Margaret Bradstock

Margaret Bradstock has published four books of poetry. The most recent are The Pomelo Tree (which won the Wesley Michel Wright prize) and Coast (2005). In 2003 she was Asialink writer-in-residence at Peking University. Margaret is co-editor of Five Bells for Poets Union, and Honorary Visiting Fellow at the University of NSW.



Recherche Bay

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Thoreau

When Aborigines watched
Abel Tasman beating up the coast
                    (overhangs of cliffs

their camping spots), the great eucalypts,
sclerophyll forests, were already old.
                Green is the colour of renewal,

of wild woodland and cultivated garden,
                    amber the fossilised resin
like tears, or blood on a scimitar’s curve,

the nets and traps of war.
If no-one is there can you still
                    hear the forests screaming?

Bulldozed out of history,
the gestures of reconciliation
                  become sites of mourning,

incendiaries dropped from a helicopter
our defeat, the blackened
                   fern-covered boles.


Pond Life

‘Memory is the only thing that binds you to earlier selves; for the rest, you become
an entirely different being every decade or so, sloughing off the old person,
renewing and moving on. You are not who you were…nor who you will be.’
                                                                          – Sebastien Faulkes, Charlotte Grey.

Your gardens reminding me
     of a different space, penny-frogs
          pulsating in darkness,

tea-lights on water.
     There is
          always water, recurring,

water I dive into, under,
     breathing, floating, drifting
          in tadpole existence,

 my memories fabrications.
     Sometimes the tide rises
          to the head of the cliff

(sighing among grasses),
     green weed tangles like hair.
          Dead fish, two-dimensional,

clutter the shoreline,
     eyes whittled out
          like holes in memory,

moonlight’s abandoned haul.
     Frogmen surface,

on the white tide.
     You are insubstantial,
          stitched into the seascape

and the clacking sound of boats.
     There are dwelling places,
          mansions within mansions,

 rooms within rooms,
     a labyrinth of mirrors.
          Waking, I am not here,

my amphibian selves
     spiralling down
          to the sea’s wrack.

 Shadow-puppets rap sound-tracks
     in crazed patois
          on the garden wall.     


The Baptist

Light like gauze,
an oasis somewhere before me
or a Messiah descending.

Living on locusts and wild honey
(dreaming of wine, of bread)
I find my chapel in the wilderness.
Caravaggio will paint me
identifiable by my bowl, reed cross
and leather girdle.
Herod Antipas will proffer my head
upon a platter
to please a lissom dancer.

 And I will ask
if what I saw as baptism
was merely death.

 – after St John in the desert, by Sidney Nolan