metal against metal by Claire Gaskin

As an extension of Arc’s Canada-Australia joint issue with Australia’s Cordite magazine, over the next several weeks, Arc will be publishing online selected pieces from Australian poets — this is in addition to the Australian poetry published in print in Arc 77. For the Arc-Cordite joint issue, each magazine handed the editorial responsibilities over to the other: so that Cordite filled Arc #77 (and these these webpages) with nothing but Australian poetry, prose and artwork; Arc did the same for Cordite (Arc’s part of this partnership will be published online at Cordite in December 2014). Our intent in this partnership is to showcase and cross-pollinate poetics between Australia and Canada and to share with a broader audience poetry that may be little known outside of home borders.


metal against metal

banging coffee grounds into the brain
privilege has three syllables

I dreamt my mother on my back
stumbling on steps flowing with water
we are only doing this because we love you
work as punishment

it is all up in the air like an aneurysm
like a water balloon above my head
I dreamt my boots were filling with water
how do you get an aneurysm
leaving dragging on afterwards

I drank a bottle of scotch a day when he left
don’t forget to get my bloods done

the anaesthetist’s name is Steven
he asks if I can climb a flight of stairs without puffing

something to anchor the casserole
out of the oven all the contents slip to the floor a placenta

one room was a ballroom used as a gallery

brain surgery in under two weeks

driving he has the sun halving him
when you think in polarities your life splinters

the dancers understand that it is the full body
but they have lost their faces
in evening dress at the swimming pool
voices are satin tissue wall strength

do you believe in god what if you die!
she sent me a cheque in a folded piece of paper
I’ll pray for you, I love you, god bless you

his flowers between me and the man opposite saying no to any more treatment
thumbs up for yes
head shake for no

on a suspended staircase waiting for it to attach to something
the ache in my armour
the rest is history
beached in bed
I need clothes pegs

three choices palliative care, stay in hospital or home
thumbs up for home
his wife’s verbs caught in the sleeves of her jacket’s response is without hesitation
his daughter says I’m proud of you dad

my body weighted
my mother’s valve is leaking

recording our lives is like leaving a trail of bread crumbs we know the birds will eat
make a reflective surface
a story we can see ourselves in

fear of clotting still
even breathing dark room
linseed cushioned eyes
the timeless sound of someone raking leaves at the beginning of autumn
the blinds shift against the open window

I dreamt Josephine had cut the balloons off my parachute-hot-air-balloon-rescue-vehicle
I couldn’t get angry at her because she was pregnant

waking to full emptiness and love’s slow dawning


Claire Gaskin has been publishing and teaching poetry since the 1980’s. Her collection, a bud, published by John Leonard Press was shortlisted in the SA Literature Awards. She was the Victorian editor of Blue Dog from 2007 till 2010. Her collection, Paperweight, was published by John Hunter Publishers in 2013.

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