David Adès – Punch Drunk

David Ades LEP&W V4 Dec 2022

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Four December 2022.

Punch Drunk, poems by David Adès.

Punch Drunk

When you see the startled look in her eye

look closer for the invisible bruises she wears,
the current of agitation beneath her surface,

look for the way she turns her head away,

her almost flinch, her sudden need to be
somewhere else, look for the lost heart

on her sleeve, the beating of its loneliness,

look for the language that deserts her mouth,
her mumbled incoherencies that, even so,

say too much, look for the tailings of her love,

curled and bunched up beneath the blankets
of her face, hiding from any kind of light —

and then nod to her your understanding,

that you have seen it all and will not turn,
that you will be right there

when she turns at last to face you.


It’s possible I am on the way out, though I haven’t moved.
I fell asleep, briefly, like my father did in his waning years,

and have woken, in my almost front row seat,
to find the theatre still dark save for the soft, green glow

of the exit sign in the corner, and near empty,
though the screen is alive and the film still running.

Once again, the film unfolds its lush mysteries,
its blessings and torments, its little wisdoms,

its scattering of bright gleamings,
jettisoning its script and veering elsewhere,

without warning, into a brooding darkness
that stifles and blinds, like every conflict zone,

leaving me to navigate minefields of dialogue and subtext,
disoriented, bewildered, picking my way through the debris

of wounded lives, lives curling in on themselves
and withering, the unfathomable legacies

of every intentional and unintentional betrayal.
I wonder what living I missed in that sleep,

what vital clues, how it is possible to be both joyous
and melancholic, how time has had its way with me,

how the story is so much memory and so much the gaps between.
Images fill the screen, and even if they do not hold most

of the audience, I find myself pinned, immersed
in folds of nuance, depth, complexities I won’t untangle,

though it isn’t long now to the credits, to the lights
coming back on with so much unresolved.

Walk With Me

It is true, I have come slowly and late to so many realisations
and not at all, yet, to others.

There is still time, though not so much. Forgive me.

I have been distracted by so many journeys,
on the way to undisclosed destinations.

Some things have become clearer, some more confused.

Love, for instance, and what happens to it.
Choices, judgments, wavering moral compasses,

how to say what must be said

and when to hold my tongue.
I will walk with you a little longer if I may.

Let us do what we can as we walk,

let us cradle the world in our arms
and see what else unfolds, where else the paths take us.

© David Adès

David Adès is the author of Mapping the World, Afloat in Light and the chapbook Only the Questions Are Eternal.  He won the Wirra Wirra Vineyards Short Story Prize 2005 and the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize 2014. Mapping the World was commended for the FAW Anne Elder Award 2008. David’s poems have been read on the Australian radio poetry program Poetica and have also featured on the U.S. radio poetry program Prosody. His poetry has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice been shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize. His poems have been Highly Commended in the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize, a finalist in the Dora and Alexander Raynes Poetry Prize (U.S.) and commended for the Reuben Rose International Poetry Prize (Israel). David is the host of the monthly poetry podcast series “Poets’ Corner” which can be found at https://www.youtube.com/ He lives in Sydney with his wife and three children.

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