Lee Knowles

Books of poetry by Lee Knowles are Cool Summer (1977), Dial Marina (1986) and Sirocco Days (1993), all from Fremantle Arts Centre Press. Lucretia and other poems, Wagtail 71 (2007) was published by Picaro Press. Dial Marina won the Western Australian Premier’s Award for Poetry (then called the WA Week Award) in 1987 and Sirocco Days later was short-listed for the same award. Individual poems over the years have won a number of first prizes. During 1999 Lee was resident at the BR Whiting Library in Rome, during which some of these poems were written. Originally from Western Australia, she now lives in the Gippsland region of Victoria though she also spends time on New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island.


Picture Maker

When she entered the clearing
with its guardian rock, her feet
had strayed a long way in search
of these, her people. They took her in,
her head thrust low for the overhang,
and found her a place at the fire’s ring.
They filled her hands with a bowl
and pressed their faces close,
women, men, children of all voices
and skins. She was the one
for whom they’d waited through moons,
the warm-eyed woman, they insisted,
with a heart they could break into
and cool hands for those who needed
more attention than all of them
could provide. She looked in the bowl
and saw a fish swimming in a pool,
she looked at the faces and saw
a need she could not meet jumping
from their mouths, she looked
in the fire and saw the tongues
of wolves. Her mind unrolled
a cave wall restless with carved figures,
her destination. Untangling herself
from their arms, she gave the bowl
to another, stepped through the fire
and ran from them all
for her life.


Between harbour
and island,
the wind falls asleep.

We surrender the sails,
switch on the engine.

The shore lies flat
though broken by high rises
and looming cranes.

A raft of cormorants,
hundreds stretching their necks,
lifts off, leaving a scent
of guano on wrinkled water.

A man in a black coat
and hood on the boat Primo
reels in, ignoring his companion,
the pelican, metres away,
a splash
of white on the wide sea
off this southern continent.
He’s come as far
as he needs to.

In this man’s old country
we’ll cut through
the waves of language
and the experience
of a wiser land,
a different opening in the season.
The sea is quiet,
honeycombed with light.

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