Eight poems by Alan Gould:

1. “Elegy”

2. “Just Once”

3. “Wishes For Jacko, Four Months Away”

4. “Lacemaker”

5. “Brief Absence”

6. “Dream”

7. “As Dawn Comes Bright With Proof”

8. “King Parrots”



My mother died on a recent Tuesday. 

         She raked the winter leaves

into a blue tarpaulin,

         went down from heart,

such that the bronze winter light

         held her pale breath then did not.

So falcon-sudden, this

         her  dive-tumble into death

behind the mountain called Sulur

         meaning Shawled Woman

in her first language,

         whose indigo reflection I saw

in unblemished Eyjafjord

         where my mother came from.


Now her considering person

         has come to a costly box.

Her rounded handwriting has ended,

         She is beyond reach of neighbours

who would wish to repay

         her many small favours.

Faces steam here like windows,

         her house is full of guests,

they are welcome, but unwanted.

          Her absence is a presence

to which I’ll grow accustomed,

         her photos now forever recent.


My last look at her face

         was deep in the hospital basement,

a fetor of concrete and this,

         my first unmistakeable corpse,

so intact still

          her lifelong composure

I expected to see breathing,

         and in the church aisle,

the astounding weight

         of so neat a person in a polished box?


Missus G. Mum, a lifetime

           of good food, good care,

I took for granted,

           could not have asked for better.

Altruism and winterbreath

           lack purchase on the world.

When I stood by your fjord

           I saw the sun unsheathe

a falcon’s underwings

         sudden pale of the aurora.


Now fjord and mountain are still,

          and here the leaves are ungathered.

A woman complete in her moments,

          indigo, rare, has vanished.

            © Alan Gould 



Just Once


For twenty years an instant will persist.

I’m back in London, high in London mist,

and from the bus glimpse someone draw aside

an upstairs curtain. She is, I see, a bride

who smiles upon that wet, inchoate street,

gives it the ah! it lacks to be complete.

            © Alan Gould



Wishes For Jacko, Four Months Away


You sleep in your inland sea; some say you dream.

If so, that is a film you cannot keep,

and we can never know. Mention the womb,


and who will not imagine it, our snuggest room,

earliest welfare state, domed with red pearl,

eerily aswirl behind its veil of water,


while round, over and in between the welter

and glug of mum’s plumbing? But this is collage

pasted from, not plotted on, the memory screen.


Deeply you loom beyond us, a foot that thumps,

a hand already laying down the trumps

from the room next door, not seen, not known,


nor will be for four months more. By guess and phase

you’ll reach your freeholds of speech and mindfulness,

and will surrender as you do, the tender clues


permitting views of these, your wordless days.

Who, after all, among self-conscious folk,

recalls the long occasions of mother’s milk,


those first persuasions of your fluent air?

They belong to where the days of  animals

are lost, that Lyonnesse criss-crossed by trails


habitually travelled, possessed, but never known. 

In contrast humans own this flight path ending

in cloudy weather. The babe ascending from islands


then peninsulas of self toward

the memory screen, makes the person singular.

I clock in at three, already have unlocked


the syntax room. Below some beeswaxed stairs

I sit with a trainset and two mute bears,

a curlicued white and a straight-haired grey


whose origin was the same benign Cathay

mine was. But mention prior time, Woolwich,

Akureyri, and here’s a someone trying to vary


my version of what’s true. Show me a photo –

Gouldilocks at two – and here’s a tot

posed, curly, claimant, sansculotte,


his smile as undisclosed as Buddha’s. Out

of that intelligent stupor I came, not

entitled to own those things I’d touched


but could not name, my earliest addresses,

or tobacco-rich variants of adult kisses.

In coming months no doubt you’ll be hard-pressed,


engrossed as a serious drinker, but by our world,

growing day by day toward possession

of the genuine inner scenes that come to stay


at your will, ushered by a few guardian nouns,

then later by those adjectives, the trim infiltrators,

who shift the bounds of what was fact, swim


from caravels of what might well have been the case,

make a self sovereign in the twofold place.

            © Alan Gould





She works in such a flush of windowlight,

by loop and twist is reassembling sea-spray

   or the mantilla of after-spray

      that falls from a wave’s shoulder.


Such bobbin-work with threads of Flemish linen;

she leans to her slow progress, scallops and spangles

   white instantaneities,

      knots them, nets them, and will


remember nothing of this time. The clock

above her head is ticking beyond her earshot.

   If the white walls of her room are hung

      with maps or pictures, they


cannot represent her present world.

She’s in a time that’s utterly her own,

   inaudible to her as her breathing

      now is. And her eyes,


which through this patience may well suffer ruin,

are now enclosed within her whitening field,

   within this ground of patient frost,

      this snow that will not melt.

            © Alan Gould



Brief Absence


My love is out on her bicycle.

Her purple skirt fills like a sail on The Nile.


The likeness of a galaxy

spirals in my coffee cup

as breezes finger apple leaves

like mothers in a fabric shop.

