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Christmas Dinner | Damen O'Brien

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.

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