Stephen Edgar


Event Horizon

It is like when the wine fell over and the room
              Ran out and sluiced
A velvet ribbon purling with the justle
And glug of details too quick to consume.
              It is like the warm
Pulse of the honey working its slow, smooth muscle,
The face a funfair mirror has reduced
              To glops of melting form.

It is like a wheel so fast that it starts spinning
              Backwards and then
Is motionless with an unsteady shiver.
Everything they promised in the beginning
              Is there, and there
Was nothing they hadn’t promised to deliver.
And Uncle Jim is there with his regimen
              Of chocolates to share,

His pack of Ardath and hands’ flaky mottle,
              Though he was not,
Of course, an uncle really; and West Head
Where recklessly you smash the empty bottle
              On picnickers
In whose wide eyes your father’s words are read;
And over Andros the clouds’ galiot
              Is blown away to worse

Undoing by etesian gales, and planes
              Of jagged water
Slice up the sunlight on the painful sand.
Your arm, stretched forward like a swimmer’s, strains
              Ahead of you,
Bizarrely elongated as your hand,
Snatching at days, becomes an ever remoter
              Purpose to pursue,

And in your face, a breaking surf, the days
              Smack wave on wave,
Like photographs of faces magnified
Till every pixel in itself displays
              Another face.
“Always a lotus eater.” He hadn’t lied.
“Eat one more petal by the door and brave
              The sweetness you embrace.”

Around you now, however far it’s been,
              Hovers that small
Ensemble, waiting, watching you like souls
In Dante’s Empyrean to convene
              One last review,
Dressed in the clear compassion of their roles,
Whose reflex baby smiles, although they call,
              Do not distinguish you.


Black Light Theatre

And grief does pass. He’ll manage to believe
In time the reinstated golden rule
Of sunlight on his neighbours’ swimming pool,
Cast up among the gum trees to retrieve
The boughs caught in that gilded mesh and weave.
As he hesitates in Monday’s vestibule
His family and his lasting friends will school
His darkened sense and draw him by the sleeve.

In the black theatre all the stage is black
And, dressed in black, the actors move concealed
Against that backdrop, unseen as they wield
The props, which shine transfigured where they track
Through emptiness.
                                    Although he has come back,
He won’t forget what that black light revealed.



Stephen Edgar lives in Sydney. He has published six collections of poetry, the most recent being Other Summers (Black Pepper 2006, His previous book, Lost in the Foreground, won the Grace Leven prize for 2004. He won the inaugural Australian Book Review Poetry Prize in 2005, and in 2006 was awarded the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for literature.

Edgar writes: “In astronomy an event horizon is essentially the threshold of a black hole, beyond which electromagnetic radiation cannot escape and any physical body entering is torn apart. The poem makes an analogy between the event horizon and the moment of death, an expansion perhaps of Larkin’s words in ‘The Old Fools’: “At death you break up: the bits that were you/ Start speeding away from each other for ever”. Black light theatre is as described in the poem: a form of theatre in which both stage and actors are completely cloaked in black, which makes them invisible under the illumination of ultraviolet light; only the phantasmagoria of the props can be seen. Here the analogy is between the black light of grief, with its altered perceptions, and the light of the everyday world.”