Nourritures Terrestres

Berndt Sellheim


André Gide, once dead, turns Lazarus

a century past, re-pens Les Nourritures Terrestres

whilst drinking cognac on Darlinghurst Road.


He works through spring and into summer

without shifting tables, shadows swallowing

every stroke in heat and traffic


the Sanskrit flow of his hand.

His lips a half-pout wet with drink and think

ing and everywhere the air thinned


of memories, scents, the revenants

competing for noise on this corner, this

small slice of presence


their purgatory: you see

it’s not the filament touch of it — fine threads

connecting a bulbous sheen of cognac


to windshields, sunglasses, the passing siren’s

brightness, another afternoon announcing God

in a clash of brass percussion


and certainly not our bodies

which bloat and thin and eat themselves

even as we watch


not cymbals, but words, that he wants

the light to be permanent, which is

the only game in town.      And yes


Mont St-Michel is a mirage on a tide

cracked earthen spires on blue tidal sheen

but then, so is Victoria Street, and Liverpool


all the city’s vibrant squalor. So he sits

at Le Petit Crème, writing light into time

in the ebb and flow of traffic


as the city’s arc of sun

allots the day in cracks of pavement,

the fading lines of his skin.



This was originally written for the MH60 production that was organised to celebrate Martin Harrison’s 60th Birthday, and was then republished in Best Australian Poems 2009.


Berndt Sellheim is the author of Beyond the Frame’s Edge (Fourth Estate, 2013) and Saint Vitus Dance (Fourth Estate, forthcoming). He has taught poetry and philosophy at various major Australian universities, including University of Technology Sydney, where he taught with Martin Harrison, and his poetry and critical work have been published internationally. He recently completed his first collection of poems.

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