REBECCA EDWARDS


Rebecca Edwards is a poet and visual artist living in Brisbane, Queensland. Her second
book of poetry, Scar Country, was published by University of Queensland Press in 2000.
Her third book, the verse-novel Holiday Coast Medusa, was published by Five Islands
Press in 2002. Rebecca was Asialink writer in residence at Keio University, Tokyo, 2001,
and performed her poetry in New Zealand in 2002, and in Singapore in February 2003.
She is currently the recipient of an Australia Council grant to write a book of poetry
based on a three-month-stay in Nikko, Japan, from which she has recently returned.
She exhibited her drawings, intimate sculptures and papercuts in Townsville and Tokyo.
She performed during the Singapore Arts Festival in 2004 at the Arts House.








Being
for Paul

I conceived that first night we lay together
when you offered yourself to me,
pressing gently against my back
and I turned around on the bed
to kiss you

Later, as I drank you
something began in me: an almost imperceptible
heartbeat

I knew the symptoms: crying in the bath
and at any sudden beauty -
the flash of wings, a smell of growth
in the breeze.

At three months, I was afraid I'd lose it
the child budding in me. There was a day spent
huddled over the cracks in the floor.
But you were back by evening...
my hands stopped shaking...

Seven months.
Something that belongs to both of us
turns inside me
has your hands, my face.

Almost viable.
Almost
a being I can trust.
Although I know how dangerous it is.
How difficult the last few hours
must be.




The Woman on the Train

The manner of our meeting
is not auspicious: my backpack
crammed to the zippers with books,
jacket, and art-making materials
drops out of the luggage rack
straight onto her head.

She has been reading her novel
since she boarded the train at Nagoya
and selected the seat beside me.
She cries out, and her can of iced tea
spills into her shoes.

I rush to lift three months of my life off her neck and shoulders.
When she can sit up straight again
she asks the young man in the seat behind her
to check her scalp for blood.
"I'm seventy two years old", she keeps saying
as if excusing her behaviour: that small and terrible cry.

I apologise in my most formal Japanese,
mopping at her stockings with tissues;
can I get her anything: aspirin? Some water?
But she shakes her head and sits for miles
with her eyes closed, crying silently,
the book in her lap.

Outside, the Japan of the brochures is flipped by idle hands:
plumed and glistening bamboo forests,
stony rivers, blue-tiled towns.
Mt Fuji, in its bathrobe of dirty air,
stalks away over the plain.

At Yokohama the woman opens her eyes, turns to me
and begs my pardon, bowing her hurt head and shoulders.
The young man gets her bag down from the rack
as she bows to the passengers around her
apologising once more
for her disturbance.




At Yoshinoya

where a meal costs less than a postcard to Australia
I order: a large warm bowl of greyish rice
strips of grey beef laced with rainbow
and a raw egg to stir in with my chopsticks.
The skinny, pimply student hiding behind the rice-cooker
is glad when I can ask for it in Japanese.

Poor people come here; young men in worker's overalls
and grey-haired, stubble-faced elders
from the cities of cardboard.
It's bright
in the 24 hour popmusic
we come for the posters which say "Treat us like family!"
I devour the English on sweaters and tote-bags.

Strangers, we slurp and chew without speaking.

My favourite moment is when I call out "Gochisosama!"
and get out my 300 yen. My fingers brush
against his thin palm.
This, and the rice
gets me through the day.





At the Heritage Bar, Tweed Heads

There's a Heritage Bar in every town in Australia.
An RSL
a school of arts building
and, on the coast, a beach called Shelly
whether it's shelly or not.
There's a Criterion Hotel in Rockhampton
and in Townsville; "Come for a drink at the Cri"
"come for a drink at the Heritage."
The street names repeat themselves, named for blackbirders
explorers, peers and royals:
Victoria, Salisbury
Sturt Sturt Sturt.
Creeks are called Deep, or Sandy
or Massacre.
There's an anzac memorial, white-washed concrete and marble,
concrete wreaths and names, the same names repeating,
a dominant theme with minor local variations:
Laverty and Johnston
Phillips and Hargreaves,
Brown, Smith, Jones.
There's usually a big something-or-other; the Merino at Golbourn
the Prawn at Ballina
the Maroochydore Pineapple.
Coffs Harbour, with the highest level of birth deformities
in the country, from the spraying of those hills of blue bags,
celebrates with a Big Banana.
I've been through the Big Banana,
went through the gut of the Merino too, like a worm.
There are always things for sale; caps and keyrings
made in Taiwan. Steak sangas in white breadrolls.
There are always plastic tables, thin white paper napkins,
tinfoil ashtrays.
By the time the local Murris, or Kooris
get their previous ownership recognised
there's only one place left
for dot-painted dreamings:
a wall of the public toilet
in the park.





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