Asleep in the suburbs

Ian Wicks

Wide awake

in our room angled with shadows,

midnight long gone.

Your breathing laps gently

on some far-off shoreline,

fast asleep.

Outside, in the moonlit treetops,

a boobook calls in couplets,

soft and low.


Now the romancing frogs start up again,

reprising their castanet refrain.

Possums ply the neighbourhood,

trading guttural curses.

Somewhere a dog barks, as though it’s urgent

and soon the hoons arrive to rev and roar,

risking it all along the winding river boulevard.

White noise carries from the freeway,

like the din of a distant beach.


In the wake of the ferrying moon,

a black tide swells –

flooding the freeway,

submerging suburban streetlights,

persuading the hoons to go home

and the neighbourhood ensemble

to disband for the night,

unmooring the long corridors of memory -

lapping here, in a dappled room,

all spent thought cast adrift

on sleep’s silent undertow.

I am a clinician-scientist in Melbourne and enjoy exploring the poetry in medicine and science, amongst other things. My poems have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Annals of Internal Medicine, Australian Poetry Journal, Bioscience, Cordite, Cosmos, Grieve and Spine. ‘The visible human’ was selected for the APJ’s 2015 Anthology and ‘Better Angels’ was included the APJ’s 2020 Anthology. My JAMA poems on the five senses were featured in Best Australian Science Writing 2018. 'Skull' was published in December 2021 in a book about the brain, entitled 'Storm Brain' (The Hippocrates Press, London 2021, eds. Wendy French, Michael Hulse & Donald Singer)