Susan McGowan

Friendly Street has been unable to contact anyone having authority to provide permission to publish the late Susan McGowan’s poetry on this site. It would be appreciated if anyone having such authority would contact Friendly Street to enable the requisite permission to be obtained.

Susan McGowan was born in Scotland. She obtained Diplomas in Teaching, Music and Religious Studies and was experienced in judging and editing. She was a former state president, a national vice-president and an Honorary Life Member of the Society of Women Writers. She was a foundation member of the SA Writers’ Centre and a member of Friendly Street Poets from 1978 until her death in 2003. Publications include Graceful with Giving, Song in a Shell, Trillium and Walking on the Wind. She was anthologised in Tuesday Night Live (1993).

Donna McSkimming
The eldest of five children Donna McSkimming was born in Brisbane in 1957, part of an airforce family who travelled extensively throughout Australia, finally settling in Darwin in 1964.

She lived in Adelaide for 10 years from 1979 and now lives in Melbourne where she works for an overseas aid organisation. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies and small press publications and she has read her work at many performance poetry events. She was anthologised in Moments of Desire (1989) and Tuesday Night Live (1993). She published Beware the Bougainvillea (1986) and three’s company (joint book, 1992).

My Father’s Axe

For Bill

Friday nights were the worst,
and we had become adept
at reading violence
into the crunch of tyres on gravel.

Measuring, how hard the stone was crushed
how close the rock was thrown
to watching eyes.

Intention was, if he used his key
or called to be left in.

I can still smell whisky breath
down the length of a hallway
and the stink brings to me awareness
fine honed as a blade.

Friday nights, he’d cup
my shoulder in his palm
greet me, as men do, in bars,
with a blow,
thump loudly and press –
call me lad – belching
sick-sweet in my face
full of the sentiments of drunks.

I was his youngest
and best effort he’d say,
the brood improving with practice
and dig his fingers in hard
and laugh asking
why have the others left home
and mutter some lewdness
against my mother.

It was a friday night
he first noticed my shoulders
wider than his, my hands
measured twice the span he could,
though I did not know it, I stooped.

That night, the sense was ringing in me
a note, false as the cutting
edge striking wrong,
and I chose a room
without windows, airless
and only one door
to place my mother in.

My hands and shoulders and one thin door
against his raging and smashing
till the first splintering
and his axe shone its blind eye
through the wood –
hairsbreath from my palm.
All the night we moved
a childhood game we played
pat-a-cake pat-a-cake
with my father’s axe.

In culmination of many fridays
my hand guessing the next strike
my knowing of him all that kept
the door closed.
Hit and snatch
as practised in many children’s games
all the long night
till it was spent

pat-a-cake pat-a-cake
with my father’s axe.

From Friendly Street No. 10


If you kiss a red head lick her ears & you’ll
hear crimson semitones; the sacred fires lit
& attracting revellers to some dark hill
& dancing, dancing till you fall exhausted
against the old tree shivers/remembers bonfires.


if you kiss a red head stroke her hair,
like silk snapping electric. static.
embedding spark on spark, till the future detonates along
the ley lines of your palms.


if you kiss a red head taste her nipples
translucent & touched lilac – as the core
of the flame – as the space between the
Goddess’s breaths. a helix from nipples to;
eyes begin a canticle in blue a scale sliding
finding the spiral through the centre
of an iridescent iris.


if you kiss a red head like running downhill
through acres of opium poppies. the petals
stinging a skinful of pungent kisses & poppy
heads – knuckles into flesh already
begging/bursting full. O grip the inner thigh hard
& let the opiates roll like balm across my stomach.


if you kiss a red head & the moon slips
from the dark to be passed a garnet from
tongue to tongue & pitched past point
of; the axis shifts & blood flames into
an aria burning pure blue. you’ll know
fire as a high note. woman & pitch exalted.

From Friendly Street No. 11, Tuesday Night Live and ‘three’s company’