Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Erstwhile by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

Your girlfriend rang me up today,
your former girlfriend,
no, that isn't right
the present friend of all that once was you;
your fetch or
what remains in the little photographs:
a boy in black-and-white
riding a horse into the scrub
or, freckled, reading out of doors,
both times T-shirted,
your hair a thick, dark bowl-cut,
my erstwhile son.

Oh yes, she rang today,
had taken somebody out to see your grave
by the forked white trunk,
and we were sad together
on the phone, for a hard while
thinking of you, long gone now. Hence.
Where? Where are you?
In poor fact I can never come to grasp
the meaning of it all, supposing
that to be what religion's all about.
The loss remains behind
like never being well.

Chris Wallace-Crabbe

                                                    Editor: Jennifer Compton

I find I don’t need to see anything much about this poem by esteemed elder of the Australian poetry scene, Chris Wallace-Crabbe. It is elegantly explicit all on its own account. It has charm, it is triste, and it is tough. It is as honest a poem as a poem can be, I think. I do appreciate honesty, in poetry.

Chris Wallace-Crabbe is an Emeritus Professor at the Australian Centre, University of Melbourne and chair of the newly-formed Australian Poetry Ltd.  More on Chris
here at the Poetry Archive which says of his poetry:

Frequently set in Melbourne, the poems explore the dissolution of modern life and an ongoing search for joy that he believes all humans experience.

And another of his poems is here. 

Jennifer Compton is Tuesday Poem editor this week. Born in Wellington and living in Melbourne, Jennifer recently won NZ's prestigious Kathleen Grattan Award with her manuscript 'This City', which will published by Otago University Press next week and launched in Wellington on Monday July 18 by Tuesday Poem curator Mary McCallum. On her own blog, Jen has posted one of the poems from 'This City.'

After reading Erstwhile, check out more Tuesday Poems in the right sidebar. Next week, Tuesday Poem celebrates National Poetry Day with poems from all three poetry finalists in the NZ Book Awards. 


Ben Hur said...

What can you say, indeed? Thanks for posting this poem, Jennifer. It's beautiful and it brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. This poem engages the heart and what more can you ask of a poem? The closing couplet says it so well:
"The loss remains behind
like never being well."

Mary McCallum said...

Yes - those last two lines - killers. A powerful poem - simple, raw, exact. Wonderful to be introduced to this Australian poet - his work really interests me. Thanks Jen.

Janis said...

Very lovely and very sad.

Helen Lowe said...

Like 'Ben Hur' I think the closing couplet 'makes' the poem--I also feel that a great deal of the poem's strength comes from its understatement.