How the Angels Covet Heaven (Damen O’Brien)

Perhaps we were birds once, in another life,
careless with the effervescence of the air, 
perhaps a pinion or a plume still crowds our
heavy shoulder blades, itching to erupt. 
The wake is beautiful at night, quilted as a 
featherbed of white, tumultuous and broad and
the cruise ship carries laughter on the breeze, a 
string of fairy lights twinkling on each deck, 
and if there is sadness anywhere, it gathers here, 
fascinated by the things it cannot have, the 
weight of love, the heavy burdens of desire. 
When a cruise ship leaves its port it carries coffins, 
for the passengers who choose to step into
the glorious argument of water, which is the wake, 
and discard that part that could not be a bird.


Damen O’Brien is a Queensland Poet. In 2020, Damen won the Moth Poetry Prize and the Newcastle University Poetry Prize and has been shortlisted in many other poetry prizes. Damen’s first book of poetry will be published by Recent Work Press in 2021.