Ella Jeffery

Ella Jeffery’s poetry, reviews and essays have appeared in MeanjinWesterly, Cordite, Best Australian Poems and others. She won the Meniscus/CAL Prize for Best Poem, the June Shenfield Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Val Vallis Award. She lives in Brisbane and tweets from @JefferyElla


the ferret population of shanghai: some anecdotal evidence

my friend says ferrets
roam the streets
they were released a long time ago
to catch rats     or perhaps it was
roaches            he says
now they thrive in back alleys and stairwells
the thresholds of people’s lives

he says they’re called              yòu
or perhaps it’s                           māo yòu
and you can see them at night
on sinan lu       where dozens of men
are re-cladding the houses

most mornings workers drip
like melting ice from the neocolonial eaves
hanging neon signs in english
the old tenants                        shuttled
to some outer orbit

i am doubtful
of most of my friend’s stories
and of this loose grip
on language:                mine
and his

either way
the rats and roaches are still out there
but some nights riding
home late
I think I see                 white ferrets
under the gates
and into those houses
where nobody is allowed        to live


Mutianyu in June

Clouds in the west
tinged the freak green of hail.

There was nobody around.
I walked for hours along the wall

and now and then I’d run
into other people in twos or threes.

We nodded at each other in our plastic
raincoats. For ten minutes

I watched a wild donkey
stand in the rain

among the trees below.
Fog pulsed through watchtowers.

Sometimes the steps
were far bigger and further

apart than I am used to.
Sometimes they were so small

and steep I lifted my whole
body on the balls of my feet

and laid my hands
on the rain-slick steps

above and pulled myself upwards,
scraping stone with my knees

and ankles and shins, bones
I thought I had outgrown.