Vivian Smith


Sirius Cove

We always know much more than we can see.
I’ve read about these painters and their lives,
and looked at photos of the famous camp
with all its luxuries, its bit of grandeur,
and visitors like R.L.S.
Streeton found blue orchids, passionfruit
and inspiration in a sheltered bay.
Now it is a tangled wilderness.
Privet and lantana grow unchecked
beside the walk I take around the shore.
And yet it still remains a sacred place
where tawny frogmouths hunch and wait and brood
oom, oom, oom.


Night Life

Disturbed at 2 a.m. I hear a claw
scratching the window, tapping at the pane,
and then I realise, a broken branch,
and yet I can’t turn back to sleep again.

Slowly, not to wake you, I get up,
thinking of food, perhaps a quiet read.
A cockroach runs across the kitchen floor,
its lacquered shell as quick and dry as seed.

Outside the chalice lily lifts its cup
in adoration to the mirrored moon,
full of purpose as it trembles there,
collecting drops of moisture on its spoon.

Noises of the night, it’s all alive,
birds shifting in the steady trees,
slugs and snails eating fallen flowers,
a moth freighted with fragilities.

Nocturnal life, the other side of things,
proceeding whether we observe or not,
like rows and rows of brown coastal ants
transporting food from here to another spot.



Vivian Smith lives in Sydney but spends a part of each year in Tasmania. Poet, editor and critic, he taught for many years at the University of Sydney where he was Reader in English and Australian Literature until he retired in 1996. His most recent publications include Late News (2000) and Patrick White: A Bibliography (2004) co-edited with Brian Hubber.