Elly McDonald


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Other People (1981)

Long and gentle (soft dusky pink)

A girl in a coffeeshop

Closes up, jagged like an oyster.

Her face blurred like a moonstone.


huddled, hunted, in massive tawny furs

(a memory, but raw as a freshly-flayed kill)

can’t feel, can’t breathe, drains away…

her ankles loll like broken necks


The girl in the coffeeshop

Keeps her chin level,

Talks tired and calmly: I’m not

Really crying, she says.

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Dingo (1982)

around here, they speak a language

whose vocabulary is familiar but

the words have different meanings

I can’t communicate

Commonplace expressions require foreign

interpretations; facial movements, social

gestures carry different connotations

I can’t convey

how at odds I feel in this Rubik’s Cube of a

World, how petrified

I am by this Rosetta Stone

Establishment: its every interaction

codified – each move feels false

A game of chess, post coup d’etat

A loaded dice, a snakes’n’ladders board

whose symbols have been reversed

I can’t decipher

An ever-changing cryptic crossword

I can’t control

An environment demanding that I speak in tongues

I find this neighborhood unnerving as the sight

of a dingo gazing down over Woolloomooloo


it’s there, at the top of stone stairs

a watcher flanked by rows of ochre terrace houses

it turns towards me (expectant

satisfied, cynical): Your yellow eyes betray you

square peg

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Watching (1982)

For someone who insisted she would

Not do anything she couldn’t admit to


midnight copper cockroach

crouched on asphalt pavement, inner

city face concave – erratic dark vermin

in the alleyway oblivion –

across an empty lot, strewn with rubble and tattooed

(the shadow-net cast by the meshed wire fence)

she scurries, feet scraping

alert: rapacious watcher

metallic and uncaring


She does know (or course)

It’s a dreadful thing to do