Blood Sport (Penelope Layland)

Ruin porn
Walls skinned by spalling,
scalloped as vertebrae with a twist.
Gyprock musty as summer sheets—
3am, again at 6.
Shadows attach to ambiguous shapes
through windows with no gaze.
There’s the squeak, in wind, of a letterbox flap,
a dry rattle of dead snails.
Dark-glossed, the architrave,
with the grease and graze of fingers,
almost always unsteady.
A stripped and rotting mattress
is dented in two places
rarely ready.
Blood sport
‘Do you even like roses?’
Walking the fenceline,
snatching yellowed weedheads
as though the mess
could be righted
by such small fidgets.
My point is, was, still is,
that thorns render weeding
a blood sport,
but that roses, heady,
heavy with earwigs,
clubbed with spider nests,
are worth it.
I watch your cross fingers twitch
and the seedheads tumble.
The skin of your fingers
and wrists audibly rips.
Once I slept meagerly,
ate untimely cereal by the bowl,
read pages numberless.
Questions kept me waking:
how to comprehend
the geometry of a wasp’s nest
or what bird it was that said
‘Oi’, ‘Oi’ in a child’s voice
in the secretive scrub?
Now, I read even Derrida
before bed with equanimity,
am satisfied by a description
of the nightingale’s song
(“a fast succession
of high, low and rich notes”)
need no actual notes,
just notes about notes
and a suffix of sleep.

Penelope Layland is a Canberra poet. Her 2018 collection, Things I’ve thought to tell you since I saw you last, was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize and the ACT Book of the Year and was a winner in the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards. Her most recent collection, Nigh, was published by Recent Work Press in October 2020.