Cally Conan-Davies

Two poems from Cally Conan-Davies’s Child at the Bay of Fires
followed by a note on the author

Star Sestina

Sometimes you hear a story like this.
Some lives seem to hang by a star
like the single one in the afternoon sky,
the loveliest one that aligns with your face
when your mother calls, and you go in the gate
left open between the house and the flowers.

I come from women who know what flowers
will stand the salt. And it comes down to this:
summers of sea-thrift beyond the gate
and slender sandwort, a five-petalled star,
and fog and butterflies licking your face
when you lie all day looking up at the sky.

There is no limit to the sky
my grandmother sang, sewing a flower
on a gift tea-towel with a look on her face,
alike even then, even in this:
that the angel should sit, not the Christmas star,
at the top of the gum tree by the gate.

A windbreak of driftwood becomes my gate
to a skeleton beach. I hear the whole sky
empty its birds by a wasted sea star.
Night is a field of a different flower.
Grandmother’s headstone, a prayer. Beside this,
the moon looks down with a quartered face.

I turn the pages of her face.
She sits on a pony, she swings on a gate,
this schoolgirl, this nurse, this bride, and this
new mother, bombs grinding the London sky.
Five times, her broken water would flower.
One of her boys went out like a star.

Her mind drew its margins from every star
and suddenly I am face-to-face,
pressed in the book, with a bone dry flower.
Here is her heart. I touch its gate
and heaven springs open, taking up the sky
for she comes of women who make much of this—

this is no end, no end to the sky
or the wild flower by the swinging gate
this is your star, and this is your face

What Beauty Sleeps

What beauty sleeps in the suicide house
behind the bolted door
behind the wooded gravel drive,
what dreams does beauty dream inside
the empty hall with blood on the floor?

What beauty sleeps in the suicide brook
unmoving as a stone,
far from friends and talk of war,
far from the fierce and soundless star,
who draws near beauty all alone?

What beauty sleeps by the suicide stove
in the kitchen at Primrose Hill,
with the keys inside when the door blows shut
and every window-crack stopped up,
what hole can beauty hope to fill?

What beauty sleeps in the hospital ward
behind two human eyes
if callers come with undead flowers
and beauty sleeps on where nightmares are
beside a twin who wakes, and cries?

Cally Conan-Davies was born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1960. Since completing her post-graduate studies in English and Psychology at Monash University, Melbourne, she has taught at secondary and post-secondary levels, worked as a bibliotherapist and free-lance writer, founded Lit For Life Centre for Creative Reading, and mothered a daughter, the historian Rayne Allinson. She married American writer, David Mason, in 2012, and divides her time between: Newport, Oregon; Manitou Springs, Colorado; and Hobart, Tasmania. Conan-Davies’ poems have appeared in Poetry, The Hudson Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Sewanee Review, Quadrant, Subtropics, Hopkins Review, The New Criterion, Southwest Review, The Dark Horse, and many other journals.

Star Sestina first appeared in Quadrant. What Beauty Sleeps first appeared in Subtropics.