Jenni Nixon: Six Poems

miss lily magnolia from the deep south


hi ya all ya all ok? name is lily lily magnolia ya know folks big game huntin’ so expensive since rhinoceros elephant tigers became endangered trump brothers they’re wild don jnr shot an elephant cut off the tail as a trophy legends they’re the true conservationists if all tha’ wildlife goes there’s nothin’ left to shoot big business breedin’ lions on ‘canned farms’ eight thousand of ’em only twelve hundred left in the wild cubs taken for pettin’ zoos are hand-reared easy to shoot ’cos they’re so tame in the savannah get so close to a lioness ya can almost see her blink shots fired bam thud thrill-in’ rich hobby hunters use bow and arrows sometimes they miss giraffe not that difficult a high-powered rifle does tha’ job porters arrange her all neat folded up like a starched linen napkin careful camera duddent miss tha’ shot you draped over a dead giraffe put it up on the wall alongside mounted animals ya killed leopard antelope big red kangaroo at top-dollar tourist park join a shooter’s outback adventure package hunt farmed big reds or emus (ya can’t hunt ’roo in oz not like in texas) tha’ reminders of the toys ya had as a child red lion purple elephant ha shure is fun

in the dark

…………..holding hot coffee…….. a walking stick
cannot see the aisle or seat number
stumble….lights are off….lit only by the screen
ad blasts out fast car manoeuvres round the bend
sit awkwardly….bump the coffee cup
hot coffee spills down my thigh
drop the F-bomb….and again as heat burns
soggy….upset having lost the lot….Geeze Louise!
a woman sits behind me…..rips open a packet of crisps
grinds her teeth as she crumples and chews
begins to crunch….gulp….crackle….swallow another bite
gobbles down her family-size Kettle sea-salt original chips
the smell of grease…..chippies scrunched through
Sometimes..Always  .Never ….a stylish film that requires concentration
where deadpan Scrabble-obsessed tailor searches for a lost son
words pour like honey…..stick to the board
yet he unable to communicate….express his grief
gulps words like the woman munches chips….pushes them down
turn to my friend…..mutter….what tha? family-size crisps in a cinema!
behind me spits chips… least I don’t swear….she says smugly
would like to skin….slice…..dice….boil….mash…..roast or fry
burn her to a crisp
instead say nothing


coming down  
icy winds bring down branches laden with snow
white magic thickly spread on the ground     
the cold bites his skin   his breath floats in air  
he smacks his gloves together    
thoughts stilled as a frozen lake 
early morning Qigong   smooth and calming 
the kitchen tidied    everything in its place    
leaving Katoomba in the Quiet Carriage     
watching a young man eat crunchy cereal 
scrape the plastic container   lid clicks with a resounding snap 
a layer of milk settles on lips like a sprinkling of snowflakes 
and he’s remembering empty white sheets   his lover   the absence  
a man reads the Sydney Morning Herald rustling the newspaper 
he unfolds and carefully refolds the pages 
a woman blows her nose into tissues 
soon three people are sniffling   snuffling   sneezing 
slowly the train rocks along the tracks   he almost yells   
enough already this is supposed to be the Quiet Carriage! 
the sun risen by the time he reaches his destination 
he appears shrunken in his woollen overcoat 
he’s sweaty with too many layers of warm itchy clothing 
exhausted   he pushes his way through busy turnstiles 
into the clamour of yet another day in the city office   


knock on the door at 6am
………..poverty is the worst form of violence − mahatma gandhi

please….. can you call triple 0?….. need an ambulance….. sorry
see her distress in short satin robe falling tears bare feet
while phoning .,.. offer tea …. please…. milk…. two sugars
haven’t slept in days went everywhere knocked on other doors
no one would open or slammed the door shut haven’t eaten
any chance of bread and vegemite? on the sofa writhing in pain
feet swollen weeping blisters on her leg never seen this before
think burnt meself in the shower cuz took me bag
no identity papers for centrelink no tobacco no tablets
coughing no money make second cup milk two sugars
heat wholegrain bun add butter vegemite turn on the tv
accident on the anzac bridge traffic chaos an hour passes
the ambo arrives she asks name age aboriginal
or torres strait islander? aboriginal any illnesses? diabetes
type 1 or 2? 2 the reply how long?... insulin or tablets?
when did you last have insulin? four months maybe five
she takes a glucose reading 187 far too high ulcers infections
you risk a coma amputations stays calm prepares a saline drip
paramedic refuses to take to hospital without someone to monitor her
just put me in your truck let me go with you sobs sorry
nobody opened their door sorry please give me something for the pain
been screaming for days sorry no sleep pain too much given panadol
wait two hours for another ambulance to take her to hospital
later clean away tissues plastic bits from the cannula move sofa pillows


a dance

as though climbing mount everest
he pulls at the bannister one step at a time
friends with everyone … loyal to none
voice in his head accuses you hold me back
could be someone by now his partner clings to his arm
they push on together toward the impending avalanche

her blonde wig askew too thin for the frock
as if at a school formal leans for support from her beau
she’s doing the slow soft-shoe shuffle with jack dancer
can she take her super early for the casket and plot?
he’d rather buy himself a boat dreams dissolve into debt
he steals her pills stoned on endone and methadone
spends nights cleaning scrubbing away
smells and stains of her disease
helps shake out his fears failing her
in their cosy cocoon they squabble and squeal
like rainbow lorikeets looking for lice

her ashes in a heavy box from the funeral parlour
she is the love of my life he sobs
though not for long the money’s gone
drugs to numb the pain and booze
says he’s over it now doesn’t need sex
spinning out of control until the music stops



do your neighbours know you write poems about them?
my friend asks as she sips her tea nup! my reply
above us ms thunder thighs does her dance exercise
boobs bobbing in jesus loves me t-shirt
… … … … she bangs on the floor
thumpbumpthumps measure time lost forever
or is this her god’s displeasure in me down below?
my heart races jaw clenched a shudder in the bones
while she extends her life is she ending mine?
t.a.b terry home from the club huffs and puffs
tops up with tinnies his telly-vision full blast
black and white celluloid chatter until 2am
downstairs deaf Mr Stinky reeks of urine
in an attempt to catch the clock
his radio wails a chorus of right wing overkill
next-door doof-doof’s electronic trance
agitates my heart rhythms into arrhythmia
to the beat of a bass track band
even the building walls contract and expand
understand the need for walls of sound
give illusion of solitude knee jerk reaction is let fly
Tibetan monks chant mantras for turbulent times
instead cave in down low play Stony Ground’s alchemy
throbthudthuds continue as background to seething rage
offer politely more tea?


Acknowledgements: “shoot” appeared in Cordite, May 2019,  ‘Coming Down’ will be published in Mountain Secrets by Ginninderra Press. ‘knock on the door at 6am’ appeared in Southerly vol. 78 no.3 2018. ‘a dance’ appeared in Wild Ginninderra Press 2018  . ‘dudgeon’ appeared in swimming underground Ginninderra Press 2015 and 2015 Poetry & Place Anthology 2015


Photo: William Yang Sedition 2019

Jenni Nixon is a Sydney writer and performance poet who has read and performed at diverse venues from town halls, writers festivals, pubs to bookshops. Her most recent poetry collection is swimming underground published by Ginninderra Press in 2015. She is widely anthologised and recently has had poems published in Cordite and Southerly.


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