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2018 Free Verse

Shire Resident's Prize

Shire Resident's Prize

Ancient
Tee Linden

Sutherland, NSW

she wakes from an eon of dirt slumber

the everywhere temple is shrouded in blue eucalyptus fog
cicadas sing sacred in the fractal shells of her ears
her bare skin blooms with cottony yellow wattle
soft as baby kingfisher bellies
blossoms swelling, mouths seeking, open,
to drink from the dawn that she draws

her heartbeat floods the muddy riverbanks
arteries thread the bush like rushing ribbons
snaking out to the frothing canopy of the sea
her hair is plaited around her crown
paperbark shards, fibrous throat-singing chimes,
rough amongst the spiralling night-time galaxies of her curls

her toes ringed red with dry and crumbled earth
feet that seeded all the forests and the grasses as
she walked the curvature of the womb
chin held high, shoulders squared into the storm
tree-cracking lightning laughter with
eyes shiny and sharp as attacking corvid beaks

fire ants scurry her topography, shiny heads bowed
at the blood they feel beneath volcanic skin
that once filled every dry busted pod on the forest floor
they know her elegant fingers stretched the trees
from their very first roots, as she moves, limbs
gently whispering against clinging crisped cicada shells

the old god rests in solitude
between the
dens of trapdoor spiders
between the
roads cut white-dusty through the bush
all hidden trails lead to her
to the ancient mother glory
obscured through the looking glass modernism
her eyes can't see the outnumbering intrusion
because this is not her destruction
these consuming, violent husks
these buried crumbs of children
they cannot out-exist her
she gathers all the infinite parts of her,
humid with their damage and

she stands

Judge's Comment

This is a richly evocative piece of writing that depicts the awakening of ‘she’, the ‘old god’ of the earth whose ‘heartbeat floods the muddy riverbanks / arteries thread the bush like rushing ribbons / snaking out to the frothing canopy of the sea’. And yet the ‘ancient mother glory’ is ‘obscured through the looking glass modernism’ which she can’t see because the damage is not her doing. So ‘she’ (in an echo of Spirits of the Land), assaulted by these ‘buried crumbs of children’, stirs into life.

Author's Comment

I’ve lived in the Shire my whole life and was pleased to be able to enter the Sutherland Shire Literary Competition. I’m thrilled to receive the Shire Resident’s Prize and hope this competition continues in future, to support locals and encourage Shire literary interest.

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