Air Quality Index & Rabindranath Tagore appears in Lismore, NSW



air quality index


one of the last known plagues,

smog rides in

with a cold front

first in the sky, then the back

of the throat

brings on bad

tempers, smothers us   like a sweaty palm

or a rag

in the mouth


each morning   daguerreotyped

on my eyes:

flash of brassy light, then curtains

clinched together

heaters chafe

all day in cafes

men poach in the great grey sheaves

of their coats,

stutter emails while      soda purrs

over gin


towers inch

out of sepia fog

cats stand on the brown           brink

of their shadows

as cabs drift behind their lights

and in backseats

passengers crack

like knuckles

in double-thick jackets


it delivers us back

to a bronze age:

the godless howl of power

tools abandoned


and across the river –

crusted with coal boats

and iceless all winter –

more smog

where factory workers are sent

home    fractured

like ice just dropped

in a drink



Rabindranath Tagore appears in Lismore, NSW


Today, jetlagging

through this hemisphere’s

tar-melt afternoon

in the weatherboard library,

I find, between pleated

copies of Rilke

and Yeats,

the collected poems

of Rabindranath Tagore,

whose bronze head

stands on the corner

of my street

in the city

I have just left.

It is as if I am back

on that wishbone

of road in Huangpu: he faces

the yóutiáo stall

where I’d stand in line

on Sunday mornings

and each

week, repeating xièxiè

as I took

the crisp dough,

I would turn

towards home

and meet

my eyes

in his eyes.

Ella Jeffery

Author: Ella Jeffery

Ella Jeffery’s poetry, reviews and short fiction have appeared in Westerly, Cordite, Tincture, Best Australian Poems and elsewhere. She is a doctoral candidate and sessional academic at QUT in Brisbane.