Poems from Year of the Wasp (Joel Deane)

Paramedics arrive.
Give him a shot of Stemetil             
              as he thinks of holding 
a match burning down 
to the pinch, of a summer sun setting 
behind a line of Norfolk pines,
of the resonance of cicadas in January,
of men loading fishing boats onto 
              weeping trailers—
He murmurs as they cart him from the house,
‘Love is as the pilot of a TV series never made.             
              Not enough.’
He slurs, ‘I have to spew.’
And the ambo goes, 
‘Use the bag, champ.’
And the nurse goes, 
‘Do you know where you are?’
And he goes, 
‘In an ambulance.’
Although he isn’t. Not anymore.
              And, so, the interrogations begin as 
stalactites of blood 
                                 coagulate, sharpen 
into stakes above bed eight.

The giant toad squatting, 
dead centre of the room,
is not a figment, 
but a fact. He lies on 
its white tongue as a black swan 
of a woman wheels above him.

Feathers tickle skin that covers 
the too-small skull that is his face; 
remind him of Coole, 
of a funeral
in his brain, of nothing. 
Smiling, she says, ‘So,

you want Miles Davis.’ Shows
a set of small white baby teeth 
that were never lost, slides 
the tongue back inside 
the gullet, where he lies, 
picturing her eating meat

rare at Vlados. Her voice is piped 
through his headphones.
She says, ‘Remain perfectly still,’ 
although nothing ever is.
Then Something Blue begins and he thinks, 
‘Almost nothing.’


His life repeats on the portable TV
to the hospital ceiling.
The actor playing him 
is blonde, but the Minobos 
             plays herself in 
the sex scenes where 
the he that is not him
presses the she that is her
into the bed—searching
for the part of her 
that cannot lie.


joel dean
Joel Deane is a poet, novelist, journalist and speechwriter. He has published seven books and been a finalist for the Melbourne Prize for Literature and the Walkley Book Award, as well as being short listed for the Anne Elder Award. In 2012, Joel had a stroke and lost the ability to write poetry. His new poetry collection, Year of the Wasp, tracks his struggle to rediscover a poetic voice. Find more from Joel on his website.