Claire Albrecht: 4 poems

Lithgow

i

Wildlife seen/heard between Lithgow and Bell
cicadas

ii

Pan in the hills
winding through the burntland blackness
and flames of red leaf I am pulled
to veer this car down the cliffside through
corpses of gum tree and ash.

I don’t know what I am feeling: an acid combination
of awe at the expanse of this annihilation
and a fist in my stomach with the hurt of it.
eyes darting themselves to an attack.

Pan doesn’t dance through these hills
anymore, his flute burned and before that,
the pool he pulled the reeds from
dry and dusty. but there are older dancers;

I’d call them but I do not know their names,
don’t know where to dig, to taste on the air
so I look back at this expanse, this haunting
of futures, and try to turn back time.

**

Snow in Batlow

think of snow white and her apple:
a witches brew, sweet and sharp but
dark. the blackened trunks here coated
in white dust, a mask, and whirls
of the stuff move in the air like smoke
in a mystic grotto. a chiaroscuro
movie set. when the sugar pines
still stood the usual snappers came
to fulfil lothlorial dreams. then, of course,
the petrol station explosion, baked apples,
a Friday roast, though all the guests had
left for Tumut. a real witchy thing
to do, this scrambling fire, to fell
such things of beauty. Batlow stands,
for now, in the dusty reminders.
witnesses her own rebirth.
peers into the mirror.
grows her apples. such a lamb.

**

Balmoral/Bargo

Winner of the 2020 Karen Thrift Prize for Poetry and Lyrics

there’s a bite in the sun but the fire danger rating
reads low-moderate
……………………….big steel door on the rural station is rolled down shut and there are goats
……………………….grazing in the small backyard by the water tank, content, chewing
—earlier this morning I walked through fire trails cut with trauma
…………..big swathes of dirt pulled into tyres and taken along for the ride as the trucks
went back and forth, back and forth, into the fraying edges of bush—
……………………….……………………….…………………………dead snakes
—and now as I walk this ditchland I keep looking over my shoulder
(no phone reception, woman on her own, nowhere to hide, all burned to exposure)
there’s a surrender to this.
……………………….………………………….and a safety (low-moderate).
today’s breakfast: wildflowers yellow sunnyside out of ash
…………………………………./ egg-and-bacon plant /
…………………………………./ broad leaved drumsticks /
…………uphill I’m aware this place isn’t mine
…………an unowned thing
the community noticeboard hasn’t been updated in a while
two farm utes roaring behind my city hybrid
two men at work look too busy for my questions—
……………………….it’s almost fire season again
……………………….and there’s still more to take

**

Stockton

today I am fascinated by the feeling of my skull inside my face
I ferry my fingers around the capsules and ridges
imagining the excavation into shape and form
the sand dunes of my cheeks hide particular secrets
and I rest like this, fingertips find a place to settle
as though they are migratory wading birds, pressing gently

when stockton was undressed, we saw her shape too
a battering revealed, what? beer cans, ship wrecks,
busted tires, asbestos in the shape of memories
as nine hot air balloons of sand
three huge blimps of sand
a third of the EPCOT centre of sand

was tugged straight out to sea towards— who knows?
if you ask the kids from the coastal child care centre
that had to be demolished, I wonder what they’d say
could they block out all that violence?
the ocean just keeps coming, raging blows,
raising fists at Stockton, who cannot hide her face

 ____________________________________

Claire Albrecht is a Newcastle based poet. She was the 2019 Emerging Writers Festival fellow at the State Library of Victoria, a 2020 Varuna ‘Writing Fire, Writing Drought’ fellow, and will be a resident at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, New Mexico in 2021. Her debut chapbook pinky swear was published in 2018, and her poem ‘Balmoral/Bargo’ won the 2020 Karen Thrift Prize for Poetry and Lyrics.

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