Poet: Alex Skovron
for Marissa and Jonathan
Many of the poems in this collection have been published previously. Acknowledgment is gratefully made to the following: Age, Arena, Australian Scholarly Newsletter, Bulletin, Bystander, Centre News, Divan (e-zine), Heat, LiNQ, Melbourne Chronicle, Melbourne Times, Southerly, Visions (USA), Voices, Weekend Australian, Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology (ed. John Leonard, Oxford University Press, 1998), and the 1991 Mattara Poetry Prize anthology The Sea's White Edge (ed. Paul Kavanagh, Butterfly Books). Several have been broadcast on radio CSPR (Canberra) and on the ABC's RN Drive program.
I would like to thank the Literature Board of the Australia Council, the federal government's arts funding and advisory body, for a writer's fellowship by which my work on this book was assisted.
My thanks are due also to Ron Simpson, John Leonard, Les Harrop and Evan Jones, who kindly read earlier versions of the manuscript and offered valuable comments and responses; to Nick Walker of Australian Scholarly Publishing; and to Ron Pretty, publisher at Five Islands Press.
The Mask The quotation that runs through this poem is adapted from ‘Nightmares’, in Seven Nights (Faber and Faber, 1986), a collection of lectures delivered by Jorges Luis Borges.
Oracle of Seville The opening lines continue the allusion to the lyrics of Nat King Cole's ‘Mona Lisa’.
Father of the Bride As it happens, this sonnetina also takes the form of a Chaucerian roundel.
The Date Elias Canetti's statement may be found in his book of reflections, The Human Province (André Deutsch, 1985).
No Highway The line enclosed in parentheses comes from 'The Return', in The Wanderer by John Masefield, and belongs to one of the three stanzas from that poem which appear as an epigraph to Nevil Shute's novel No Highway (Pan Books, 1963).
The Door The lines that open this poem were triggered by a conversation with the writer Maria Lewitt.
Bless Relaxes Title and closure turn about a line from ‘Proverbs of Hell’, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake.
Flash Pan I am indebted to Jack Baldwin for the image of Marx condemned to an eternal game of Monopoly.
They Sing Blechhammer and Peterswaldau were concentration camps. ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ (1968) was a hit song by the British rock band Staus Quo.
The Dark The advice cited is from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (Faber and Faber, 1984).
Glissando A shtetl (yiddish for ‘little town’) is a Jewish town or village of the kind that once flourished through much of Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, Lithuania and Russia. Roman Vishniac’s A Vanished World is one of a number of photographic essays in book form whose images movingly document Jewish life before the Holocaust.
Cataractae According to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, however, the story that Alkan died under a collapsed bookcase ‘has no basis in truth’.
Millennium The reference is to Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez (Picador, 1983); the closing line of the poem is a quotation from the novel.
Taxonomy Holy roman Emperor Frederick I (c. 1123-1190), also known as Frederick Barbarossa, belongs to a very different genus from that of the Turkish pirate Barbarossa (d. 1546).
Facing the Light For the statement in the last two lines of this poem I am indebted to Walter Adamson and to his novel Matilda Stops Waltzing (Papyrus, 1996).
Distorting Venice Sirius ‘was highly venerated by the ancient Egyptians, who regarded it as a token of the rising of the Nile and of a subsequent good harvest’ (Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia).
After Messiaen The gesture is towards the Quartet for the End of Time by Olivier Messiaen, composed and first performed in a prisoner-of-war camp in Silesia in 1941.