Elaine Barker

Formerly a librarian, Elaine Barker completed her MA degree as a mature-age student at the University of Adelaide. She has run courses in creative writing for ten years and has had short stories and poems published around Australia. A collection of her poetry has been accepted by Friendly Street/Wakefield Press and will appear in the Friendly Street New Poets series in 2003.

In 1999 Elaine won the Satura Prize for her poem, “On the River”.

On the Torrens

See how the artist has hastened to catch
that tamarisk on canvas, articulating
the space between those cascading pink fronds
at the water’s edge, and the water
murky beneath, and has sent
the ironwork of the bridge soaring,
all struts and lines and angles,
throwing weight to the winds,
how he’s pictured the quiet pleasure boat,
traced the people on the pathway,
and tried to capture that little girl.
But she has managed to re-arrange
the scene; drawn into the foreground
with a shimmer of movement,
she has dispensed with symmetry,
and form. Her body a brushstroke,
her dress a drift of colour, she has set
in motion the seagulls at her feet.

From No. 16 Friendly Street Poetry Reader


I might have gone there sooner
but was young, unsure of rituals, of courtesies.
I saw my gift of daisies grow
brilliant against her widow’s weeds.
I might have stayed there longer
but the coffee they offered leapt
bitter and black and flowers
were rioting around the room.
Mementoes of the old country,
crowding together, rocked and crooned.
I might have talked too much.
My words eased out in praise
of sombre-suited sons and daughters,
finding favour with the little ones.
What comfort in a babe in arms.
I might have tried to please her –
I thought I understood. As it was,
she stared sullenly, eyes keening,
hard as stones. ‘Children are not
a husband,’ was what she said.

From No. 17 Friendly Street Poetry Reader


Each day, old man slow returning,
he brings to her with his yearning
a single flower, perhaps a rose,
a pansy, jasmine, a bit of blossom,
in season a hand of frangipani,
he’s pilfered from some garden
he’s prized along the way.
This aberrant romance, this act
of simple theft, amuses them.
At night they flirt, beguiled alike
by no bouquet but a vase arranged
haphazardly. As one they sense
the petals sing, the petals fall,
makeshift spoils unravelling.

From Friendly Street Poetry Reader 26