In the language of the oleander
I pour boiling water into a skull
I found in a dry Queensland river bed.
For taste (your saliva) and risk (your blood)
I steep a tea bag of Angel Trumpet
flowers with the DNA of nightshade
in their stamens. I drink in the blue shade
of a leopard tree, with oleander
sparking through my veins. I play a trumpet
fashioned from the Burrowing Bettong skull
I emptied of brains and underworld blood.
A vision of pastoral care in bed
sustains me. I put thoughts of harm to bed.
Hallucinating sunstroke in the shade
of myself, I avoid self-harm, my blood
already shed on the oleander’s
tight, killing skin. We have loved, skull to skull
our fists in the bellfowers of trumpets
our tongues in the pollen-heavy trumpets
a hummingbird dies for in its death bed
of exhaustion. Replace u with i: skill
is what we have, making shelter from shade
under the cut-and-weep oleander
and the cult we have fashioned from our blood.
Tripping along the fissures in our blood
I hear a pulse like an army trumpet
blowing a dirge in the oleander’s
snare it lays for anyone in its shade.
You call me out, you call me a numb skull.
I drink nightshade from a golden trumpet
remembering how your skull and its blood
tasted of oleander in your bed.
Anthony Lawrence has published fifteen books of poems, the most recent being 101 Poems, (Pitt Street Poetry 2018). His poems have appeared previously in Poetry (Chicago), River City, Green Mountains Review and Australian Book Review. He is a Senior lecturer at Griffith University, Queensland, and lives on Moreton Bay.