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He would play it his favourite

George Gershwin rhapsody

and at night he would hum

a lullaby, until it folded up

its leaves to pray.


                 from; Loss by Karen Knight






           Bird Man of Alcatraz


Valentine’s Day

Knitting for the Red Cross

My Piano

This Autumn Night



A Factory Love Affair

After Tim Storrier’s Sketch - The Tin Winged Hopping Dickie

Only Three Seasons



1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Karen Knight


Karen Knight lives in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. She has written four collections of poetry and she has won various literary awards. Her current collection Postcards from the Asylum won the 2007 ACT Alec Bolton Poetry Prize and the University of Tasmania Book Prize for best book by a Tasmanian publisher (Pardalote Press).






Bird Man of Alcatraz

(for Robert Stroud)



To have lived in Stroud's prison

wired aviary


and be fitted for a foot sling

light as a lift-off


to roost on his finger

as he rocks your compound fracture


to be one of his etchings

in the Roller Canary Journal


to be part of his avian psychology.


But best would be the wild taste

of the seedling greens he grew into

wishbones of light, and a spoonful

of river-bed silica sifted through

sixteen inch mesh and washed down

with his finest cod liver oil.


What a remedy.





All I did was sneeze

and my parents’ prayer plant

went into shock.

Its foliage splayed out

like the wings of a sick bird

that’s lost its memory of flight.


This Maranta leuconeura

was once a showpiece

in the visitors’ room

of my grandmother’s home.

It thrived in a terracotta jardinière

that she painted in a gold glaze.


I remember tracing

over the red variations of veins

and dark green patterns

that ran through its broad leaves.


Before the ambulance took my Nan

she asked my dad

to keep her precious plant

away from sudden noise and draught.

For years, it lived vigorously

in perfect greenery

next to Dad’s baby grand.


He would play it his favourite

George Gershwin rhapsody

and at night he would hum

a lullaby, until it folded up

its leaves to pray.


Since my parents died

its leaf tips are brown and curled

as if burnt by too much heat

too much draught.


Despite harp music

and daily mistings

it trembles

on a shelf above my stereo

in a tangle of noise

that refuses to leave my house.

Valentine’s Day


We are each a comfortable puzzle

of bone & muscle, you and I

locking in the edges

before they fray,

our tongues tied around

parcels of poems.


There’s an arc of cloud

above our heads

and I feel religious when I look up

at a pink and orange sky.


Like the under-belly of a salmon, you say

and I suddenly feel blind.


Knitting for the Red Cross

During WW1, all knitted items went through a quality check. If the piece was deemed poorly made or did not meet the required specifications, it was returned.


I don't know

how to turn

the heel

of this knitted

sock. It grows

to the length

of the room

and doubles back

onto my feet

and over my body


me in khaki

and olive drab


I should unstitch

myself and go

to the room

of clicking needles

and dark military

patterns where women


through the drone

of a Zeppelin




My Piano


is a great ark of a thing

that carries a cargo of harmonics

under its black lacquered lid.


It stands upright

against a floor-to-ceiling window

in a rented cottage by the beach

its warped back out of tune

to the chill of salt air.


When I touch its hammers

held by rusty strings

resounding waves sweep over me

round and sensual sounds

that come from living wood. 


I breathe in dust

smooth a veil of beeswax

over its old frame

lift the lid

and stroke the yellowed keys.


We play impromptus

preludes and fugues.


Music drifts

towards an ivory moon


on the edge of the horizon.


This Autumn Night


Don’t walk the long way

home tonight, my darling.


Our child has been bathed

his bike put to bed.


The trees are parting

the moon is coming through.


There are flight paths of fire-flies

streaming the sky.


The porch light is spreading

its orange butter on me.




Celeste has to have

two of everything –


two children

two cats

two birds

two goldfish

two cups of coffee

in the morning

two logs of wood

on the fire

two cakes of soap

on the sink

two picture frames

on the mantel

two books

on the bedside table.


Her father and I

never got on.




In this pastoral setting we cultivate

pet cemeteries of compost

under full moons.


The soil is sweet.


During visiting hours

we plant potatoes

they propagate with Humbug,

Heathcliff and Dog

with all the toms

who have passed on.


There is plenty of space

for blood and bone

for sweet potatoes

for propagation

for closeness

and they’re all inside us.


In this rustic scene

there lies an epitaph.


We eat.

We are close to them.

They are inside us.


A Factory Love Affair


He had blue-printed the weekend skillfully

this shy, young, pie-factory worker –


French letters, multi-coloured,

purchased in a bold sweat


the caravan park paid

in advance


and a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover

to be read aloud while plaiting her hair.


She had rehearsed the perfect alibi

while churning out party pies -


left her husband a crock-pot

of his favourite stew


finished work early

to buy a pink negligee


and bottles of wine

to strengthen the nerve


Their co-workers said it would never come off.

A last-minute change in the shifts


and miniature balloons, multi-coloured,

took a French leave from the pie-factory window


and exploded in the heat.


After Tim Storrier’s Sketch - The Tin Winged Hopping Dickie


Struggling to find a name

for the old tin bird

Storrier was carried away

when he came to the

mechanical wing.


Name it, crank it

and the bird will sing.


Thumb smudged and torn

from a memo pad

the crossed out bird

turned its little screw neck

felt its tail flick out

like a fan blade.


Give it a note

and the bird will sing.


The radio was playing

the dickie bird hop

when the artist made

a musical note.


Flying out from

a wound up beak,

it windmilled a song

around the studio.


Only Three Seasons



brewing spiced mead on the stove

building a fire with mallee roots.



changing the sheets to canary yellow

serving up snow peas on an orange plate.



lifting a giant moth to the light

burning incense all through the house.



falling on my too hard poems

a season I want to forget.




3 - Afterword

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We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

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