Poem — Vincent O’Sullivan

In time of thanks and praise


My friend Judith’s house is so instructively wired
that when she lights her 19th century ornamental lamp
for one of her elegant, thoughtful dinners,
the flame hisses when a man says so much as 2 words.

When she speaks herself, however, or her friend
in a purple celebratory frock, the low murmur
of the lamp is the murmur of the secret stream
from Eve to this very table, the wise susurration
from servants’ quarters, from sabbath kitchens,
while the Counsellors of History lorded it in the State Rooms ….

My friend Judith has put a matchbox in my pocket,
she tells me I have lit the pyres from Troy
to Salem, I have helped corrupt the lungs of centuries
with the swirling scissors of my cigar smoke.

Yet wait! She has taken my hand too in surrogate
sisterhood, helps me accept it is not an evil thing
to be a man, per se. It is discourse rather than essence
makes me unattractive, there are the words to many songs
it is not too late for me to learn.

Repentance is a shrub that may grow to surprising heights,
in the Scheme of Things the instructed male
may come to play his part. My friend Judith
who was a heroine in the Bible, with an arm like a woman
cricketer throwing truth back from the boundary,
is willing, yes, to help me tape my head back on.
But facing, Dea gratias, the other way.


Vincent O’Sullivan

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