Shey Marque – Irrecoverable Children

Marque LE P&W August 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023

Irrecoverable Children, poems by Shey Marque. 

Irrecoverable Children

from Romania’s Cᾰmin Spital Pentru Copii Deficienţi
(Home Hospital for Irrecoverable Children)

Ceausescu’s child lived in a state hospital crouched on the Car-
pathian mountain, & across from the cobblestone square

an ebbing people, spill of river & its skin that shone. He looked
out upon unseeded ground through the locked, iron-barred

window of his loft, beyond the barbed-wire fence to the real
children within shouting distance, in chill-proof boots and fur-

lined jackets, fingers buried in the warm hands of their parents,
hurrying, wading through the cries of the morning & the river

eventually answered shushing the sounds of birds, dogs & boys
who all calmed their reflexes, except for the ones who couldn’t

be soothed, muttering under their breath, shouting gibberish to
no one, stress scent of sweat & urine. The mess benches writhed

with a hundred naked children banging food bowls, rocking,
shrieking, punching themselves in the face until tranquillised

with unclean needles. Claudiu was the tenth of a ten-child
woman denied birth control, misbirth, no choice but to let him

raise it. Eighteen & four feet tall, he was sent onto the streets,
the more completely impaired going to a home for old men.

Sleeping rough at train stations, he asked for nothing & got it,
the reflex to cry long lost. The woman in his dreams came
again & again wearing a blue pinafore, her hair in a messy bun.
She tossed bread out of a third-storey window, yelled fetch.

He watched police patrolling. They kicked at an old cigarette
packet to see if it was empty, a pile of clothes to see if it moved,

felt inside its pockets for rent. Claudiu stood, so as not to appear
loiterly, flipping a hand to milling dogs like they were taxis.

Irrecoverable Children (Longlisted, Fish Poetry Prize 2022)

Sequelae to misplaced elbows
and other violations

The man who takes tea in a laddie dram glass,
despite his take-no-shit nose, does
seem less at ease in this country, or not even,
has closed down the dogs, getting drunk
on needing to hurt the flesh
how it wipes him of duckings in the Clyde,
days in the hull, but it’s done already and he lives
only on retribution and a rear view
confused over time, trying
to pin down something beyond recall

The nightly crusade for unwronging
two small boys – the not quite angels –
knees to boards, a scant definition of bodies
hovering beside him, prayer hands
angled bones, their hinges canting
toward what could be the absence of a table
until finally he sleeps, shoulder to shoulder
with their mother who doesn’t and there’s no telling
how repletely a two-o’clock city spreads
its dark across the room

Twin shapes of shame just hanging there
suddenly too much to bear, she’ll unbend them
from the floor ridden cold and blind-
walk them back to bed
catching little toes on the corner of the stairs
but at this hour all screaming is done
on the inside, exiting
through waggling hands, nothing is spoken
at the breakfast table – it’s difficult to eat
arms rope-tied to a chair

A swig of tea, the swallowing, the swallow’s wing
in her throat, like a loose stitch
undoes the gravity, the imperative, the eye –
all those unfunny things
are pulling silly faces in the wrong moment. Caught
in quick dissolve to domestic actuality
the morning tastes not of charred bread and dripping
but nicotined fingers and metal
her hands closing over her face, while he reads
the light as it curls like butter in the diaphanous air

Sequelae to misplaced elbows and other violations (Longlisted, Fish Poetry Prize 2022)

Baishakh in Kathmandu Valley

for Saru

That moment, as if a dog shaking out tension, the ground wriggled
beneath us. The whole congregation fell to their knees simultaneously.
For the briefest second we must have each wondered the same thing.
If searching for a lesson, know that windows are better for looking
through than for exiting, that grown men would sooner break their
own legs rather than pause to reflect. I saw a man run from the shower
into the street, shampoo still covering his head as he sat on the
ground crying, while I rode into the rain with my daughter on the back
of my scooter. A young woman was digging herself from underneath
rubble just in time to birth her baby. Whenever we dig we kill many
insects. Houses were swaying, falling. Every five minutes I pulled
over to watch, for thirty seconds or so, the time it took for the next
aftershock to subside. Crying people appeared suddenly out of the
dust, but I could do nothing except ride focused only on two metres
of visibility and buckling bitumen – u bit men/mute bin/bun time.
Spaces arose in awkward places, tent cities where there used to be fields
and parking lots. We clung onto the edges of an orange tarpaulin in a
thunder storm for three weeks, cement in our lungs, to keep it from
blowing away while children huddled beneath. Grass started growing
inside the house. We were still a month away from the dancing, and
another to see me creep up behind my mother on the sofa and shake it.

the street cracks open
what is falling in the field
rises in the road

Baishakh in Kathmandu Valley (Shortlisted, Bath Flash Fiction Prize 2021)

© Shey Marque

Shey Marque is a poet and former clinical and research scientist with interests in cellular memory. She has a PhD in Molecular Pathology from the University of Western Australia, and a MA in Writing from Swinburne University in Melbourne. Previously the Coordinator of the KSP Writers’ Centre, she is currently Deputy Chair of WA Poets Inc and a Board Member of Writing WA. Her poetry appears in major literary journals including Island, Cordite Poetry Review, Westerly, Meanjin, Southerly, Overland and Australian Poetry Journal. She won a QLD Poetry Festival Emerging Poet Award in 2018, the Blue Nib Poetry Chapbook Prize in 2020, and twice won the KSP Poetry Prize, with shortlistings in numerous others.

Most recently, she was awarded runner-up for the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize 2023. Her collection, ‘Keeper of the Ritual’, was shortlisted for the Noel Rowe Poetry Award, and her current manuscript ‘The Hum Hearers’ was shortlisted for the Dorothy Hewett Award 2023. She lives on Whadjuk Noongar boodja in Boorloo/Perth, Western Australia. (UWAP 2019;

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