Anne Casey – Portrait of a woman walking home

Anne Casey LE P&W March 2019

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Portrait of a woman walking home, and other poems by Anne Casey

Originally from west Clare, Anne Casey is a Sydney-based writer/editor. She has won or shortlisted for poetry awards in Ireland, the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia—including the Women’s National Book Association Poetry Competition (USA); Hennessy New Irish Writing and Cúirt International Poetry Prize (Ireland); and Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland Literary Competition. Her writing and poetry rank in The Irish Times newspaper’s Most-Read and are widely published internationally. She is author of where the lost things go (Salmon Poetry 2017, 2nd ed 2018); her second poetry collection is forthcoming from Salmon in 2019. Over a 25-year career, Anne has worked as a business journalist, magazine editor, media communications director and legal author. She holds a law degree from University College Dublin and qualifications in media communications. Anne is Senior Poetry Editor of Other Terrain Journal and Backstory Journal (Swinburne University, Melbourne). Website:

I will arise and go

(After William Butler Yeats)

My people are a migrant clan
Prospering not by hook or crook or craft
But by diligent labour and an easy charm
Flung from one small corner
Across every wind-tossed sea
Mountaintop to valley floor
To pave a thousand roadways
Or stand on pavements grey
To explore wild tropical outposts
Hold fast to frozen plains

My people are an itinerant tribe
A heathen spirit tamed
Not by bonds or shackles or shekels
But by music and by elegant words
Though alongside our wanderlust
Cohabits a want in us—
That surges in each nomad breast—
To journey back again, top the last crest
To that first wide view
Across a childhood shore

To feel the heart leap
Like a salmon returned to familial waters
If only—in our dreams

“I will arise and go now” and “While I stand on the roadway,
or on the pavements grey” are lines from the poem
‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by William Butler Yeats.

Portrait of a woman walking home

“Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you” — Sting

I like the way the sinking sun slips a golden aureole around you on that last straight stretch
of twilit street just before you round the corner falling suddenly under the towering
penumbra of these deserted edifices so recently bustling with workers exiting—
their veins visibly throbbing with concerns of the day—now soaring in
silence stripped of activity as if subjected to the unexpected descent
of some cataclysmic event while you were finishing up that last
pile dropped off by your manager with such urgency it needed
completing before his return tomorrow morning and though
you held up your end now finding despite your own best
instincts you are wandering halo-less—alone—down this
dusk-lit street clutching your bag against a skateboarder
shooting out from under a gaping facade like that time
with the razor-blade-wielding trio you inexplicably
chased and though you escaped unharmed there
is always that scar of doubt lingering alongside
the stomach-churning whispers and worse—
the still-felt imprints—but there is no
escaping the current situation
and that really is such
a nice pair
of sheer

black stockings
perfectly paired with
those moderate heels showing
off your finely toned calves your hem
gliding just above the delicately curved backs
of your knees stirring in unison with the soft waves
around your raised but ever-so-slight shoulders and you
know though you do your prescribed daily workout with
just enough resistance you will never quite muster the power
you would need and it takes a certain set of eyes to realise on
your approach through the now-profound dusk to the welcome
arc of each lamppost that your silky blouse illuminates so precisely
from behind one can pick out the exact lines of your body moving so
fluidly within its satiny folds sashaying with the swing of your hips though
I know you are making extreme efforts to lessen the sway there is a certain gait
you cannot ameliorate in this corporate get-up—skirt over heels over female pelvis
and it is so obviously more-than-a-little inadvisable for you to have placed yourself in
this delicate position where you might be seen to provoke a certain reaction in an onlooker
of a particular disposition—it being late and you quite clearly under-dressed for the hour and
with every breath you take wondering why it is                                              we have to watch

ourselves like this

Three hours to midnight

A man jogs past with three dogs—
one carrying a frisbee,
one a crumpled bottle,
one a drooling grin.

A man and woman bear
an inflatable between them,
their toddler son trailing a cracked bucket—
a yellow spade dropped in his too-long shadow.

