Takolander, Maria

Austrailia, (b. 1973)

The Ashes

  1. The pig propped his hooves on the seat back and lifted the beer to his mouth. His toes, he saw over the translucent lip of the plastic cup, were perfectly clean if mottled in colour like the earth. The baying and howling intensified, and he turned his attention to the pitch. The raccoon dealt with the first ball, tossed hard in the lull following the crowd’s jeering. The ball rolled dead. A rat retrieved it, spat on the red skin and briskly rubbed it on the hairless skin of his groin. The next ball curved like the smell drifting from rot, and the racoon was out. Plastic cups flew up into the sky and down again like scuttled locusts. It had happened so quickly. As the pig watched the racoon remove his helmet and return to the pavilion, he was momentarily unsettled. How fragile things seemed. How would they fill out the afternoon? The game, though, soon became robust and quite ordinary. The pig might have dozed off, for time passed. When he woke there was a commotion beneath his grandstand. The pig looked down into the bay. An old emu lay on its back in a concrete aisle littered with plastic cups, cigarette butts, pie bags and piss stains. Two paramedics, grey wolves, knelt over him. One had its paws buried in the oily feathers on the emu’s upturned and distended chest. The bird’s legs hung from each side like snapped sticks. There was a small and miscellaneous crowd. Then from the other side of the arena, with a great wailing and roaring, came another wave of plastic cups, catching the sun, hovering and shimmering like angels. The partnership on the field had been broken. The pig found himself hurling his own empty cup into the teeming oval of the sky. When the pig finally looked down at the aisle below, one of the wolves, its fur hoary as the grubby cement, had fetched a stretcher. Only the pig saw the wolves carry the large dead bird away.

 Maria Takolander. The Best Australian Poems, edited by John Tranter. Collingwood, VIC: Black Inc. (2011).


  2. 1. Morning Sickness
  4. I had lost myself in a novel by Marie Darrieussecq *
  5. in which a woman grows bacon skin–broken by
  6. hair that claws with its roots, coarser than on her
  7. pudenda–and teats like gelatinous melanomas.
  8. I saw her fretting and muddying the earth until her
  9. rear end let forth a litter of mutant-lets, pink and
  10. coarse as tongues and slippery. Their lids were serene,
  11. as if eyes did not exist, and their ears were closed
  12. to the sound of their own not screaming. It was then
  13. I felt the tide come in, bearing silt stirred from the
  14. fetid sea floor, old with starfish and eel bones. The
  15. moon, for nine months, did not care to claim it again.
  17. 2. Ultrasound
  19. I had read that some women feed life with scratched
  20. hunks of earth that gravel their teeth, with the residue
  21. of fire that sludges their gums, and with the odourless
  22. powder their grandmothers used to stiffen petticoats
  23. of crinoline. I imagine the starch creaming my throat grey,
  24. and to us you look colourless as if you were made that way.
  25. Still emerging from yourself, the bud of your nose alone
  26. makes the universe less impossible. You do not know
  27. that we are here, but this is how we watch you: on a
  28. black-and-white plasma screen suspended on a wall
  29. –the happy technician flicking us between dimensions
  30. like Dr Who–and as if from an infinite distance.
  32. 3. Foetal movement
  34. In my guidebook to pregnancy, a pencil illustration offers me
  35. a profile of myself: armless and headless, legs to mid-thigh,
  36. only my reproductive organs and waste channels sketched in.
  37. My abdomen encases an upside-down foetus above the
  38. bulbous and textured outline of my rectal cavity, the muscular,
  39. smudged passage of my vagina and my clear urinary tract.
  40. The caption announces that by the end of the seventh month
  41. the foetus can respond to taste, light and sound, and it can cry.
  42. As I watch you shadow box with sourness, radiance and din,
  43. the sources of which you must fear like a medieval Christian,
  44. you make of my belly a theatre for unseen marionettes and
  45. for pain that has no origin–except for the life I have given.

* Darrieussecq, Marie (1996). Pig Tales: A Novel of Lust and Transformation, tr. Linda Coverdale. London: Faber & Faber, 1998.

 Maria Takolander. The Turnrow Anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry, , ed. John Kinsella. Monroe, LA: Turnrow Books (2014).

About the Poet:

Maria Takolander, Austrailia, (b. 1973), poet, short fiction writer and educator. Takolander is currently an Associate Professor in Literary Studies and Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria.

Takolander’s poetry and fiction have been widely published and anthologised nationally and internationally. She is married to the Australian poet and critic David McCooey.

Takolander is the author more than five books, including: a collection of short stories, The Double (2013); a book of literary criticism, Catching Butterflies: Bringing Magical Realism to Ground (2007); and three collections of poems, The End of the World (2014), Ghostly Subjects (2009) and Narcissism (2005). [DES-03/18]

Additional information:

A random image of a pig, hog, boar or swine from the collection at Porkopolis.