An Abyss of Feathers
(Anne Elvey)

memorial coin

a rainbow of magic possums
plays ring-a-rosie
on the $2 coin she

passes for the boat ride to free-
dom saying listen
listen to me listen

to the swell of the torn
sea circling de-
tention. her words slice an infant’s

skull like a soft-
boiled egg, knife into
mind dips, as if a soldier

into yolk. the wall of
Dumpties keeps toxic
compact with truth. ask

Pilate his proper
tag. ask what’s in a
name. hear him counter, what is

Trump? all
the Duttons are sitting on
fences looking up syn-

onyms for detention.
Roget says, try
kidnapping. when a detainee

falls, she is saying
no one else treats me
the way you do. it’s not a

compliment. with the sea
between duress and roiling
words, her bum presses

into sand. a coin
washes up. she
buries it beside her shoe.

an abyss of feathers

   through curvatures
of thought her
glance crosses currents with
     her smile (a
daddy’s voice) her eyes
   pinched briny with
blur as (he

   a bougain-
villea trailed
around a station in the north)
     she genuflects
before a squid’s
   bath inking
consultations with

what saves
and time?) beyond
which is this welcoming
     abyss of
feathers fragrant
   with an other
tenure the

   renounced for
enthralment when each dapple
of sunlight will be
     her signifier
for the scarcely-
   claimed loosening thighs
of her pith

Each cell cultivates its neighbours

Her plaits were rigorous though the seat ground when the two-wheeler careened over stone. All summer the soil was tight. The sky. The air. Like a griddle. Mirror to mirror to receding squares — my father drafts a sketch for a cube. Her ribbon came undone. Thorns laddered her hose. Blooms gave their name to fingered prayer. Dimensions are subtracted, he teaches, to the plane. Oh how could she convince the future to behave? His mother’s name brings me to Cork. She dreamt a pebble above a crater. Rare as a bible sprouting from spinifex, her tears pocked soil the shade of blood. The flight is late. Rain-washed, her stone gleamed charcoal and ash. A hint of pearl. Her terraced mind sank into her gut. Irish beer is on the house. She climbed, ladder by ladder. At 3am the hire desk is open. The car nudges through murk. Her body dropped to grass, her eyes fixed on forest, spine toward deep. Feet wet in the Atlantic I read of famine and blight. She mourned a svelte life dressed in off-cuts of chiffon, obedient to the wind. Shingle and spud of chance — colleagues make angels in the long spring grass. Tourists with children crashed into her grief. She had no option but to be altered matter, obligatory preserve. Against the jamb, on the white-wash cottage of generations leaning, I leave. She strode over sunlit lawn, the air loud with birds. I cannot compass the Tralee romance of the rose. Grevillia burst. She was a net, strained around a cluster of marbles, holding against their mass.


A portrait of Anne Elvey

photo credit: Monica Williams

Anne Elvey is author of White on White (Cordite 2018) and Kin (FIP 2014), co-author with Massimo D’Arcangelo and Helen Moore of Intatto (La Vita Felice, 2017), and editor of hope for whole: poets speak up to Adani. She is managing editor of Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics.