Jeff Guess has published seven collections of poems, the most recent being LIVING IN THE SHADE OF NOTHING SOLID (Five Islands Press). He is currently teaching English at Gawler High School and teaching ‘Writing Poetry’ at Adelaide’s Institute of TAFE. He recently won first prize in the ‘Tom Black Memorial Prize’ for poetry in ‘Eyre Writers Literary Awards’ 1999; first prize
in the ‘Mount Isa Association Annual Literary Competition’ 1999, and first prize in the 1999 ‘Clarissa Stein Multicultural Poetry prize’. He has recently edited a poetry anthology on the ‘spiritual journey’ entitled NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Eremos). A forthcoming anthology celebrates the explorers Flinders and Baudin meeting in Encounter Bay on Kangaroo Island. His new collection WINTER GRACE is due for publication in 2003. In 1997 Jeff won the Satura Prize for his poem, ‘Wisteria’.
Old Fencing Contractor
At 90 not all of his wires
some were down.
Maintenance had fallen to
clumsy packing of his pipe;
and playing draughts
after a fashion in a system
of nudges and bumps.
His face an unconnected map
of dots and lines:
cracked and creased
by wind and sun.
Until you look at his hands –
two smooth brown stumps
The year tagged by memory;
a live charge collapsing
30 years to a moment.
Fencing in 45 degrees;
by 10 o’clock the wire
a white hot line of light.
in the straining-pliers.
Slicing in a swift whip
he neither saw nor heard
nor even felt.
His fingers coming off
like soft butter
left too long in the sun.
Friendly Street No. 13 and Tuesday Night Live
Walking the Long Late Tunnel of Afternoon
Walking the long late tunnel of afternoon
to you. Joining house numbers and
each other in that half-lit living room
I remember nothing of the sky and
road. My fingers at a dream of house-coat
and jeans. Your tongue and mouth. The way you
could undo in me the day and slow the soft
motion of an hour. The dull clunk of a blue
smooth oiled padlock and pin. A gate swung on
a tidy evening yard. Behind the door
where you waited in a half-lit living room.
Climbing the short flight of kitchen stairs.
A single-bar radiator fizzing sparks;
house-coat; jeans – then rain upon high glass.
Friendly Street No. 14 and Tuesday Night Live
D.H. Lawrence in Australia c. 1922
He leaves the boat
with wind spreading sea-birds
against the sun
like specks of golden pollen
upon the huge blue calyx of the sky:
already turning pages
of scrawled longhand in his head.
Locks himself inside a few rooms
within a faceless town.
Beyond the house an empty ocean
of mad-cap waves, and behind
the dull endless distance of the bush.
Lives in the plot of a new novel;
sleeps between instalments;
takes on an alias and a new lover.
Between the invention
of dialogue and description
creates political conspiracy and scandal.
In another life argues with Frieda
in screaming fits about everything –
mostly the futility in photos
of the landscape: only his words will do
for this waste of vacant spaces
with nothing at the core.
Closes the sea-front door finally
on four hundred pages.
Spends the final weeks
moody and taciturn
on long solitary walks along the sand
and deep into the scrub,
collecting shells and stones,
poems and problems.
Between reluctance and relief
sails for Mexico on a dark cold day
the sea troubled
into an unremitting passage.
Takes only the sky with him –
to recall later how all of this began
in tiny flowers
pressed between his journal notes
from a blue bush
that grew all that long way back there
at the edges of their rented garden.
Friendly Street No. 20