Issue 25: Anthony Lawrence

Open Cut

It began on the surface of a flooded, open-cut mine,

where a scuttled excavator glowed far down

like an orange fish. My father was fond of quoting

from his nautical repository, choosing words

for their percussive resonance. He'd drop anchor,

knowing the pick wouldn't take and the chain

drift like pewter bubbles. Often, we had no need

for talk, preferring to float in silence, the quarry

looming over us like bolted rock climbing walls

abandoned for water sport. I'd always find things

to focus on: a bird's nest like the tiny, controlled

explosion of an asterisk on a ledge, or the faint

silver gleam of a shed distorted by tailings of wind

and light. Once, the aftershock and diminishing

acoustic waves of a detonation sampled the chorus

from Enya’s 'Orinoco Flow.' After my father died

in a drift-net of sleep, I went to the mine at night

and set out in a rowboat. Stars were spot-welding

the surface of the lake together where I had

opened it with the oars. What we lose to the dark

diorama of time, we find in common ground

gone to memorial. Tonight, his face is a windy

match flare on black water. I can hear the rare

seam of his laughter when I fell in while reaching

for my hat. I knock over doomed narrow roads

opening the skin of memory, with moonlight

pouring in behind me to mend it.

Anzac Day, 2020

A blue and green butterfly shivers through a swatch of shades.

From black mud in the beam of my head lantern, a stone

engraved with 1957 surfaces on the run-out tide, and a heron

recites a poem in which a hen stares at nothing with one eye

before picking it up. I stop and light my face with research

into the name of the chemical helicopters spray

over mangroves to kill mosquito larvae. I say Methoprane

out loud while walking the dogs, as I like saying things

to see them tip their heads to the side. Nearing home, I see

the children of soldiers beside flags draped over gates

and hats slouching on posts. A veteran plays ‘The Last Post’

in his drive, his medals like bars of polished code

in breaking light. When the street lights go off, the sun

moves at walking pace down the center of the road.


‘a hen stares at  nothing with one eye before picking it up’ –

from Summer Farm by Norman MacCaig


I wanted to see a Gila monster or pangolin

that large-scaled relative, not of armadillo

         but the order Carnivora,

                  yet since travel restrictions

had stalled my forays into what had once

been The Wild but was now

         Weekend Glamping, I was happy

                  to engage with any living

thing to emerge from the screen

of flowering weeds and thorns at the end

         of the yard. You appeared

                  and asked why I was staring 

at your face as though it were

a new planet an astronomer 

         had chanced upon while looking

                  for reasons as to why

he shouldn't call off the search

for new life. I shouted Flamingo, as this

         trisyllabic utterance

                  is often my first response

to being frightened or surprised.

When a fissure in the wall of weeds

         closed with a pneumatic sigh,

                  your face darkened   

as though exposure were analogous 

to a solar eclipse, private and utterly terrible.

Anthony Lawrence has published sixteen collections of poetry, the most recent being Headwaters which won the 2017 Prime Ministers Literary Award for Poetry. Among his other awards are the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for excellence in Literature, the Blake Poetry Prize and the New South Wales Premiers Award for Poetry. He teaches Creative Writing at Griffith university, and lives on Moreton Bay, Queensland.

Copyright © 2021 by Anthony Lawrence, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.