Passages, poems by Dr Robyn Rowland AO
Dr Robyn Rowland AO (http://robynrowland.com) is an Australian-Irish dual-citizen, annually visiting Ireland for thirty-three years, now living half-time in Connemara. She regularly visits and works in Turkey. She has written twelve books, nine of poetry. Robyn’s poetry appears in national and international journals and in over forty anthologies, including seven Best Australian Poems: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2004 (Black Inc.), with editors Les Murray, Robert Adamson, Lisa Gorton and Geoff Page; and Being Human, ed. Neil Astley, (Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2011). Her work has been awarded a number of prizes and she has published and read in Australia, Ireland, Japan, Bosnia, Serbia, Austria, Turkey, Canada, India, New Zealand, Portugal, the UK, the USA, Greece and Italy. Robyn’s poetry has been featured on Australian and Irish national radio programs. Robyn has two CDs, Off the Tongue and Silver Leaving — Poems & Harp with Lynn Saoirse. Dr Robyn Rowland AO was an Honorary Fellow, School of Culture and Communication 2008-2012, University of Melbourne; was a member of the National Advisory Council for Australia Poetry Ltd 2010-2013; curated and presented the Poetry & Conversation Series for the Geelong Library Corporation, 2010-2013; and was inaugural Deputy Chair of the Board of the Australian Poetry Centre 2007-2009. Previously Professor of Social Inquiry and Women’s Studies at Deakin University, she retired in 1996 and was created an Officer in the Order of Australia for her contribution to higher education and women’s health.
Recent books: Line of Drift, Doire Press: http://www.doirepress.com/writers/k-z/robyn_rowland/ . This Intimate War Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 – İçli Dışlı Bir Savaş: Gelibolu/Çanakkale 1915, Turkish translations Mehmet Ali Çelikel from Five Islands press: http://fiveislandspress.com/catalogue/this-intimate-war; Bilge Kültür Sanat, Istanbul, http://www.bilgeyayincilik.com/kitap.asp?ID=735
From the sequence Family Catalogue
23 February 1886
There was a hush. Lace stilled at the window ajar.
His breath caught, finally. Night, and I swear
I heard the pain of a curlew’s cry
piercing its way up from Cork harbour,
renting the curtain aside with its long beak.
But I’m tired. Three months of his coughing blood,
crimson everywhere. And him, always telling me
we’d be all right. The pension fund.
I watched it rise from him – life – pass by me,
brush lightly my bare arm, a sigh of caress and it was gone.
John at twenty-two has to inform another death.
And William only fourteen. Robert seems unsteady but
then how could they be unscarred by all this loss. We’ll send word
to his family. Good to see them but a long journey from Laois
if they make it. I can’t bear the thought of all the planning.
‘Police pensioner’ they will write on the death form.
Not – a man who remade so much hardness into funny tales
we’d forget ourselves for moments, the empty places.
Not – a man who did his job not always believing it was right.
Not – a man to be missed, who never struck his wife.
All the man I ever wanted. A strength of will to match
my own, good company talking politics and change,
a way with him that made the children unafraid of
all kinds of darkness, those blue eyes that stirred me
these many years, and his body wool-warm along me at night.
Oh love, I’ll take your cooling hand,
trail your fingers stiffening along my breasts
till they run up to the collar bone you loved to kiss
tonguing memory into my skin, the shine and sing of it.
Oh friend, husband, I feel the defeat of death in me.
Seven and the Cook
Retreat at Sangsurya
Mindful eating turns a simple meal into a spiritual experience … food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work. Thich Nhat Hanh
One creates percussion
chopping deep then high,
whipping the cream by hand
tapping the side of the bowl,
Two relishes the splay of colour.
Beans, green as grass newly filled with rain,
capsicum, red as bougainvillea flowering
beside the meditation hall,
avocadoes creamy as custard, tinged lime.
Three peels back layers of onion,
rubs dirt off potatoes,
scrapes skin from sweet potato,
chops off the hide of pumpkin,
polishes aubergine purple as pomegranate.
Four sorts bitter greens –
sorrel, dandelion, endive –
leaves that leave no doubt
stinging on the tongue, but when mixed
with others, their nature improves.
Five enables sweetness,
melting slabs of dark chocolate
to make a cake fit for the table
of the Four Divine Abodes.
Six finds complexity
in the silver labyrinth of red cabbage,
beetroot’s white almost-invisible capillaries
tearing apart the contrast in
lettuce leaves both white and green.
Seven moves back and forth, assisting,
washing, her attention on shape –
the roundness of apples, the long fresh-seeded
thrust of cucumber, separated eggs floating
round as apricot moons in their translucent universe.
Each day the perfume of pears,
tantalising crushed rind of orange,
aromatic lemongrass, light-headed beside
erotic mint, is crushed into our skins,
carried away with us into our silence.
Everything is done in communion,
peace with attention. Outside, the ocean,
trees conversing in a light wind,
whip-birds making a call that takes two.
Joy is here, to be off our knees in kitchen work
worshipping in willing servitude
our great chef who with kind words,
puts the jigsaw into place, an ecstasy of taste.
Yes – it takes all this mindfulness, the Seven,
and Merdita, our cook, to feed us fully.
© Robyn Rowland