I don’t write poetry all the time. My writing process goes something like this: a line, a conversation, a thought will inspire a string of more lines. As I drive, or while cutting onions, or talking to somebody, or sitting and reading, I will form a complete poem, aloud. Then as soon as I’m at a computer I will write what I remember down, and it never seems as good as what I said (I need to invest in a dictaphone – to prove myself wrong, most likely). And then the poem will gather pixellated dust until I need something to read at a slam, or I remember it and want to send it to a friend, at which point I will open up the document and edit it (or edit it right in the email) until I’m happier with it, send it away/perform it, and consider it complete.
It’s a truly strange process, but it works. This poem is the result of one such process – it was written about a month ago, in the car, after listening to a song by the The Jane Austen Argument called Silver Suit. The Jane Austen Argument are a truly amazing Melbourne band – a third cabaret, a third heartbreak, a third laughter, they hit all the notes on all my heartstrings and I love them dearly as people – lovely, kind, humble people who, I very much hope, are going to get all the recognition they truly do deserve. Check them out and tell your friends.
This was a very long preamble for a pretty short amble. To the point: this is a poem about my dad, who passed away two and a half years ago, and about whom I have written many poems but am happy only with this one.
You taught me Egyptian history
Under the wattle in the backyard;
Between the tomatoes tied to stakes,
Around the Hills hoist and
Here in the lawnmowershy grass
You built me obelisks and temples
Of sandstone and old Nile silt,
Your soft hands helped me up pyramids
And your soft eyes were swinging lanterns
That glimmered in steep dune tombs;
The wattle tree is gone now
And the tomatoes haven’t grown so well
Since you’ve been gone,
But there are still obelisks
Among the weeds
And tombs to discover
Along the driveway.