Gayelene Carbis – Hedda Gabler

Profile Carbis LEP&W ANZ May 2021

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

Gayelene Carbis is an award-winning Australian-Irish-Cornish-Chinese writer of poetry, prose and plays. Her first book of poetry, Anecdotal Evidence (Five Islands Press) was awarded Finalist – International Book Awards, 2019. Gayelene has been shortlisted for/ awarded numerous poetry and short story prizes, including: Montreal Poetry Prize; Fish Poetry and Memoir Prizes (Ireland); and “The Age” and “Australian Book Review” Short Story Awards. Gayelene’s work has been published and performed in Australia and overseas, including India, Malaysia, Edinburgh, Oxford, New York, and in Canada, where she was awarded a Scholarship for a Banff Writing Studio Residency. Gayelene teaches Creative Writing at various universities and community organisations and is a Writer-in-Residence in schools. Her most recent prizes include – First Prize -My Brother Jack Poetry Award; and Finalist in the Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize and the Woorilla Poetry Award (2020). Gayelene has recently completed her second book of poetry and is working on a collection of short stories.

Hedda Gabler

she burns his manuscript and I cry out –

see the flames rising up like flags
of protest, the smoke stifling the air
and seeping into her black lonely lung
which waits for the wound. What lengths
will she go to? How could she – ?

Yet there you are, 3am at some incinerator
in an industrial backwoods, shoving down
a chute twenty years of your life to make
space for me in our new life.

All those proofs which could be shored up as
evidences of who you were and where
you’ve been have gone up in smoke or
lie buried under trash-mounds.

And you insist I know you now two years down
the track but all I can think about is all that
work you’re throwing away – old poetry
and songs you wrote for other lovers.

You leave me here at Santucci’s
looking through a window waiting while
you go back home to organise the furniture
so we can begin our lives.


That strange look on his face again
saying some woman from work
looked very closely at the photo
he put back on the desk that’s new
in the new workplace
where no poster-board boasts a ticket stub
from a film he saw
with some other woman
and now
it’s a half-knowing smile
with its eyes wide open
pretending to be gauche
as a teenager with a girl
and the fluttering eyes say
what can this mean?
it doesn’t take much to see
it’s starting again
and how
the fervent I’m home and you’re here kisses
that sweep me around the kitchen
like an affair just beginning
take on a different light
at the end of the day

The Good Breast

It was Christmas Eve at St Vincent’s Hospital breakfast time when they
brought me round it was morning and just before nine a bell in the
background rang in my mother’s sleep and she almost believed she’d
been dreaming of convents but it was only a memory of primary school
and climbing the rope to ring out lunchtime she says she offered but I
turned away I baulked at my mother’s breast wouldn’t take to the nipple
there are babies like that (my brother too) spitting out mother’s milk
I was swaddled in and brought to her bed but she worn out from birth
waved me away terrified she’d drop me and like an egg I’d crack shells
on the floor or she’d sleep and roll on top of me with her milk-laden
breasts maybe they brought me for feeding yes it’s hard to get a story
straight when someone says why do you want to know as if you are
interrogating a war crime maybe I knew that food was dangerous
there were few nutrients there or it could be it came from her young
green ignorant scared brown from the sun yellow it’s supposed to come
naturally but does it a girl unschooled alone in a bed but still love
is not pure that has no boundaries my mother’s milk must have dried
up and withered away and died but she never cried no use crying
over spilt milk she’d say and she took me home and loved me to death

© Gayelene Carbis