Tracy Ryan




for Jean-François Samlong


Everything shut will open again:

the intimate green we don’t notice

till you show us in this childhood place

how each leaf responds to the least

reading of fingertips, folding down,

as if we only briefly crossed its mind,

and were then forgotten

in its restoration:

mimosa pudica, essence of discretion,

fragility of interface. Our touch

passes like cliff-shadow, leaving no trace.

Everything is a game, you say,

as the boy keeps leaping, will leap forever

into the spray beside the steep cascade,

imprint also effaced as he runs

back into daylight, evaporation.

What am I saying, thirty years!

It’s forty, or fifty already. The ground

full of holes that are never sated, the road

an eternal ford with no sign of the other

side. Everything shut will open.




Evaporative Water Cooler


God knows where he rustled it up from.

There was always the back of a truck, friend of a friend,

or some prospect he’d warmed up who came good,

some favour he’d called in, silver-tongue, touch of the blarney

but there it was, dripping, glittery, our high-ceilinged

weatherboard lounge-room set fluttering, all ears

for its rumbling, gravel-throated hum, and him

filling the back of the thing with a hose, great guzzler

that it was, lifting the fly-strips like something redemptive,

sending the ravaged pages of newsprint she hated flying

till we kids pounced barefoot on them, tamping

them down, rolling the toppled stubbies, and him

flaking out in the fat armchair, a snore to rival the growl

of the new secondhand cooler, us clustered at his feet,

and her resolute in the kitchen, the household settling

into temporary respite, cool spell, artificial and moveable

as temper sweltering that December, quelling the angst,

the discord of coming down in the world, a bought peace, barely

paid-for truce, running up bills he could always delay

or talk his way out of, still better than meltdown.



Crossing Myself


The stoup at the door is empty.

Our Lady of Knock reduced to a pun.

Somebody else’s house I call home

on borrowed time. I know the routine.

An empty stoup, God-shaped.


I could fill it myself from the tap:

base water, Tess baptising Sorrow.

Or savour the void it cradles, knowing

though hands may be trained to mere pattern,

no power holds, no priest steers me,


nor ever will step inside again to belabour,

upbraid a mother’s unsainted rooms,

the way she hid the hated objects

in a father’s absence. Nor to badger

a frightened child with limbo.


The stoup‘s too small for grown fingers.

They itch like stitches, yet find it wanting.

Not even dried relic of sponge, no hyssop

to soothe Christ’s lip, to slow the loss, the attrition.

Only this cracked plastic shell, with nothing to offer.


Though it lodge in the brain and beg for

response, I repeat: it is empty – no drop will grace

my ingressions, transgressions, nor register

deference as if I clocked on. My left hand knows

          what my right hand is doing.