Eight poems by Andrew Burke

1. Sitting Together

2. Sitting Alone

3. Elegy for my Mother

4. Walking to the Meeting

5. The Best Teacher

6. Unintentional Art

7. Linfen Morning

8. Mother Waits for Father Late

 

See also biographical and bibliographical information further down this page.


 

 

SITTING TOGETHER

 

There are prayers

that rise

from our wind chimes

 

as we sit

together

in veranda shade

 

smoke rises

from the hills

around us

 

Alice cannot keep

all her songs

inside her

 

So she gently hums

not to interrupt

our worrying

         © Andrew Burke
          from Mother Waits for Father Late

 

 

SITTING ALONE

 

In this

blistering heat

I sit alone

 

dog’s hot breath

on my barefeet

house silent

 

only the distant

pool filter hums

 

seeds are coming

alive in the earth

eggs cracking

 

all my unwritten

poems are rising

to be born

         © Andrew Burke
          from Mother Waits for Father Late

 

 

 

Elegy for my mother

Hilda  Mary Burke 1912-93 

 

Two with sympathy cards today

among our cheery Christmas mail.

My mother died last Tuesday—

 

a mixed blessing the nurses say.

Mixed? Yes, she had grown so frail.

Two ‘With Sympathy’ cards today—

 

some must read that list each day.

Death danced across our trail

when Mother died last Tuesday.

 

At her wake there was much to say

about sport, weather and local ale.

Two “With Sympathy’ cards today—

 

now the undertaker wants his pay.

Behind a cloud the moon is pale.

My mother died last Tuesday.

 

A mixed blessing, so they say:

God’s daughter’s death, a nativity tale.

Two ‘With Sympathy’ cards today,

my mother died last Tuesday.

          © Andrew Burke
          from Under Cover of Lightness

 

 

WALKING TO THE MEETING

 

Walking to the meeting,

sixteen years sober,

I watch my weight.

 

The hospital street is

quiet as a night ward.

Sandwiched between

 

Emergency and Morgue

this 12 Step meeting

is as comfortable as

 

an old tracksuit. I’ve

forgotten how it feels

to be drunk, to

 

have the shakes

on a Sunday morning.

It takes a newcomer to

 

shake me up again.

His eyes dart from

ceiling to floor

 

and don’t see a thing.

He shakes, he sweats,

he thinks we’re all

 

watching him. He’s

right. He is keeping

us sober if only

 

he knew it. I talk,

I remember yesterday

and tell my story:

 

the ism in youth,

alcohol in teenage years,

self-disgust in adulthood …

 

but I am going

too far, addicted

to my story, the drama

 

loved more than

drink. I quickly finish

on a local cliché:

 

‘This is my recovery

room.’ I sit and smile

at the newcomer

 

but he is staring

at my shoes. And

I remember that, too.

         © Andrew Burke
          from Under Cover of Lightness

 

 

THE BEST TEACHER

 

The cat fidgets on the parapet

facing the roof next door

testing her nerve against

the chasm between.

Floodlit by morning sun

she stands, and sits, and whips

her tail, and partly sits but

stands again, and – just as

I write her fright – she leaps.

Plonk. All four on roof tiles.

It wasn’t so far. Now

she digs along the gutter,

looking for dead lizards

and such easy prey. A brave heart

on an autumn day. I’ve been

fidgeting for days, getting up

and down, brewing tea, forgetting

tea, opening files, reading

old poems and emails. Now

that I’m here, it wasn’t so far.

         © Andrew Burke
          from One Hour Seeds Another

 

 

UNINTENTIONAL ART

 

In sunshine on grey cement

songlines of silver dots

tell a nomadic story criss-

crossing and dotting their way

to their own stringless music

 

As I back down the drive

my wife in her flowing caftan –

purple against jacaranda blue –

waves her arms between the gates

like Phillip Glass conducting

 

but the music I hear is Cage-like

a gentle marimba of dandelion heads

playing in the grass centre of our drive

beating and twinging on drive shaft

muffler and axles

 

At the gate my wife jumps in and says,

Now, we mustn’t forget the bank.’  Then

turns to see me fidget: ‘What are you doing?’

‘I’m notating our drive, y’know, like

Percy Grainger did with piano rolls.’

         © Andrew Burke
          from One Hour Seeds Another

 

 

LINFEN MORNING

(Linfen, China)

6.30am. The overture to day in Linfen is played with household hammers on commercial building projects. Cicadas sing gently in madrigal phrases. The irregular rhythm of the hammers gradually joins the first honking vehicles of morning, various toots on a full range of flutes. The street vendors put out their vegetables and fruits and squat beside. A few have weighing machines for basic conversion of goods to cash. There seems no hurry here, no anger, no overt competition, no conflict between workers and bosses. The town grows daily, and the shops change hands overnight. One man is gone from the streetscape. He wrote an anti-government message in his shop window and was not there the next day. A new shop has opened there now, selling fashion for young ladies.

By 8am the town is a bustle, going about its business. A pale grey smog hangs in the air which a light morning breeze seems incapable of shifting.  Three mature citizens sweep away the remnants of last night’s fireworks with bush-brush brooms.

                         at night, fireworks.

                         at dawn, torn red paper shells

                         dye the gutters pink.

 

         © Andrew Burke
          from Under Cover of Lightness

 

 

mother waits for father late

 

Mother sitting at the long kitchen table

bottle and glass and book open but hardly read

waiting for Father who is as always late.

 

As always late he rolls in—I must have been

asleep upstairs and innocent at nine years—to tell

the bad news he had delayed telling: old lady dead

on Stirling Highway by his car’s thump—

‘She just walked out into the car, she was old,

just stepped off the curb—My bad luck

she chose me.’ He drove to the pub

after police interviews,

to delay the telling of it

but told the boys in the bar well enough.

