The Burnt-out Bougainvillea

Stuart Barnes


Some thing has taken the place


of the bougainvillea, something biblical. Teeth

have taken out vibrant lumps

like prehensile, opaque

starfish. Some thing has crazed the bark,


quelling its wear

-ability. Blood will tell

toll the fronds of a Cuban Royal under

which the man sporting a tanga tans. Tang of charcoal sports and falls.


If some thing can insinuate

itself between thorny green bones

then the stones

concealing black field crickets


that squeal (you say) like next door’s babies or

coal train brakes will incinerate among

antique crackled bowls

and daytime’s undertones run.


Alice Coltrane spun once,

in the barmy reefer spring

—‘Isis and Osiris’ did

its nut. No balm for the lip


of the nearby reef, each tapered flower galactic-white,

each bridge

of this paperflower one

hell of a black. Once a person


-age, the staggering tanned man whose cat-tails

droop and doll eyes bobble below a moon austere

as porcelain. Its water

hoards i


-dolise gravity. For the hearts’ doorstep

this is neither here nor there.

You and I live in a glasshouse

—hordes of digs. Some thing at the dead centre of us


digs in heels. The bougainvillea heals, heals.




Note: ‘The Burnt-out Bougainvillea’ is a terminal from Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Burnt-out Spa’



Stuart Barnes was born and grew up in Hobart and lived in Melbourne for seventeen years before moving to Rockhampton. Glasshouses (UQP) won the Thomas Shapcott Prize and was shortlisted/commended for two other awards. Since 2017 Stuart’s been a program advisor for Queensland Poetry Festival and in 2018 joined Verity La as editor of their Out of Limbo project. Twitter/Instagram: @StuartABarnes

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