Empty Plates

At night the devil burns my books
and steals my bric-a-brac to sell on the streets.

I turn through the house like a ghost
looking for any hidden pages.

I hear the twittering of a midnight shower.
There’s always rain on one side, a bonfire on the other.

Why not sell the books, I say.
At least they can travel and be unfaithful.

But pleasure is dark and it smoulders.
That’s why some of the dead want to come back.

All I’ve found are the day’s empty plates.
All I’ve found is another hunger.

 

 

 

 

Bridges

My tired hands lift the sheet.
I fake the moon at the window.

My back arches like the lizard I was
casting off my skin and my shoes.

I cover my face with a dream’s undergrowth.
My teeth remember their animal.

I try to cross bridges I don’t remember
fields where footfall is washed out by storm.

My mind bristles, my feet become violent.
Let me quit the dream, climb into dusty roses.

My heart summons its path. It reaches
the corner of another morning.

 

 

 

 

A Plea

I drifted past a beautiful scene where rain draped
this way then that, with its crows and questions.

I never reached the finest streets, only narrow alleys
lined with ransack, scams, and broken gates.

Pranksters threw their hands around my neck and wrote
on my face ‘loneliness can be healed by wounds’.

I only believe in the eye, my good one, even my bad one.
Rain replaces tears with a refreshing vastness.

From the shoulders of fences, I plucked stray lemons.
There’s always a store of wounds that are endless.

I came back with a plea I traced on a door.
‘Please remind the crows to wake me at dawn.’

 

 

 

 

I Must Constantly Be in Motion Even Standing Still

The words for fear and run for stay and hold
all loop through my sinews each and every

Kissed by breath and tongue

That forms then flies as if being a bird

Might save me

Every word knows how to turn as I’d run down the street who will

Believe me even if I shout

Every song is about loss
and about this road I’m keeping on

Knowing what I learn won’t save me and what I say

Is a cloud in a valley is a storm on the hills is the way
someone pushes you around in a corridor

My muscles and pores still say what they knew

How being exposed must feel

I’m not every woman but I believe in windows getaways
keeping a pencil with me like a weapon as if the only
news that is the news could be scribbled on my tongue

To announce a word a kiss into air
bearer of light of water of what’s made of from words

A vowel is the way breath moves through the mouth

A consonant interrupts

What’s trying to be said is here and gone, at teeth, lips
tip of my tongue           Or yours

 

 

 


[Jill Jones has published thirteen full-length books of poetry, including Wild Curious Air, winner of the 2021 Wesley Michel Wright Prize, and A History Of What I’ll Become, shortlisted for the 2021 Kenneth Slessor Award and the 2022 John Bray Award. In 2015 she won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry for The Beautiful Anxiety, and in 2003 the Kenneth Slessor Award for Screens, Jets, Heaven: New and Selected Poems. Her work is represented major anthologies and has been translated into a number of languages, including Chinese, French, Italian, Czech, Macedonian and Spanish. She has also published articles and essays including, most recently, a chapter in New Directions in Contemporary Australian Poetry (Palgrave, 2021), as well as in journals such as Sydney Review of Books, Axon: Creative Explorations, and Westerly. She has been an academic, but has also worked as an arts administrator, journalist, and book editor .]

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