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Kate Lilley

Three poems

Cento / Around Vienna

A girl may harden herself
in the conviction that she does possess a penis
I had the usual feeling of anxiety that one has
in the somewhat haphazard order in which it recurs
I saw myself particularly distinctly
‘Why did I say nothing about the scene by the lake
for some days after it had happened?
Why did I then suddenly tell my parents about it?’
A normal girl, I am inclined to think,
will deal with a situation of this kind by herself
I will begin by mentioning the subject-matter
he intended to come forward as a suitor one day
what was the source of the words ‘if you like’?
there was a question mark after this word, thus ‘like?’.

She might calmly read whatever she chose
‘vorhof’ [‘vestibulum’; literally ‘fore-court’] —
an anatomical term for a particular
region of the female genitals
She had left home and gone among strangers
to this came the addendum not the least sadly
her father’s heart had broken with grief and longing
he could not get to sleep without a drink of brandy
sexual satisfaction is the best soporific
She then recognized these words as a quotation
her knowing all about such things and at the same time
pretending not to know was really too remarkable
the feelings of pity for him which she remembered
from the day before would be quite in keeping with this

In repeating the dream she said ‘two hours’
so here we were back again at the scene by the lake
no sooner had she grasped the purport of his words
than she had slapped him in the face and hurried away
‘you know I get nothing out of my wife’
Her father was dead and she had left home by her own choice
this fact determines the psychical coating
In the background of the picture there were nymphs
the neurosis had seized upon this chance event
and made use of it for an utterance of its own
They are therefore questions referring to — the genitals
wandering about in a strange town was overdetermined
my expectations were by no means disappointed
You give me a fortnight’s warning just like a governess


Press hash and state your business somewhat loudly
while organic intermediates clear a path

what turns up’s somewhat lucid ceaseless
an expurgated text unfit for work

mourning’s hard to metabolise
the party’s themeless don’t even come

sweep the strings and hold for pastures new
woeful shepherdess

(metaphor) (condensation)
acid mantle blue

My Bad

In the doghouse my date barks back
bite-size annihilation

Behind the door the facts
the jokes of one awaiting trial

Am I under-administration
or beginning to free associate?

Enter the poltergeist girls
with the hands of stenographers

Burning glances at smoko
moaning after lights out

Kate Lilley, photo by Melissa Hardie

Kate Lilley, photo by Melissa Hardie

Kate Lilley teaches at the University of Sydney, Australia. Salt Publications (Cambridge, UK) published her book of poems, Versary, in 2002. You can read John Wilkinson’s review of Versary in Jacket 18.

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