Contemporary Australian Poetry

Untitled by Jonothon Twist

Lucy by Andy Jackson

after The Secret Garden

by Carolyn Abbs


During the interval of the Haydn choral concert,

my sister (once princess of the dress-up box) said      Let’s go...

We went down the side of the church,

slipped through a gate —

the brass padlock a fake for those in the know

into a flint-walled garden,      a kind of overgrown underground.

The light was green.

A soliquacity:

sparrows      finches      coo of wood pigeons,

bees on hives      and cabbage-white butterflies.

Trees      tall as stilts      connected earth to sky,

roots tipped ancient graves      almost merrily.

I craned forward but could not decipher a name.

It was a dead-quiet afternoon.      No traffic.

We looked at each other;

we’d gone back in time, she was nine.      I must call her Mary.

She wore a print frock, green      herring-bone braid around the hem.

Mine, identical in red      familiar      soft lawn against my skin.

Thunder rumbled in the distance      (furniture moved in heaven).

Bees swarmed overhead.

I said I’d read      bees are losing their olfactory sense,

pollution is the problem.

But the information had little application;

we were in a novel       from 1910.

Grasses and buttercups whispered to one other,

the wind puffed at dandelion clocks.

When it was time      for the concert to re-commence,

we trailed back inside,

slid along the pew      waited      in freckled silence.

Carolyn Abbs is a Western Australian poet published in Westerly, Cordite, Rabbit, The Best Australian Poems 2014, and other journals. Her PhD is from Murdoch University where she taught in the School of Arts for a number of years.