Ashley’s second poetry collection (54pgs), Stepping Over Seasons, first published by Interactive Press in 2009, is now available in an expanded edition.
dawn comes like someone embarrassed
to bring bad news, sunlight
very soft on weatherboard.
in the horse’s mouth even straw sleeps
and the earth holds perfume,
memory of rain on pine needles.
hills are bone-grey and a cold hand
massages the empty river, no prayers
swim this belly of dust,
no whispers to quicken fruit.
night looks down in a shower of moth wings,
headlights turn powerlines into silver webs
and cheeks go unshaven.
royal on the park
at the hotel pool
reflections in chequered blue,
the fat boy circles
and at last disrobes,
each gesture a hip or an ankle
conscious of people in apartments
across the street
in a kind of rear window
a man opens a window
beads of sweat down his chin
a woman kicks thongs off
on the balcony her radio
a couple stare across the city,
letting go of whatever’s
and the boy
hovers in the deep end,
When you read Capes’ work, a distinctive style becomes quickly apparent; he has an ability to form a poem around a seemingly ordinary object. As Justin Lowe writes on the back cover, ‘You sense you could point to any object in a room and Capes would conjure the ghosts of a hundred pairs of hands’. Capes creates a vivid image of an object and the reader is treated to a reconsideration. This object could be small, like the wedding ring in ‘other objects’, or an entire house, as in ‘shell’, once filled with life and memories, the house is left empty:
our house is a shell again,
and beach-like, just
a knock for someone else to answer
Characteristically Capes exemplifies an acceptance of the whole of life, of his own humility – toughly, zestfully, serenely. In the first part of the two-part poem “botanic,” he writes about the park “full of photographers” and also full of readers, ibis, people and a “Chinese couple / posing for wedding photos.” But beyond this tranquil scene lies the city with its sirens, streets humming with threats and the casino. His equity is in simply being alive to the sights and sounds that surround him.
Capes’ work is distinguished by its searing honesty, uncharacteristic of much contemporary Australian poetry, or any modern poetry for that matter, touching on themes of love, loss, death, marriage, struggles of living in rural Australia and the placement of the poet in the modern world.
Stepping Over Seasons continues to resonate with me. Just in writing this review I experience that aha! moment again as I pluck out quotes … Capes I find to be a keen observer and communicator with his poetry, it’s some of the most enjoyable free verse I have read.