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Night Life

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Disturbed at 2 a.m. I hear a claw
scratching the window, tapping at the pane,
and then I realise, a broken branch,
and yet I can’t turn back to sleep again.
Slowly, not to wake you, I get up,
thinking of food, perhaps a quiet read.
A cockroach runs across the kitchen floor,
its lacquered shell as quick and dry as seed.
Outside the chalice lily lifts its cup
in adoration to the mirrored moon,
full of purpose as it trembles there,
collecting drops of moisture on its spoon.
Noises of the night, it’s all alive,
birds shifting in the steady trees,
slugs and snails eating fallen flowers,
a moth freighted with fragilities.
Nocturnal life, the other side of things,
proceeding whether we observe or not,
like rows and rows of brown coastal ants
transporting food from here to another spot.

Vivian Smith, “Night Life” text from New Selected Poems, Angus & Robertson, 1995; audio from The Other Side of Things, Audio CD, 2008, by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 2008 by Vivian Smith.
Source: New Selected Poems (Angus & Robertson, 1995)
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Night Life

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  • Literary critic and editor Vivian Smith was born in Hobart, Tasmania. He earned an MA in French from the University of Tasmania, teaching in the French Department before moving to Sydney to earn his PhD in English at the University of Sydney. His books include The Other Meaning (1956), An Island South (1967), Familiar Places (1978), Tide Country (1982), Selected Poems (1985), New Selected Poems (1995), Late News (2000), The Other Side of Things (2008), and Traveller’s Tale (2010).
    Tasmania’s landscape and colonial history have profoundly influenced Smith’s work. In an interview for Poetry International Web, he noted, “Some time ago I noticed that I had written—had been writing—a number of poems concerned with Australian colonial life and experience which obviously stem out of my life in Tasmania and growing up in an old colonial port, but these poems simply grew and developed, they were not consciously planned and organised. I...

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