Kathryn Hummel is a writer and researcher whose creative and scholarly works
have been widely published/presented/translated/anthologised/recognised. Currently,
she edits non-fiction and travel writing for Australia's Verity La. Kathryn's fifth volume
of poetry is forthcoming with Singapore's Math Paper Press and her sixth and seventh
with London's Prote(s)xt Books.

At the Parlour

I am being uncomfortably attended, stripped of
the tent of my clothes, the base of my sandals, the
familiar hoist of my bra. All the flags of my camp have
been lowered and hang in a darkened inner chamber
watching for the sunrise of my identity, waiting to be

In the clearing, my skin has been oiled and swathed
in fabric the colour of an amethyst dusk, held tight
across my sunstruck chest in a pure suffering of
elegance. Elegant again, my slick body slips down
the chair and fastens, luxuriantly helpless, while my
hands and feet are taken from me and otherwise
engaged: doused, smoothed and creamed in a veil
of cherry blossom.

My honoured irregularity disturbs the hierarchy
of this space. Too impatient, too apologetic,
unyielding under the pressure of pampering.
Nearby, women plated with twenty-four karats
recline like unworthy queens. The attendants
who reduce their lines, extract their dust, mask
their breasts and faces with tinctures of rose or
pearl or oxygen spin like fine strands of silk over
manufactured satin.

Hidden from view, elsewhere the sun clocks his
dragging arc. A phone rings against the code of
tranquil silence. She who speaks breaks off at
intervals to inspect the crescent moons painted
at the tip of each finger and to palm thick wads of
hair. Once a man was moved to tell me my unruly
head looked better when compressed; another
declared my hands and legs bristled like a boy's,
how it dismayed him to make love to anything less
than smoothly female.

I sit quietly being stripped of a casing fair but
blemished, still with time to contemplate my further
divestment, a deeper mining for my beauty. Time
to consider being closed into an antechamber for
surreptitious rituals with a bottle of peroxide and
complete privacy, or the tenderly moulded arc of
a lover's pubic bone for prominence and ease. I am
offered another glass of lime juice, a cup of honeyed
tea I wait to sip.

All nature is sacred but concealed and some elements
more significant than others. My patience aches while
my nails gleam. I await my release into a habitat where
I use my toes for balance. In stealth I give the wildflowers
more rupee. My dirty hide hangs free as I course into the
outside air, sensing the welcome of the spores snagging
pincers in my shorn, untreated hair.

And the morning

We don't know where the next party's at—

for years and years
I've bled

and that is that. Self-contained
sleeper, fervent fatalist—

the morning tries on a different dissonance
slips pictures in our pockets

coaxes open our eyes and legs

I've bled and bled
till dead, near-dead

the very thought endears?

We are sweet and dry
low as we can go—discreetly

clothed. And the morning
shudders mostly on its rails

spitting minutes likes motes
of dust

I staunch with words. You
sleep more

and more, looped up
reeled to black

this way—I, rewound,
to that.

The Port

Seagulls scream the sounds
the bleak vicinity restrains

Under such a tranquil sky
chalked up a bit by cloud
the Port shines like a Christmas cracker
with a bloody dud inside

We've all been here before
year after fucken year
eating kranskies at the Port
against the empty tide

The tourists are bedazzled:
there are dolphins in the water
and a million pewter ripples
with the same tinfoil gleam as space

A river can't be gentrified:
the shipping yards stay upright
though there's no pumping heart inside

Hart's Mill's aged just enough
to shade organic grocery stalls.
The pallid hands that press the fruit
hang their harnessed dogs around

(Signal sympathy from the granny
pulling now from cardboard coffee
and next from ashing fag)

Close by, around the table
skeletons are dissected,
the Grand Old Pubs lamented

In their leadlight rooms you'd get
a schnitzel and a lemon squash
for the price of two cut lunches
and the company of our Gramp
as your local larrikin

If they remain open
all remaining pubs stay open
and around them, for all time
outside Danny's Mini Donuts
a thin line winds

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