The Chimaera: Issue 6, August 2009

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Geoff Page


Seeing People

Seeing people who remind you
just a little of the dead
is always mildly disconcerting —

something in the face, the gait,
the shoulders from behind,
those likenesses that don’t surprise

but somehow leave a trace.
It makes you think about their lives,
the single one they didn’t ask for,

the small successes you’re aware of,
the sufferings you aren’t.
You measure their expended breath,

the start-up and the stop,
the way they fitted history — or
chronology at least.

And then, almost indecently,
you’re back inside your own,
wondering what has been the point,

preferring that there not be.
Meaning’s been too hard to bear.
We’ve had enough of that.

Seeing people who remind you
just a little of the dead
leaves you that much less intact.

You know by now but can’t quite see
those almost out-of-focus doubles,
one of whom will one day soon

imagine the now-vanished you
and hurry home, a tad dismayed,
to work on lines like these.


One day, beyond the eyes of cattle,
the sad suburban quietness of the ewes,
the vegetables themselves prove sentient as well.
She hears the carrots give a sigh

when ripped too rudely from the ground;
she sees potatoes neatly sliced
shrinking from the pan;
the lettuce like a pale-green brain

is cowering from the knife.
Even the wheat she eats for breakfast
should still be waving in the west.
She hesitates to steam the rice.

In dreams, she’s on a board of nylon,
waiting to be sliced and diced.

Geoff Page is a Canberra-based poet whose first book was published in 1971. As well as poetry volumes, he has published two prose novels, four verse novels and other works, including anthologies, criticism and translations. His most recent books are Agnostic Skies (Five Islands Press 2006), Eighty Great Poems from Chaucer to Now (UNSW Press 2006), Seriatim (Salt, UK 2007) and 60 Classic Australian Poems (UNSW Press 2009).
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