Paperback with French Flaps. B format 128 x 198 mm. 122 pages. Full colour cover.
Newly published in December 2016 this collection explores inter alia the poet’s deepening contact with a Europe quite different in urban topography and cultural resonance to the bushy Adelaide of his childhood and the quiet Blue Mountains village of his recent academic life.
It includes the poem ‘Vanity Fair’ which won the David Harold Tribe Award at the University of Sydney in 2013.
These have no faces, till the hessian sacks
are pulled off—then, suddenly, naked air
invades their senses. Dawn. Their hands are cuffed.
Once the white, stainless glove has struck the hour,
they jerk and dance and, with each fresh report,
their limbs become more wooden, till they slump
in shadows of the riddled wall. They fall
together in a line—each tilted head
that angles for a song revolving, just
out of earshot, on a gramophone,
and distant, melancholy gaze that seems
to scan some line of verse heard in a dream—
caught in the spotlight of the sun, and numb
to the applause of startled morning birds.
They lie at the bottom of the silent wall,
beyond the balm and tyranny of words,
limp as abandoned marionettes. Their last
and most authentic act recedes; only
to linger in the acrid powder smell’s
brief accusation that disturbs the flared,
animal nostrils of the uniforms.
In the abandoned hours, I can hear
The boorish sibilance of garbage trucks
On their rounds. The shy, nocturnal air
Builds a brittle nest with strands of fear.
Insomniac crickets tick, like manic clocks,
In the unmown expanse of the vacant lot
Where, last week, on the razor grass,
A young woman was raped
And her voice broke like green glass
Against a wall while the street slept.
3 a.m. on a weeknight, certifiably dead,
Derwent Street lies wrapped in a body-bag
Of plastic darkness, under lamps as gelid
As fluorescents humming in a morgue.
The casual anger of an alley dog
Rends the pale throat of silence.
A blind opens, across the street,
Like a bruised eye and, fearing further violence,
Tensely watches the threatening night.
The air is sticky, the leaves of trees sweat
And my mind reels with the cheap perfume
Of the jasmine climbing backyard fences
Like a drunk schoolgirl sneaking home.
I retreat inside. In the bedroom,
You have burned frankincense.
We drank sangria before noon and ate
Thick hunks of omelette, olives green as jade,
Spitting the bitter pips onto the plate;
Sipped café bonbon languidly, then made
Retreat, before the fire in the grate
Blazed from the live coals of Córdoba’s shade,
Into a heat like purgatory or worse.
We saw the other thirsting souls disperse
And, walking, passed, in courtyards cool as thought,
Blue as the winter mantle of the moon,
Firm flesh of fruit in corsets iron-wrought,
Until we reached the shuttered pensión. Our senses in a silken web were caught;
And bodies, in the tea-stained afternoon,
Dissolved like sugar in an amber glass,
A subtle darkness laced with bitterness.
A church grew in the paradise of palms.
Outside, the heat, drunk with a jealous rage,
Pounded on doors, possessive of your charms:
Black arabesques of hair upon the page
Of crisp white bed sheets and your jasmine arms
Forming the soft bars of a scented cage.
Out on the steps of the Mezquita sat
A Roma beggar in a broad-brimmed hat
Shielding a face closed like an ancient tome
Bound in dark leather; while his flesh was hung
Up in the window of that butcher time.
Only in longing were his eyes still young;
His fingers slumped around a sprig of thyme
He sold to passing tourists. On his tongue,
A small dry song he offered for the alms
That memory bestowed—her jasmine arms.
Cicadas roared. The sharpened rays of Sol Invictus pierced stone shoulders of the day,
As banderillas do a skewered bull.
Dusk stained the dusty sheets of our love-play.
The ancient art of blood and sun is cruel.
Fine fabric of the beautiful display
Catches the heart that bellows deep and fights
The sun-god Mithras in his suit of lights
Jakob Ziguras was born in Poland in 1977 to Polish and Greek parents and came to Australia in 1984. He studied fine arts before switching to a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Sydney. His poetry has appeared in journals in Australia and internationally. His debut collection Chains of Snow (Sydney: Pitt Street Poetry 2013) was shortlisted for the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry. His poetry has appeared in a number of anthologies, including: Contemporary Australian Poetry (Sydney: Puncher & Wattmann 2016), The Best Australian Poems (Melbourne: Black Inc. 2014, 2015) and Incroci di poesia contemporanea 2010-2015 (Mestre: Amos Edizioni 2015). In 2016, he was awarded a place at the Château de Lavigny International Writers Residency. He will spend January 2017 on a writing fellowship at Hawthornden Castle. For the past two years he has lived in his birthplace, Wroc?aw, where he is at work on his third book Venetian Mirrors and translating various Polish poets.