Two Poems by Featured Poet, Judith Beveridge

HOLDING GROUND

Here are the fields I roamed as a child,
     fields wild-flowered and manured where stallions grazed
          and goats cropped the seeding tops.

Fields of wheat and oats, rising, falling, the wind oaring
     them hard. Here are the paddocks I crossed
          to watch girls weave

anklets of dandelion and meadow bane while geese flew
     overhead making their own taut skeins.
          This chicory, this plantain, this clover,

this foxtail, this creeping buttercup, this patch of purple
     sheep’s sorrel is where I’d run, snatching at stalks
          and stems, trilling sharp notes

to mimic the furious music of horseflies and bees
     swarming over the lush weave of burdock or vetch.
          All summer I roamed – a scheming

locust, a small dynast spending my days where spears
     and sheathes sifted breezes, grasses so thick they hid
          old foes: hares and foxes, snakes and crows.

Many times, across those pastures, I thought I could hear
     the breathing of ghost-horses, spirit-mares,
          the soft canter of foals –

but it was always just the whisper of wind. Here is the valley
     where small fires burned, sheep on the hill’s rise,
          patches of snow like roadside

flowers. Here are the mountains, dark smalt against
     a magenta dusk with pigeons and parrots, flocks
          of starlings and their spiraling

upsweeps, their endlessly reconfigured whereabouts –
     and the river, too, pitching into the distance
          like the tail of a black horse.  

.

.

THE WAITRESS

She walks along the pier listening to waves
roll in from a boat’s wash; there’s a clinking
of masts as if champagne flutes were being
tapped, ushering in a day of good cheer.
Perhaps later, after her shift, as she walks
home under the cold eucalypts, she’ll see
that stars have filled the sky like change in a tip-jar,
perhaps remember how out on the bay,
in bright sunshine, windsurfers steered sails
like huge cicada wings and clouds billowed
above the office blocks like rows of chefs’ toques –
or perhaps nothing today will defray
her mood and she’ll think only of the train
clucking across the bridge, how as she turned
to watch, she felt a tightness in her neck.
Perhaps like the night before, unable to sleep
and bitter about everything, she’ll sit with
her knees up, arms folded tightly around them,
repeatedly turning thoughts like pages of a stale menu.
Soon the doors of the café will swing open
to crumbs, a stack of plates, the fast spill of talk,
the manager will leer at her, and again she’ll
wonder if her future will always be bar-coded
to someone else’s price, if her days
will always hustle to cutlery and cups,
the propulsive rhythm of a till. A cruise ship,
vast as a glacier, glints at the terminus,
passengers with dreams as brightly labelled
as their luggage pack the gangway. Perhaps
she could find a job on one – a croupier,
cocktail waitress, spa hostess; see Fiji, Tahiti –
Honolulu – she’s always loved the breezy sway
of that name, but she blows away her dream
with a smoke ring, suddenly sensing
the clock ticking more urgently than her heart,
knowing she’s spent too long on the pier,
that she should be wiping tables, writing
out orders, table-chatter on playback,
coffee and cake on quick rotation. She walks
past the souvenir shops, averting her gaze
from her reflection. She throws her cigarette
into the gutter, scattering pigeons and gulls. 

You can read Denise O’Hagan’s interview with Judith Beveridge here

About the contributor

Judith Beveridge
Judith Beveridge is a Sydney-based poet and recipient of multiple awards, latterly the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Poetry (2019). She has published six volumes of poetry and was poetry editor for Meanjin (2005–2015). Her work is studied in schools and universities and widely translated. Her latest volume is Sun Music: New and and Selected Poems (Giramondo 2018).

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6 COMMENTS

  1. This is a mighty poet! For a time, I was that girl in the pastures of childhood- and then later, a waitress on her break from the clatter and bustle of the diner. Thanks Denise, for posting- now onto the interview!

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