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Read This and Be Smarter with SLWA

Selected poems from:

Snake Like Charms by Amanda Joy

Amanda Joy is a poet and visual artist living in Fremantle, Western Australia.  Her poems have been included in journals and anthologies, including The Best of Australian Poems, Regime, and Toronto Quarterly. She is a selector for Creatrix Haiku JournalSnake Like Charms is published as part of UWAP's poetry imprint, UWAP Poetry. 

UWAP Poetry celebrates contemporary Australian poetry by bringing together established and emerging voices in a dynamic list established in 2016. Enter POETRYFREEPOSTAGE at our checkout to receive free shipping on this and all of our poetry titles.

 

Snake Like Charms 

 

Wading Pool

The only one I killed
was in our garden
fear tripped and thrumming
blood deep in my ears
even after the threat
had earthed and gone
to ground

She had been still too long
Standing in the emptied wading pool
my daughter with the shortest temper
calmly motionless
all attention directed down

Through the kitchen window
I’d been watching her father
startling the steel strings
of his guitar
face obscured
by cusp of curtain
As he came in, I went out

Closer, my vision dipped
into the blue clam
all senses funneled to sight
Captive in plastic
meeting its own ends
a juvenile dugite
tracing swift shapes between her feet
like a quicksilver jump rope

In a strange reel of actions
I clutched one tiny arm and swung
her over my head
high and too hard
Slammed her stunned wail
behind the screen door
then tramped back

Axe in hand
I pitched the snake to clipped grass
and before it could
thread through a fence
I’d jerked my arm full circle
and clouted between dark
of mask and olive length

Silence from the house
Lone in some grim trickery
Thrown open
the distance between
head and body
still writhing as though together

 

 

 

Tiger Snake, Walpole

We had left the path
in scrub, to watch dolphins curl
a wave, its lifting peak backlit
by a slanted glow of low sun
Dusk had settled, before
it dawned on us
we wouldn’t find it again

Wind-borne, level with our hearing
the swelling sea, its invisible history
of weather, deafening at its edge
gathered quietly in the backwash

A shadow between shoulders
of granite mimicked a track
and we followed it. Broken
ground fallen, unnoticed from
sight and feet, until the gap
widened as far down as across

Suspended on an open truss
of dead sedge, standing
a skeletal depth from earth
unstill as our half-held breath
You moved an index finger
to your lips and we listened

 The sliding of an audible weight
smoothing a slower distance
Hissed a weft through dry grass
directly beneath us. Nornalup –
Home of the Black Snake

A sudden give in the delicate
joinery forced us onto all fours
Hands soothing the weave
of grey wrack, lifting
tension from our fingers

Warmth took a plunge with the sun
as far-flung sea spray encrusted us
Involuntary shivers splintered
kindling, snapping a release
of unseen wing beats

Every unprepared step gauging
the framework’s brittle resistance
directed our blind movement upward

Water rats are waking up
they’ll be stealing our food back
at camp. Eating our matches again

 

 

 

Snake Skin, Roe Swamp

Shedding skin of a snake, will
loosen first at the lips, retract
backward over bluing eyes
dull crown, those sorcerous jaws

Resistance is needed, seeking
friction of rock, chafe of grass
scour and scrub of brown balga
it braces its body and slides out

Slipped fishnet of bubblewrap
mingled with a streaky mandala
of divested paperbark, becomes
my discovery, being its past

I tease open a brittle end, puzzle
my arm inside, until it is sheathed
to the elbow, ghost eyes puckering
my skin. My pulse, its unsealed centre

Vestiture of rain spittle in my hair
A cool trickle slides inside my collar
I tear the delicate mesh pulling it off
in what becomes a deluge

God of fragmentation, refusing
to keep things whole, coming
to me later. Showing again that
repetition might simply be
a lack of attention to detail

 Offshore, the propeller of a vessel
White with science, sent to scry
glaciers, melting under the oracle
of breath, met with the inherited
skull-map of a loggerhead turtle
left it etched to scale

Darkly hollow as sky before
moonrise. I don’t think we spoke
Our innocent fear pairing us
with the snakes unseen below us
Their strange lungs pressed
always to the earth

 

 

 

Water Snakes

... when bush people had the power to sing to the snake.

Water everywhere –

Billy Marshall Stoneking

Your mobile phone has no reception here, not from miles back up
the road, before the ten kilometre walk begins. People disappear here. Not missing, like in the city, where police can check their bank account and find activity. Here hikers notice a tent, canvas torn and flagging the rocks, a wallet open nearby, rifled through by quokkas. This landscape holds perilous stories, sucked away in helical swell and crush, Southern Ocean, a heavy rhythm broken by a freak wave and the emptiness it gathers before it lands. A friend caught his own near-miss on video, expletives, blood and all. You can read about portals in Forests of Arms no one comes back from, before you go in. I think I’ve always known when this land doesn’t want me, put on my pack and traipsed back, goose-bumped and edgy. When he’s in Perth, a Yawuru man tells the story of a night, out of fuel in country he shouldn’t have been on, he set up for sleep in his trailer, came back from behind bushes to find, in bright corona of torchlight, a huge black snake striking the pillow he had been sleeping on. Striking and striking, he makes the shape with his arm and slaps a pointed hand into his palm. Sometimes there, it rains so hard the river escapes and is up to your knees before you can start the car, I told him. But it’s this dry city that really scares me, I don’t know where this tap water has come from. Its source hidden, taste metallic.

 

 

 

The State Library of Western Australia promotes literacy for all ages. To this end the ‘Read this and be smarter project’ has been developed, providing a short piece of writing from Australian publications every Monday to Friday to read on your commute or lunch break.