Nancy Gordon


Nancy Gordon was born in Melbourne in February 1918 and lived there until she married in 1944. Her brother, Arnold Gardner, was an important influence on her and one of the reasons why she wrote poetry. He published a number of poems in The Age before World War 2 when he was killed in the fall of Singapore. She lived with her husband in Adelaide for the rest of her life. She had two sons and began writing in her thirties and after a number of radio talks she concentrated on poetry. During the 1980’s she was active writing and teaching poetry in Adelaide. She died in January 1988. She published a book of verse Not Crab but Butterfly (Adelaide, Raphael Arts, 1977) and published poems in a number of editions of The Friendly Street Reader. She is represented in The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets, Edited by Susan Hampton and Kate Llewellyn, Penguin, 1986; The Orange Tree: South Australian Poets to the Present Day, Edited by K. F. Pearson and Christine Churches, Adelaide, Wakefield Press, 1986 and Kiwi and Emu: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Australian and New Zealand Women, Edited by Barbara Petrie, Butterfly Books, 1989.

Upon Leaving A Hills House

Draw the kestrel’s chestnut wheeling
  bright parrot,
blue smudge of the sea
  edging roofs by Breughel.

Draw clear across to the hummocks
  tall city, geometric reformatory,
parked cars at the supermarket,
  cloistered C.A.E.

Draw the green garden, table
  of heavy wood, lunch
of new bread, cheese and wine.
  The walker who asked: could

we show him the track,
  he joined us for wine,
we read of his fame
  in the next day’s paper.

Draw the stand of pine,
  planted a decade ago
for a grandson, then unborn
  to stalk his expanding years.

Draw houses marching uphill,
  trail bikes,
boy scouts on hikes,
  roads bull-dozed over orchids.

Draw over it all
  the wedge-tail.

From Friendly Street No. 4

To Anne Elder – A Letter Into The Air

Anne, if you were here, I’d write you
my walnut tree’s a golden canopy, glows
while I wash the dishes. Lilies shoot out of the ground
pink and perfumed – shouldn’t they come in the spring?

Not the white clapboard of your imagining
limestone pise stuccoed white,
with a root of your star-studded fern in a pot
this is the sort of house you’d revel in.

I’d share my dog Brynnie’s death
(except you died first)
you’d sent your poem when Bracken fell.
There it was again in your book, so I’d write;
I’ve read your new book remembering
Saturdays walking the streets of Hawthorn to visit your Grandmother,
the Bachelor there if I came on Sunday,
too young to vanish him through the door. His speech
at your wedding, your dress the whisper pink of my lilies.
Did you come to mine or were you away then dancing?

I’d tell you I have a new granddaughter, dark of hair,
the older girl looks like me, do you think, from the photo?
You’d write news of Cathy and David,
how the mist is rolling away your view of the hills,
warm in your room of baltic-pine.

Thoughts puff like thistledown,
do you absently put out your hand, catch and unroll
how I sat at the film about Stevie Smith, fancied your there.
Perhaps you glance across to Stevie and smile . . .
we could always share imagining.

From Friendly Street No. 5

The Sandhills Of Partacoona

Here the scattered stones
show where the ghostly Aborigine
squats beside his fire.
In the wind’s lee
babies roll and play with the bones of a diprodoton.
The swift lean huntsman brings
wallaby and euro
for men to cook.

Grandmothers seize the skins
to scrape with stone knives
old men make
and lose for us to find.
At night the chanting corroboree
sings out to silent sandhills
no museums for those.

We, fanning out from cars,
seek the shy birds,
spirits of your dream-time.
Our wandering feet
walk over your graves.

From Friendly Street No. 12