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Nathanael O'Reilly
Australia/ U.S.A

A sixth-generation Australian, Nathanael O'Reilly was born in Warrnambool and grew up in Ballarat, Brisbane and Shepparton. He now resides in the United States. His poetry has appeared in Antipodes, Postcolonial Text, Southern Ocean Review and elsewhere.

Stopping for Fish and Chips

On Saturday evenings, partway
Between Bendigo and Shepparton,
We stopped for fish and chips
At Goornong on the Midland Highway.
Back in the station wagon, we greedily
Tore open the sweaty package
Of butcher's paper and grabbed hot
Handfuls. Escaping steam fogged-up
The windows. We gripped sleeves
In our fists and wiped windows clear
With forearms and elbows. We washed
Down the greasy, salty fish and chips
With cartons of Big M. By the time
We reached Elmore, we were satiated.


For Robbo

You filled our young minds
With a passion for words
And a love for literature.
You convinced a roomful
Of teenagers that poetry matters,
That life is more, much more
Than Saturday nights at clubs
And Sunday arvos at the footy.
You inspired us to fill
Every minute with living,
To dig below the surface.
You told us to seek education
Rather than career-training,
To broaden our minds
Rather than fatten our wallets.
We'll never forget the day
You acted out Donne's
Poem to his mistress,
Complete with hand gestures
And wicked grins -
"Before, behind, between, above, below."
You showed us the world, then let us go.

The Woods

We entered the woods armed
With a bottle of wine, a knife,
Cheese, crackers, glasses, cigars,
A lighter, your photographs
And my poetry. You dressed
In black, right down to the boots.
Did you know it would
Be one of our last days?

We gathered wood together,
Even built the fire as one.
Warmed by the orange flames,
Mellowed by wine and cheese,
We reclined and conversed
Until the sun descended.

As daylight faded we walked
Out of the woods and down
The road, now much closer,
More intimate, more a part
Of each other than we'd been
A mere seven hours earlier.