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This is Jacket 12, July 2000   |   # 12  Contents   |   Homepage   |   Catalog   |

Dorothy Hewett

Three poems

Nullarbor Tea Party (1929)

unfurling our Japanese parasols
out in the desert
we arrange our dolls' tea set
on an upturned butter box
we have invited the little boy
whose father keeps the petrol bowser
he pedals down the empty track
a prince on his tricycle
we pour from the china teapot
one finger extended like ladies

behind us the stone houses
of the abandoned Telegraph Station
are disappearing under the dunes
a chimney sticks up
like a cry for help
the light off the cracked glass
dances like semaphore

the yard is littered
with the corpses of death adders
killed in some cosmic epidemic
their dried skins
rattle in the hot wind
there is no other sound
but the pull of the surf
on the other side of the dunes
the dried-out skins
of the death adders spinning
the trickle of sand
waiting to cover us in.

Digging It In

My father's spade
has the hollow sound of regret
Goodbye Dad    but he doesn't look up
where the cannas once grew by the drain
sour and stubborn he keeps on digging.

The melancholy acres stretch away
behind him      the trees already dying
a crow flaps crying
along the boundary fence where once
the timber stood.

I have disappointed him once again
another dream gone west
I won't be here to listen to his plans
to rechannel the salty creek
replant the trees      rejuvenate the farm
he will lease it out for a pittance
eventually selling it off for next to nothing
run down     one sheep to the acre

but all the way back
driving across the Nullarbor
over the cattle grids
through the dog-proof fence
an empty drum on the boundary
I will hear the sound of his spade
savagely breaking the clods
                     for a kitchen garden.

To the Literary Ladies

Here they come the clever ladies
in their detachable Peter Pan collars
their fringes their sober mein
hiding such anger such
subtle vices dizzying torments
how do they manage to keep it intact
that demeanour?    Is it something they've learned?
Not from George   rough-hewn or Emily
choking her mastiff down on the moors.
No it's Jane with her simpering smile
her malice her maidenly virtues
rustling through the 20th Century seminars
sitting on platforms discussing
manner and style    how to instruct
& parry impertinent questions.

Nullarbor — a vast desert in the south of Australia,
so named because of its lack of trees.

You can read a frank and detailed interview
with Dorothy Hewett in Jacket # 9.

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