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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three Nov-Dec 2023.
The Longest Wave, poems by Damen O’Brien.
The Longest Wave
No phone call from you with the news we were expecting,
so this Christmas will be the same gathering of children
aging away from the wonder of those first yawning mornings.
I’m laying down a line of dead letters at the beach: black
tiles clicking into place with awful finality under the sun’s
dazzle: poems like so many failed children queuing in some
figurative waiting room for life. The white space burns
like ivory in the indirect glare of the beach, like bone.
The swimmers clear from the wave as if they were
fussy seagulls stepping away from the edge of the foam
and now we can see the bright swirl of clothing that
cleared them out, a small form lolling in the longest wave.
All day I’ve been faced with endings and beginnings
but I can only seem to find the endings in this poem.
We lean forward too avidly, while the waves pull their lips
back from the beach’s pebbly teeth. I was thinking at the
operatic distances of Wagner, of the birth of universes and
their ending, how some physicists think they are the same;
how the longest wave comes all the way back around the
seas of forever, how ripples begun on Queensland’s shores
from the splashing of a child find their way across an ocean
to twitch the other coastline, however small, however slow.
Here, in this part of the universe, someone wades out to inspect
the material, calling out to say that it’s only floating swimmers
billowing like a mischievous Houdini or a prankster’s flag,
so this poem has too hopeful an ending, but this is the first
day of the holidays and there are many days yet to survive.
The Robot To His Love
I will go down with you to the Art Gallery
and stand before the portrait of Dobell
as himself and tell you too loud I do not
like this modern junk, and we will quarrel
briefly over lunch: machine oil, batteries for me;
overcooked pasta for you. I’ll sulk on the drive home
because the attendants in the cloaking room stared at me,
because the parquetted floors could not take my wheels,
because I can do a billion calculations a minute
and they cannot. I will be moody until dinner and
then frivolous and childish afterwards, until you cannot
stand it and go to bed early. I will follow hours later,
the recharging cord tangling in the sheets and you will roll
away when I try and kiss you, complaining about the cold
and how I’ve taken all the blankets, and grind your teeth
all night. I will be capricious and distant, then
desperately affectionate for days, until you say something
snide about bugs and error logs and reboots, which
you know I hate you saying, and I think about calling
that programmer that I used to know, but not with
any purpose, just to hear her voice, talk about old times
before I knew you and then the weekend will roll around
and I’ll get drunk doing shots watching a live action remake
of Pinocchio, and by this you’ll know I am a real man.
My girlfriend and I
watched a pterodactyl
pluck a business man
off a crowded street
on our walk home.
it seemed to struggle,
to find sufficient lift
and he flailed beneath,
battering at the reptile
with his leather briefcase.
That’s an anachronism,
I told her. No.
It’s Armani, she said.
Bit ironic, really. We
were silent the rest
of the way home.
© Damen O’Brien
Damen O’Brien is a multi-award-winning poet based in Brisbane. Damen’s prizes include The Moth Poetry Prize, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the Newcastle Poetry Prize. He has been published in journals all over the world, including New Ohio Review, Poetry Wales, Mississippi Review and Overland. Damen’s first book of poetry, Animals With Human Voices, is available through Recent Work Press. He is currently working on his next book.