Wednesday 2 February 2022

Five Poems by David Adès



New Year’s Day 


We want to imbue every beginning with possibility.

The artist facing a blank canvas,

the writer facing a blank page,

filled with wild hope and despair,


knows everything is balanced on a knife edge.

Within the day, the canvas, the page,

we place our trust, our agency,

we place aspiration.


Sometimes what unfolds is beautiful,

sometimes ruinous.


These are the junctures.


Danger lurks both for the wary and the unwary.

We can paint over the ruined canvas,


discard the page, begin again.

We cannot take back what we do,

the words we speak,

the wrong paths we travel.


In the dragon’s lair of our hearts

we breathe fire,

we mourn lost kingdoms,

we hoard our losses as if they were jewels. 



If You Could Change One Thing in Your Life, What Would It Be?


-        question asked by my daughter, Sarai, aged 9



The tangle I hold in my hands,


                                    interlocked and twisted mess of


            some unsolvable puzzle, great mat of colours and threads

and broken wind-chimes, mixed-up jigsaw pieces,


books and gushing waterfalls of words spoken and others lying silently under the tongue,

                                                drifting splintered life-raft of actions


and inactions, deeds and misdeeds,


                                    complex workings of time pieces jumbled in


shrapnel, silver bullets, scarred and bloodied hearts, this

                        no-man’s land of a life

                                                            where I lie stranded,

ears straining to catch

                                    the distant, fading sounds of love’s

                                                                                    imagined serenade.


The Benefactor 


The benefactor wishes only to pass on what she has received.


She desires to give even when what she gives

is not desired. Her stock is not simply money


or purchases neatly wrapped, but less tangible things,


castles made of air, horizons around her neck,

imagination’s limitless bounty,


a gushing sluice of stories from the far reaches


of experience, collective memory, other lives.

Her interest is in letting go, not holding on,


pure to the notion that what comes around, goes around.


Once the gift is given, she does not wait

to see if it is spurned or taken,


nor ponders what becomes of it,


interested only in moving on

to the next gift and the one after that.



Men’s Group Zoom Meeting, Eight Locations

For Nigel, Alan, Kevin, Kyriakos, Christian, Joel, and Richard


I learn and learn and learn, and I still feel like I haven’t even begun. But I will soon.

- Elie Wiesel



I learn again what I have forgotten.


It is not only about the self but the other,

these men across three States of Australia,


my friends, my teachers, harvesting stories


from the rich fields of their lives

and then sharing, stopping to pause


and think and reveal.


We forget and learn again to learn

from each other,


not face-to-face now but on screens


from the safety of our homes

or a car parked at the top of a hill.


We learn what we have never known


or understood, what the telling reveals,

buried treasures brought to light.


We learn, again, privilege


and gratitude and vulnerability,

and return to plant and water,


to nurture ourselves and each other


with our voices, our questions,

our doubts, our reflections,


with the silence of our listening,


our attention, these small intersections

of our lives where the roads converge


and we face each other


battle-worn, scarred, resilient,

grizzly veterans with undiminished thirst,


drinking camaraderie,


drinking the nectar of every moment,

every blessed day. 





In the judgments we make of ourselves,

of others, in the judgments made of us

constant, unsparing – templates of belief


and predisposition override fact,

form invisible boundaries 

we do not wish or know how to cross.




My father fixated on origins,

scrutinizing surnames and accents

clues to solve codes


to place each person inside his mental map,

provenance the rule of designation,

everyone pinned forever like dead butterflies.




My mother always said she was French,

not disclosing her Egyptian birth:

if she were to be pinned


it would be to an origin more to her liking,

conforming to her image of self,

less imbued with negative connotations.




Unwilling to be defined by profession,

to be appraised without reference to passions,

not wanting breadth and depth


to be narrowed to one aspect

turning me into a flat cardboard cutout,

I baulked, revealed my occupation reluctantly.




My sister told how childish artistic flair became lost

in standard depictions of object,

how to retrieve it artists unlearned


layers of learning, until drawing a door became

drawing the negative space around the door

allowing door to emerge, statue from stone.




We are unruly children in our questing,

propped up with little faiths,

compartments we wall ourselves behind.


So many barriers thwart us:

keep us from realms beyond,

our fears greater than our longings.




Some lift from the cages of their bodies,

look down upon themselves, consciousness intact,

drawn towards a light they are not ready to receive,


return to their bodies and lives changed,

imbued with a sense that nothing is immutable,

that every border can be breached, every barrier overcome.




My certainties are trembling prayers, white doves

I release into flight. They hover over me yet,

as I try to remove layer upon layer


of limitation, if only to expand my lungs,

to breathe deeply the redolent air,

to ask myself questions I cannot answer.

David Adès is the author of Mapping the World, Afloat in Light and the chapbook Only the Questions Are Eternal.  He won the Wirra Wirra Vineyards Short Story Prize 2005 and the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize 2014. Mapping the World was commended for the FAW Anne Elder Award 2008. David’s poems have been read on the Australian radio poetry program Poetica and have also featured on the U.S. radio poetry program Prosody. His poetry has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice been shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize. His poems have been Highly Commended in the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize, a finalist in the Dora and Alexander Raynes Poetry Prize (U.S.) and commended for the Reuben Rose International Poetry Prize (Israel). David is the host of the monthly poetry podcast series “Poets’ Corner” which can be found at He lives in Sydney with his wife and three children.  


1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed your poems David, especially Zoom Meeting.


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