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Thomas Moody

"Night Flight" by Sarah Holland-Batt [Introduced by Thomas Moody]

In the introduction to her collection of short essays on Australian poets, “Fishing for Lightning: The Spark of Poetry”, Sarah Holland-Blatt writes “As a form, poetry is full of freedom and possibility. It asks the reader to be open to coincidence and association, to music and imagery, to chance and change. Poems are full of surprises: each line is a little detonation of language and imagery, each stanza a series of swift steps into the unknown.” Holland-Blatt’s “Night Flight” is a perfect demonstration of these detonations of language and imagery. Throughout the poem we are, from one line to another, shepherded across continents, to destinations known and unknown, physical, temporal, bodily, personal, where everything is “defined / by distance: how close we were, how far from steel mills in Pittsburgh / and those killing Chicago winds”.



Sarah Holland-Blatt is one of Australia’s leading poets, editors and literary critics. She has been published widely internationally, including in The New Yorker on several occasions. From 2014 to 2019 she was the poetry editor of Island magazine, and was also the editor of The Best Australian Poems 2016 and The Best Australian Poems 2017. Her three collections of poems to date have swept up nearly every major literary award in Australia, with her most recent title, Jaguar, winning the 2023 Stella Award.

Night Flight


As my plane drops down in turbulence

I think of you and of Salt Lake City,

I think of ice stealing over the Great Lakes

and of Omaha and of adamant plains.

I think of all the places

I have never been: Caracas,

La Paz, Kingston. I think of the way

our bodies puzzled together in that room

over pine woods where night deer

passed in the snow, their lonesome

inscrutable tracks sluicing

in the morning’s melt, I think of

your eyes that are almost the colour

of mercury, of their unbearable weight,

I think of the plateau of your chest

rising, rising, and of your hand

resting on my right thigh,

of the slim glint of your wedding

band in the dove predawn light.

I think of how everything is defined

by distance: how close we were,

how far from steel mills in Pittsburgh

and those killing Chicago winds

and union towns near Detroit, Michigan

where loyalty is the only religion.

I think of the sound of your breathing,

which is the sound of fields

of blond Illinois wheat bent down,

I think of those silver silos

of harvest corn we saw in Schuylerville,

barns blazing in all that silence

as we drove through what we could

not think or say. There is no grace

in this kind of longing, there is only pain,

pain which I have always preferred

anyway – it is where I live,

and called love by any other name.

November 15, 2023

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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