Simon West was born in Melbourne where he teaches Italian at Monash University. His first collection, First Names, was published by Puncher and Wattmann in 2006. It was shortlisted for the NSW Premiers’ Prize 2007 and joint winner of the William Baylebridge Memorial Prize. In 2004 he held an Australian Young Poets Fellowship. He is also the author of The Selected Poetry of Guido Cavalcanti published by Troubadour Press, 2009.
To Wake In Someone Else’s Dream
To wake in someone else’s dream –
weather that warmed bare
arms and the inner arch of feet.
In a capital of lost provinces
to keep crossing avenues of flowering tiglio –
unmarked doors were just ajar
all the birds were facing south.
Lime trees, we reminded ourselves.
Lime tea at all hours.
And a flock of pigeons rose – no, click
of slats as old women drew their blinds.
And a heckle of car horns was heard – no,
bells from a distant church
recalled. And listen,
a blackbird, now, at dawn not evening.
You said, happy as a blackbird, and talked
as if at home. Still
they sing alone. Branches
were dark under summer leaves.
Not a whit less solid. Coated in lime.
We leaf before daylight from blackwood or ironbark
leaf on a pulse pressing as breath:
green vowels from blackwood.
They falter by nightfall. Their colour bleeds away.
We hope at the end of stuttering twigs: hard
won foliage. Even the lightest notes fall to ground.
In the thick of things there was eavesdropping,
there was sunlight sunk on events. Where we trailed
the forest there were pathways
to hold as a sound, and wing
and voice of startled bird.
We clasp single words.
We feel the rough shell of what has fled. An age
may slip from our hands.
We leaf before daybreak.
Our foliage is sparse. We leaf on an impulse
from blackwood or ironbark.
The mirror breaks and we find a way through.
Shards cling to our cheeks like cold water.
Blackbird song streams in a startled mind.
Courses rediscovered in spring.
A new vowel
fills our mouths.
Even the faintest ways lead.
In late spring
the grass grows fast in the mountains
a foot or two high and folds
to mark the passage of a child.
Followers even by night
by torchlight, somewhere
we have no word for
Silence keels, its slate roof sinks
Scattered voices ask of you.
All we have a certain liberty.