Judith Beveridge is the author of four award-winning books of poetry. Her most recent collection is Storm and Honey published in 2009 and it was awarded the Grace Levin Prize in 2010. She teaches poetry writing at the University of Sydney and is the poetry editor of Meanjin. In 2005 she was awarded the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for excellence in literature.
From Devadatta’s poems
Whenever I come here, I don’t pay much attention
to the lammergeier circling from the peaks overhead,
but I keep an eye out for falling tortoises, elephant’s ribs,
jackal’s jawbones. I stay on the level where the farm
women scythe and rick, scythe and rick, or pick
tithes of yellow samphire near the stones. I don’t
climb to the summit to take in the view of the valley
and the fertile plains; or as the Buddha suggests,
spend time alone in one of the small, damp caves
meditating on suffering and its root causes in desire.
I stay at the base near the talus and inhale the heady
perfume of the lavender and vetch. I watch the farm
women bend and sweat in the sinking madder sun
before they drink and rest near the ponds. I let desire
have its ground. I take my chances under falling bones.
from Devadatta’s poems
Some nights, when all I do is scheme
to give Siddhattha schism, infighting, dissonance,
when I think of what a pleasure it will be
to give him “dissentry” – then I plan some days
of penance: to lie among wood ticks, crickets,
the breaching heads of worms and leeches,
to let the gall borers gnaw my toes;
to offer the soft flanges around the tops
of my ears to the water fleas and wasps.
I’ll let mosquitos gather and fly off pot-bellied
with my blood. I wont apply saliva
or mud, use any unguents, no paste of cloves
and honey, and though the moon will mock me
like a pointed instrument, like a round
and cooling poultice, I wont give comfort
to any part of my body, but cover myself
with nettles, itch-weed, with crow and turkey feathers,
with hen-house refuse so that mites, too,
can leave me scaled and scabbed.
I wont climb away from my skin
even if worms burrow, or web-spinning flies
hang threads in my beard and make slime.
Though my fingernails will have grown so long,
I’ll not scratch a single bite, or strike any insect
down, but I’ll palp them like strange antennae.
Then I’ll lie on the forest floor among the burrows
of roaches and long-horned stag beetles,
and the sound closest to my ears will be the sound
of army ants devouring everything to pieces.