Graeme Webster teaches writing craft, poetry and narrative in the Applied Writing program at Hamilton Senior Campus, Adelaide. He has published The Writer’s Bench, a writing text for students, and two legal studies texts. In 1993 his poem Crossline was commended by the judges in the Red Earth Poetry Awards. His collection Skinning Time was published in 1996 (Wakefield Press/Friendly Street Poets).
“I aim to write poetry on a firm narrative base, so that even the casual reader should understand much of the who, what, where and when of the poem after one reading. But I aim, also, to instil in that poem a voice all of us have heard, and an insight that piques readers, that lures readers to return again to the experience echoing within each poem, within each reader. Poetry, for me, turns upon the craft of voice, and the insight of people.”
Graeme’s collection, Skinning Time, may be purchased from the Wakefield Press website.
Pinch the skin tight, just
below the knee, and with
a wristy jerk you can strip
flesh bare to the crotch.
Do the other side, then rip
the coat away to the neck,
a tube pulled fur inward.
Nick the neck, there, tug, and
presto, a skin to dry, stew
meat for the pot, the gut and
liver for dogs – the cats chew
the heads. That white, fatty
stuff is milk. This is a doe.
For old bucks you need
the knife to break in. And
if my Old Man calls me
Shit Useless once again
in front of Julie Zadow, or
my footy coach, I’ll draw
the dirk under his jaw, all
the way from ear to ear,
just you wait and see.
From Skinning Time
One boyhood dusk, when the February heat
had seeped back to the sun, I lifted
with these palms the cord, the braided nylon crossline,
to the mirror surface of the river.
Hooks, some with shrimp or flaccid worms, danced
on traces, and others, bald silver fangs,
stole with smiling barbs along the line, through the indigo
of early night and noiseless, watching water.
We made the harmony of unseen drips
and flipping callop, and bream, one or two, and
the slap of line wrenched sharp to shrug aside the
weed cut loose from the bottom of the night.
And to the surface rose a sculptured cod,
made wet, leather-mottled, and patient – rich
in years, and story-wise. His pool-eyes turned and held
to mine a weariness I almost took for fear.
I panicked, struck that he might choose to go.
My boyhood fist punched into his gills, and I hauled him
crude across the gunwale tilted low upon the mirror top.
My catch, I his catch, free from the crossline –
never free from my memory. Still he works his eye
to mine. He prickles my sleep with tolls majestic
but more subtle than any ripple from that evening
death, tonight, and he will, still worse, next year.
From Skinning Time
Redruth Hat Pin
Buttoned in my shirt, close
at hand, close to my heart
I keep – in case I should need
to look in, for a moment of relief
or promise – I keep the tool of night.
Even early in the kitchen shift I might
feel the prickle-faced guard
bunch his palm and fingers hard
across my arse. His chuckle, his leer,
haunts me from shadows and corners near
the oven, the kitchen yard; and I’ve learned to pass
out slops, to run errands on the paths
of other men. Just their eyes fence
me apart from the bastard. Should I sense
the night, I glance out: if I am alone,
I feel inside my chest; my fingers kiss hard bone –
handled honesty. Each man makes his own rules
in the velvet dark – and any man who fools
in my quarter welcomes in
between his ribs my old Ma’s hat pin.
From Friendly Street No. 20