Two Poems by Jennifer Kornberger
 
The first poem was the 2016 winner of the Tom Collins Prize and the second a commended entry in the same competition

Sisters, with cabbages

 

At twilight the cabbages

were still defending order

amidst the brawl of lantana

 

robust nubs rooted

in the sweating clay

that dyed our feet henna red

 

in those days

there was always a redness

following us, staining

the concrete and carpets

 

even our sheets blushed

a flesh colour.

 

We looked up into a darkness

without scent or colour

 

the stars spotless

in a thin skirt of haze

 

and we believed for some minutes

that a star was expanding,

growing towards us

 

that we would be caught up

in its old testament light

 

before our first boyfriends

pressed their hands

over our unripe breasts

 

we would be plucked

from our parents’ farm

 

but as the haze lifted

the star took its place

in the lesser mysteries

of a night sky

 

leaving us foot-maids

of the clotted earth,

the servants of brassica

 

knowing that our

miraculous nonage

was over

 

that we would enter

some greater mystery

 

and desiring a blessing

we crouched before the cabbages

 

to cup their sturdy

heads in our hands, receive

their sensible oracle

 

before we walked

the red slurry of that patch

 

in a widening mandala

away from our childhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mirage

 

               (i)

At 2pm it is forty-four degrees

and the notion of an outside

and an inside dissolves.

 

In this cataclysm of heat and light

the details of the landscape glaze

and our bodies become turbulent.

 

Boneless, we assemble

and re-assemble

as shimmering graphs

 

what measurement we represent

is unknown, all explanatory text

is blurred. Our flesh was an illusion

 

we endured with bouts

of stoicism, now we are watery

ladders or ziggurats,

pale indigo cities.

 

In these flickering minutes

we suffer temporary dismemberment

 

separate into greater and lesser desires

coalesce as vague promises

 

uncertain if, in the mingling

of our liquids, we will become

one temple.

 

                  (ii)

We are very landscape in potentia,

terrifying in our volcanism

Antarctic in our aloofness

suffocating in our tropical lushness

 

we are salt lake and peat bog

intemperate in our longing

 

we are red

and our shadows

are green.

 

The rapid heating and cooling

of our affections has created

this Fata Morgana.

 

We crave to be figures

in this landscape

where contrasts combust

into hope, opposites meet

in a glistening truce.

 

                  (iii)   

The problem of distance

cannot be solved.

 

We can only gaze

 

and in the gazing

the horizon might shuffle

forward, the vanishing point

re-appear and a figure

walk towards us

 

someone, almost familiar,

made of mirrors and lakes

of pure reflection and water’s desire

to be upright.

 

Someone who walks

out of a fertile

and fleeting oasis

 

carrying water

from a distant future

 

offering it to us

to drink.