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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023
Dream of bitter seasons, poems by Rico Craig.
Dream of bitter seasons
Bark with the dogs, help me
herd sheep toward the fence line. They were better
days, seasons that disappeared like lies flooding
for a fissure. Our arms were outspread, our noises
ancestral. We worked a flock through dust,
toward the abstraction
a gate submits to the mind.
I have woken from this dream before,
at different points, with sheep shorn to skin,
with the onset of metal ramps,
a truck in idle threat, the sharp tang of burnt
wool. Times when the air is alight
with a fury of buzzing flies, men speaking
in numbers over braying flesh.
On other nights the boat is pulling
away from shore, an industrial prison,
ballast of blood, hoofed life afloat
on salt water. In the dream we watch
what we know leave a wake,
grey water folding away from itself.
Leaving a summer
a curse to the air / bodies surrounded by drouth / empty sky / doom’s eucalyptus smoulder /
memories provoke fire / she’s planning to bury her passport in a mound of new leaves / this is how
people relinquish their only home /
the brown roadside
helter-skelter beneath their feet
dull orange light
the laughter of planes leaving a small airport
rising from the earth
her father turning the ignition and pulling away
her plane lifting
each day she will rise into an eclipse / light smoked into new colours / she will breathe the burning
earth / the smoke will enter ears / nose / mouth / she will drift / until she becomes transparent / and
longer taints air / with the scent of what they have been /
Cinder in our chests
If we are friends I have collapsed
in the crook of your arm,
we have crossed continents together,
you are free to filch coins
from my pockets, we have mocked
clouds as they wail against the dawn.
If we are friends every time we meet
a game of three objects
It will take us three tries
to break a tie. Even at the end
we will be creatures flashing hands
at each other — fist, flat, fork —
cinder in our chests.
We will clutch like newborns
blind to everything
the next day threatens to teach us.
If we are friends there will be trains
waiting in many cities. And, even strangers
will be able to see
I bear the vigour of your name
chiseled in code
on every heartbeat.
© Rico Craig
Rico Craig is an award-winning poet, writer and workshop facilitator. His poetry has been awarded prizes or shortlisted for the Montreal Poetry Prize, Val Vallis Prize, Newcastle Poetry Prize, Dorothy Porter Poetry Prize and University of Canberra Poetry Prize. Bone Ink (UWAP), his first poetry collection, was winner of the 2017 Anne Elder Award and shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize 2018. His most recent collections Our Tongues Are Songs (2021) and Nekhau (2022) are published by Recent Work Press.