TEXT poetry


Cassandra Atherton

Suburban Sappho
For Gwen Harwood





Early morning. A Thursday. I hear the garage roller door lift and lower. Lift and lower. The rhythm of people leaving for work. I slide out of bed and in the mirrored wardrobe doors I see my hair is greasy. I should wash it. But instead I pick up my pen and start to write.

Incoming conference call from a university at which I have an interview the following week. "Can we test the link?" Sure. I open my computer. "We'll have to call a technician. Could be a while. Stay with us. Just a little longer. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry." I grip my pen.

Late morning. I shut the computer at last. Ignoring the emails in my inbox. All from students. Can I look at their drafts/plans/poems/stories/lives and fix them, fix them, fix them? They can wait. I search for my pen.

The university spreadsheet stares at me from the coffee table. Semester two results. A long list of names with empty columns. Gaping. The spreadsheet points to the huge pile of essays on my bookshelf. Unmarked. My tower of Babel. From my ivory tower. Towering above me. On the top shelf. I pick up my pen and start to correct.

Afternoon. The phone rings. Have I marked the M.A thesis yet? Could I confer on the mark? Due late November. It's still October, but best do it now. Now. Now. I open the temporarily bound book and start to read. This time I use a pencil to mark the errors.

Late afternoon. I reach for my pen. My blackberry vibrates. Incoming text message. A guest lecture. On Tuesday. "Sorry, it's outside your specialist area. You don't mind. You always come up with such inventive lectures. It can't be too much of a stretch. So, can you, can you, can you?" I lay down my pen and pick up my phone.

Early evening. My cats stir. Their flexed paws kneading the couch's cushion. They run to the kitchen. Looking at me over their shoulders. Am I coming, coming, coming? I surreptitiously slide the pen off the coffee table. Bellamy runs over and nips my leg while Tallulah wails. I tuck the pen behind my ear and go to the kitchen. Friskies tinkle in the bowl. At last I have my moment. I open my book and start to write.

The clock chimes. I have to pick up my husband from work. I take my book and pen to the car and hope he is late. The traffic thwarts me. Gridlock. Red light. 40 kilometers past the school. I can see my husband walking towards the car before I have even parked. Kiss. "I missed you. What is for dinner?" The pen slides off the car seat and he sits on my book.

Late evening. My husband slides his hand up my thigh. Can I spare fifteen minutes? He takes my pen from me. If I am clever, I can manipulate this situation to my advantage. Eleven minutes later he is snoring. I pick up my pen and start to write: Suburban Sappho.





Cassandra Atherton lectures in Romanticism and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. She is a scholar of Australian poetry and her book,
Flashing Eyes and Floating Hair, (Australian Scholarly Press, 2007) focused on readings of Gwen Harwood's poetry. Her book of poetry, After Lolita (Ahadada Press) will be published next month and her novel The Man Jar (Printed Matter Press) is currently in press.



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Vol 14 No 1 April 2010
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Jen Webb