One example is the oft-anthologised ‘The Domesticity of Giraffes.’ The lyrical evocation of the caged giraffe – in which ‘This shy Miss Marigold rolls out her tongue / like the neck of a dying bird’ – is strikingly undercut when the giraffe ‘thrusts her tongue under’ the ‘rich stream’ of a bull’s urine. ‘The Dung Collector’ portrays the shameful spectacle of a ‘woman who / must live under the anus of a cow as if / it were her star.’ There are the boys in ‘The Two Brothers’ who secretly torture snails with salt, transforming them into ‘tattered lace.’ It is a rare poem in which the poet seems to be autobiographically present, as a child observing the illicit act in horror. It is also a poem of anger. In the final lines, the poet gets her revenge on those small, cruel boys:
But when they had held themselves in their hands, They shook a little, not quite sure what they possessed And touched themselves through the emptiness Of their pockets, scared they’d find the prize of nothing.
The anti-pastoral ‘Fox in a Tree Stump’ is another apparently autobiographical poem, in which a child, tyrannised by her ‘yelled name,’ is compelled by her uncle to beat a fox to death. The sound of the stick was
so loud it shook out a flock of galahs from their trees, cracked like a wave the buried sleep of rabbits.
Sexuality, ugliness, violence and trauma, of course, provide the incentive for a lyrical or spiritual removal of the self from an embodied life of grotesquery or suffering. Beveridge’s poems reveal an attraction to such escape – most obviously in the poems about Buddha and, more recently, Devadatta. However, the best poems, for me, are those that refuse to look away.