Click on the arrow above to listen (In emails: click on the title above)
“Hi. I’m Meg McKinlay and I’m going to read two poems from my collection, Cleanskin. Both of these were inspired by travels with my young daughter past a cemetery near our house in Fremantle, Western Australia.
and the first is called On Being Agnostic
She’s weeping because Atlantis
is drowned and there are no more
dinosaurs. The earth as they knew it
erased by a comet and these things still
madly orbiting our lives. And all I can give her
is what are the odds?, trace the shape
of an ancestor in a crocodile’s ridge-hard
lines. But hope’s not enough when what you mourn
is a wild meat-eater, a reed-necked
creature. What she needs is the lion
lying down with the lamb, old bodies
made new again, stones rolled away. She’s weeping
because she wants a spiny-backed
brother, because the sun’s light takes eight minutes
to reach the earth and you never know
when you’re already living
on dead time. Every morning, traffic backs up
past the cemetery and there are so many graves,
she says, how can the earth hold them all?
In her dreams, she’s hunting
infinity; my only offering plus one,
And the second poem is Ancestor Games
In Hong Kong,
they give you 7 years – no more,
to shake loose that heavy flesh
and settle your bones into the earth,
Then they crumble you into brass,
to spend the rest of your death
squatting on mantels,
blind witness to the living.
In Japan, you find a corner
of the house, sometimes a seat
at the table, compact and sweet:
mandarins are the flavour of death.
And they pause, now and then,
in the midst of their breathing,
to open and close shutters
on the quiet business of the dead.
Here, our lavish bones crosshatch
the suburbs, push skyward
in columns of vehement stone.
Unruly skeletons lay
stubborn claim to acres; we picket
our dead yards, drunk still
on horizons, this luxury of air.
(Here, in this comforting vastness,
we spread our deaths
across all tomorrows,
as if the end of us were also
the end of the world)”
ABOUT MEG MCKINLAY:
Meg McKinlay is a poet and children’s writer, with publications ranging from picture books through to a poetry collection for adults. She lives near the ocean in Fremantle and is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Western Australia, where she has taught Australian Literature, Japanese, and Creative Writing.
“In 2003 I spent a glorious week at Varuna attending a Residential Masterclass and every year since have made ‘absolutely definitely this year without fail’ plans to return. While life conspires to keep me away, I make do with a photograph on my desk of Varuna’s delightful admonition, ‘Please Do Not Disturb the Writers’. It was at Varuna that I first began to believe that ‘writers’ was a group that might legitimately include me.” Meg McKinlay
Meg’s poetry has also been published in journals such as Westerly, Blue Dog, Famous Reporter, LiNQ and Etchings.
No Bears, 2011
Surface Tension, 2011
The Truth About Penguins, 2010
Duck for a Day, 2010
The Big Dig, 2009
Going for Broke, 2008
Annabel, Again, 2007
Varuna has been funded by the Australia Council to produce a Varuna Writer-a-Day “app”. When we have recorded 365 writers the app will be made available via the iTunes store. In the meantime, if you subscribe to this free blog, you can receive a daily reading delivered to your email inbox which can also be directed to your mobile phone. To find out more about Varuna’s programs, residencies, events and support services for writers click here.