Sam Byfield


1981, Sam Byfield has published a chapbook (From the Middle Kingdom, Pudding House Press) and his first full length collection Borderlands is forthcoming. His poetry has recently appeared in such publications as Heat, Meanjin, Island, Southerly, The Asia Literary Review, The National Poetry Review, Cordite and previously in Mascara.

Split Earth

Morpeth’s bulging river and rich
farmlands, the sky heaving itself
down in great drapes.
We browsed the bric-a-bracs
and lolly shops, climbed
an old steam engine and listened
to the rainsong of frogs amongst
the ferns and old stone walls.
The bridge rattled, its heavy presence
hanging on into its second century,
shading the flash of reeds
and river mullet. While the women
drank coffee I walked with Thom
to where the gardens met the river,
took a photo of us, arm-in-arm,
obvious brothers despite our
different hair lengths,
despite his axe man shoulders
and my clean shave. Our eyes
were an identical blue, though
not long since the accident his smile
didn’t reach them, cautious as
an animal crouched in barnyard
shadows, relearning trust; his scars
jagged and red, like split earth.
All this year I’ve carried the photo
with me like a talisman,
watched his eyes and mouth
telling different stories, as if I could
stop the world from hurting him
further, from taking any more
of us too soon.


Escaping the Central West

Out on the flat land, the yellow land,
driving from one country town with
a funny name to another, in the old
blue Cortina, the sun making wheat
of dad’s beard. John Williamson’s
singing Bill the Cat, about a moggy
who loved the budgies and wrens
and ultimately lost his balls.
Sporadic signposts, nothing
but sad little dams, wire and sheep.
One flock grabs our attention—
animated discussion in the front,
dad still refusing to unfold the map
before the realisation sets in that
it’s the same flock as two hours
and two hundred miles ago.
It’s a story that’s passed through
the years until how much is real
and how much is myth is hard to say.
We lasted two months out there.
My parents must have fought
like hell, though those memories
haven’t stuck. We headed back east
in the middle of a flood, the whole
Central West beneath a foot
of ironic water. Night time shut
the light out and we drove blind,
just hours of water threatening
to swallow us, to breach
the Cortina’s rust and rivets;
and a storm in Dad’s head
that wasn’t about to abate.