Bacchanalia (2002)

Acknowledgements

Versions of poems in this collection have previously appeared in ars poetica, Blue Like Tea anthology (Five Islands Press, 2000), Coppertales, Divan, eClang, Hobo, Imago, Journal of Australian Studies (JAS), Linq, Mangrove, Modern Movement, New Music: an anthology of contemporary Australian poetry (Five Islands Press, 2001), Red Lamp, Resurgence (UK), Short Fuse anthology (USA), SideWalk, Social Alternatives, Small Packages, The Drunken Boat (USA), Verandah and on the 1998 ABCTV special, Voices.

Bacchanalia was written with assistance from a 1997 Individual Project Grant from Arts Queensland.

Many thanks to the hard men and women of Queensland poetry – particularly Melissa Ashley,

Paul Hardacre, Jayne Fenton Keane and Samuel Wagan Watson for their encouragement and support.

This book is dedicated to S.P. Krause.

 

Contents

 1. Kurilpa (Place of Rats)

 Kangaroo Point Field, 1830

Musgrave Park, 1897

Brereton Street, 1993

Of Ants and Men

Birdhouse

Browning Street

Montague Road

Orleigh Park

Lorca In Highgate Hill

Odin in Sussex Street

Ragnarok

Paul

Paul 2

The Week it Rained Forever

Observations From the Herb Garden

The Male Project

Caul

Always Be a Fin, Circling

Why Did the Chicken Strangle Itself?

 

2. Bacchanalia

Hammer

Tongue of Shells

Rural Epidural

Yellow Spot

Crow the Birdbrain

Strawberry Season

How the Man Became a Flower

Stars in My Eyes My Country

1234 I Love the Marine Corp

Fleshpetal

Butterfly Effect

The Green Emerald of Dying

A Brief History of Sperm

Cincinnati Zoo, 1914

Il Duce

Colditz

Flowers From Hell

Chernobyl

Snake

Virgins

Time & Cock

All Poetry

On Wookiees, the SAS & Poetry

Les Murray, Removalist

 

 1. Kurilpa (Place of Rats)

 

 

Kangaroo Point Field 1830

 

after a couple of days

he began to stink.

 

when the wind was right

you could smell him

 

clear to woolloongabba

& cowper’s plains.

 

the stick which held his

head up from his chest

 

broke under the dead

weight of his chin.

 

from a distance he looked

asleep or deep in prayer

 

blessing the cornfield

& its ripe, molten ears.

 

his arms tied with hemp

turned him into some kind

 

of ship’s figurehead – a triton

lashed to the bow of brisbane.

 

straw, seeped from the wounds

of his crucifixion like water

 

& blood jetting out of jesus.

this bogeyman propped up

 

to frighten his own people

from kangaroo point.

 

flies, crawled over his skin

anointed his wounds

 

with the black litany

of their fleet tongues.

 

as the afternoon waned

his shadow departed from

 

the scarecrow of his body

tip-toed to the edge

 

of the cornfield & hesitated:

this old spirit unsure

 

of its powers

of botanomancy

 

in the midst of this new

green industry.

 

sometime later as

night settled upon him

 

sticky as a cobweb,

the southern cross drained

 

into the cup of his skull

like a strong, dark liquid.

 

in the morning

the crop lay flattened.

 

his effigy was

nowhere to be found.

 

 

Musgrave Park, 1897

 

We plant’d seedlin’s over the bodies.

It was hard work diggin’ inta the shale

splint–earth but someone had ta do it.

I ‘d only carv’d out four feet of rock

when the skin off me palms separat’d

like cream off the top of fresh milk.

‘Ere I was in Musgrave Park,

in the middle of the blackest night

I ‘d seen in thirty seasons of skirmishin’.

Not since ‘66 when we run ‘em Mick

& Kraut squatters out of the park, had I

seen such a ruckus as this business.

We had the most trouble with Billy.

He was a big bastard & didn’t want ta go.

Kept playin’ the grinnin’ fool & laughin’

in our faces. We wip’d the smile clean off

his nosh tho’. I still piss me’self at the stupid

look he gave us when Smithy put a ball

in his chest. His hole need’d lot’s of work.

Me hands felt like a draughthorse had trod

on ’em. ‘Em young’uns was much easier ta

do in tho’. We didn’t waste our bullets –

clubb’d ‘em like they was a pair of possums.

Their missus kick’d up a real stink after that,

scratch’d at our eyes like a bitch on heat.

I did ‘er with me bowie knife like a fat sheep.

