 
the back-straight road 
to blue, scented gum trees
and wild dens, 
where hordes from our migrant estate 
play chicken with bright liveried snakes.

Even fallen branches don’t stop us, 
we scamper, a plague 
into the forbidden forest. 
Black beetles shine, 
child-fist size,
diva chameleons with bulging eyes 
slow-strut their livid-skin switches.

Then rampant fire surprises us
like lightening strikes from unseen hands.
Incandescent wind, tree tops blow,
crackling red bundles
leap as though alive,
flaming 
and stealing the scant air.

I took you there years later 
expecting leopards, calm
and camouflaged by 
burnt-out rot and rising stumps, 
but all we saw were concrete compounds, 
razor wire with metal posts, tall 
as the lost eucalyptus.


Two Scythian Warriors
(at the British Museum)

On an axe-hewn, larch-wood bier,
like a chiselled god you lie stretched out.
She comes to wash your clay-caked form, 
fingers run full length along 
a gouged eye socket, 
a heart-shaped jaw,
lines she stitched many times before 
– back when you healed.

You’ll not heal now. Breathing
deep the numbing smoke, drinking
deep a slumbering draught, 
she folds an infant’s sheepskin coat, 
fixes it beneath your head, wraps 
your father’s ash remains in tattered silk 
around your vanquished chest.
Your right hand grips a drinking horn.

He fought to live and lived to fight.’
Golden strength gone and earlobe 
torn. She dresses you and 
then herself, and kneels 
before the waiting crowd;
accepts her fate. The mystery 
of such love transcends these bones. 
The earth held still your names.


The Arrowhead 

I am bone-hearted chert, 
ugly, inert blistered nodule, 
wiped clean with his froth and spittle, 

tapped to make me sing, 
a hidden core exposed, 
chipped, flaked – 
           napped into shape,

sharp as the splitting sun.
Fully-formed and notched to take a binding 
sinew –
            but I never saw a battle dawn,
complete and haft-free; taken 

from his soft goat-pouch at night, 
and rubbed with gentle touch 
along a honed flank, 
thumb testing the bite of my edge,

he smoothed and polished,
and dare I say it, 
loved.


Concatenation in Sleep

Reaching deep into my sleep,
she plucked a golden-mitred hummingbird
with wine-licked fingers 
and pinched thumb, 
then let it go 
like Cupid’s arrow 
from a bow, or Sappho’s 
gentle sparrow, 
all at once let loose 
into this heady, drunken, summer’s night.

Unsure of what I meant to do,
confabulated, 
I let the feathered creature settle 
in my mouth 
and bit 
until I felt it’s fragile bones
crack – and – crunch between 
the jutting peaks of my incisors.

Once upon a time I’d heard 
such lovebirds were delectable,
and edible,
and in my dream I’d inexcusably confused them.

 

 

 

Sue Morgan was a Winner of The Venture Poetry Prize

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