The end of year approaching, we return to our places
of birth, like census takers, burdened with expectation.
During the day, the ants make a mad chiaroscuro out of
the invisible heat, whirling their new wings like an after image
of a sparkler, and at night, once the Christmas lights are
switched off, a dull occasional glow of fireflies appears like
the feeble snap of chemical torches. Moth drifts and
stingless wasps pushing against the screen door,
bearding the print of Santa Claus, giving their lives for
a pointillism of smudges peppering the glass.
In the garden’s digestive warmth, the inexhaustible
beetles crimp and pinch the leaves and buzz like the high gears
on a clockwork soldier, waving the black struts of their legs.
We force our way down to the beach, through the crush
of the aural battery of cicadas droning at the oscillation
of neon lights and camping fridge motors which clink
the glass of their frozen beers in an endless celebration
of drunkenness, while in the native bee nest, an early gift
for summer, the ladies hunker down and dream of Veroa.
This Christmas holiday is given over to the machinations of
insects: flies leoparding the wheelie bin’s ripe promise, persistent
and intimate drinkers at eye and mouth, champagne suicides.
Not a second coming of that shambling beast, but the
excess of some old God, hungry like a curse of locusts,
the pagan pieces of a torn up idol, the legion and
gestalt body of a cumulative deity, winged, carapaced,
antennaed in its manifold creeping and skittering, copious
and crowded, tasting the dry turkey, the curling slivers of duck,
the slumping tomato and wilting lettuce clinging to the beetroot,
the pavlova collapsing and craterous, the fudge, perspiring
and sugary. A new manger, numerous and multiple, pincered
and palping: the chrysalid, pupae’d, maggot spill of Christmas.
Damen O'Brien is a Brisbane poet. In 2019, Damen won the WB Yeats Poetry Prize, the Val Vallis Award, the Welsh International Poetry Prize, was joint winner of the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis award and was a finalist in many others. In 2019, he was published in Cordite, Island, StylusLit, Meniscus and Overland.