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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.












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.



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.



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.  







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