Poetry / Sarah Rice

Against the Grain

Many things have a grain best not to go against
Even slicing ginger we come across it
     the fibrous root close enough in this way
     to its woody neighbour oak or pine
An anchovy can be slid along the tongue
     only in one direction
     without the salty bristles catching
A dog, a fish, a man’s cheek
     and most materials have a grain
     velvet, suede
Some grasses cut the palm
     when their long thin blades
     are drawn the wrong way against it
The quiet perfection of a feather
     is ruined with reverse of stroke
     and never returns
The large headed bloom of protea
     is all pink velour one way
     and ruffled galah the other
Friendships too have a grain
People in general
Ourselves in particular
Time itself is a grain we cannot go against
     even if we wanted to
The morning light slicing cleanly through the dark
     the shadow as it climbs the hill
There is only one way to move
     through a night thick with thought
     and thin on sleep
You must keep going onward
There is no way to crawl back up
     the funnelled pitcher plant
its hairy follicles draw us deeper into the rosy throat.
Sarah Rice

‘Against the Grain’ – co-won the 2011 Gwen Harwood poetry prize and was published on the Island website. It was subsequently published in Long Glances: A Snapshot of new Australian Poetry from the Inaugural Jean Cecily Drake-Brockman Poetry Prize, ed. Theodore Ell, 2013.

Image from Those Who Travel, a limited-edition art-book with images by print-maker Patsy Payne (published by Ampersand Duck 2010).

The sky an open
envelope, the day is drawn
from its white expanse

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