A man calls “Lily!”, loping
in the opposite direction,
returns with a crestfallen spaniel
straining against a red leash.

Winged will o’ the wisps
ghost across glinting pools,
archangels streaking over
seven shades of blue.

Teenagers test reflective depths
with a cast-off shred of fishing net;
sand martins swoop and call to cluster
in their nylon-lined cliff shelters.

A scorching orb slipping slowly
towards the waiting sea,
the burnished sand now cold underfoot,
neon bits drift over the tidal imprint

to catch in the pied tidemark
on this perfect evening after
another record-breaking day
towards the end of the earth.

Drive-through nation

I have seen every articulation
of a kangaroo’s form

An ageing     bloated     rear-end staring me down
legs splayed     from the parched margins

Stuck on the wrong side     a muscle-bound buck
caught in the averaged-speed rush of an oncoming freight truck

Crumpled heaps piling up between
skeletal trees and bleached-out fields

A sidelined juvenile     glazed-eyed     forefingers joined
in quiet supplication     to a silent sky

A crumpled mother    sickening wrench
tumbled young flung from her emptied pouch

Swollen bellies     bulging eyes     stick legs
fenced in         edged out         run aground

I have seen every articulation
of a kangaroo’s corpse

every one     a sucker punch
a carcass for each     solitary kilometre

four hundred and thirty-seven kays
past the turn-off for Jerrabomberra

and pondered the visceral
response of

my entitled life     gagging
behind glass on the unsmelt stench

The rotting bodies piling up by the
wayside of our stealing generations

Swarming clouds    collecting crimson tails across the
boundless plains     out here     in the dying light

Vivid dreaming

Slivered silver slips amidst dusk-dark trees
As the coldest day of May for two decades
Takes its bitter leave

Bursting from the tunnel, psychedelic streaks
Neon lit-up faces stream
Between steel-lined streets

Over arching mainsails, coral feelers shimmer
Etched in swimming light, swirling up and into
Pre-tumescent night

Rushing with a cider past a smiling usher
Sipping effervescence, sliding softly into
The slowly rippling hush

Lips parting lushly among red velvet folds
Rising out of perfect pitch, sultry invocations spill over
The silent reverent below

Deft-defying fingers dancing in the dark
Palms cupping radiance picking out each movement
Plucking on strings

This one goes out to Jasper and Jerry –
Off to Ireland in the morning to marry
And here’s hoping they’ll be able
To tie the knot back home here, real soon

Floating in the pulsing swell, adrift, at swim, afloat
At sea in lyric opacity, soaking the luminous blue notes
Of this gypsy-fairy-queen

Washed out on the harbour-side beneath a brimming moon
Bewitching from a parapet, an almost naked dancer
Entombed in stone

This poem is a recounting of Lisa Hannigan’s last concert
of her Australia 2017 Tour at Sydney Opera House.
It occurred during Vivid Festival of Lights,
an annual event when video images are projected on
iconic city buildings and structures,
including the ‘sails’ of the Opera House,
and on the Harbour Bridge. The concert took place
before the Australian gay marriage referendum.

in their scores, by sixes and sevens

a reverse      constellation
an un-      Milky    Way
backlights      the day
perpetual-motion ink-strokes
dissolve   into   silvery   grey

el     em      en   dash
stream     volley      vee
cee         es         surge      rush
ripple             roll              swoop
swoosh                 curve              loop
ampersand         arcing          allez-oop

allégro             adagio               brisé volé
x           y       aband-                      oned
in      un-              random       feint         ballet
as    a    thousand         clustered             star
-lings         salute
the           dwindling            day

According to Young GF, Scardovi L, Cavagna A, Giardina I and Leonard NE (2013) in
“Starling Flock Networks Manage Uncertainty in Consensus at Low Cost” PLOS Computational Biology Journal, “Flocks of starlings exhibit a remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group… when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”

© Anne Casey