Kate Llewellyn

Kate Llewellyn is the author of 16 books. She has published six books of poetry and is the co-editor of The Penguin Book of Australian Women’s Poetry. She wrote The Waterlily, a Blue Mountain Diary which has sold over 30,000 copies. Her travel books include Lilies, Feathers & Frangipanni on the Cook Islands and New Zealand, Angels and Dark Madonnas on India and Italy, and Gorillas Tea & Coffee, Travels in East Africa, published by Hudson Hawthorne and Burning: a Journal. Both The Waterlily and The Floral Mother and other Essays have been made into talking books.

Her most recent book is Sofala and Other Poems published in November 1999 by Hudson Hawthorne.

Llewellyn often has a great explorer’s tone of scrupulousness, steadiness, authority and ecstasy…(This) illustrates how deftly she can combine analysis, erudition and speculation

               Jennifer Maiden
               <em>The Australian Book Review</em>, January 2000

The Aunts

All my aunts
are dying

their bones
in the tissue paper
parcels of their hands

pleat the past
into the ages
of their sheets

they don’t flirt
now or pelt
each other with fruit

or toss their heads
at cheeky boys
their red hair

or black
“Straight as a yard
of pump water”

as Granny used to say

is pale now
permanently curled
on their pillows

they smile
and extend their hands

at their future
which is as clear

as the water
in the glass jug

From The Friendly Street Poetry Reader


When I stepped out
of your car
on that first night

the chiffon scarf
of the Milky Way
pulled my neck back
in amazement

the stars were so near

the apple trees
grew right up
to the house

and your dog Lady
was laughing

the white verandah
into the past

all your saddles

while you told me
their uses
which I didn’t understand

the empty rooms
threw their acceptance
down the years

and proffered
formal hands

in one
a motorbike
stood like a sculpture

in another
you’d pitched a tent
for fun

the chandelier
in the hall
made music

but the space
forced us
to be wallflowers

in your room
my cries

clutching at
the Milky Way

I drowned
in your past

From The Friendly Street Poetry Reader


Day after day I sat by the ashes
believe me I knew their taste
and that not the worst of it
my Sisters
their shrill hatred like birds
my heart grew sullen
I could not hate them
somehow they were too poor
such ugliness
I stayed revolted and calm
perhaps it was that stillness
that drew him to me ?
not the slipper at all
though I admit I married a foot fetishist ?
but after all more than one woman
has tiny feet

and to have watched their poor macabre makeup
before the ball
pity would grow in any throat
as they cooed and preened
no I wasn’t bitter
the fact is I was more than resigned
I simply couldn’t imagine another life
it seemed right others in their hell
and me in my place
sitting with my advantages
among the ashes
staring at a coal like a heart

so the shock of the wand the gown and the ball
was not altogether slight
I suppose you could say as we danced
I was simply in shock
no not eager at all
and it was that too I think
that hooked him

and as for my sisters
each one chained mentally to one of his feet
screaming ‘Choose me’
they turned in on themselves
and grew utterly mad
illusions blossomed like vines
they both said they’d rejected him
and supported each other in this
right to the end ?
we all cope one way or another ?

yes it’s true I was at home
when he called
poking the fire in a desultory way
thinking it all might never have happened
and I wasn’t at all sure it had

but the slipper
how horrible
it doesn’t bear speaking of
walking in glass
its terror only equal to that of losing
this Prince

nowadays I teeter round the Palace
knowing one slip and I’m dead

From Friendly Street No. 9