Joanna Preston is a Tasmanaut poet, editor, and freelance creative writing tutor. The garden is rampant; the chooks have annexed the bottom quarter-acre as a sovereign nation; and the Very Understanding Husband has started muttering German in his sleep.
Happy hour at Luca’s tavern
Luca joked his wife had teeth like stars –
they came out at night, and set
unforgivingly at dawn.
A man with a roundabout
about his heart, my mother said,
an honorary uncle
with a smile like a shot of sambuca
for the mamas and their lovely
He joked his wife had teeth
like stars – they glimmered
A man with a magician’s knack
for cutting girls in two.
He liked his pumpernickel thin,
his beer blonde and tall,
and his women. All Happy Hour
he rang the till like churchbells.
But Rhoda, wild Aunt Rhoda,
was the ancient oak that anchored
the centre of his wildwood,
the saint whose plaster image
ruled the convent of his days.
Luca joked that his wife
had teeth like stars, her smile
A man could chart his future
in the patterns that they made.
I could have buried a bottle, with a draft
of this poem tucked inside,
little ship of words, adrift
in the vastness of the earth,
or, no— set alight, the funeral pyre
of a viking skald, ablaze
and sailing on to the place
where the setting sun answers fire
with fire, the horizon a whale-road
of dying flame, and no-one living to tell
which the ember, which the ash, which
lost utterly to darkness,
and maybe my words
could have reached you, even then,
even now, as you are, folded
in on yourself like a map,
in your hospital chair and dressing-gown,
the world contracted
to the sound of the nurse
in the hallway, her sensible shoes, the smell
of the flowers I picked you this morning,
petals just starting to loosen from bud,
like a small voice, preparing to speak.