Dunno what kinda trees theys were. Some

that used ta grow ‘ere, I think. But theys sure

shot up quick as houses in West End.

Must have bin the horseshit we shovell’d in.

Or all that water from the big flood. I retir’d

from the corp after that. Went & start’d me

own orchard up on Dornoch Terrace.

Ya should’a seen ‘em oranges.

Big as suns sinkin’ inta the flesh of Mt Coot-ha.

‘Em trees are still there, if you look hard enough.

 

The wind in their leaves;

roots scrapin’ over shale bones.

 

 

Brereton Street, 1993

 

Musgrave Park

 

The hoop pines could do nothing.

Nor the kauri, nor the figs.

 

Brereton Street, Sub-station

 

The handcuffs could do nothing.

Nor the choke hold, nor the vomit.

 

Oxford Street, Hostel

 

The mag-lite could do nothing.

Nor the gutter, nor the gun metal moon.

 

Brisbane City Watch house

 

The police could do nothing.

Nor the blue lights, nor the red lights.

 

Royal Brisbane Hospital

 

The emergency staff could do nothing.

Nor the oxygen, nor the i.c.u.

 

Brisbane Transit Centre

 

The glass doors could do nothing.

Nor the blue men, nor the black men.

 

Brereton Street Footpath

 

The concrete could do nothing.

nor the frangipani, nor the chain-link fence.

No one could do anything

on the 7th November, 1993

in West End.

 

 

Of Ants & Men

 

Now that it is gone

& the concrete ejaculate

has stiffened on the pale earth;

it is hard to remember what used

to be there on the corner of Russell

& Edmonstone Streets.

 

In Musgrave Park

the Jagera man stands in

silhouette underneath the thick

crane arms of a Moreton Bay fig,

remembering how good Babylon felt.

At his feet, small black ants mould

crop circles out of dust.

 

On the footpath the heels

of the barefooted feral girl

adapt well to the hot, sticky bitumen.

It is only the memory of the thin

walls of the ant-farm that gives

her instep some trouble.

She has not yet learnt to walk

on broken promises.

 

At the edge of the park

cars bunch like a convoy

of workers backed up on a leaf.

On the construction site, a few

sugar ant soldiers jerk their black

jaws about pulling every sweet

scent out of the air for miles.

 

Now that it is gone

it is hard to find anything that

belongs here amongst the kauri

& the bunya pines.

Only the ants are still active,

crawling over the feet of the Jagera man;

 

reorganising his entire afternoon

with their small, blunt heads.

 

 

Birdhouse

 

And look the April sparrows

They are throated with worms

And cannot sing

Gregory Corso

 

Ted (we find out his name later)

sits on a bench outside the 711

& flaps his wings at my approach.

Mumbles something about a dollar

& a bus trip home to the country.

A huge beard (pre-Hagrid) of brown

& cream feathers dwarfs his face,

but his eyes are pure star sapphires

& can pick out the smallest notes.

He understands the flute city’s

skeleton is hollow as bird bones,

& searches for the finger-holes.

Ted hangs out on the steps

& watches me; a battered hawk

re-introduced to the wilderness

after a long fluorescent captivity.

Finding nothing to satisfy a shrill

hunger, I ask the counter-staff,

“Who’s your friend?”

But the shop assistant is high

on a rush of barcodes & sees

only the sliding doors.

I press fifty cents into Ted’s paw

& he shuffles back to his perch

his falcon hood firmly in place.

On the way home I avoid eye

contact with the other predators,

too afraid to look into my own

birdhouse & find a tuft of down

sprouting from behind my ear.

 

 

Browning Street

 

At 2am

he asked

for the music

to be turned down

just a little.

The knife

he never expected

stage-dived

into his belly

like a stitch.

 

His blood coiled

along the floor;

a black extension

cord looping down

the hall, tripping

him up as he shut

the door to his

single room.

 

The cigarette burns

on the bedspread

his mother gave him

for xmas wept openly

like stigmata as more

red roses blossomed

on the thick, 50’s

floral carpet.

 

Sometime,

in the early hours

of the morning,

an albino cockroach

anointed his bare feet.

 

The world

didn’t miss

a beat.

 

 

Montague Road

 

The moon’s eyelid was stitched

shut when the glossy shell

of his mustang grew wings & flew;

a black metallic Pegasus that nosedived

into the steel shutters of the Mt Olympus

clothing factory at 140 kph.

