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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Four Nov-Dec 2023.
Ants, poems by Stephanie Green.
It’s what comes of digging, when every sign and omen is against you.
The clay earth hardened by summer. The dying tree’s refusal to give up.
The roots that cling to what they’ve known so long. Yet you make progress,
wetting and scraping away the clay many times, going deeper with each
shallow cut of the spade, each thin scoop of the trowel. And when, finally,
finally, you tear the last root from the hollow ground, you discover you are
not alone. What was buried has been disturbed. What was still is now
moving all around you. Tiny creatures ready to remind you, sharply,
that it’s well past time to find the angle of escape.
When your mother died, you took the ornament cats from the shelves
and smashed them into the fireplace, one by one. I didn’t know if you
were angry with your mother or the clutter she loved so well. She
had thirty-two in her collection, gathered from her travels around the
world. White porcelain kittens with gold edged ears and sweet, painted
smiles. Terracotta cats as plump and serene as the Buddha. Venetian
glass felines, smoky and sinuous. A black pair from Slovakia with red
and yellow eyes. My favourite was the sleeping earthenware cat, furled
and unadorned, that I could hold flat in the palm of my hand. I spirited
it away to the bottom drawer before you could destroy it. In all these
years I’ve never shown it to you. Maybe I’m hoping you’ll pull out the
drawer some day and see it, still unbroken.
You follow the edge of the road, black tar softened by heat, traffic rushing
past, rushing past, until you’re somewhere you don’t recognise. A dusty
stand of trees, dry weeds, a broken barbed wire fence. This is where the
black crow descends, to give you some kind of direction. Or the white
raven, if there is such a thing. Or – if night has fallen – the owl with wide
earthy wings. You don’t believe in signs. You want one anyway. Something
telling you go forward, or back. The creature lands and eyes you
coldly, but no word comes. No sound except for the distant traffic and
the wishing of the trees. There’s only a red and white ice cream wrapper
caught in a clump of dried mud, a faded corner flapping in the wind. You
can make out some of the letters if you try.
© Stephanie Green
Stephanie Green has published poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction and travel essays in literary magazines, anthologies and journals over the past four decades. Most recently her work has appeared in Meniscus, StylusLit, Axon, TEXT, Burrow and Live Encounters. Her writing is included in several current anthologies, such as the Pratik special edition Fire and Rain, edited by Yuyutsu Sharma, Sally Breen and Jennifer Mackenzie (Pratik/APWT 2023), The Incompleteness Book II, edited by Julia Prendergast, Eileen Herbert-Goodall and Jen Webb (Recent Works Press 2021) and the Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry, edited by Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington (Melbourne University Press 2020).
Stephanie released a collection of prose poems, Breathing in Stormy Seasons, with Recent Works Press in 2019 and previously published a selection of short stories, Too Much too Soon with Pandanus Press in 2006. Her new poetry collection, Seams of Repair, will be published with Calanthe Press in November 2023. Stephanie lives and writes on the lands of the Yugembeh/Kombumerri peoples and is currently an Adjunct Senior Lecturer with Griffith University.