Brisbane New Voices III: Carmen Leigh Keates Breaks the Knife

This is one of those rare months where a fifth Friday muscles its way in. So as the April Pin-Up Poet isn’t due to appear here for another week, I thought it was the perfect time to showcase the title poem from Carmen Leigh Keates‘ half of Brisbane New Voices III, One Broken Knife.

One Broken Knife

There’s a rightness
in using one knife for everything
from cutting up a chop
to dividing the bulbs of daffodils.

And when the point is broken
and it attains that animalistic
pig-angry bearing
it becomes your weapon

not seriously
but it becomes your totem knife.
Nobody picks the broken one, right?

It is the twin of a knife
found in the grave
of someone you used to be
in the fourth century.

Radio feels mysterious.
You walk about
listening with your eyes
looking at your hands
going about their thing
straightening books.

Your hands
do not hear
and go on working.
Your hands are farmers.
But your ears are little children
who ask about God
just as they fall asleep.

Dad used his broken knife
to eat apple.
Sitting at the kitchen table
slicing off shapes
feeding them into his mouth
with the same knife-hand.

The blade missed his eye
by a distance
so small
it was religious.

He’d sharpen his knife
and the greasy drag
would ring through the house
like a local abduction.

Once he used the knife
to open a bag of cement
and out of the rip
a grey dust rose
like the spirit.

When I broke
the tip off my knife
I saw
it could leave the kitchen.

The hands that don’t listen
from a root-bound aloe
a clutch
of sappy broken knives
and hurled them into a vacant plot
where if inclined
they could live.


Carmen Leigh Keates was born in Brisbane. Her verse novella, Second-Hand Attack Dog, was commended in the 2011 Alec Bolton Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript, and her poem ‘One Broken Knife‘ was commended in the 2010 Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize. Carmen is undertaking her PhD candidature at the University of Queensland, for which she is writing poetry about the films of Andrei Tarkovsky.


Brisbane New Voices III is printed in a limited edition of 100 copies and will be launched on Tuesday April 24 at Riverbend Books along with readings by Victorian Singer/Songwriter, Andy White and QLD mistress of SLAM, Tessa Leon. To book your ticket call the store on (07) 3899 8555.



Filed under poetry & publishing

7 responses to “Brisbane New Voices III: Carmen Leigh Keates Breaks the Knife

  1. There’s a rightness in one poem being great in so many different ways.
    But alas, I’ll be out of town on the night of the launch–can I pre-order a copy?

  2. One of these days I must travel down your way just to experience the rich culture of poetry…thanks for sharing this.

  3. I love this poem. I need more like it.

  4. Melissa Ashley

    Ohh, shivers.

  5. I can see Dad at the kitchen table, and ripping open a bag of cement. Gawd, ain’t you talented an’ all eh? xxx! 🙂

  6. Pingback: Another Lost Shark Publications is proud to release Private Conversations by Cameron Hindrum | Another Lost Shark

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