Poems From Down-Under

Thank you to all my new friends in Australia. These are for you and your beautiful country.


Melbourne: The Beginnings 

A string of lights glimmering in the grey
a blurred vision of the runway from the cockpit
the rumbling undercarriage, an aria
prior to the descent. A horizon that is once again
curved. I am still awake.

I have a friend these days who lives in Sunshine, Albion.
He is a secret poet. And all sorts of folk touch me
on the arm, then whisper their scars.

Listening to Springsteen. I would usher up
the years of the yard, burden them with what I had
as if it was 1977. Ian Drury, Elvis Costello,
Low and Heroes. I am of a mind to take back love

from those who took it from us. I cannot think
of what I could have done better to arrive earlier
and though it is late this is all I have.

In Fitzroy Gardens by the pond with a limping gull
mysterious songs of unknown birds
I met a plastic surgeon with a labradoodle.

I am tired of having to say it twice. I recede
like an echo no longer aware of the flight.

Birdsong like bell-chime. You have not known
weather like this since you were a child
light wind on your face.

How many breakdowns do you need to have?

I was a fifteen year old bionic boy
layer upon layer of redundant superpowers
requiring excessive maintenance.
Kept thoughtful and alert.

A verisimilitude of grace, untoward happenings
nightmares of the most extraordinary power.

He told me that jet lag might take a day or so to kick in
but that I had found the perfect beginning to my stay.

I am by the Scarred Tree. A tall transvestite
with a camera tripod, unblinking, severe,
casts her eye across the park, obviously displeased.
Life is brutal to the touch.

Later, lost by the MCG, loudspeakers blast
recordings of the action – baying and roar,
home crowd chanting, referee’s stuttering whistle
then the call for that last minute play.


Melbourne: By Night


I have made it around the world.
It is dark here earlier than I had imagined.

I am alone in a large hotel room
under the eye of a small red light.

On the way in, all I saw were shopfronts
and bright foyers of modern hospitals.

It is warm. I have left the window open.
I sense the oncoming rush of rain

its felicitous power and yet another
take on this whispered brokenness.

I have my earplugs on
but still can hear the hum of cars

like love brewing in the darkness.
Soon perhaps I will allow my chest

to breach open, the night air to seep in
and un-ask any further questions.

Melbourne: By Day

Near where fallen oak leaves gather gold-lit
like filigree at the edge of the path between
the Grey Garden and Temple of the Wind
we sidestep a wedding party. They are all

laughing at the bridesmaids shoving leaves down each others’ neck and the bride is removing her immaculate shoes so as to feel the velvet grass of her own loveliness and the groom looks across as if blessed then up at lorikeets burning skyward and we are all uninvited guests everyone wondering whether to (why not?) dance as we have all made it (how come?) this far

A Coolamon 


axed from the red gum’s outer bark, shaped
by an adze, fire-bent, rubbed with animal fat,
shiny, waterproof, uncrackable


for carrying nuts and fruit on your head
attached by a ring pad made out of possum
human hair string, twisted grass or feathers


to cradle babies under your arm when travelling
or for winnowing grains or as a digger
cooking vessel or even umbrella


my word’s small vessel in which I ride
an opal birth of the wave all the way to the wide shore
where sand meets that white water’s grave


where you will gather these seeds
cast to the air when I’m gone, for the wind
once more to carry the husks

A Diary of Sorts
For Allie and Helen

Thursday – the sign on the cage says ‘push’ and so we do
and come eye to eye with a shaggy wary hook-beaked bird
The Tawny Frogmouth, that apparently screams cat-like
when distressed, defends in mobs, sprays shit on predators
but takes uncommon care as a father

Friday – we drive up into Hunter’s Valley
share crime brûlée, almond sponge and chocolate tart
come home slightly sozzled, munch crisps all night on the sofa

Saturday – The drought is over. And while we are listening to rain
Allie tells a story about the hail, how she was driving
as clouds gathered then turned off the highway
to find herself at the centre of the storm
with stones as large as tennis balls

that buckled the bonnet                  how scared she was
how scared she can be                     how scared we all can be, I say

Sunday on the porch – Four white cockatoos as big as hawks
head off nowhere as ever screeching
bins are being taken out
machines of some sort rumble
a lock is turned

I am thinking of Palm Beach – the view from the lighthouse
slow boats with ballooning bright sails entering the mouth of the bay

How you have let me in


Insect in The Sydney Botanical Gardens

It is a beautiful day. Everyone is happy.
Two girls splat a bug
flat black, scooped, stringy red and green
insides out. Squished.

The teachers told us to love
we are part of everything
and as much as we were scared of them
they are of us.

How can insects make such terrible demands?

The secret I suppose is not merely to attend
but transform – this being the idea behind
stories we tell of cocoons –

how bugs knit so as to be one another
in latitudes and swarms.

The creature we cannot identify is ours.
Pinned down. Remembrance
of sting and microscope.

We like to say we notice from time to time.
We don’t, or at most
not with the care we once had.

There Is Enough

There is enough to keep you going for a while.
I guess you saw that man yelling from within his car
and his windows steaming up.

Fair enough. You too have needed skin
and not, until now, to address and undress your knowing.
They say that you have to write more closely.

That it is all in the detail.
It comes as no surprise then
that a pair of collared doves arrive

on the overhead wires.
How do you learn to live soft?

Let us draw a line like a zip
that gives, opening up on the flesh
and muscle and bone of your unknowingness.


All poems © 2019 David Gilbert

If you like my poetry, you can find ‘Elephants Fragile’ here

My first full collection ‘Why I Left The Island’ will be published in 2020 by Cinnamon Press.