Michelle Cahill is the author of The Accidental Cage, shortlisted
in the 2007 Judith Wright Prize, and edited the transnational
anthology Poetry Without Borders (Picaro, 2008). With Boey Kim
Cheng, she co-founded and co-edits the on-line Asian-Australian
literary journal, Mascara.


Wood smoke wafts in the performing eucalypts,
wind stirs in corridors around the sloping eaves.
Cicada nymphs have secretly buried their song.

Have you noticed the fragile scent of hyacinths?
How the heavily lacquered camellia, pink
reticulata and red japonica preserve their blush?

Indigo-grey, the colour of ghost gums slanting
into a faint sky is now compromised. The heart:
a lizard's pulsed inertia, no longer somersaults.

Maybe late afternoon is autumn; summer's retreat
not being archived, but suspended, as the feathered
vane of a bird wings its way across the avenue.

The Mating Game

I, too, should like to clock my
long-distance blood. I'd like
to be tossed in high altitudes,

so foreign and far from my
home. I'd curve my wings, take
the advantage of a tail wind,

I'd follow frequencies unheard,
waves on distant shores, the sun
my compass, the canopies my grid.

But today the widowhood cock
is released again. He's deprived
and unsatisfied, while his lesser

rival has a way with me. Lady-in
-waiting, I suffer his quixotic race,
till he bows, coos at our dove-cote,

ever ardently. My own memory
of flight is swollen not by love
or grain, but by a hen's instinct.


His fingers moved like shards in a shattering light,
here and nowhere. Strange, the heart remembers
nothing about the accident moment, only the exact
sequence of one brief episode tripping over the next.
Robust and mechanical, the heart is a vacuum which
filters every corpuscle back to its buried chambers.
Her breath sinks into this world, its misplaced time,
velvet-lined rooms, whose walls are porous, if only
to darkness. There was a price for every glance, you
could say more than a graze, yet her smile flashes
bright as new skin. Forgetting is like trying to untie
an invisible knot, the day an ache. She is abandoned
by the side of a well, emptying it of words. The trees
are shimmering, the light golden, pressed by clouds.


The pink azaleas, their frosted mouths cry
open, as I take my evening stroll,
as the siren of an ambulance echoes
another rescue in the valley.
Strangers pass me in the dark,
like small gods, unannounced,
weary after the day's compromise.
This afternoon it rained bitterly.
Last night's snow was a cold blessing,
everywhere, so you said.
An email arrives twice,
like yesterday's headlines.
So much is uncertain.
Is anyone listening to these words?
Will the moon retract her promise
or elope?
Perhaps there is truth,
there are lies pretending to be truth.
There is someone falling hard,
and something falling out, carelessly
I would like to stop rehearsing.
I would like to love with an empty heart,
on days such as these, so swollen
with despair.
Somehow, I believe that you are mine.

Back to Front.