Maribyrnong (or When Light Becomes a Character)

(or When Light Becomes a Character)


fruit-bounce of basketballs
against bitumen
punctuates linseed sun
sliding off us—
when light is like a body
like a wall that blocks
the very light it throws
with alarming consistency

how can we speak of light
of its mortar and coils so
tirelessly the heat spun on our
faces targeting sight targeting
what it allows wiping out
vision so we head into
the black of light
exploding our heads
the river like a skin besides
whose breath imperceptible
shivers and throws off
its own garment of honed light.

fathers walk their babies
speak to them in that
exotic tongue of parenting
dogs sniff and collide,
mocking the very-human earnestness
of their blundering keepers.
the light is a hand on your face
a palm to lick and bite
we hold our faces so still
gazing out over the river
four figures teeter
on the cusp of diving
off a bridge through light
into that giving skin of water
calling in voices full of fright
and peaking thrill.

a couple hold hands
appear to smile
but you pass them and she says:
why are you never sad?
and he really replies:
because I am tough and their
close bodies bounce
through the cradling light
calm in the fatuity
of thorough explanation.

you would eat light
but for the likelihood
that you yourself would be digested.
you have no explanation
for its bundles rods cogs or hives
but know it steers you hand and face
back home
through its liquid body.

The Widow

The Widow


At eighty-three
her husband passed away
and so
unable to stay home alone
she goes with them
to the restaurant
on the thoroughfare.
There, among the tables
she takes small steps,
with her yellow cup
and circulates
in fleecy trousers
grey like her hair.
The latter is cut
squarely, simply
to frame her face
which seems not old.
After her constitutional
on the tiles
she takes a table
facing the door
and watches patrons
squeezing through
with their companions
and containers.
Her daughter works the till,
trails a nail down her cheek
under the eye when asked,
while the widow, straight backed
and certainly smiling
looks out past neon
into soundless lights
that veer and tack
breaching night’s




this is a poem for you, dad—
your driving us on those afternoons
for ice cream and from memory to
triangular parks
in country towns
with swings
and dangerous
straight-edged slides

now I drive this city
with wheels' gravity
tugging at the taffy-road
one eye on brake-lights, the other
shunting tape into the player
that’s making words slip and groan
guitars going funny
little cheap cogs spinning too slow

but sometimes
she plays at the right speed
and I fly around corners
looking horses straight in the teeth
and fence posts and Barbed-wire
(who was this “Barbara”?)
while an epic of love
or reckless giving-way
works like ear fuel,
like engineering’s oil in me

and I understand why
you’d head out on those trips
skiting number of kilometres
from obscure-location
to unheard-of-place
fucking your back
(making the chiro rich)
sitting in the shuddering
driver’s seat alone,
but also not so

since there’d ’ve been
paddocks full of chlorophyll light,
sun squeezing hot
like mercy, like grace
through the horizon gap
blinding you to
any limitation, to scepticism,
to caution, to fact

I called you this morning
after your latest trip—
driving the coast in all that driving rain
asked you what you had planned for your day
and you replied – sounding
something, sounding tired
– that firstly you’d ponder
where you fit in the world
then later, weather permitting,
mow the lawn.

Eight Thousand

Eight Thousand


Today eight thousand
(she writes it in words)
people were turned away from safety.
This number is bigger than we can cope with.
A tree probably has fewer leaves.
She tries to imagine those conditions
– on the boats, in their brains –
and cannot (bear to)
feels ridiculous and ashamed.
Checks her phone.
Watches a couple smoke around their child.
She wants to write somewhere:
let's not only allow them in
let's treat them better than wonderful.
(Where would she write it?)
It's called Hospitality.
Religions knew it, before God died,
and the 'I' was split in two by time.
(Philosophy’s fine, but you have to remember your manners.)
How about a counter-intuitive approach?
Do what seems to make no sense in this moment – now and here.
Be extravagant.
Jean Valjean received the silver, didn't he?
(Don't theatre crowds understand that plot twist?)
Do something that Cannot Even Begin
to be explained.
Practise extreme kindness on large numbers of people.
What you fear
is not certain.
The fear flies away like pollen.
Leaves you yellow and dusted.
Strewn among togetherness.
We’ve been mistaking what counts, what is urgent.
It is urgent that we stop counting.
Revise your logics.
In the face of urgency, slow every gesture.
Numbers need
to be returned to their beauty.
In the face of fear, recall
it's not your life
that matters particularly.
Recall being frightened.
Give it that name.
Be clear and audacious
Be soft.
Cultivate considered
(not brittle) boundaries.
Invent a way.
What if a number of Serious
and Set-Up People
agreed to have them in their homes?
We could call it 'House Arrest'.
The government might buy it?
—The papers?
Unused bathrooms could be dusted off,
spare sets of Villeroy, the guest wings.
Those wings would unfurl
like the creaking limbs of angels.
There would be ripples of unruliness.
And condescension. Sure.
Domestic strife,
alongside moments of accidental grace.
Super complicated.
But what's not complicated, these days?
We can't seem to think straight.
Our thinking has all curled up,
like the snares on wire.
I fell from a roof at four,
onto a fence, and bled.
Wounds from that wire stay forever.
And when you touch the calamari scar of it,
weird sensations wake in your body.
How many memories do we want to make?
They wake in bodies
to make new worlds
that may not be able
to take us in.

Blue Days

Blue Days
after Louise Bourgeois


Our heart lies
within neither of us,
within no one.
We orbit around
its independent body
like a close sun
which we
do not catch
out of an eye’s corner
throwing fruit-red light
across all dishevelled
knowns and resolutions.

