Five Sonnets

Andrew Shillam

The sky reels, crowded with flying foxes
From an island in the river, spreading
Over this makeshift town now flickering
In the wind. Inside paper and boxes
Of sculpture accumulate like dead skin,
The residue of past dreams. The wind whips
Across time and the grey afternoon slips
Into night. Shadows move in. Flapping tin,
Cars and the humming refrigerator,
Sounds as one thing strikes against another
Fuse in the intricate clockwork of night.
Pitted against the wind, dreams and pages
Flapping, we find ourselves in failing light
Following threads that wind through the ages.


Wide eyed to the night, in this hollow house
Wading through my dreams, the past collected
In little things, books piled high by the bed,
Memories gathered on the luminous
Air and dust in places we don’t walk,
A thousand golden lions now softly
Shimmering through this fabric that nightly
Folds around us and rising in the talk
Of strangers carried on the wind. Night parts
Us from certainty, the wind stops and starts,
Changing gear a car roars and gathers pace
And as the distant voices fade and fall
Other whispers sweep in to take their place,
Bats jitter, a branch scrapes against a wall…


Here and now, the wind whistling through the teeth
Of time, in the rain, silver beads rolling
Off the long leaves of the palms and falling
To be swallowed in the yard underneath.
This house straddles the past, the ancient face
Of a swamp swimming through time, in the rain,
Frogs and reeds in its hair, things that have lain
Long in the ground come to life and the place
Cracks and bleeds with sound, two worlds overlap,
The ancient gods seem happy. Palm trees flap
In the steady rain as we move inside
And think no one understands how we feel,
On this stolen ground, our fears magnified,
In this eggshell house where our shadows reel.


Dead banana leaves, their yellow mummy
Fingers rasping, a storm that draws the last
Cold winds of winter and a shadow cast
In my mind that grows. Across the valley
Lights appear on the hill. The calm is laced.
Cold tongues of wind lick the corners of this
Room. A bird drops from the eaves, flies, the hiss
Of wings in the undulating sea displaced.
Trauma rolls, a ghost reel plays, and tired
Actors take their places inside your head.
Where we now stand, the ground shifts. It frightens
Us and, in the shadow-wall we are hurled
Against, we see the other. Night thickens
And the void of our fear sucks in the world.


A twilight on this house now falls, stretching
The Night’s margin, hauling the half-shadow
Of the world. We glimpse things we did not know
Still lived, watch them take shape on the shifting
Grey wind. Winding round this house, unbridled
Horses, in rush-light ghost through a dust like
Fine mist or bone. While twilight branches spike
The sky, the horses, their manes unravelled,
Melt back into the pure obsidian night.
As Time wields an arc of stars, throwing light
Through black sky, we huddle in small shelters
Worrying at the bones of a future
We have already eaten. The cat purrs
And, in gusts, the wind rattles at the door.

Andrew Shillam is a sculptor and poet living in Grafton, Australia. He studied Visual Art at Newcastle University in the 1990s and started writing around that time. He has been involved with Newcastle’s Poetry at the Pub scene and regularly performs his poetry in online groups in Australia and overseas. His recent poetry is concerned with stimulating an experience and a sense of the mystery of place through imagery and sound in a modern sonnet form.



%d bloggers like this: