from Issue #3: Poetry by Mark O’Connor

Photo (CC) Maxwell Hamilton @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Maxwell Hamilton @ Flickr


Diana Spencer (1961-1997)

Trapped and snapped,
cut from twisted tin,
a blowfly on the windscreen
preening its compound lenses.

Nothing to be done. They sewed her back,
packed the cut flesh in ice and flowers.

Not one for white gloves,
kneeling to the young and the dying
while those lanky knees pushed out,
she proved kings were film stars,
then deposed the prince.

TV made it like a death in the family;
anchors maudlinly adding “Diana up-dates”
to pre-recorded game-shows.

The decent, balding would-be-King arrived,
his face the colour of scraped beef,
and claimed his wife from the dead boyfriend.
Dying, she gave back his crown.

It was a young girl’s dream of ceremony
to be so taken up, believing
husbands mean “I love” when they say “I do”.
As he led her into the public’s den
she had leaned so shyly on him,
seeking that ease and devotion
reserved for another.

Even London held off its weather.
A minute’bell tolled each stage of her ride
with tall men like centaurs riding beside her,
spattered with seasonal flowers
canonised as a fallible saint, a flame
strongest when half blown out.

The crowd gave her the gift of its silence,
the sound of lilies striking on tarmac
like one hand clapping on earth;
and snuffled its dreams of her into a million hankies.

At the palace, a weeping wall
of flowers and plastic. Commentators
rich from tickling the public’s itch,
pondered such public decencies; and a priest asked
why folk should worship with lilies a mateless mother,
child-like and adulterous, whose knack was to set
her bruised heart helpless on display.

Round her corpse they wrapped natural ermine
cotton and timber; as if sending her back
to some green Avalon, lake-island, out
of a life lived in the smell of fresh paint.



Mark O’Connor was born in Melbourne in 1945 and graduated from Melbourne University in 1965. He has been the Australian National University’s HC Coombs Fellow and a visiting scholar in its Department of Archaeology and Natural History. His poetry shows special interests in Italy (where he spent some years), in the Barrier Reef, and in other Australian environments. He has published 15 books of verse and is the editor of OUP’s much re-printed Two Centuries of Australian Poetry. He was Australia’s ‘Olympic poet’ for the Sydney 2000 Games, with a fellowship from the Australia Council to ‘report in verse on the Games’. Visit him at

One thought on “from Issue #3: Poetry by Mark O’Connor

  1. One of Mark O’Connor’s very best poems – full of heart-rending and vivid imagery. What a sad picture of a princess – who should never have been so – but someone who, finding herself so, “went around doing good”.
    As a celebrant I have studied the dynamic of the two big ceremonies of a nation which made her the central figure. The images are so clear these years later. And Oh! how many times has my face been the colour of “scraped beef”. Poor Prince, poor Princess.

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