Always there
even when other orbits
pull us towards
vertiginous whites
where maps
or tiles or stitching
are required.
(Clothing holds certainly
the dust of constellations
more articulately than words.
I’d bury my head,
my face, in yours.)

We hang there quietly:
breathing planets
reaching speeds of light
despite deceptive stillness
at surface of skin
to discover finally
what’s orbited is
a rhythm, not a thing.
Were you near, I’d place
an ear to your chest,
and beyond the crystallised
hoops that contain you,

listen to your galaxies,
your originary hum,
your interstellar momentum.

that part

that part


the way a clock and I
didn’t notice somehow
the way the bodies
held night against
the table legs
(with a shelf, it had)
Spacer40that part of the bird
Spacer40that processes anger

we discussed pudding and
this definition of a cold sweet thing
was misplaced by me
— small shoes, small shows of
brown and grey and the pale blue
we collected in Berlin

Spacer40that part of the animal
Spacer40that collects feelings

a drizzling day beneath a heavy tree
following a drive into amplitudes
we knew then the membranes
and everything rested
drew out a sigh
from what till then
had been a mother of a mix-up

she will read a poem
and that cousin
will stand nearby
on certain occasions
glass turns to water and sky
to sand and we watch

blades cutting up our
height as if it could
dispel a saturation
we refuse to answer for
always tired
always tired
Spacer40the part of the human
Spacer40that processes the iterable

at thighs that remember
finger tips going
in a stream of

do you remember that day
that screamed-yellow day
walking feet bare
in the cold creek
near the house of Bertolt

A Rumination After

The first poem in this selection is very much a piece that merits being approached as a score. It is a score for a waterfall of words, whose sense concatenates, at speed, but without haste, and cumulatively – as if a pace could imitate the way light feels as one moves through it, subjected to its indiscrimination. It is a tableau for a local scene that contains all the intensity and absurdity of encounters with the conditions and logics of the everyday. The second poem – “The Widow” – reflects an attempt to document a very obvious and pervasive dignity within a context that misreads or overlooks it. The protagonist’s clear and nuanced contributions of colour and movement to the space, as well as observation of the erratic, impermanent nature of light (and all it is a metaphor for), make her a centre of steady quietness, surrounded by transaction. Externally reduced to her mourning, her person resists this flattening. Light’s relation to silence, and movement’s harnessing of light: those are the poem’s preoccupations.

The third poem, among other things, is concerned with light’s accompanying us in failure and solitude. Light here becomes thick and intimate, as if an unnameable relationship that can drive and hold us. Light here also stands in for ambition, for the lenses we cast across things both for our benefit or to our detriment. Light, in other words, as measure of, and limit on, the real. I will not comment on the fourth poem. It responds to a moment that has shifted since, but whose broader contours persist and continue to demand our engagement.

Provoked by Louise Bourgeois’ spiralling armature of hung clothing, “Blue Days” (1996), the fifth poem wonders about broken intimacies, broken (but sturdy) hearts, and reflects the insistence of light in being the motif for frequencies of feeling that propel us beyond economies of the known and impoverished. When light changes in a room, it is the same room, but it is also transformed. Light mirrors so aptly the way possibility contracts and dilates. The final poem is about rage and disappointment, reminiscence and danger. The poem seeks to give dissociation coherence. It is also about colour, with all of its objects and scenarios saturated with (unmentioned) light and somehow, despite its stuttering, hyperbolic and definite. It frustrates any pursuit of continuity or resolution. Like anger and fatigue, it longs to make sense to the other. As a poem, making explicit an un-sense, it seeks an atmosphere that would be new, and also familiar to the reader.


Gorovoy, Jerry, Asbaghi, Pandora & Herkenhoff, Paulo (1997). Louise Bourgeois: Blue Days and Pink Days [exhibition catalogue] (Milan: Fondazione Prada).


Earlier in her writing trajectory, Antonia Pont focused on performance writing and poetry for exhibition. This preoccupation with the rhythm of work as it comes off the page into a reader’s head or mouth, as well as words’ irruptions/ interruptions into unmarked space and the theatricality of decision, continue to influence her more conventionally paginated work. She is interested in “usual” ways of saying, as well as the usual-ness of the prim, of the mouthful, of the dissembling, and of the pseudo-scientific. Precise inflections of the banal and vernacular, of “small” feelings, of atmospheres of gaucheness, the louche and the unmended remain emphases.

Antonia Pont is Senior Lecturer in Writing & Literature at Deakin University, and publishes both “creative” and “theoretical” works. The latter has seen her contributing a number of recent articles and chapters on the paradoxical nature of practice using insights garnered particularly from contemporary French thinkers as well as co-editing Issue Ten (“Poetics of Collaboration”) of Axon: Creative Explorations and Special Issue 33 (“Art as Parodic Practice”) of TEXT. Her creative work—including a selection of poetry, “A Manifesto for Obscenity,” In/Stead, Open Issue Four, at: –has appeared most recently in Cordite Poetry Review, Meanjin, TEXT, and the forthcoming Anthology of Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry, ed. Jessica Wilkinson & Bonny Cassidy (Brisbane: Hunter Publishers). A number of poems in this Issue were performed in Melbourne in June 2015—that is, they made a collaborative entrance—alongside others’ work in this Issue, and responded accordingly.


All poems are published here with the permission of the author. “The Widow” has recently been translated by Naikan Tao in the anthology Open Windows: Contemporary Australian Poetry – An English-Chinese Anthology, ed. Jen Webb & Paul Hetherington (Shanghai: Shanghai Joint Publishing Co., 2016).