Cassie Lewis

Working Note

I am currently writing a lot of prose poems. The poems just seem to fall that way on the page, regardless of how they start out. Precision, brevity and appropriate verse form have always been of value to me as a writer. I’m trying to bring these things to bear on my prose poems, but to an extent this mode is unknown territory.

I like the idea of a lateral narrative—telling a story in a way that appears fragmented but has an internal, intuited logic. Of describing the psychological reality of a story via the choice of literal descriptions. It’s hard to do, and I’m not sure why it is important to me—my earlier poems have very little narrative content, are more ‘still’ in that they take as subjects particular moments.

I guess I like the idea of following my ideas through, of testing the limits of a metaphor until it hits the point of absurdity. And maybe drawing some new, inferred meanings from that which will lead to new poems.









Way of poppies, I climb upstairs – hurts to think,
bliss to move. And I won’t dispute a cigarette
on the famous corner. Hummingbirds; stars.
I never saw how hemispheres breathe differently.
Are hamlets of equal worth, is globalisation a mirage?
An antidote to poetry could be spring in America –
cures that make us stronger, champions of all we crave.
“Long hair is a sign of patience if nothing else.”
May mine become that shining river... Places
aren’t of equal worth. Sudden cold in a forest,
with ghosts of the lynched, streets in San Francisco,
or the chicken factory on the highway to Geelong.
Will memory fade, or grow more intense?



Winter District

I throw you bread below the roadhouse sky.
I am a child and you, a bird.
My mood of hope slides away

as the dust flares up like bolts from
the sun. Sudden sympathy
rolls out its red carpet for you,

as you skirt around my world. I forgive you.
You can fly. You stay above things,
not amongst them. Or rather,

strange forces assault you. Winds
curled by spires and damage done.
Walkers seem safe, like sailboats

and I possess no records,
only my mind. Toll bridges
stand at its entrance,

and the price? A word.
I throw you bread below the nomad sky,
as the roadhouse lights drop off.

Pelicans sleep far from home and misers
think I’m lost. A child,
a warm breath in the cold.


Black River

Fumbling home he sees tangles of chicken wire, and how he was forever clumsy, generous whilst the desert entered his words. Or the image of a girl lying under the moon. A sudden chill in his bones: he’s cold, feverish and cold, this mild night. He craves relief from a flat world. From watching stones thrown from a jetty, abysmal little stones in a bottomless pool, floating downwards on some mystical arc, probably to surface again later in another country. Coming home he feels nothing. Objects sold or thrown out over years. And the people – all older. Pain is so filthy when it affects the body. Each night, he stubs himself out with sleep. And her face will move with him like fever when the sun has gone from the fields. Who is holding him now like glass, with a like compassion? Black river, his second wind.


Silent Running

Isolation has made a still place for her pluralities, resurrecting parts of sailors’ lore. Waves form a tunnel of havens, the same water rotating tirelessly. Skimming on that uncivilised green surface, in deep fog, what would confront her if not this. There’s no closure in words like ‘loneliness’. Mirages are projected hope, and land is hoped for less than closure. Rhymes, strange vapour...



Cartography For Two Brothers

Steep hills force a rider’s breath. He’s like a rainstorm, softly sorrowful. Pure motives like bells? A hell just beckons to him – ugly – strangely seductive. Riding, as symbols of a life decompose, reform. Like bones knitting and the joy of old maps. If my brother hurts then I hurt. If he wakes I dare not sleep. And it won’t stop, this vigilance. Because in darkness hope can grow, as in a womb. Days dip into oceans of feeling, and the rider cannot rest until he arrives at the other’s side. But who needs care and who is frantic? Can injuries be traced to one body? Surrounded by desert stars, I want to touch their cool faces, I want to touch something vast for luck. Besides terror. Look at the half-truths in this wild park. Cities expand, and I compose my keynote speech, slowly unfurling like two bright wings.”


Some of these poems have appeared previously in journals and other publications, including Jacket (e-zine), P.N. Review (UK), Meanjin (Aust) and Thylazine (ezine).



Bio: Cassie Lewis was born in Papua New Guinea in 1974 and lived in Melbourne, Australia until 2000, when she moved to San Francisco. Her work has been published in literary magazines from Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK and in various internet journals. In 1999 Cassie received a grant from the Australia Council. Her poetry is included in the anthology Calyx: 30 Contemporary Australian Poets (eds. Michael Brennan and Peter Minter, Paper Bark Press 2000). Cassie’s first collection, High Country, will be published by Little Esther in Australia in early 2001.

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