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Markings 74

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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