Valerie Coombe was born in Adelaide in 1932 of English, Scottish, French and early Australian descent. She began B.A studies at Adelaide University in an era when all but bursary students paid full fees and left after 2 years to marry at a time when education was not deemed required for married woman. Her two years at university were probably the most important in her adult life and opened doors that have never since closed. She has continued with some form of study ever since.
Valerie had no ambition to write poetry but loved the atmosphere of early Friendly Street, which happened at a time when Adelaide was starved of intellectual pursuits. She developed a special love for poetry with a quality of stillness.
The arts, and particularly music and poetry, have been Valerie’s lifeline since her teenage years. She is married with two fine sons and three beautiful grandchildren.
Valerie’s poems have been published in newspapers and literary magazines including The Advertiser, Artlook, Linq, Poetry Australia and the Friendly Street Readers. She has been anthologised in Dots Over Lines and Tuesday Night Live.
To Certain Poets
I cannot read your poems.
I flutter among pages
but cannot rest upon the lines.
It is as if I had a child born dead
and never afterwards could bear
to hear a baby cry.
Poetry magazines come in the post
like letter bombs.
I part the covers gingerly
and see the names of people I admire
sitting at the feet of poems
I cannot bear to read.
Certain poets carry a terrible knowledge,
as of a child dead in the womb.
Sometimes their words come clawing off the page;
taloned, talented fingers probe
that vulnerable belly
where the dead child lies
plucking at that essential pain –
the knowledge the terror.
I cannot read your poems.
From Friendly Street No. 7 and Tuesday Night Live
To a Husband
With dawn, we turn each to each,
relentless as morning;
inevitable as the planets,
the snail on its leaf.
In the night I have watched you sleep,
content in your being:
creating you in your own image,
your image in mine.
With the ease of practice
we have fallen as one stone through bottomless waters:
while our two separate selves have watched
from the waters’ edge each widening ripple.
When you sowed out your seed
you planted tall trees to be our shelter:
beneath, we light fires,
signalling our mortality.
From Friendly Street No. 8
The Last Cry Of A Dying Ice-cube
I have so short a time to live
after you’ve touched me
picked me up
and laid me
in a summer bath,
my icy bones fragile in watery flesh,
your mouth gliding over
melting me with ah!
A January julep
a summer tumbler
an instant instant.
Avoid the moody prodding of that swizzle-stick
but enjoy me
with your usual spirit
your skinny zest
your twist of nippled lemon
while we explore
you and I
a spring bed of
I’m alive alive
for this instant instant
your favourite swallow
not quite making a summer –
a dying ice-cube not quite making it
to the last, well, cry.
From Friendly Street No. 11