We woke to that kitchen’s
good morning smell of toast
its squares of lino,
green, blue and red
that we hopscotched across,
the gas stove that leaked a little
so that, to this day, a faint smell of gas
is homey and slightly magical.
Played in the long backyard
with the old cracked path,
its lemon tree, dahlias, frangipani,
beans and mandarins, passionfruit vine.
Or in Grandpa’s stone-floored garage,
always cool, with its thick dark
smell of engine oil. At night
we lay wakeful in the small wooden beds
with the built-in drawers
or on the mattress laid between them
claiming each train in turn,
each of us wanting the last of the night
to be ours, the winner announced
by a lengthening peace.
From the small recessed window
the Virgin Mary in her blue robes
watched over us, arms outstretched.
The bathroom had a noisy glass towel rail,
a high old-fashioned light switch
still out of my reach at seven.
In the sheltering night of that house
when I called out to Mum
she’d come to me
from the back verandah.
In the hallway, the child Christ clings
to a knowing-eyed Madonna.
He’s run to her from his bed,
one sandal dangling.
The angels to either side
with their terrifying portents.
From the sequence ‘Autobiochemistry’
The faint scent in my friend’s backyard
promised relief from the dry
grip of summer. Instead,
I went under, caught unawares
by a sudden slope down to the deep end.
My friend put into practice her bronze medallion –
placed my frantic hands on her shoulders,
breast-stroked to the side, where I lay
gasping, taking into my body
this fresh knowledge: catastrophe can loom
on a sunny day. Sometimes
another can save you.
Tricia Dearborn’s poetry has been widely published in Australian literary journals, as well as internationally and online. Her work is represented in significant anthologies including Contemporary Australian Poetry, Australian Poetry since 1788 and The Best Australian Poems. Her third collection, Autobiochemistry, completed with the support of an Australia Council grant, is forthcoming from UWA Publishing.