• Paul Munden

 

Duet

 

A two-man crosscut saw

rips its brusque path

through the sprawl

of an ancient sycamore

in the Craiglockhart garden

where Owen and Sassoon

spent shell-shocked leave.

 

                  It's a standard operation,

                  midwinter, before the sap

                  starts to rise —

                  a judicious sacrifice

                  for the benefit of the tree —

                  the heavy limb

                  roped, then slowly cradled

 

to the ground. Split,

its dense pages fall

open like a book:

one, for the younger man,

to be worked from sup-

ple greenwood in defiance

of traditional technique;

 

                  the other must wait

                  until seasoned — fit

                  to capture a darker tone —

                  when the luthier's steel

                  will once more nurse

                  mute wood's recuperation

                  into song. Now they form

 

a new alliance

as comrades in peace —

two violins unburden-

ing the tumultuous years

within their shared

and sculpted grain —

even as the world

 

                  tilts ever again

                  towards the pitiful wrath

                  of war — that bleak

                  underscore

                  to the melodic weave

                  of what is spared,

                  incumbent, but free.

 

 

The Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon violins were made by Steve Burnett

in honour of the two poets and their lost generation.

 

 

 

Temporary Resident

 

I wormed my way in

to a niche, nourished;

an interloper tolerated,

humoured, excused;

a compliant cell in the gut

of the body politic,

gorging on sunshine, even

 

                  in the dark; quarantine

                  endured in the proximity

                  of bliss; my days numbered

                  by a malignant algorithm

                  I failed to decode

                  in the complacent slide

                  from snug

 

to smug

as I paced the limited

measure of my cell,

such locomotion

forming the symbiotic

drift of my demise.

It was worms that

 

                  turned on me with

                  visceral indifference:

                  they burrowed to my core,

                  hollowed

                  me out

                  until I was pure alien,

                  my comfortable niche

 

a mortichnium —

the pre-fossilized dom-

ain of my crawl

from grace — my heart-

beat a real-time death-

march drummed

with my own blood...

 

                  ... a stay of execution,

                  and in the fractional

                  moment before I was

                  gone, I had a glimpse

                  of happiness — no more

                  than a brief intensity

                  of disintegrating dust.

 

 

 

 

An Artist's Studio

Sydney, Spring 2019

 

You stand in the sweat-

box of your studio, glazed.

The concrete floor

is a layered spatter

of paint

from the days

you could still hold

 

                  a brush in your limp

                  wet hand. Paint oozes

                  from fat aluminium

                  tubes — paint like butter

                  that unclouds, loses

                  its emulsified tint

                  and disappears

 

into the grain

of what, today, is too hot

to eat. Cold beers

from the thundering fridge

will only make you more

thirsty. The industrial fan

struggles to create

 

                  the illusion of a breeze;

                  air more like a clamp.

                  Wasps don't know

                  what's hit them, each

                  curled

                  like a devilish embryo

                  on the windowsill,

 

cradling its death,

the sweltering studio

now a morgue —

the very thought

of making art here

utterly inert,

an undepictable lull

 

                  before the random,

                  rogue,

                  bone-numbing ice-storm

                  to come — the freeze

                  that will take your breath

                  and force you to witness it

                  unravelling, useless, erased.