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Jacket 16 — March 2002   |   # 16  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |    

Overland magazine feature

Bronwyn Lea: two poems

Cheap Red Wine

After Galway Kinnell’s ‘Oatmeal’

Most nights I drink cheap red wine.
I drink it alone.
I drink from a Baccarat crystal wine glass
of which I have only one and that is why I must drink alone.
Popular wisdom tells me it is not good
to drink alone.
Especially cheap red wine.
The dank and cloying aroma is such that a feeling of sorrow
can too easily twist into despair.
That is why I sometimes think up an imaginary companion
to drink with. To ward off the despair.
Last night, for instance, I drank with Charles Baudelaire.
He drank from the bottle
owing to the single Baccarat wine glass.
Charles (he begged me to be familiar) said he was grateful
for the invitation.
He hadn’t been getting out as much as he used to.
I apologised for not thinking
to invite him sooner and asked after Jeanne Duval,
if he had seen much of her lately.
He sighed. Dans l’amour il y a toujours un qui soufre
pendant que l’autre s’ennui. In love,
there is always one who suffers while the other gets bored.
I nodded and refilled my glass.
Charles read to me from Fleurs du Mal,
as the evening breeze blew through the open window,
and I confessed to him my anthophobia,
how sometimes the scent of flowers can fill me with unshakable dread.
He nodded gravely.
Such a feeling, he said, inspired him to write
the lines: arrangements of flowers encoffined in glass exhale their ultimate breath;
and, I prefer the autumnal fruits over the banal blooms of Spring.
He shuddered and finished off the bottle.

Deep into the night Charles read to me,
and as I fell asleep in his arms I had the idea
that communing with the dead needn’t be a mystical activity.
It may require no more than a glass
or two of cheap red wine
and listening, intently, to the bodily meanings
of ghostly words.

Why I Write

Because up the coal road way the bees came out so nicely.
Because I have got my rifle cleaned out and she is bright as a whistle.
Because the geese are in and one of them lays.
Because it rained very heavily and some of the road washed away.
Because every jack one of our cows have got calves.
Because the baby is crying. Tiara is sewing. Ellee is propping her face up.
Because Dad and Mr Jackson got the maul and struck Jerry just above the nose.
Because when I am older I want to drive a twenty ton articulated tip truck.
Because do you know who it was? Well, it was Ben Price!
Because I get wild in a second.
Because Uncle and Dad and Uncle Charlie went out egging in the Mary.
Because Alfred Douglas has had 50 cuts with the cane.
Because I have had the cane once and stood on the form twice.
Because Fairy is a bit lame on her nearside foreleg. She had a stone in it.
Because they had the inquest in the new dinner room.
Because Lall said she won’t be good friends with Carrie.
Because I am learning music.
Because Don says the orange trees will bear fruit in seven years.
Because I wish you many happy returns.
Because the bees came out so nicely and began to clean out their home.

Bronwyn Lea’s debut collection of poetry, Flight Animals, was released by University of Queensland Press (2001). She lives in Brisbane with her daughter, Tiara.

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