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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’ (

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 ( Poems are forthcoming in Island, POETRY (Chicago) and Rabbit. Twitter/Instagram: @StuartABarnes

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