Geoff Page is an Australian poet who has published eighteen collections of poetry as well as two novels, four verse novels and several other works including anthologies, translations and a biography of the jazz musician, Bernie McGann. He retired at the end of 2001 from being in charge of the English Department at Narrabundah College in the ACT, a position he had held since 1974. He has won several awards, including the ACT Poetry Award, the Grace Leven Prize, the Christopher Brennan Award, the Queensland Premier’s Prize for Poetry and the 2001 Patrick White Literary Award. Selections from his work have been translated into Chinese, German, Serbian, Slovenian and Greek. He has also read his work and talked on Australian poetry in throughout Europe as well as in India, Singapore, China, Korea, the United States and New Zealand.
for Marie Dacke
Though not a happy clapper, I
still praise the filigree of things,
those traceries of fine connections,
the way my friend in Lund
established in her PhD
that certain clever beetles here
(and all about the globe)
employ the moon to navigate,
rolling out their spheres of dung
in straight lines from the mother lode
to feast on unopposed.
I praise how they’ve ensured that I,
surrounded by the wide Monaro
(its slownesses of sheep and cattle),
can sit here in a coffee bar,
enveloped by the summer air
and, toying with my cappuccino,
measure out these lines for you
untroubled by a fly.
But, then again, I have to think
about those pesky flies,
classified by Carl Linnaeus
a genus that’s done 65
million circuits round the sun —
and so to those Monaro cattle,
obliging both the fly and beetle
(the Musca and its moonshine rival)
with all the manna of their dung,
those cattle with their destinations …
protein with a price per kilo.
Not a simple story really —
but let’s not spoil a cappuccino.
We tinker with our tinkering,
horologists at work (with eyepiece)
and smile at how we do not hear
the hoofprints in the room.
We are gathered in a room
for violin and piano:
two young female Swiss musicians
and fifty-five or so of us
convened by invitation,
waiting for the strings
to variously be bowed and struck.
I let my eye run down the program:
dates of birth and dates of death;
that hyphen in between.
So much a small mark may reveal
expanded on the stave.
Outside, through the picture window,
a last sun shows the rhododendrons
as, suddenly, in this still moment
I see the room fill up with death:
the slowness of a lifetime’s cancer;
a final swearword on the freeway;
the cloudy whirling of a sky
around the heart attack.
The options ramify like roots
out into the room,
fingers thinning into nothing.
Conceivably, we’ll go together,
one death wrought from light and sound,
a man quite suddenly among us,
his coat too heavy for the weather.
The first piece starts; they’re blonde and gifted —
and not without some humour.
Conducting us by choice and voice
across two centuries of Europe,
they’re celebrating all those hyphens
between the bookends birth and death.
We know, of course, the one date only —
although a few are stooped perhaps
with what their doctor’s said already.
Those last four digits grow remote,
as if immeasurably deferred
by what we’re hearing in the strings.
Struck or bowed, each note sustains us
even as it shouts or whispers
rumours of the end.
it has to happen.
Why is it that with
so much ease
a magpie sweeps
in front of you
as if connecting
up two trees?
You’re doing 60
it makes its long low
as if to laz-
some half-arsed sort of
loop the loop.
It’s graceful, yes,
but snooty, too;
you hear a brain of
declaring in a
You’re much too easy
you shadow in your
Can you hope to
speed up or brake,
your bumper bar
will always miss.