Phyllis Perlstone

Phyllis Perlstone, a Sydney poet, first worked as an artist and experimental filmmaker. She turned to poetry full time in 1992, taking courses in poetry at the New School for Social Research in New York. She has gained various awards, including the NSW Women Writers poetry prize in 2004, and was second in the National Women Writers poetry prize in 2005. She has published reviews and articles. Her poetry is published in various journals and anthologies including Westerly, Siglo, Social Alternatives, Notes and Furphies, Meanjin, Blue Dog and A Way of Happening. Her first book is You Chase After Your Likeness (2002), reviewed in Southerly by Jennifer Maiden, and by Louise Wakelin in Five Bells. Her poem “Music and Landscape and other Consolations” was included in The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology for 2007and her latest book The Edge of Everything published by Puncher and Wattman was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry in the 2008 Premier’s Awards for N.S.W, and ‘Ondine’ was included in Motherlode, 2009.

                                                                                                                                                                  (Photograph by Max Deutscher)



after your ‘thirty six
views of Mt. Fuji’
now you surprise me
on my calendar for April
with a print of poppies
the flowers are paper party-cups
folded on themselves
or flattened wide by a wind
springing the seams of things
in whole fields
open to the new season

That’s why I look at

my mother and her sister

in a snapshot

on a city street in Sydney

at their eyes on the photographer

their smiles and their hats 

the bunched violets on my mother’s lapel 

and my aunt’s cape

flaring on her shoulders

they dare their happiness

as if they were young and without care

looking good

they might have said of themselves


and why I stare at my orchids

my white ‘butterfly’ phaleonopsis

my dendrobium purples that arch out

into the room

and then turn to look outside

at the lemon-scented gum

rising,  a casuarina going up even higher

and then back again to gaze

at a grevillea the way

it crowds the balcony with a branched extension

its tiny flowers spray-brushing the rail


Hokusai, because of your print of poppies

I look around at these things

for a joy to match yours




Tuesday 24th April 2007


For the rain it raineth everyday

today’s rain is falling

landing on leaves on roofs on

whatever catches it first

it’s as steady as the air

it drops through

at one or two almost-stopping points

you can hear the run of it

over the ground

where it puddles and leaks into holes

At an attention of waiting for its last

or next to last tick

my ears can’t help but measure it

Expectancy as it’s still   

unable to be tightened into silence

doesn’t let me escape either

from your stress  

your turning away

from what  I can only think to myself

you don’t need to feel…

Basho’s frog croaks  

in the half-quiet

the  sound of my voice can’t repeat

adequate replies to you

the rain a mirror to everything

comes back

as if it’s shining a night-light at itself

there’s a lane of echoes

opening and closing

only the frog’s joking note

can hop away