A shudder ran up & down the spine

of Montague Road as they eased the ebony

carcass onto a flatbed hearse & drove it

into the dawn rust of a police yard.

 

Warehouses tingled with gooseflesh

as fig trees showered the procession

with droplets of rose water.

The day broke into tears.

The crows that had secreted themselves

amongst the crowd, dispersed into the sky;

a murder of helium balloons,

their bellies empty with air.

 

When they extracted the metal splinters

out of his body the earth groaned

as if its own teeth had been pulled.

The bitumen road picked itself

off the ground, dusted the indicator glass

from its midnight clothes & reset

its jaws like a Venus flytrap.

 

 

Orleigh Park

 

The night hid everything.

Stars, houses, people, universes.

The river a slab of opaque glass

none of us could see through.

 

It murmured every now & then.

Told us the universal truths were

inconsequential as the mist

that rolled off the river’s

slick brown tongue like a lie.

 

The wind drilled into our bones;

a cancer gnawing at the marrow of time.

We each nursed our private fears,

soothed them gently as a newborn.

 

Everything froze in this moment.

Trees, grass, clouds, darkness.

Our hearts arced like the wings

of the fruitbats we disturbed

from their nosferatu slumber.

 

Dogs erupted in volcanic anger

& long bladed grass cut our bare feet.

The earth licked its snout in anticipation.

They had me on my knees to worship

the dawn I would never see.

 

They found me the next morning.

Sunlight crept into the exposed drain

of my throat like a trail of sugar ants

weaving their way into a kid’s party.

Fig trees blossomed with crows.

 

 

Lorca in Highgate Hill

for Federico Garcia Lorca

 “and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?”

Allen Ginsberg

 

I saw you Mr Lorca

in the Night Owl

on Gladstone Road

Highgate Hill.

You were bending

over copies of Playboy

& Penthouse

staring into the eyes

of Miss July.

 

Outside

a pollozanic bulk carrier

charged up the hill

as if it were one

of your Andalusian bulls

blind with fury.

 

Its twin exhaust pipes;

spears thrust into the shoulder

of a labouring beast

grinding gears into death.

Its carbon monoxide,

spittle escaping from the mouth

of an out of shape Matador

gored in the diesel tank.

 

Inside the store

everything was quiet

as if a great stadium of people

had suddenly fallen silent

to watch a red flower

blossom on the sand.

 

There was a bandage

wrapped around your head.

Your eyes were dulled

as if you had just stepped

out of a civil war

or killed your brother.

 

Your long khaki overcoat

concealed the poetry within you.

 

Miss July looked the other way

as you undid your fly.

I watched you on

the closed circuit video.

A blue Galician angel

playing with yourself

near the Peters ice-cream.

 

When you came

to the plastic cap-gun,

a single tear sprouted from your eye

& crawled down your face

like a transparent maggot.

 

I saw you Mr Lorca

steal a chocolate bar

& give it to the little boy

who stood on the footpath

dismembering a camellia,

petal by petal.

 

I followed you Mr Lorca

curious to see how you would

react to my pansexual suburb.

Outside Café Q, lesbians

cuddled like comrades in trenches

& small, strange dogs were

dragged into oblivion

by their nose rings.

 

I lost you Mr Lorca

on the corner of Dornoch Terrace

& Hampstead Road.

You disappeared into a fig tree,

chattering new poems

from your cicada husk.

 

Old lizard.

You have time now

to look at the stars,

for the worms are

finished with you.

 

Your butterflies

laid their eggs deep

inside Walt Whitman’s beard

before they died.

 

Your poems are hatching

all over the world.

 

 

Odin in Sussex Street

 

The children’s heads float along the fence;

five puff-balls disintegrate in the stiff breeze.

Outside my small blue fibro flat, palm trees.

 

One brown arm snapped off in a thunderstorm,

crushing the orange bell head of a nasturium.

Above all this the moon, bloated with helium.

 

Cockroaches upturned – lacquered coffee tables;

the wedge shaped head of a blue tongue present

snaking through the grass, the Midgard serpent.

 

In the blood red brick archway of the Uniting Church,

a one eyed homeless man fingers a clear plastic bag.

My Valkyrie tests her atomic will; both her feet drag.

 

The raven of hunger pecks through his old disguise;

parishioners weave the basket of their god about him.

Nobody can look him in the eye – this new Odin.

 

 

Ragnarok

 

Where the house was

there are flowers now.

 

Where the children once played

there are only thistles.

 

In the long term

it would be better

 

if these pansies

replaced people.

