Poetry: Gayelene Carbis

The Bride Who Became Frightened When She Saw Life Opened

After the painting “The Bride Frightened at Seeing Life Opened” by Frida Kahlo


She hasn’t read a book in seven years

he doesn’t like the light on

if she gets in before him he says nothing

she could read all night

but the thing is he’s in bed by nine

every night every night she has

something to do she folds their washing

in three piles on the kitchen bench and once

he’s passing through and it’s on his way

so she asks him to take one pile

the kids’ clothes put them on the bed

that’s all she asks he wouldn’t have to open

a cupboard or a drawer

but he refuses another time

she’s peeling potatoes and stacking dishes

and showing Sonya how to tie a shoelace

in a double-knot she asks him to take the rubbish

out but he says no why should he?

she’s closer to the door and she says

for the first time ever about anybody

I hate you to the window

as if she’s talking to herself or talking

about the weather and she goes back

to peeling the potatoes.




The Day You Left


There were dreams last night

                           and you were not in them.


I watched your ship as it moved so slowly.


And stood on the shore

                           as if I was safe.


The moon became only a mention, a speck.


The ocean was dark

                           and so still.


There was nothing there, just this

                           blank silence.


The night was not warm.


I pulled my coat tighter.


Thought about going home,

                           the key in the lock.


Putting the heater on.


Saw the house in my head

                           as it waited for me.


Our singing group would be half-over

                           by the time I got there.


If I went.


And then, the absence

                           of the ship.


And I thought

                           now I understand.


But it felt too late.


Your poetry went with you

                           and I don’t mean your books.


I arrived just before tea-break.


I remember them surrounding me,

                           like a circle, as I stumbled in

                           telling them                                                            

                           he's gone.


I really believed that night

                           singing would save me.


But what I remember is

                           all the faces turning to see me

 when I stood at the door


hesitating, the deep breath I took

                           before I launched into


                           the outstretched arms,


the bright warm hum                  

                           of the room.




I flow downstream, north-mad, beneath

the netherworld of dreams: not air, but sea

and stream and creek: a kind of death wrought

from the kin of love: in theatres world over,

your iambic flourishes cast me astrew: impresario

and scholar, you make literal the shadows:

too mindful, we die to our truer selves, calling father!

But the fathers, all air, walk as ghosts over the grave ground.


Gayelene Carbis is an award-winning Melbourne writer of poetry, prose and plays. Her first book of poetry, Anecdotal Evidence (Five Islands Press) was awarded Finalist - International Book Awards, 2019. Gayelene recently won the My Brother Jack Poetry Award, and was a Finalist in Bruce Dawe and Woorilla Poetry Prizes.

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