Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: two poems from Shari Kocher


from Gathering in the Underworld


Monday 13 April (Prompted by Sharon Olds’ ‘Making Love in Winter’, using the nouns: skin, blooms, transom, ovaries, questions; the verbs: is, flying, touch, burns, casts; and the adjectives: loose, dark, motionless – last noun is the title of the response poem)




At birth, the bird flew high and white

and motionless, the eye of the storm not yet

arrived but drawing nearer, the bird

loose in its orb of stillness branching

its wings in the hospital hallway between

the lights going out and the generator

roughly clanking the lights back on, in that

moment of cyclonic noise subsiding, the veil

your mother reached down to touch

between the legs they had raised in stirrups

slid warm, unbroken, and when

she, frightened, drew you to her, only a

makeshift curtain pulled partially

around the trolley on which they had

parked her, alone and shaved, one among

many, young, untaught, she felt

before she saw, like glistening gladwrap,

the bag you came in, and she held you in it,

horrified, in awe, believing in that moment before

the light flooded you with ultraviolet,

that you were gone from her, or dead, or worse,

a creature from another universe, which was

partly true and partly all she could feel through

in that overrun, clamorous place, but then you

reached your curled fist palm-upwards,

and kicked to break that sticky breach of trust

and rushed her skin, which bloomed

beneath you, and in that transom,

your tiny ovaries quickened like stardust

and she saw in your unblinking eyes

not the surprise of the unseen bird

like a torn sail above her, but something pass

wingshadowed through your widened

pupils, and she pitied the mewl you made

and brought herself to love you.



Monday 20 April: Prompt: What repels me? Working from a list of things you dislike intensely – the question of beauty propelled by repulsion inevitably confronts the abject.


Have you got your Action plan ready?

Mould on the windows, all the cooking books

smoked in grease and arsenic. Spores

on Jamie Oliver. Dust so thick it lives

to garnish spaghetti spliced with stink

bugs suppurating the porous ground.

Where once a kind of onion grew, indelible

Rorschach blots bubble through the possum wee

cooking pot, whole towns drowned in porridge

or was it asparagus, for lack of a word?

Maggots at work among the tulips,

like actors planting light bulbs under

centrelink office desks flashing on and off

up-side-down. Nothing weird

about the underworld in Australia.

Give me a worm with a moustache any day,

or a shrieking bat drunk on Tequila.

Ah, do not go gently, my foul

friend, the good old days when vampires

chilled out with retro cooking shows

and grinned friskily at the rule

against garlic in Hades. Renovations

the Addams family could be proud of.

No queues at Sgninnub in Hades, the

sausage sizzle still available with all

the extras, don’t ask questions,

blinking strictly prohibited though

you can shake whatever comes to hand.

Handles, however, are in short supply.

Tomato sauce, sulphur and sinew completely

out of stock. When registering for real estate

in Hades, have your password ready

and your myVogID portal set up

to activate your deathrate with the

myVogAp to track your whereabouts.

All viral carriers welcome, we want you to

socially include yourselves before we press

Incinerate. No, Ruby Princess, you stay

exactly where you are, you beautiful

infernal dream boat, all your working

slaves captured on camera in their glorious

two-by-two styrofoam cells, no Styx©

necessary, no coin discharged. Here’s a

plastic bag, easy enough, just hyper-

ventilate: we’ll take care of everything

at the Swiss hotel or at the marble gate.


Shari Kocher




Dr. Shari Kocher is a poet, creative writer, therapist and independent scholar whose work has been featured in literary journals in Australia and elsewhere spanning twenty-five years. These include Australian Poetry Journal, Best Australian Poems 2013 & 2016, Blue Dog, Cordite, Going Down Swinging, Meanjin, Plumwood Mountain Journal, Southerly, Overland, and Westerly, among others. She is the author of The Non-Sequitur of Snow (Puncher & Wattmann 2015) which was Highly Commended in the 2015 Anne Elder Awards (Australia). Recent awards include The Peter Steele Poetry Prize (2020), The Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Award (2018), The University of Canberra Health Poetry Prize (2016) and second, third and shortlisted placements in the prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize (2017, 2015, 2020). Her forthcoming books Foxstruck and Other Collisions (Puncher & Wattmann 2020) and Sonqoqui: a verse novel in translation (El Taller Blanco Ediciones) are due out soon. Kocher holds MA and Doctorate degrees from Melbourne University, where she sometimes works as a sessional teaching associate and postgraduate supervisor in the School of Culture and Communications.


Paula: Shari Kocher and Joan Fleming have occasionally followed daily poetry prompts as part of a Madrid writers’ group that was doing ‘a poem a day’ for Poetry Month. It inspired me to gather together some local poetry prompts that I will post on Wednesday May 13th.













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