 

I was dreaming so who told me? I must have known

early next day before I picked up the phone

to hear a crazy voice say, ‘Murderer! Murderer!

You can buy your way out of it this time

but you’ll get yours, mate, you’ll get yours!’

 

Weeks later Father lay still in their giant bedroom

drinking crates of Coca-Cola, no way to quench

his thirst: diabetes brought on by shock. Hospital,

tests, new life programme, insulin shots

morning and night. Not too much sun, no boozing,

watch that diet. Impossible. The wittiest man

at The Naval and Military Club, soul of the party

at Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, backbone

of ‘the Killing Pen’ at Steve McHenry’s famous pub,

he could not change his habits overnight. So

comas came on. Mother and I forcing sugar in water

down his throat, one on each side of the bed,

passing the glass across hurriedly as he

rolled, getting it into him

for his life’s sake.

 

His brothers flew across Australia to his hospital bed

to force him out of their rich company. He signed.

Pride would not let him fight them off or ask

for help. Doomed by guilt, trapped

by alcohol, sick and tired, he went to bed

yet one more time. This night jellbowls of blood came

jumping out, Mother sick herself on the couch,

I called the doctor. Mother and I rode

in the ambulance, sat in cold hospital corridors

frightened of death. Caught a taxi home.

Driver kept Mother downstairs

while I cleaned Father’s blood off their bedroom floor

as best I could. My fourteenth birthday. He died

two weeks later. My sick mind cleaned up

as best it could

.                                until, wacked on

booze and dope, that night rose again

fifteen years later and drove me

to a cliff’s edge where I aimed at the sky.

My car bogged and I ran

to that doctor’s house, vomited over him

as he opened the door, 5am, startled.

 

I woke in hospital. White bed, white walls, blue river

through green pine trees out my window, worried

wife and child at home. I stared, wondering who was I,

asked my tidy shrink for LSD, I wanted it all to rise,

to know the sweetness and horror of all my days.

I controlled me on pills and platitudes.

 

Photos show a happy man, young wife and son, dressed

Seventies style, fit, smiling, curator

of a writers’ cottage by the ocean, where

the music of Dylan and Zappa mingled with Miles Davis

beyond the sound of colonial banjos.

 

Eight months later, dressed in white,

daisychains around our necks and in our hair,

we drove at dawn to

san artist’s champagne breakfast in the hills,

giant trees in the yard, minimalist paintings on the walls.

In my mood even eggs-and-bacon looked bohemian

as I drank orange juice, champagne-and-orange,

champagne, then whatever

alcohol I could find… Made my usual Jesus jokes

about turning water into wine, wine into water. Spent

late afternoon attempting to blow up petrol stations across

the escarpment with strips of cloth alight, laughing

uncontrollably at who knows what.

 

Blackouts returned, fights, lost days of

fear and loathing, my combatant driving … I swung

an axe at my love’s neck, went to lunch Friday

came home Sunday, not knowing where I’d been,

who I’d seen, days of life lost. With me late as usual,

wife gave up waiting, locked our windows and doors.

 

I slept black nights in a ratty tin shed.

         © Andrew Burke
          from Mother Waits for Father Late


 

Buy Andrew Burke’s Books

Three of Andrew Burke’s poetry collections can be purchased online — Undercover of Lightness & One Hour Seeds Another from Walleah Press, and Whispering Gallery from Sunline Press. Click on a book cover to buy a book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Biographical Information

ANDREW BURKE was born in Victoria in 1944, then moved to WA as a toddler. He was educated there, then hitchhiked (in the ’60s) to further his education at factories, etc, in Melbourne and Sydney. After work at radio stations in Perth, he went on to be a Creative Director in advertising agencies, all the time writing stories, plays and poems. In middle-age he went into academia, studying and lecturing in writing and literature. Burke has published thirteen poetry collections, one novel and a smattering of short stories, book reviews and literary criticism..

After five years living in the Riverina area of New South Wales, he returned to Perth in 2017.

For more details, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Burke_(poet)

 

LITERARY WORKS BY ANDREW BURKE

  • 1975 Let’s face the music & dance
  • 1983 On the tip of my tongue Fremantle, W.A.:Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Shoreline poetry series number 6) ISBN 0-909144-75-3
  • 1992 Mother waits for father late Fremantle, W.A.: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, ISBN 1-86368-014-4
    • (reprinted in 2010) by Picaro Press, Warners Bay, N.S.W. ISBN 978-1-920957-97-1
  • 1996 Pushing at silence Applecross, W.A.: Folio (Salt), ISBN 0-646-29751-1
  • 2001 Whispering Gallery Cottesloe, W.A.: Sunline Press, ISBN 0-9579515-0-7
  • 2003 Knock on wood : and other poems Warners Bay, N.S.W. : Picara Press, Wagtail (series), 1444-8424; 18
  • 2009 Beyond City Limits International Centre for Landscape and Language, Edith Cowan University, Mt Lawley, W.A. ISBN 978-0-646-52005-6
  • 2011 Qwerty : take my word for it Kalgoorlie, W.A. :Mulla Mulla Press ISBN 978-0-9870771-2-7
  • 2012 Shikibu Shuffle with Phil Hall
  • 2012 Undercover of Lightness North Hobart, Tas.: Walleah Press ISBN 978-1-877010-16-3
  • 2014 One Hour Seeds Another North Hobart, Tas.: Walleah Press

 

Return to OTHER POETS & POEMS OVERVIEW

 

CONTACT ANDREW BURKE

Andrew Burke is Andrew Lansdown’s friend. You can contact him through Andrew L. Send an email to Andrew L. and he will forward it to Andrew B.

 

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