Emilie Collyer – Small in the scheme

Profile Collyer LEP&W ANZ May 2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2021
Special edition featuring poets from Australia & New Zealand.

Emilie Collyer lives in Australia, on Wurundjeri land, where she writes poetry, plays and prose. Her writing has most recently been published in Booth, The Blue Nib, The Ekphrastic Review, Rabbit, TEXT, Imagined Theatres, Australian Poetry Journal, Cordite and Overland. She was the 2020 recipient of a Varuna Publishing Fellowship with Giramondo Publishing. Recent plays are Contest, Dream Home and The Good Girl which has had numerous international productions. Emilie’s plays have won and been nominated for multiple awards including the Theatre503 International Playwriting Award (London), Queensland Premier’s Drama Award, Green Room Awards, George Fairfax, Patrick White and Malcolm Robertson. Emilie is a current PhD candidate in creative writing at RMIT where she is researching contemporary feminist writing practice.

Small in the scheme

Southern Tasmanian wilderness
dwarfs us eyes up necks strained
phone cameras impotent against these forever trees
dense damp trek is step after duckboard step
moss thudding feet and
breath in out the only sounds

inhaling is like sucking a sponge
the air over-abundant with water
and yet when the lake springs into view
it is still a miracle
fairy tale pool perfection
in the middle of the forest

we take off our shoes and stand
three sentinels in the squelch mud
so cold it hurts
grin our shared delight
dry our feet with socks
cosy them into shoes for the outward journey

darkness races down the epic trunks
is it an hour’s walk back?
none of us thought to time it
we walk single file
my eyes strain against the trick-grey light
follow the steady flash of her white runners

despite our step-family frictions
a primal drive arises
it is her ahead of me
on we go finding a rhythm
this giant ancient place prods me forward
an evolutionary step

Pod 4 Oncology

back of her head
white strands spread silk thin

the bob-headed woman
beside her tutting with hostile jollity

If anyone else acted like this
you’d say they were carrying on like a pork chop!

(my grandmother—days the hairdresser came
her hair washed and brushed so soft and neat)

her name is Kit the woman
keeps punctuating sentences with it

It’s just a check-up Kit if this is the worst thing
you have to do you’re a very lucky lady

Kit’s blue coat shoulders just tense enough
to hold a cup of tea      ‘I don’t want any more’

Sorry she used to go to the dentist
and be just fine            but now

(my grandmother falling on the concrete steps
mother reaching out to catch her)

it’s empty for a Monday not too long a wait
just enough time to shout Kit a rousing chorus

about how silly she is being
to be so scared of dying

(later in the carpark Kit and the woman
steadying her gentle walking slow in the sunshine)


Christmas Eve eastern suburb streets

Driving home after church with my mother
service of nine lessons about the holy birth

Nice houses around here
windows glow with anticipation

Little hands leave plates of cookies and carrots
hospitality for the giver of gifts

At Kew Junction outside a pub
a man alone

White cap striped shirt blue jeans
bare feet and smiling wide grin full of gaps

Arms outspread he is turning
a slow steady spin

A woman passes
he welcomes her through his revolving doors

Head down and frowning
she scurries to get away

Dervish is ‘one who opens doors’
holy men holders of wisdom

Turn and turn for hours sacred ritual
I watch from my car

His face raised to the heavens
the lights change I drive on

© Emilie Collyer