 

If chrysanthemums

fed on our flesh,

 

if cocos palms collected

the souls of the dead.

 

Jacarandas are boils

on the face of the city.

 

Moreton Bay figs,

old derelicts

 

asleep in coffins

by the Brisbane river.

 

Hoop pines are home

to the fears of crow-kind.

 

They house these thieves

of the bones of the earth.

 

In what would have once

been the classic backyard

 

a single mango tree awaits

the whim of the landscape architect.

 

Yggsdrasil – tree of heaven

awaits Ragnarok in West End.

 

 

Paul

 

Men come looking for Paul.

Men with black beards flecked with grey.

Men who ask if he’s left a forwarding address.

I tell them I’m trying to concentrate

on the future & not on the past.

I tell them I never met Paul

& that I don’t know what he looks like.

I suggest that maybe the cats

know where he is – since rumour has it

they used to sleep in Paul’s bed.

Blueboy casually rubs the mystery

of Paul’s whereabouts into their legs.

The men scratch at their beards

unconvinced & try to look past me

into the flat, as if they suspect I might

be hiding him in the bathroom.

I tell them again – I’ve never

met Paul, but that he’s already

starting to piss me off.

 

 

Paul 2

 

I look for traces of Paul but find none.

His memory has been whitewashed

by a new coat of Dulux interior paint.

His smell, eradicated by synthetic polymers

& air fresheners lingers only in the brains

of alley cats. Finding no hard evidence of him

I look for the circumstantial & open

the back door where two cats greet me

like grey stone gargoyles – their mouths

unhinged rabbit traps.

 

The cats overrun my position

& nose their way into the flat,

mewling for Paul in their secret

language of tongue rough teeth.

One of them checks out the bedroom

but returns empty-pawed.

I think Paul was a cat lover,

but you can’t be too sure these days.

Maybe he tortured cats – stubbed out

cigarettes on the soft pad of their toes,

or yanked their claws like nails out of wood.

 

I find nothing to back me up on this theory.

No butts, not even a whisker lodged behind

the green enamel vanity basin.

For now, Paul remains a mystery.

A John Doe understood by only a few strays

& the Dalmatian next door.

Its head trained to the Hills Hoist

like a diseased white rose.

I sit then, inside the hollow skull

of the lounge-room & begin to fear

the channel flicking loyalty of cats.

 

 

The Week It Rained Forever

 

The black faced cuckoo shrike,

the grey cloak of its shoulders

hunched against the weather

sits weeping on the telegraph wire.

Its small, electric grief trickles

some forty feet into my left eye.

It becomes my sorrow.

 

It has been raining all week.

The crows have been silenced,

black mouths gagged with raincloud.

Cars slip around corners leaving

indicator glass spread like tarot cards

on the greasy deck of the road.

The future is written in oil.

 

It seems the earth is mostly water.

The clawed feet of the cuckoo shrike

hum like a pair of tuning forks

It seems fidgety up there on the wire,

as if it would take flight rather than

stare down the elements like

a rusted weather-vain.

 

From its perch, the shards of glass

shine like red & orange berries.

Mt Coot-ha is hidden by the sky

of the mind as I wipe the sorrow

from my eye like sleep.

I never notice the bird disintegrate

beneath the thunderstorm.

 

Later, I watch for blue skies

& the crows to rise from the dead.

 

 

Observations From the Herb Garden

 

The world is not what it seems.

The beetle’s legs wind down;

a miniature bull covered with

cowboy ants trying to hang on.

The cat’s eyes are the light green

of comfrey leaves, they flash at you

as it blocks the concrete footpath.

Tiny grasshoppers (an air-cav unit

from Apocalypse Now) snip Rorschach

shapes out of the chocolate mint.

The nasturtiums overflow;

a chlorophyll waterfall drenches honey

bees in their tiger-striped gun ships.

Bright orange suns have formed in

the cluster galaxy of marigold leaves.

A one-legged locust sets a new

tightrope altitude record across

the clothesline’s metal artery.

The lavender pines for the Alps,

for cataphracts crushing frosted

purple stems & Romans underfoot.

Skinks cable-ski through the grass,

climb sheer brick cliffs & lose

the virginity of their tails

in extreme reptilian games.

The blue tongue lizard snorts

sunlight through its solar panel nose.

Mrs Gnome hides behind the lemon

balm , wondering when Mr Gnome

will send her a postcard from Brazil.

The basil is not surviving its full body

transplant – limbs wither & blacken

with frostbite as the anti-rejection drugs

wear off like hand-me-down insecticide.

