Patricia Sykes – I Lived Here Once

Sykes LE P&W January 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, January 2024

I Lived Here Once, poems by Patricia Sykes.

Traipse Gloom

Graffiti grammar jabs the dawn
platform cigarettes writhe
under dearth skies

it’s the outskirter way
to interrogate signs
left by the previous

I know her uncannily
the passenger in flight
from her roof

her eagerness to alight
in a metropolis that magnifies
a wish to be among,

only to be mirrored
in faces that fail
to detect her. She morphs

is morphed, sloughed
amid the skin-cell jostle
to admix intimately

with other cells, city grit,
until the last train blinks away
via the underground

the silence an hiatus
pocked by shadows
each an atoll, pulse

as passage, timetable,
offspring of the engine
weak, strong.

I Lived Here Once

No names, mere whispers only
the kind you find slipped
under the corner of old lino
in a vacated house

such became our sub-genre
the vacate orders
issued always by our father
pack your bags, we’re moving

tomorrow: there was a home before,
when she, our mother
was still alive, until
spirited away in daylight

by shadow men
the black spider in the
ceiling’s darkest corner
too small to prevent them

the jabberwocky house next
full of wind-up tensions, mattresses
in tight spaces, a kind aunt unable
to add more walls, windows, doors

the magpies at least were continuous
a new home nest
each season
pack your bags…tomorrow

turned out to be an orphanage
the weather a battery
the wind choking
as if on a lead ball

a picnic is rarely
short of subscribers
even dead leaves
crave to join in

like we orphans in our spent frocks
who were no longer asked
where do you live?
but instead were sold Paradise

as the most joyful of homes
as if all an orphan needed
was a door opened by
an indebted religious key

now a litany of old
addresses, outworn voices
stored in an opaque jar
to break it

would spill the unfound,
versions still to be inhabited,
endured? welcomed?

The Beautiful Silence of Oxalis

The women over the back fence
tending their infants in the sun
spill their voices into my yard.
It’s the way of it here
Intimacy squeeze, neighbour
on neighbour, the cost of
downsize from mountain
to foothill, never again
in theory to flee
in bushfire season.

The infants themselves
will increase decibel by
decibel to merge
with the racketing trains
power tools, motorbike
throttlings, frenzies
of dog and the neighbour
on the left who plays
aggro with his radio.
Amazingly a bee

makes itself heard.
Web-caught, its own
whine maddens it.
Of course I intervene
one of us deserves
to be freed. Wing-swift
It flies off none the worse.
At its going a brief
bliss of quiet among the
beautifully silent oxalis

© Patricia Sykes

Patricia Sykes is a poet and librettist. Her poems and collections have received various awards, including the Newcastle Poetry Prize, John Shaw Neilson award and the Tom Howard Poetry Prize. She has read her work widely and it has featured on ABC radio programs Poetica and The Spirit of Things. Her collaborations with composer Liza Lim have been performed in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Paris, Germany, Russia, New York and the UK. She was Asialink Writer in Residence, Malaysia, 2006. A selection of her poems was published in an English/Chinese edition by Flying Island Books in 2017. A song cycle composed by Andrew Aronowicz, based on her collection The Abbotsford Mysteries, premiered at The Abbotsford Convent Melbourne — now an arts precinct  — in 2019. A podcast of this work is available on various platforms.

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