Roberta Lowing

Roberta Lowing recently graduated with a Master Of Letters from the University of Sydney. Her poetry has appeared in Meanjin, Blue Dog, and Overland journals. For the past four years she has run the monthly PoetryUnLimited Press Poetry Readings and Open Mic Competitions in Sydney. In 2007, she edited PULP’s Ilumina Journal.






The past is only just now reaching us
and the last perfect place of exile

is another gateway to the dead


Even when we smelled the blackened hands

of the officials abandoning the capsized tanker

we kept applauding those who cut arteries of rock

and severed the ocean’s silver-scaled veins


We lived at the heart of the crystal

surrounded by ice roses and frosted fossils

we thought we could merely open another door to another north

and the devil would rush by


When the shadows appeared out of that first bruise-coloured dusk

(bird-shaped, seal-shaped) we didn’t listen to the cracking

from the battles of past winters     we didn’t realize

our black pages would never be white again


As the graveyard pools washed up on shore

our cliffs were reduced to midnight silhouettes

tendrils of shotgun smoke froze above the slumped bodies

ropes hung rigid from wooden beams in the boat houses


In other places

the land is knocked down by noisy winds

or it murmurs in resignation

as it swells into blurriness after the winter storms


Places that die every winter

are revived by the returning sun

but in Cordova Alaska

there are no new beginnings


We must stand glistening like chandeliers

crystal knots of tears on our cheeks

as the snow

falls burning on our hands




The Country Behind Us


Strangers who drove through Badourie in 1938

must have thought the war already happened: 

the bomb to end all bombs had bitten into the flat plain

and hissed out a grey wind, red around the edges.


It must have been more than the sun that bleached

the splitting fences and the cattle ribs that hugged the fissures,

chiselled out the wooden blades of the windmill

so it frowned, gap-toothed, over


the crumbling wattle-and-daub houses, the absence

of children staring from doorways, dogs

rolling their tufted yellow bellies

into the cleft shadow of the rotting porch.


In bullock-breath weather,

the ice gripping the wooden teeth clicks

as it turns under a sky as thin and white

as chalk smeared by a falling hand,


the birds remain blurs on the horizon,

the ground leans away to the summoned faces.

The windmill grimaces as the days descend

with their hammers of sun.   




you lie on your back

 in your jeans and headscarf

on your new bed of blue asphalt and red lace



when I rock the developing tray

your arms flail through the wet yellow smoke

under the crimson globe


lapping water is the only sound in my darkroom

but your world reverberates

with beating garbage tin lids


defiant cries from rooftops  

the soft hiss as the air divides

for stones flung by desperate students


we are satellites apart – the chemical smell

that bites my nostrils comes from your world –

but as I place the tongs over your heart


it seems we are the ones running through smoke

chased by razor-wielding men

in black helmets on black unmarked motorbikes


my hands are still

but you keep moving

sending out your indissoluble ripples