Hot Desk Extract: 2042

As part of the Wheeler Centre's Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Amanda Anastasi worked on a full book of poetry, 2042 – an entirely futuristic, research-based collection. Envisaging a future year in time, the poems span the socio-political, the personal, and the domestic events and observations impacting everyday Melbourne life.

This excerpt includes several poems from the book.

Image of water flowing

Image: Scott Limbrick (modified from a photo by Dwayne Madden, CC-BY-SA 2.0)

After the Flood

i. 

He has perished and woken many times to begin

elsewhere, viewing former versions of himself

 

with a wry shiver. Here, the same flux of startling

ends and changeovers and renewed unknowing.

 

He is attuned to early departures: the leaving

of a father and an ever-retiring mother, packed

 

cupboards crying of the unwillingness to let go,

the vacant smell of a post-marriage apartment.


It is not the bareness of post-life, but the daily disregard / of the still breathing, that bolts him upright in his sleep.

They come, people at the entry point of shock.

He had been expecting them, the flood alerts

 

on his phone prophesising another busy season.

They enter before thinking to thumb a message.

 

ii.

The widow lacks a single skin crease when she cries,

her face a sleek bottle pumping grief in neat bursts;

 

the phoneless entry and single earring, the only other

sign of her inner chaos. He has the script memorised:

 

words of general comfort that light a mild recognition

in the eye and the well-timed weaving in of questions

 

about compartment size and style, music choice,

and funeral service programming. Less reference

 

to the afterlife these days. Presumption is anathema,

along with any notion contrary to self-determination.

 

Wait for the mention of god first, without cynicism,

then nod as though you understand something.

 

iii.

Increasingly, little is hidden from loved ones. Less

and less, the apparition-hit faces of a mother or lover

 

after the unlocking of a beloved’s phone or the sight

of a grief-stricken stranger at the funeral. This living


and uttering of a life without omission has its cons –

the more known the dead, the more the stopping stings.

 

Curated modes of grief expression are the preference

for many: a post detailing the exact minute of passing,

 

a live feed of the sad informing, lavish moving image

memorials. Yet, the oddest outbursts from mourners

 

on trains have been reported. What haunts him are

the flawless faces that sit neatly around stunned eyes.

  

iv. 

There is something about the reduction of bodies

from limbs to ash that almost reassures; of the neat

 

cataloguing of past lives, boxed one above the other;

a tower of local occupations and cedings swiped into.


There is little nostalgia for rotting flower water and angels

atop marble pitched in dirt. Ends are marked quicker

 

and cleaner these days and many still can’t abide replication

or bot replacement. The grieving stand before the remnants

 

with an unfading reverence – some dutiful, some struck

with rapid sobriety, pausing before the last cruel riddle.

 

It is not the bareness of post-life, but the daily disregard

of the still breathing, that bolts him upright in his sleep.

 

 

Lady Returned

  

What is the reason for your refund? Now, to explain

the daily company of remoteness; the manufactured eyes

 

at breakfast and the grating predictability of lilting tones;

the artificial rise and empty pause following a question


Wait for the mention of god first, without cynicism / then nod as though you understand something.

and the mockery in it. The vacancy at the core of her

moulded form. The eeriness of personally-requested

 

responses from a mouth of one’s particular design, amid

assurances of customer happiness and easeful bot transition

 

due to latest advancements in realistic softness technology.

Yet, a rigid inner machinery is noticeable, adamantly jutting

 

from beneath; the ill-fit of herin his sleeping place. He craves

a silly quip, the prattling of a fresh anecdote, an ungainly slip,

 

a flash of side eye in witness to his inadequacy; a kept complaint,

the stirring of indigestion, a scratched finger, a kiss exhaling coffee

 

or onion, a gaze upon the verge of a subtle turn. He submits

his feedback and leaves, relaxing into the unruly, tender street. 

Portrait of Amanda Anastasi

Amanda Anastasi is a Melbourne poet who has been published everywhere from the walls of Windsor’s Artists’ Lane to the Massachusetts Review in the US. Her debut poetry collection was 2012 and other poems and she recently co-authored The Silences (Eaglemont Press, 2016).  

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