Abecedarian on Tension | Stuart Barnes

… the wrecked thing that could

not bear the light nor hide

hobbled in its own blood.

—Gwen Harwood, ‘Father and Child: I. Barn Owl



Acceleration. First lesson. ‘Don’t  

be nervous: your vocal cords’ll

constrict even more. Game for a

duet?’ Creased, grey sky-silhouetted, taut. 

Electrocuted as if it were a criminal. 

Fruit bat (Pteropus alecto). Alecto: Fury. 

‘Guilty!’ Power lines’ night-verdict. No jury. 


—invertebrate—is fated to wreck things. 

Just take Harwood’s barn owl. 

Knuckle-white, I grip the wheel. 

Lurch of vehicle. 

Machine gun-fire from the hood. 

Now it could be a faun’s umbrella, inside

-outed in a snowstorm. Cloudburst. Im

-patiently I wait, hazards’ orange

queering the bodgey bitumen. 

RACQ’s haggard feller 

sneers about timing belts, 

tensioners, pulleys. My 

unease rises. Wolfish Agriopas’

viscera. One of Geryon’s lost

wings. The mane of 

Xanthos. A hearse strains, black and

yellow. I curse the mechanic who, 

Zeus-like, strung up the Subaru. 






note: ‘The name Subaru is Japanese, meaning “unite”. It’s also a term for a cluster of six stars in the Taurus constellation, named Pleiades by the Ancient Greeks’ (https://www.subaru.com.au/about/meaning-subaru)





Stuart Barnes is the author of Glasshouses (UQP, 2016), which won the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and was shortlisted/commended for two other awards. From 2013–2017 he was poetry editor of Tincture Journal, freely available online (http://tincture-journal.com/buy-a-tincture/). Poems are forthcoming in Island, POETRY (Chicago) and Rabbit. Twitter/Instagram: @StuartABarnes

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