Jane Williams is the author of three collections of poetry and
one of short stories. Her poems have been widely published
since the early 1990's. Awards for her poetry include the
Fellowship of Australian Writers Anne Elder Award for her
first book outside temple boundaries, the D.J O'Hearn Memorial
Fellowship and the Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize. She lives in
Hobart, Tasmania. The last poem in this set is taken from
Begging the Question (Ginninderra Press 2008). Samples of
her work can be found here.


between the mall and the restaurant strip where for a block or two the houses fall back then disappear like lucky breaks and the street poorly lit unpeopled becomes a canvas for reading between the lines their paths cross closely enough for her to see the blood half dried crisscrossing his face they do not make eye contact but she looks away just in case this is one of those unsolved mysteries about the disappearance of a young woman after a night out in a town where everyone thought they knew everyone she's seen them plastered on shopfronts prophetic smiles staring out from home made posters for days afterward she reconfigures the pattern of blood into a birthmark or a tattoo reminds herself this is not a war zone scans the local news paper for evidence of an over active imagination

The Next Level

as if all it took all along was a child
fishing from the right side of the boat
to encourage miracles
a pocket full of skipping stones
smooth and flat and unwritten
as if he had been given the exact date
and time of his death though perhaps
not the random cause the butterfly effect
a man is hauling up old friends old flames
deep longings partially sated
each part worth the weight of the whole
telling each one how good they've been
how he loves them still and still
this tender ache to take it to the next level
what if he added say the old school bully
to the list what if he were the old school bully
no mud lover but a bottom dweller nonetheless
luminosity the stuff of science fiction
a bedtime story designed to frighten children
well away from the real thing
only this day with the light cast just so...

Beautiful Darlings

as old women they will reminisce not dispassionately
the name of the café where they met how coded talk
found its groove between karma and shopping
the husbands who were lovers the lovers who were not
convinced the rest of the world had their best interests at heart
the hardest choices being pocket money's pick and mix
and the kiss and drop off at the school gates leaving the aftertaste
of mild panic and the urge to rewind the biological clock
over good coffee and cake the volatile world of children
ever present just below the froth and frosting
the unborn the just born then the ones who made it
tethered to the examples they set all the invisible mends
the way the manager approached their table each time as if
for the first time and though they never once changed their orders
addressed them collectively in almost reverent cadences
and what can I do for you, my most beautiful darlings?


there's a man who wakes our street
to that hour between witching and dawn
most used for dying and for being born
he paces and moans like he already knows
who will be taken and who will be left alone
those of us who dare untuck a sleep-warm arm
raise a dream-filled head and peek from safe houses
at the shape of such a man but it is the hour
and the tone that warn we roll over keep listening
some of us urging him on and on
some of us double-checking locks and the breathing
of sleeping children some of us remembering
where the bullets are hidden our trigger fingers
twitching like guilt between the sheets some of us
think we understand and loved ones have to hold us
back from running out into the night ready to join
our rusty voice to his desperate for a cause

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