Chris Wallace-Crabbe is Professor Emeritus of the University of Melbourne’s Australian Centre. His Selected Poems 1956-1994 (Oxford University Press) won the D.J. O'Hearn Prize for poetry and The Age Book of the Year Award. His latest collection, By and Large, appeared this year from Brandl & Schlesinger.

The Surface of Things

Pleasantly rolling deodorant into an oxter
     he thought of the shave ahead,
whether to start in the upper left-hand corner
     or the slant of his jaw instead.

From the loose aggregate of these choices
     a common life is made,
fate no more than a thicket of brand-names
     and the moment when you delayed.








who first spotted the lack
not that is the slip
in between the cup and lip
but down under a hot mug
or cup?
yet if it comes to that
a plate would merely be over the top

something then to stop the drips
or keep the pea soup off your lap
complicate the washing up
stop a simple splash
or slop
and sit here for the waiter's tip

sad without a cup



Adhesive, papery,
       the wan delicate skin
sticks for just a smidgen
too long, until

a naked clove
comes out successfully
virginal as the dawn

yet leaving
    its ripe sex on your fingers
         for quite some time.







Indoor Yachting

Has any mere scribbler
ever spotted or caught

that fine dramatic gesture
by which a homebody

standing down at the bed-end
flourishes a wide clean sheet and

blows it out like a spinnaker
so that the far end

will flutter down in place
where a pillow will be,

once again
getting it right?


Coat Hangers Galore

Clubbable and promiscuous,
they hang around
getting under your feet
while always intending to be helpful;

wiry and would-be athletic
they just keep falling into a tangle
putting a foot
in somebody else's mouth.

Fridge and Fugue


of a cold sudden
gasping and shuddering
in the foody night

sweetly mechanical,
it gropes its way
back to cheese and mortality

with a laden heart
carrying on
the white woman's burden

but my dressing-gown swishes
warmly past
         like a child
who can walk barefoot
over closemown buffalo grass
pretty much forever...

Its Private Idiom

A room lies open
giving onto grasscoloured silence,
the racket of our footsteps gone away

and the dust
which is friend to mankind
gathers over every thing inside

so that
when blue sky peeps in at breakfast-time
it sees the kindly coverlet of dust

like blessing
or a grey army blanket.

Sweet dust, bless us all in turn.

Keep us warm, if you can,
poor in our openness.