Tag Archives: Libby Hathorn

Remembrance of things past by Libby Hathorn


Maroubra Cycle


Remembrance of things past


Left the old car spangled with raindrops,

stationary, marbilized with dust

and vapours on the wet dark tar,

and walking through the mist

of day long rain thought of her,

the dead friend. A flash to the past.

Vivid, shocking.

Her face.

And then to a time she did not share.

To the flat concrete road of a suburb

she did not know. The place

of my childhood rising up again.


The sameness, brick neat rows

red tiled, brown walled houses

with their dreary oblong gardens,

soil too sandy for much variety.

Two dark pencil pines like

a child’s drawing, placed either side,

straggly fuschias bravely flowering,

dumpy pomegranates, the wonder fruits

split for touching but not for eating.

and a line of heavy lemon dahlias

crazed on their leaning stakes.

Fat hydrangea escaping corners

with their stolid pom-poms pale blue.

(My mother loved them, showed us how

you singed their stems to blackness

to make the flowers last and last

in the squat, cut-glass vase she favoured

before the coming, to Maroubra,

of the new Venetian glass.)

The bulging rosemary bush,

centrally placed, of cool green,

with its surprising silvery underside

and rosemary sharp smell.

(For remembrance, they told us at school,

you wear a sprig, for remembrance,

for a war we did not remember,

for remembrance of things past.)


The squat, brick front fences

that we lay on to take the trapped

late afternoon warmth of a dying sun

inhaling the sweet, faint, reassuring smell,

constant by the gasbox in those tiny gardens

of the past. Or that we sat on

in a noisy companionable row

legs swinging, watching others play

on grass verges between untidy oleanders.

(If you sucked the thin bitter leaves

of an oleander bush, you’d be killed

stone dead we believed, plucking at

the lethal leaves, tempting one another).

But death seemed so remote an act

for all of us who played so hard

among the poisonous oleanders.


In the flash of her eyes,

My past.

Her presence.

Then the lack of her presence.

Her face.

Memory locks into memory.

Her face.

The rain.

Her face.

Her face, an affirmation

Of my past.


Source: Heard Singing – the cycle of poems “Maroubra Cycle” by Libby Hathorn.  Out of India Press, 1998


Beyond the Breakers by Libby Hathorn


Maroubra Cycle


Beyond the Breakers

A Sea Song for John


Ïn his arms lying in softest water,

the crowning sky the arc of paler blue

allowing all the sun there is,

in his arms, her arms entwined,

feet pointing down,

all the fishes in the world

all the caves and corals

and all the altering depths

there at her feet,

her pointing down feet.

In his arms lying in softest water,

out there, out there beyond the waves,

beyond the bathers too, laughing and calling,

rising and falling in his arms,

in that gentle, swelling, fathomless place,

watchful with such salt-rimmed eyes

of each other, in that profound sea,

only two, the only two becalmed,

in a shining world without horizon.


Source: Heard Singing – the cycle of poems “Maroubra Cycle” by Libby Hathorn.  Out of India Press, 1998




Beyond Hydrangea by Libby Hathorn (Maroubra Cycle)


Maroubra Cycle


Behind Hydrangea


In the place

where wall meets damp wall,

where shadows meet too

lessening and deepening

but never melting away,

in a place of permanent cool

behind hydrangea,

there, back to the wall,

a small child crouches

looking out secretly

on the landscape

of a suburban yard

enshrined by stiff grey palings.

Regards the curious cultivation of that place

the sweep of grass, always stubbled short,

the straggly borders of the tentative

underblooming garden beds,

and the few disparate trees.

The sway and tilt of the yard

with all its deliberate debris,

the flung rope and toppled chair,

the woven washing basket

and the rusting, dinted peg tin,

oddments of her play.


Sees the passers by

screened by dark serrated leaves

assuming strangeness;

the mother to and from

the fluttering clothesline,

the sister, barefoot

calling and unanswered.

In the tempting loneliness

behind hydrangea

child chants soft chants

against the dampish wall,

amid the leaves and bobbing shadows

and the pale blue coral underbelly

of the clumsy blooms around her.


And tastes in the sweetness

of this solitude,

in the stillness and the quiet

behind hydrangea,

the future moment

and the origins of grief.

Parts the criss-cross stems


and runs willy-nilly wildly

to join the peopled world.


Source: Heard Singing  by Libby Hathorn.  Out of India Press, 1998


Mr Heller and Son by Libby Hathorn


We painted our bedroom walls
blue, quite a deep blue
and placed fakely beautiful Chinoiserie,
ginger jars and vases, white and strident blue
on ledge and dresser, any easy surface.
My mother came with a gift of lace
for the new room, old lace,
a bolt of palest blue, still lovely
‘Stored these thirty years’, my mother said,
‘Bought from the Hellers.
You remember Mr Heller.’

Lovely lace, quite true
But lace of the wrong blue.

Two men in suits, strangely European
full of deference to my mother
charmed by her gentle face
her seamstress knowledge of the cloth
they offered. And her ready sympathy.
Mr Heller and son.
A gorgeous bazaar month by month
spread before us on the ugly orange doormat,
screen door propped opened with their
clumsy cardboard suitcase,
children assembled eager for the show.
Mr Heller and son.
Folds and swirls and seams and lengths
and pieces, all manner of fabric,
and remnants of an unspeakable past.
Mr Heller and son.
Unrolling, unfolding, wistful and charming
ticking and huckaback, georgette and crepe de chine.
They brought the vocabulary of cloth
and their stark European sadness.
Chenille and alpaca, cretonne and grosgraine
and lace of palest blue.

The bolt of lace lies on the floor
the wrong blue, the wrong lace
for the strong walls,
the assembled Chinese pieces
in the freshly painted room,
and I wonder that a length of lace
faded blue and inappropriately lovely,
touches me for its nearness
to something so far off.

I shall use the lace of the wrong blue.

Source: Heard Singing by Libby Hathorn.  Out of India Press, 1998

Rainforest by Libby Hathorn


Oh don’t bring down

The ancient pine,

The breath of life

That’s yours and mine.


Don’t tear it out

saw it down

gouge it, chop it,

let it drown.


Don’t fell the tree

that’s stood so long.

Leave bird and bush

Where they belong.


Leave the forest,

Green gold place,

the glow of hope

on this earth’s

old face.


Source: Talks with my skateboard: A  Collection of poems by Libby Hathorn.  ABC, 1991.

Lying on my Back All Alone on the Grass Staring Upwards by Libby Hathorn



on my Back

All Alone on the Grass




Round sky

In my eye,

Way up high

Things swirl

Bend and curl

Straighten out

Blow about.


Round sky

In my eye

Clouds go by.


Source: Talks with my skateboard: A  Collection of poems by Libby Hathorn.  ABC, 1991.

No Good Day by Libby Hathorn


I fought with my buttons,

My zipper and my laces,

I screamed at my sisters

And made ugly faces.

I didn’t want my breakfast

And I punched my little brother

And then before I left for school

I argued with my mother.


I fought with my friends

They all got in a bunch,

They yelled at me and wouldn’t play

So I couldn’t eat my lunch.

I quarreled with the teacher

And then she made me stay

In the room, all afternoon

And not act in the play.


I came home in an angry mood,

My Dad said I was mean and rude—

When I just flicked my sister’s head

He told me I should go to bed!


My Mum came in to talk to me

It was good to hear her say

Let’s forget it! Think tomorrow!

Brand new start to a brand new day!


Source: Talks with my skateboard: A  Collection of poems by Libby Hathorn.  ABC, 1991.