I brood and wander restively,

I’m happy enough, is what I say,

prowling my house like an émigré

among the sunlight’s see-through sleeves.


Annie is out on her bicycle.

Her purple skirt fills like a sail on The Nile.


Hungry, and calling for whisky, she

will come home when the little moon

is a grin perched over our apple tree.

Then ice and glass will clink their tune

and she will talk with easy grace.

I was more than happy, I will say,

to listen for the tell-tale sway

of your purple skirts in our moonlit house.


My love is out on her bicycle.

Her purple skirt fills like a sail on The Nile.

            © Alan Gould 





I came by car, you came by rail.

    An antique pale

    and fissured moon

sat on the sea like a macaroon.


I stood on tenterhooks alert

    for rustle of skirt

    and for the reckoned

joy to flood the careless second,


when your dear colluding eyes

    dropped day’s disguise

    and the sea, like solder

silvered your eyelids, your naked shoulder.

            © Alan Gould 




As Dawn Comes Bright With Proof


The gas-jet blue of day

tilts over hill and roof

finds where their eyes, their hands

still wander, still  assume

such joyous rights of way

as dawn comes bright with proof

of how the night’s calm lands

shrink to a paltry room,


shows from the little wood

the magpie choir clock on,

as traffic’s factory hum,

and siren’s wail avow

that what has been is gone.

But what has been was good,

and what was good will come

unasked and anyhow,


joyously they reply.

For though we rise, conform

to agendas not our own,

what wild chance of bliss

swims in the stellar swarm,

lies tranquil in the eye,

or in the girdered  bone,

unheeding the abyss.

            © Alan Gould 



King Parrots


They have arrived.

That’s all I am allowed to know.

Four, no, six, they have materialised


trembling on the Mexican Hawthorn

as though the tree had just devised them,

six sleek Transylvanians,


six jocund rascals, outrageous

in their green or crimson balaclavas

and crimson pantaloons,


tucking away their conifer wings,

eating with greedy disdain

like babies, or comic strip bandidos.


My lawn is rubbished with half-eaten crimson berries.

Vandals. Solferino angels;

how can my eye stray while they remain


in creaturely candelabra

on a sky of nursery blue.

It’s like a siege.


One cocks its head as though to say,

“Don’t worry. We are too brilliant to be real,”

then goes on eating from my tree.


They’re gone. The branch skitters into stillness.

And I will spend a year behind this glass

fixed on their return.

            © Alan Gould





The ocean dresses

and undresses the pale beach

with white mantillas,


a bustling mother

trying out wedding clothes on

an only daughter.

            © Alan Gould 



The Little White Car

(for Geoff Page’s 70th Birthday.)


    Near and far, near and far,

with minimum of brouhaha,

a frosty head and small moustache

just visible above the dash –

you’ll glimpse Geoff Page in his white car

bringing poems to where you are.

    Is there someone needs a sonnet

Bruce Dawe’s ímprimátur on it,

or are there writing class requests

for shipments of fresh anapests?

Do workshops crave more live pantoums,

do slim first vols need nom-de-plumes?

Are chefs dependent for their salads

on a seasoning of ballads?

   There Mister Page is on the job,

and animates a metric throb

from Marble Bar to Kandahar

and visits dives in Zanzibar

where sullen addicts feeding pokies

pay ingots for small change in trochees,

and does brisk trade in Neufchatel

with virelai and villanelle,

supplies a senator in Lima

ten cantos of ottava rima!

BP, take note! To cap your oil spill

nothing works like rima royal will.

Surgeons harassed by your backlogs,

paste your patients into eclogues!

    Now here’s a Swede will reimburse

for prompt supply of mint free verse,

while Masai herding goats and zebra

are Francophile for pure Vers Libre.

   Yes, Mister Page is at his task.

Where is he now, I hear you ask.

He’s zipping through the demi-mondo

charged with several gross of rondeaux,

he’s marketing new model stanzas

at universities in Kansas,

he’s lobbying the latest Thai coup

with sweeteners of odes and haiku,

he’s dropping off a brand new tercet

where an Eskimo will nurse it,

depositing a crate of couplets

for mothers coping with quintuplets

modifying old quatrains

to please the ears of aesthete Danes.

    And as he drives, his whiskers twitch

with dithyramb and hemistich,

his fingers tap with jazzy fractals

for an ode on pterodactyls,

or construe a sound more Sapphic

as he copes with Athens traffic.

   Near and far, near and far,

this commerce that’s a touch bizarre,

its bow wave of a small moustache

dispelling cant and balderdash,

Mister Page is in his car

bringing poems to where you are.

            © Alan Gould


Except “The Little White Car”, all these poems can be read in Alan Gould’s book, The Past Completes Me: Selected Poems 1973-2003. (University of Queensland Press, 2005). “The Little White Car” is uncollected and was first published in Quadrant in 2010.

Alan Gould is an Australian poet and novelist. Learn more about him and his publications from his website www.alangouldwriter.com/.



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