2016 Winners

Joy Chambers & Reg Grundy Award – Open Age Other Poetry

Highly Commended

Rock Fisher
by Bruce Marshall
Red Rock, NSW

At dawn they came
Police then news crews
Friends in twos and threes to cluster
Shrouded in a desperate hope
Yet knowing what they cannot say
To gaze over the sea

His rod wedged in the rocks
Abandoned sentinel
Still reaching out
The thread that forms the tenuous link
Now drifting in the calm, unbroken
Waiting waiting.

Throughout two days they search
Criss cross the waves
With divers black in filtered light
And helicopter pulse above
A beat that ebbs and flows hypnotic
Until dusk then slowly drifts away

And on the third day all is still
The beach is blank
Only the soft hush of the surf
The gentle roll of waves on rocks
And all have gone
Save one man, searching for his son.

Highly Commended

The Mort Street Badlands
by Vanessa Page
Cashmere, QLD

Beneath the paling-slatted skirt of his grandmother’s house
was a strange, striped world of uncertain light
a curious space between floorboards and drought-stamped soil
where everything seemed unfinished

a dumping ground for the whims of long-gone children
the metal husks of machines and bicycle bits grown grey and bearded

This was a half-hearted containment line for rabbit holes and shadowlands
where the dust light would float,
dervish-beautiful along the lengthening arms of winter’s sun

this was the place where the darknesses boiled up, with a physicality that drew you in

As a child, he kept his secrets here too, folded them carefully inside Capstan tins
stretching to hide them up high on white-ant caps – during the holiday weeks
that bled through the loneliness
into his child’s eye, truth hung loose inside his memory box

Sometimes, he’d wait behind the laundry door, until his feet turned numb
against the slab – watching for her as she entered that crude workplace of kindling,
splitting the firewood for the woodstove’s belly upstairs

listening for the thump, thump and crack –his breath small as she swung the axe
throwing her shoulder, again and again:
lost, somewhere violent, inside pensioner floral
a snow-white lock of her hair working loose
In those moments, she had the body of a stranger – and he saw her, no longer
as his grandmother, but as a stick-thin firebrand
young, before she was wrung out over bitter nights
a kerosene lamp swinging inside the darkness

and it was always the darkness that thrilled him most – the claw and pick of it
the sudden way it would unfold in the dark corners he kept close
exploding, flint-strike hot against the skulls of small creatures
gut-deep, here in these bad lands
somewhere between instinct and everything else that is left.

Highly Commended

“Netsuke” Ivory and Blue
by Gill Jewell
Deebing Heights, QLD

Bluest of blue
eyes reflect the sparkle and spangle
of treasure held in his one hand

Precious figurines lie undone,
uncovered and fondled by this admirer
unafraid to penetrate beauty.

He sees wealth and want
in the faces of those who would sell in a moment
a century of family keepsakes.

Blinded by perfectionism
craftsmen carved and reshaped delicate figures;
little scenes that would last forever.

So he tells their story resting back on a bentwood chair,
of the priceless ivory born of dying elephants in India;
of treacherous ocean voyages.

Carvings, concealed with lemons and lace
in leather bound suitcases bound for the colonies;
a piece of the mother land.

A minute reminder of civility and sensibility
to hold up against the savagery of unfamiliar landscapes.
to grip tightly through the souls dark night.

Gifted to lovers or others
as the measure of ageless fidelity in a moment
of grief or generosity

Exquisite pieces presented before kings
Or as bribes for retches begging a hangman's mercy
A price. Always priceless.

Under his magnifying glass
shades deep and earthy, reflect still, distant civilisations
This master valuer of place and time, sees all.

He speaks to generations
lost in the frenzy of ‘the quick sell’ to satisfy bills
hungry for drama seen on flat screens.

They could have held in one hand
the real narrative of ancient people, smugglers and more
who exchanged blood and sweat for this treasure.

He wraps his fingers around and around
this jewel, begging with his deepest of deep blue
to never let go for any price.

But they do.

Top of Page