Listening to Lucy Wise in the Queen Street Hall

by Kristin Hannaford

A wooden sprite fastened to the prow of a ship
she crests our small sea of faces, smiles over
the small hall arrangements of mint-green chairs
welded and stencilled with lost lotteries of numbers.
She begins to pluck lone, honest notes
that wend and wile between us like warm coastal breezes
carrying messages only for us, only for me.
Coloured sails of floral bunting hang like tea-cakes above 
Celtic notes and vowels hauled forth from a dark convict past, 
and for this time I am adrift in our peculiar melancholy –
the shame and the distance and the wondrous bright Australian light.

This poem was written during April in 2020 at a time when all things pandemic were dominating the Australian media at the time. I saw Lucy Wise in concert at one of the ‘Festival of Small Halls’ events in Yeppoon, Queensland, in 2018, some two years before. The hall itself is a magical venue, an old school hall that fits an intimate audience of about 50 people. I was really affected that night by her performance yet hadn’t felt in the right space to write about it. My response in the early stages of the pandemic was to feel a curious joy and relief at being able to turn inward for a little while, and so I was surprisingly creative during this time. One song, in particular, captures this feeling – it’s called ‘Winter Sun’. You can check out Wise’s music here:

Kristin Hannaford is an Australian poet and short fiction writer who often writes about the natural world. She lives in Yeppoon, Central Queensland and has four collections of poetry published; the most recent is Curio (Walleah Press, 2014). Kristin’s work featured in the Queensland Poetry Festival’s 2020 ‘Panacea Poets’ program.

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