Barbara Preston

Barbara Preston was born in England, and migrated to Australia with her family in 1966. She was educated at Elizabeth High School and Adelaide University, majoring in English, History and Education.

She has worked as a teacher and in community arts. Her interests include music, drama, literature and sport.

Her writing includes theatre scripts, children’s fiction, short stories and poetry. In addition, a series of prose narratives were performed at the State Folk Festival, accompanied by prominent Australian traditional musicians.

Her poetry has appeared in anthologies and journals, been read on local radio and the ABC, and has been performed at the Canberra National Folk festival. She has been guest reader at city and country poetry events.

Barbara lives with her husband, and two of her three children, in the Adelaide Hills.


There’s nothing he’d like more
he thinks sometimes
than to find the key to it all –
that world he’s only glimpsed
or dreamt of
where everything’s beautiful
and the sun pours down like gold
he could find it lying in the next gutter
but he knows he’s not the type
to find anything unless no one else wants it
and anyway he likes the booze too much
and his brain has this strange way
of jumping about from one thing to
another in a single sentence

still, there are times
when the big moon skates along
the tops of the tin roofs
outrunning the raggedy clouds
balances up on the treetops
making the streetlights look dim
and all the tiny stars sparkle at him
like real jewels
and he feels himself sucked right out of the street
out of the world
so that he’s standing like a god
somewhere else
looking down on it all
not just the street –
the whole puny universe
and he knows he can make it disappear
by just closing his eyes
and he laughs so much then
laughs so much
he nearly pisses himself.

From Friendly Street No. 25


Today I went to the edge of town
where homesteads crumble
and dust is stealthy –
the sky was burning
and the paddocks were a sea of emptiness
fence wires rattled and hummed
like someone shouting from a distance
and the bleached grass whispered
something painful into the wind

I pushed my body against the heaving air
but the wind sucked me inwards
and like something turning inside-out
I lost myself
became the grass
the heat
the space
the searing story of wizened, clutching roots
hide brown hills searching the sky like predators
rocks wrung dry
land turning slowly to salt

I threw my voice against the wind
and was returned
burnt and blasted, fighting for breath
I looked down –
dust covered my shoes
and there were no footprints where I had been

From Friendly Street No. 25


This may not be Palestine,
but there’s biblical reference enough
in olive trees
warm days
cold nights
and a ragged figure
            on a simple cross;
A travesty with tarnished button eyes,
he bears humanity’s sweat and smell,
is burdened with a maker’s hopes
– enough like him
to scare the birds at times
But if there was any hope
of transformation through suffering
it would have happened long ago
when the moon was bright
and all things possible
For surely,
                if he could,
any dull scarecrow
wearing a crooked cabbage smile
some torn and tattered dignity,
would have given up a hundred times,
lain down his cross
and walked away…
From Friendly Street No. 27