Paul Dawson


Lines of Desire
for Bronwyn Lea

The movement of a narrative, some will tell you,
can be charted on a graph. To begin with

there are trees and their uncomplicated growth. There
is one’s life and that’s what life is. If you listen closely

you can hear the granules of coffee sliding from the spoon
to the bottom of the plunger. And then

something happens. The line of the graph
begins to curve upwards, like an eyebrow of doubt,

like a bird contemplating flight. The something is desire —
it cannot be any more specific than that.

Like the arc from her smoking fingertips
to a mouthful of lips, the way you watch water

climbing up the inside of your treasured, treasured tea cup,
this movement has consequences, rising like steam —

follow the line, watch desire break against itself
at the peak of the curve, the email that should not

have been sent, that had to be sent
as if the story was only in your mind.

And then the slow decline, or perhaps the collapse
it may be nothing, it could be madness, it could be

a sparrow’s whisper on the edge of your skin.
Either way, there is the unravelling —

but how can one wrap up desire? The moment
when one is blasted into enthralment

one shivering soul, the glimpse of a foot,
her voice on the raining street, a hint

of the other way out.



Paul Dawson’s first book of poems, Imagining Winter (Interactive Press, 2006), won the national IP Picks Best Poetry Award in 2006, and his work has been anthologised in Harbour City Poems: Sydney in Verse 1788–2008 (Puncher & Wattmann, 2009). He is also the author of Creative Writing and the New Humanities (Routledge, 2005). Paul is currently a Senior Lecturer in the School of English, Media and Performing Arts at the University of New South Wales.

Dawson says: “‘Lines of Desire’ takes Bronwyn Lea’s poem, ‘The Other Way Out’ (retitled ‘Two Ways Out’ in her collection The Other Way Out) as its point of departure. It wants to say something about lyric poetry.”