Patricia Sykes – Field of Blue and Gold

Patricia Sykes LE P&W May 2019

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Field of Blue and Gold, poem by Patricia Sykes

Patricia Sykes is a poet and librettist. Her poems and collections have received various nominations and awards, including the Newcastle Poetry Prize, John Shaw Neilson award and the Tom Howard Poetry Prize Shortlistings include the Anne Elder, Mary Gilmore, and Judith Wright Calanthe awards. She has read her work widely, including on Australian, Paris and New Zealand radio. It has also been the subject of 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 were published in an English/Chinese edition by Flying Island Books in 2017. In preparation is the setting of some of her poems from The Abbotsford Mysteries (Spinifex Prezs 2011) for voice (Leanne Keegan) and instruments (Plexus Ensemble) by Melbourne composer, Andrew Aronowicz. (review of The Abbotsford Mysteries by Mark Roberts).

Phantom Gardener

(For my sister, Robyn, i.m.)

Remembering your neat shelves
the linen, the crockery, the clothing

lined up in nurse’s order. Remembering
how you tore every other paling from

your back fence so you could see through
to the expansive green of the golf course.

Remembering your slow dying, the comfort you drew
from the golden robinia as you reclined in your chair,

thinning as the cancer grew. And remembering how
you refused to tame any tree’s branching freedom

that soaring reach you refused to surrender
though marriage, mothering, nursing, divorce,

shrank the days between cremation and breath.
Then today as I pulled weeds drips of soil fell

like tears and there you were beside me, phantom
gardening, in harmony and out, singing as we used to.


Neither soft toy nor wind-up
the sky her one playground.
When we touch it is bones
not sex, a porous anatomy
made for air. She appals
me with my own ignorance
who conjured whom, what
together we might become.
I clothe myself in water and
it runs back to its own kind.
I cover myself with sand
and it resists me like glass.
The sky spreads everywhere
and does not love me
so why does she stay when
I’m so embedded in my feet?
She says I’m earth for her
egg, a lifeblood function.

Field of Blue and Gold


Your first signature
a shark in blue
and a stooge in a boat
(it was the era of Jaws).
Even then, aged five,
your depth of field
able to pin a subject
in astonished mid-sea.
The turmoil ocean
you left unsigned,
unaware of it as self
subspecies nemesis,
genus unspecified.


The fatigue of rising
each day as if
creation is combat
depressed canvases
strewing you like rubbish
toward the hour you ring me
in fright, a noose in hand
a branch picked out
in doubt after all
that a gallows tree
is artistic.


Your tender palette
a redemption
you could believe in.
The cow wearing
your soul’s cobalt
suckles her blue calf
in proof of luminous
existence, her eyes
magneted to yours
aware the industrial
chimneys belching toxins
at her back are your
vision’s fraught dice
a luck’s capacity to roll her
if you cease to believe
in the fact of her.


If you could innoculate
yourself against yourself
you would refuse
‘everyone dies of something’
but your art’s wrench technique
is torture to the umbilical.
The gold foreground
of your blue cow’s field
is the same infant
who slept at my breast
dreaming in colour perhaps
holding off the ruins.

© Patricia Sykes