Miriel Lenore – Hope and the Inevitable…

Profile Miriel Lenore LE Poetry & Writing Lesbian Poets & Writers February 2018

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Hope and the Inevitable…, poems by Miriel Lenore

Miriel Lenore is an Adelaide poet who lived in Fiji for twenty-two years and visited a Ngaanyatjarra community for over twenty years. Her seven books frequently focus on the interaction of people and places: ‘geography is destiny’? travelling alone together, contrasting the explorer Eyre’s journey along the Bight with that of a group of women, featured twice on the ABC PoeticA programme. An exhibition of poems from in the garden was part of Adelaide Botanic Garden’s Celebration of 150 years. The third volume in her trilogy of 19th century pioneer women and their environments, a wild kind of tune, appeared in 2015. Her current work is of her early life in a Victorian country town. She lives in Adelaide and writes from her perspective as a feminist lesbian grandmother.

hope and the inevitable


our cocktail club decides it’s time to study
Death and Dying 101
though some of us as carers
have passed 201 even 301
the major chapter remains

My first thought: how to help those left?  –
should I leave instructions
for machines on or off
decide for burying or burning?

how else to  be in charge when I’m not there?
arrange a funeral  now?
at least pay in advance should all be spent
after exploring the Iguazu Falls
the yurts of Mongolia
the source of the Limpopo

could I write my eulogy to be sure it’s positive?
plan the wake
choose the music:
A Calm Sea and a Following Wind perhaps
could be  Always Look on the Bright Side
must leave money for cakes and wine
it’s a hungry business burying

as the oldest in the club I need the tuition most
instead I exude reticence
resistance   refusal
from the 17th Century Sir Thomas Browne speaks for me:
The long habit of living indisposeth us for dying


neat and still stylish
checked by the nurse for buttons
and stains
she waits in the empty hall
it’s taken all morning

in the car she talks and laughs:
we’re all deaf and blind you know
at dinner Mr Kenny
told of his gangrenous leg
soon to be lost
I said ‘your daughter can mend it
or buy a new pair’
I thought he said socks

arriving she braces,
slowly lifts and stumbles from the car
to rest on her white stick
smells jasmine   eucalypts
fresh smoke-drift air of the hills
sees blurred trees against blue sky
across the garden
bright yellow plastic bags
filled with water-saving mulch
oh what magnificent chrysanthemums


in Resthaven’s functional dining room
two women sit silent
comfortable together   minds still intact

an aide sweeps up cups and plates
leaves for shaking hands
two mounds of pills

a stooped woman intones as she passes
I’ll die tonight
the friends exchange wry smiles

set themselves to stand and manage
on the second try
reach for metal walking frames

salute each other with raised hands
as cavaliers riding to battle
or climbers below the summit

begin the slow plod down corridors
to white-sheeted loneliness
memories   dreams   replays of guilt

to wake next morning
hoping for strength
to face their constant Everest

the Infant Room

vivid in the morning sun
red geraniums on the window sill
taught me Left from Right
as I faced the King’s picture

I learnt to worship sitting at the feet
of our glorious trainee teacher Miss Edwards
as she pointed to pictures
of Aapples Bballs and Ccats
carefully drawn in coloured chalks on the blackboard

when next year I copied others
by carving my initials into my desk
Miss Hart loomed over me:
I expected better of you Miriel
a refrain which dogged me through much of life

seated near the geraniums in Grade 2
I saw Miss Sutherland drop and die
in front of us
she lay motionless until Mr Pryor
from Grade 6 carried her away

she returned next day
Miss Sutherland’s faint teaching me
that the world was chancy

Willis Biddi with Louise

such white rocks in the Snowy
backbone of submerged dragons
diprotodon teeth
the women’s rock: Lou’s special place

she brings two small cups of water
unspilt from the river
I tell her King David in battle longed
to drink of the well at Bethlehem’s gate
three young warriors broke through
enemy lines to bring the water
which he poured on the ground –
too sacred to drink
silly bugger she says

I pick up an emu feather light and strong
and a stone egg
earth-coloured   river-smoothed
a small chip against perfection:
a portrait of my friend

Australia Felix


‘A land so inviting
and still without inhabitants’
explorer Mitchell said
of the rich Loddon Plains where
my home town would one day be

the inhabitants he couldn’t see
yet described as ‘fine and friendly’
were soon to be driven off or killed
by the diseases my tribe brought
as they rushed stock into a land
so swiftly made infelicitous

within a hundred years
blown sand buried fences
then covered the new ones
built on top of the old
dust storms blotted out the land
plates still on kitchen tables
of abandoned farms


not all the newcomers left –
new crops now flourish:
lucerne tomatoes olives
in billiard table paddocks of Loddon water

and the Dja Dja Wurrung I never saw as a child
are back as they defend their culture in the courts
a main street memorial honours them
the ancestors never left

© Miriel Lenore