Good Reading : March 2015
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING MARCH 2015 12 POETRY Born in Brisbane as Gwendoline Nessie Foster, Gwen Harwood (1920–95) is regarded as one of Australia’s most outstanding poets. During her life she published 386 poems and won numerous awards. Motherhood and the restricted role of women are recurring themes in Harwood’s poetry, but in this poem, ‘In Hospital’, she muses on how the memories brought back by looking at a jar full of oddments can distract her from pain while she lies in hospital. In Hospital Morning. I dare not stir for what may wake, for what pain may wake. My daughter yesterday unwillingly for my sake brought here, carried with her this jar full of odd things, stones, shells, glass, scavengings from our last holiday; sea toys, child’s jewels, rolled to smooth anonymous shapes. She filled the jar with water to bring a gleam back from their chilled and speechless world.They hold salt air, soft stone, clear light and a swallow’s ragged flight, wings closed, continuing in air between wave and wave. Arrogant on that shore I raced with my child. Pain splinters me. I am cracked like glass. I taste salt, my own fear, can save nothing, am ground, degraded on my own fragments, abraded featureless. And am free of pain for a brief space. A fire-talented tongue will choose its truth. I do not bear what’s gone, do not refuse what’s yet to come. The grace of water rinsed, re-made these stones. My tongue’s betrayed by pain. They speak my prayer. Gwen Harwood The 100 Best Poems of Gwen Harwood is published by Black Inc, rrp $24.99.