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3 poems by Petra Kamula

Eurydice in the underworld

My bones were formed in the sea

harvested like coral / the way I move is very

inter-tidal / In Sydney it rains hot

humidity makes the city / purr for it

I studied the earth / traced white scars

by the mangrove beds where the cormorants

thread the river with black bodies

All over the smell of eucalypt and the blonde

effervescent punch of wattle

I built a house from earth / set up surveillance

inside / took my body and pressed it

into the damp clay / made a trail

of snail shells to shutter the boundary

I called out my name many times

waiting for the sandstones of the river to catch it

and throw it back / I listened

but I could barely

make out the words

Eurydice beneath the waves

Low darkness by the tide edge

the pipis / blowing breath to stud

the sand like smallpox

I grab one, then a dozen, then a dozen more

They’ll crack their lips in the pot at night

thumb-flesh comma-ing onto the plate

In my bedroom at night the ocean

enters my dreams / the reef fish

the moray eels and then the rays

with their cool-angelic and outspread wings

The whales let their whole weight

beach against the bedframe / I ask them

to explain how death is another room

submerged but unreachable / in the parts

where only those with inner illumination

can make out the entrance / I ask

the man in charge here for a lantern

but he says / I’ve had my share of candle stubs

and burned them all in one go

It’s true / I wanted to eat my shellfish

in the ghost light and imagine you

across from me / salt-wet at the mouth

hair rippling like seaweed

from the movement of the tides

Eurydice at the beach

Do you remember the day we went to the beach

together at day-end / went in despite what everyone said

about the risk of sharks at dusk / We parted the soft waves

together and naked and white as peeled sticks of ice cream

We dove from the rocks and the shells of oysters

sliced through our feet / The salt got in and the stars

came down to rest / their bodies on the waves

They were so bright so like the seagulls in the day / and our blood

went out from the thousand tiny cuts and I remember we held

one other / slip-limbed / kept our chins

above the ocean in the dark

two bodies and all that water

as if dumped from a diving boat and forgotten

by a crew eager / to get home

the salt crests clapping at our lips and throats and burning

just a little and do you remember you said you’d catch

one star and submerge it so that when I went down

there’d be a light / by which I could find my way

back to the surface and to you / only you

would be gone / and an empty sea at night

is a way to cross boundaries

because a body is just a gathering

of cells in dark waters / is just a dream

in a spacious expanse / ever-expanding


Petra Kamula is an Australian poet and writer. Her work has appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Magma, Under the Radar, and Perverse, and was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Prize by the University of East Anglia. She is currently editing Magma #80, and working towards a pamphlet.


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