Annette Marner

Annette Marner’s poetry has been published in several anthologies. She was shortlisted for the International Youth Year Young Writers’ Award, won the BankSA poetry prize and has read her work widely.

Throughout 1999 she was a regular guest discussing contemporary fiction on ABC Radio’s nationally broadcast The Big Bookclub, and that same year received an Emerging Artist Grant from Arts SA.

She lives in the Southern Flinders Ranges.

The Hollow Tree

The kingdom of God is within you.
Jesus of Nazareth

I was only little
when I learned
to eat my words
the mistakes I wasn’t allowed to make,
I bit my tongue to the anger
it was a sin to feel.
I thirst, I cried,
from loneliness
but no one came
so I swallowed my tears
with sugar
to sweeten the sadness
and the silence.
There is a hollow now
in the heartwood of me
            not the hollow of
            a cup, a bottle, an artery or a straw,
this was once a gentle timber
living breathing dreams,
but day by day
it fell away, with innocence.
There is a hunger now
in the hollow of me
            not the hunger for justice or love
            for freedom or life.
This is the hunger:
the poverty of incompleteness
incessant as a heartbeat:
            Fill me. Fill me. Fill me.
And I do
with chocolate
and smoke and work
lovers who taste like sour wine
all the lonely poisons of the world
until it almost feels
like someone
has their arm around me
or I’m too full
to feel at all.
I am a famine devouring itself
the broken
heart wood of my own infinity.

From Women With Their Faces On Fire

North Wind Cycle

I am halfway through this southern summer
in a city heated by deserts:
Simpson, Strzelecki, Sturt.

North wind over the midpoints
Mount Hopeless, Mount Deception
and lakes Torrens, Eyre, Frome,
salt in the wound,

white as Antarctic ice
and frozen sunlight
you cannot thaw.

It’s hay fever season.

Needles of invisible pollen
sharp as wild geranium spears
pierce the whites of my eyes.

A tear squeezes out,
a blown egg emptying
warm sap on my cheek.

Is this my body remembering?

At the edge of the desert country
on Black Rock Plain

Great Grandmother, Hanoria,
rented dust and bullock bush,

sowed potatoes and dreams,
axed the heads off chickens

and buried the afterbirth
of twelve children
by a whitewood tree.

There is only one photograph,
when she’s old and wearing black,

the Irish mourning in her eyes
for daughter, husband, ground
prayers could not resurrect.

But in her hands, her Rosary,
to keep us both dreaming:

the saints went to the desert
to give thanks to God
for pain which made them pray.

There is so little I know,
and it’s the little
that makes me weep:

somewhere on a plain
there are two piles of stones
I’ve never seen.

There is a copy of a photograph.
There is the wind coming down
from the north.

There is the dust of her flowers in my blood.

From Women With Their Faces On Fire

Let Me Die An Old Woman’s Death

An Answer To Roger McGough’s ‘Let Me Die A Young Man’s Death’

Let me die an old woman’s death
a routine pull up the sheets scene
an old folk’s one stroke death
a wrinkled, crinkled pennies on the eyes
a sterile even senile
worn out type of death.

Don’t let me when I’m three
get caught in a corner with Uncle Jack
who insists on practically showing me
the tracts of life
so that lifetimes later, lovers can’t
understand why I’m cold as a turtle.
I’ve already been shelled.

And don’t let me when I’m between
seven and eighty
be pushed and have my knees split open
in a car park during a steak-out
and if I still can, walk away
pounded into pieces.
I’ve already been slaughtered.

And don’t let me stand before a judge
so the world can see
just how foolish I’ve been
because I should know better at my age
than to be in a car park alone
especially in the afternoon
when it’s cloudy.
I’ve already been courted.

And don’t let me die at home
with no bars on the windows
so there’s still a good chance
I could get trapped
by someone who’s into pain
in someone else.
I’ve already been caged.

Let me die an old woman’s death
not a vexed Bex, out of breasts death
or a bashed and finally beaten
for not wanting him
between babies and his bottles kind of death
but a clean serene, no morphine
old disengaged type of death.

From Women With Their Faces On Fire