'I AM ASKING YOU HOW YOU FEEL AND YOU ARE TELLING ME: a response to Grouper' by Kiara Lindsay

This piece was commissioned by Melbourne Recital Centre in collaboration with the Emerging Writers Festival for the 2019 Writers in Residence program, and was written in response to this concert. To learn more about the writers and the program, and to read more great music criticism, visit Soundescapes, where stories, music and people intertwine.


  1. in the foyer I run into a friend who tells me
    madonna is a dreamwalker
    I listen while you sing ‘headache’
    now I think
    you’re a dreamwalker too
  2. your mother told you
    she walked into the ocean
    I watched her from the dunes
    she slipped under a wave
    and appeared at the horizon
  3. I flinch at an accent
    familiar to me and unfamiliar to you
    so I consider your position
    my mind wanders to the idea of you
    growing up in a cult
    in fast-forward I arrive at this day
    too sunny for may
    where we share accidental space
  4. I watch you in your privacy
    on an immense stage you somehow
    make small (intimate). I watch you as if
    inside an organ
    somehow I’m welcome
    treading inside your body
    in my outside shoes
  5. I know so many people here
    they know me back
    but not like you do
    my personal stranger
  6. at gardenvale train station
    you make a public space private for me
    and I didn’t have to ask
  7. I wonder how you can know me
    from the other side of a song
    I consider the possibility
    that instead I’ve created a part of myself
    informed by you
    (more likely)
  8. at preston library there is a section called
    ‘community languages’
    if you lived here I’d find ‘grid of points’ on the shelf
    and greet it like an old friend
    learn the language in theory as I know it
    in practice
  9. in the foyer I run into an ex
    I see you on stage and
    you contain a feeling on my behalf
    relieve me of my mortal duties
  10. I become distracted and don’t realise
    how hot and empty I’ve become
    like a bushfire landscape
  11. the lights flick down at the end of the set
    when they’re back up you’re gone
    like a child embarrassed by
    a pat on the back
    (we’re all patting you on the back)
  12. modesty can be fear dressed up
    (the first skirt I’ve bought in years
    waits to be used)
  13. I’m so absorbed and unaware
    that I don’t realise this whole time
    I’ve been asking you how you feel
    you’ve been telling me



  14. Kiara Lindsay is a poet. She completed her Honours in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne in 2017. Alongside Bridget Gilmartin, she co-edits Inhabit Journal and runs a poetry reading series called ‘Evening Swim’. In 2018, Kiara was the recipient of the H.B Higgins Poetry Scholarship. You can find her work in Voiceworks, Lor and Marrickville Pause.