KA Rees – Death Watch

KA Rees LEP&W V1 Dec 2022

Download PDF Here 13th Anniversary
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume One December 2022.

Death Watch, poems by KA Rees.

Death Watch

He lies in his bed throat coated with morphine, drowning.
Davis plays Blue in Green, So What? You hear him say, listen
before you breathe, and play what isn’t there
but the death rattle comes, the catch of it. In your hands an ice-cream
bucket; the astringent bile a bitter sway, reminding you death is forever
a colour and knocking in the eves could be ghosts or ghouls
or beetles that hollow oak beams like butterscotch, their dance
slow ossification. You see them as tiny seeds building jaws
as you sit with the plastic tub weeping—this putrescence cost
so much; myrrh or frankincense would fetch less, but it was not
for you to choose: this death was coming, not like a train funnelling
through fog, droplets coalescing around the engine as momentum
builds. No. This death came as the house was eaten—
the decaying frame softened like metastasised cells—
by water, disease, the slow teeth of time.

Five fragments from childhood


Your mother worked dreams gathered from dust,
made chimes for the milkman on his run. Minutes
performed pirouettes and blackness snagged your mother’s hand:
a thimble was all the protection she held against night’s uncanny passage.


In burnished heat you run over bluff bitumen, feet stinging a peculiar song
to the ocean pool—that wedge of tight humanity a wound, tide kissing rock.


Nymphs ground-fallen burrow, sap-fed on roots
in their underground cocoon for seven long years. Digging
out their soil sarcophagi they climb onto bark, shed one last time.

Greengrocers and double drummers play at midsummer’s dusk
full-throated their lust, the evening susurrus—a dimming of light
to cool drums.


The octopus visits folded rock, her shadow inked
on those who would disturb her passage. Her fortress
scattered shells, her prey.


The uranium bowl in your grandmother’s cupboard:
light arcs, found rainbows, shallow breaking water.

© KA Rees

KA Rees writes poetry and short fiction. Her poems and short stories have been included by Australian Poetry, Cordite Poetry Review, in Kill Your Darlings‘ New Australian Fiction anthology, by Margaret River Press, Overland, Review of Australian Fiction, Spineless Wonders and Yalobusha Review, among others. Kate was short-listed for the 2016 Judith Wright Poetry Award and she was the recipient of the 2017 Barry Hannah Prize in Fiction. She was a 2019 Varuna fellowship holder for her manuscript of short fiction and the national winner of the 2019 joanne burns Microlit Award. She was a participant in the 2021 Sydney Observatory residency program where she wrote a suite of poems set under the southern night sky. Kate’s debut poetry collection, Come the Bones (Flying Island Books) was released in 2021.

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