Sarah Holland-Batt is an award-winning poet, editor, and critic, and Professor of Creative Writing and Literary Studies at Queensland University of Technology. Her first book, Aria, was the recipient of a number of national literary awards, including the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, and the Anne Elder Award, and was shortlisted in both the New South Wales and Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards for Poetry. Her second book, The Hazards, won the 2016 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry, and was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry in the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature John Bray Memorial Award, the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards, and the Queensland Literary Awards. She is the recipient of a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship, the W.G. Walker Memorial Fulbright Scholarship, residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell in the United States, the Marten Bequest Scholarship, an Asialink Literature Residency in Japan, and an Australia Council Literature Residency at the B.R. Whiting Studio in Rome, among other honours. She is presently the Judy Harris Writer in Residence at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney.
by Sarah Holland-Batt
My father is at the bottom of a pond
perfecting the art of the circle.
He is guiding the mottled zeppelin
of his body in a single unceasing turn
like a monorail running on greased steel,
like an ice skater swerving on a blade.
His scales are lava and ember dappled with carbon.
His tail, a luxurious Japanese fan.
He is so far beneath the green skin of duckweed
he cannot make me out, or I him.
What he knows is shrinking into round facts:
days like mossed stones, each the same weight,
spears of water hyacinth rising
around him like jail bars, reek of peat.
He has been down there for years—
ancient god of the dark, keeper of the single
koan, moving in currents only he can sense,
fluent as a windsock. He surfaces
three times a day when the nurse brings
a tray—cold blanched carrot and beef,
whitesauce fillet of whiting, pound cake.
He cannot trust the scratched headlamps
of his eyes so he navigates by feel,
angling his huge whiskered head
mouth-first towards the fork, weaving
like an adder charmed by smoke,
then he bites down to find the world
suddenly there again, solid as metal and bait.
Copyright ©2022 by Sarah Holland-Batt, The Leopard, University of Queensland Press