Born in 1981, Sam Byfield is the author of the chapbook From the
Middle Kingdom
and his first full length collection Borderlands
is forthcoming through Puncher and Wattmann. His poetry has
recently appeared in such publications as Heat, Meanjin, Island,
Southerly, The Asia Literary Review, The National Poetry Review
and Cordite.

A Christmas Poem

that begins with a new neighbour,
short, stubbled, suspect
in that Mafioso kind of way;
a mechanic chasing the money,
he tells us, before asking where
we work - making sure we're not
detectives who'll care about
the business he does out the back,
the steady stream of crooked cops
and blokes in stolen cars;

and shifts to that little bird,
that little dusk bird
who announces each sunset
with an ebullient flutter
and a symphony, as if
the backyard is a concert hall
and the clothesline is a stage;

and ends with my family
spread around a table,
hands damp with the juice of prawns,
sunburns glowing, a perfect angel
watching on as if to remind of bullets
dodged, the moments of luck
that keep people together.

Beneath a Soppong Sun

There are bears up here, he says,
bears, boars, snakes. The sun
beats down. He points out a pocket

of leaves that ants have carried and
sewn together ten metres up a tree -
their nest. In my village, he says,

if you see a King Cobra you must kill it.
He tilts his hand - a cobra rearing up.
If he bites, you have maybe an hour,

then no more
, he says with flair;
this warning in a place not accessible
by car and hours from antivenom.

I tell him the story of a younger me,
out on the farm, a five foot brown
snake stalking us around the house

before I took pre-emptive action,
lopping off his spitting head with
the edge of a shovel, my pulse

working overtime. Papaya trees rise
from the ridge like tufts of hair.
We pass through a tiny village

where young girls have babies
strapped to their backs, and pigs play
in the mud between unexpected

solar panels. I click off a photo
and the fat sow grunts, flicks babies
from her teats and positions herself

squarely between us and them,
thinking they're on our dinner menu.
Tilting up through tangled jungle

to a clearing we meet two men,
threshing crops until red beans fall
onto blue tarpaulin. They offer us

a handful, sweet as candy.
One man smiles and offers me
his stick. I beat beans loose,

working on the fine balance
between whack and flick, thinking
that it's hard bloody work, but then

remembering the ten miles
straight uphill we have ahead of us
and my already burning calves

and thinking maybe I'd like to
stick around, just for a few hours.

Southerly Impromptus

Frangipanis, yolks
fallen from a red sky


Curve ball of head lights,
a distant lighthouse


Storm swell,
gauzy boats
in and out of view


The cat, flushed inside,
social for the first time
in years


Antennae exploring the sky,
hands from graves


The tops of heads
in windows, black and white
of tvs on walls


Little islands. Rain,
insistent as a tide


The neighbours argue, ferns
thrash against the wind


Bats weave cloud with cloud,
a damp night clammer


Fishing boats retreat,
spindly as spiders


The downpipe's anxious
torrent, an urge
to say everything at once


From a different angle,
crayon smudges
on dark canvas

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