This is the last instalment in our Dorothy Hewett Award sneak peek series before the announcement on Saturday at Perth Writers Week - make sure you join us to celebrate! All the info you need is here.
Julie Watts is a Western Australian writer and Counsellor/Play Therapist and lives by the coast with her family. She has been published in various journals and anthologies including: Westerly, Cordite, Australian Poetry Anthology, Australian Love Poems 2013 and the Anthology of Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry. She was shortlisted in the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2016, and won the 2016 Hunters Grieve Project. She was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017, won The Blake Poetry Prize 2017 and is shortlisted in The Dorothy Hewett Award 2018. Her first poetry collection, Honey and Hemlock, was published in 2013 by Sunline Press.
Image credit: Andrew Burns.
Julie Watts' manuscript, 'Legacy', holds a delicate strength both in form and subject. These are poems that reflect, with grace, honesty and a sometimes unnerving directness, on the complex interconnections of contemporary life.
The story of Julian who will never know we loved him
there's a drunk on the train spouting Kant
that's the dude who changed my life.
he lurches up the aisle woolies bag swinging
off his elbow slips sideways through space
lands on shrinking laps apologies sways
on Kant changed everything.
the man sitting next to me tries to become
invisible plugs in his ear phones climbs
into his computer but the drunk spies him
and like fate see-saws towards him
stands by his seat holding the rail his
weaving hips unknotting the tight Sydney night.
ever wonder where your ideas come from?
he is thrown – sinks
into the seat opposite chuckles
takes a swig from his goon cask
and it sways like a pendulum at his elbow.
but where do you get your meaning?
'from my wife and children.'
again he is thrown – and flashes a grin
like the sun coming out its spark
lighting the dark with all its vanished
promise. he leans forward whispers
that's a bit old fashioned, man.
'yeah, I know, but that's ok with me'
and it's done – he thrusts his hand across
the divide – friend! I'm Julian, brother
and laughs opens his phone
a flash on the screen
my son Jeremiah named after a prophet
and the curtain falls.
it begins at his forehead a crumpling
of skin pulls his mouth into such
a contortion we have to look away.
the man next to me unplugs his ear
phones puts away his computer
and offers up his attention
it's enough to make a philosopher
when the police step in at the next station
he has slipped into a narcolepsy of grief
and booze as they take him away we
say 'take care of him'
'he's a philosopher'
'he's in pain'
'aren't they all,' they mumble.
the train rattles on without him
no Kant no bursts of light
people get up from their seats
and ask questions about jail cells
his grazed cheek and chipped tooth.
he has gone –
and he'll never know we loved him
on a late Sydney train last March.
Afternoons in and out of Paradise
the loose-throated peals
of children playing, float across
fences, and into everyone's afternoon.
I remember one like this
shouts, climbing walls
crawling through keyholes
leaping into sick rooms
where he lay, dragging
his boated chest
over the barnacled air
spat into jars
raged as best he could
his wintering world
his wife calling out
turn down the volume
of our play, our high time
the afternoon scuttling itself
images of white sheets
life at the other end, looming
yet enough to haunt the ignorance
of our greenest days
uncomfortable with our plucked
fruit, yet comfortable with the distance
such a distance, a forever –
breathe in and out
and it's gone –
that afternoon like this afternoon
with the high spirits of children
thrilling the autumn
I think of him, long gone
by the scattering pirates, boarding
their backyard ships.