Pauline Wardleworth

Pauline Wardleworth was born in 1929 in Broken Hill. She trained as a Sister and worked at the Calvary Hospital in Adelaide. Pauline began writing in 1968. She published Everything is Relative in 1984 and co-edited the No. 9 Friendly Street Poetry Reader with Graham Rowlands. She has been widely published in Australia in magazines, and had works read over ABC Radio and Radio 5UV. Her pieces have been used in plays at the Playhouse at the Melbourne and Edinburgh festivals. One piece set to music appeared in a Jesuit newsletter in 1986, and her piece To the Wheatfields was sung over Radio 5UV. Pauline returned to Adelaide in 2006 after living for a time in Stawell, Victoria. Right up until her death in November 2016, she remained interested in all things literary and was a voracious reader of fiction.


(for John Shaw Neilson)

I have never seen blue cranes
in pale pools of water hyacinths
but I have seen blue wings
of pain under women’s eyes
and slow tears for flowers
never given.

I have never known white cockatoos
in gums but I have known
open mouths – some with old tongues,
without white teeth – who call
one two, one two, one two,
all night long and need
to be kissed, caressed.

I have never found the honey
bees’ nest but feathered many rooms
with hands and eyes and lungs
and inside me, blue cranes
do stand, pink legged, in pale pools
of water hyacinths.

From Friendly Street No. 7 and Tuesday Night Live

Listening To The Liver

For Keith Michell performing ‘Candle Tango’ from
Captain Beaky, Volume 2, Side 1, Polygramme 238588

I’m frying lamb’s liver, dipped in seasoned flour
& it’s spitting back at me.
The radio is playing languid violin
& a moth flits its mole-velvet wings
in an out, teasing the fire.
Jack is the moth’s name
& Jack is lovely-talking to me.
Jack’s voice spits hot rivets right through my Paschal candle.
The liver fries.
The fire rises.
The violin plays gypsy Sanskrit
& Jack’s voice
mellifluous & ‘ish’ & Ishmael
vamps on and on.
I turn the liver.
Jack dips and sways
& says I cannot win against the burning light
the logs, the candle & the whim of fire.
O artistry
O ecstasy, the liver done;
O melodious voice
O emotions fill
& still the liver lies upon the draining plate
‘broncled,’ brown & knaved.
O Jack-o-moth
O liver.
Shiver. Shiver. Shiver.

From Friendly Street No. 11

To Unreported Ordinariness

In spite of doomsday pronouncements
there will be good deeds done this day;
little courtesies, enormous braveries;

lovers will embrace & sleep entwined
husbands and wives familiarly kiss
discovering the non-boredom in disparity.

I brush past the basil bush
& am engulfed by the aromatic clamour
of green

feel the sun lick my feet
& send the vascular blood whizzing
up into my head.

I sit under the grape vine trellis
flickering light shadewards
& confidently count the tight green bunches

secure in the certainty that each green dot
will ripen, as sure as the seasons will change.
O. This earth, this universe is good to me.

& independently we keep on going
knowing in faith we will reach
our ultimate…

& whether we put one dogged foot
in front of the other, dance in tandem
like Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers

or stagger singly to the finish line
it matters not a jot;
& the dying isn’t important;

for every spot of evil blown to fill our minds
is outweighed by the triumphant goodness
in millions & millions of common endurers.

From Friendly Street No. 12