Markings 74

December 13, 2017

Queensland Poetry Festival – Val Vallis Award

Second Prize

 His Master’s Voice

for my father


1. Shovel


Beneath a trademark

rust -


the worn calligraphy

of work - still


stamped on the shaft.

The work ethic


of his generation.

Not replaced


but repaired,

over and over again.


The patchwork

of so many years


made stronger always

at the broken place.


2. Fishing Sinker


Making with him as a child

spoon-sinkers for the dragging surf


of Christmas beaches.

Molten lead - poured


into his workman’s thumbprint

into sharp wet sand


a metaphor that might turn

base metal into something precious.


Handing carefully

the small crucible to me,


that first time - to make my own,

after his fashion. Lies now


within my grasp. The alchemy

of all that I once had from him.


3. Lino Knife


The blade

a small silver crescent moon


of tempered steel

honed to a razor:


he might test along

the dark hairs on his hand.


And then the cut and slice,

a secret pact


between his eye and fingers.

The sharp smell of new


yellow linoleum. The dark red

inlay of swirls and shapes


and then the quick fish

that swam beneath the knife.


4. Golf Spoon


A khaki canvas bag

of wooden sticks


he shouldered across

the bare earth and stony


golf course

at Tumby Bay


raking the sand

as an auxiliary for grass


always a birdie

on the fifth


an eagle on the ninth

and who used to say


the best wood in his bag

was his pencil.


5. Fountain Pen


For four years

in Darwin after the Japanese


poured his heart out

in a river of love


the blood transmuted

into blue ink


through the small black

Bakelite pen


one for every day

to the woman who was not


my mother then

a marriage in only words


burning them all after he died

before she got too old to forget.


Jeff Guess

©Jeff Guess 2017























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