I retreat upstairs as midges begin

their kamikaze runs into the dull

battleship flesh of my arms, thinking

the lantana’s bite is much

worse than its bark.

 

 

The Male Project

 

You almost miss the bus

talking with some old guys.

Stick out a left hand (sinister);

nail it down at the last second

like a botched crucifixion.

Scrabble aboard with limp,

pay 70 cents for the pension.

As you walk up the aisle,

look out for any attractive women

preferably by themselves.

If wearing sunglasses (compulsory)

remember, don’t turn your head

just your eyes. Check out;

face, hair, tits, tats, figure.

Once spotted, quickly plan your move.

Engage two primary school boys

in very mature, adult conversation.

“Wow, what an angel”.

“What do you think I should do boys?”

“Do you think I should just go up

& ask her if she’s got a boyfriend?”

When the bus pulls in at the next stop

wave the boys goodbye & move to the seat

in the row opposite the woman & her son.

Carefully remove cheap sunglasses

& put them in your shirt pocket.

 

Turn your head ever so slightly

toward them. Bide your time.

It is a bonus if the son is sitting

nearest to you & if they’re playing

a game of eyespy (which they are).

Insinuate yourself into their game

by answering when it’s the boy’s turn.

“I spy with my little eye something

beginning with A.”

“Antenna”. “No”. “Air”. (Arsehole?)

“I spy with my little eye something

beginning with D.”

“Drugs.” “No.” “Driver.” (Dickhead?)

Its always good to get a little smile.

After trying to ignore you, his mother

will reassert her power by playing along.

 

Pretty soon a three-way conversation

will take place, centred around the game.

Occasionally, make eye contact with her,

commenting on the cleverness of her boy.

Smile when you can, not too much

as to appear sleazy.

 

As they get of the bus together,

say Goodbye, but get a good look

at her arse & fantasise about

your cock slipping in from behind.

This is your male project.

 

 

Caul

 

There is an old fishermen’s superstition:

 

you cannot rescue a drowning man

you cannot cheat the sea of its due.

 

The surf was turning

in on itself like a grey

woollen blanket when

the man approached to

douse himself with salt.

He was on the beach

filling his pockets with

memories when he found

a stone, half buried under

the driftwood of his thoughts.

 

He was mapping out

the coastline of his

unconscious,

his fears a light plane

dipping below the horizon.

 

The stone was grey

as the eyes of Oceanos,

ground to perfection

by the cool indifference

of the cosmos.

It fit snugly into his palm

like a concealed weapon.

 

He had the urge

to skip it across the water

but something stayed his hand,

made him polish it

with the sweat of his fingers

until it gleamed like a WWII medal.

 

He was drowning

because a long time ago

he had lost his caul;

his father’s cap of birth-

skin which he kept

in the coat pocket

of his mind.

 

He felt better with

the stone brushing against

his skin like a Burmese kitten.

He nursed it sitting there

in his trench until the storm

hurled him back through

the drunken forest

of casuarinas.

 

When her eyes

fell upon him

a great weight fled

from his shoulders;

the stone dug

into his palm

like a coral knife.

 

The sea knew

it had been cheated

of its due.

 

 

Always Be a Fin, Circling

 

His self-doubt surfaced one afternoon

as he was staring into the glass

abyss of a Coke machine.

Its dorsal fin, brocaded with spikes

cut through the inlet of his thought

with a shark’s dull arrogance.

 

When he tried to reel it in

it thrashed about in his hands;

punched holes in the air with its mouth.

As he wrestled with it, trying

to hook a finger under its gill,

a spine skewered his lip.

 

He looked around for help,

but no one was willing to touch it.

He pulled at peoples’ sleeves

as they boarded the express

but no one paid him attention.

They had already decided:

 

it was an emergency

of no consequence.

 

After a while he didn’t care

that there was something wrong.

Across from the station, a morass

of white sand devoured a casuarina.

Its silicon throat pulsed

with each green swallow.

 

It was not until he was standing

in front of the toilet-mirror, trying

to pull the bony dart out of his body,

that he realised a second quill

had lodged itself under his breastbone.

Panic cracked across his face.

 

He tried to worm his way out,

but an avalanche of travel bags

blocked the door sealing off his escape.

In the confusion, someone backed into him

driving the chest-spike deeper into

the aquarium of his heart.

 

He knew as he fell

against the sink,

 

there’d always

be a fin, circling.

 

 

Why Did the Chicken Strangle Itself?

 

I have your feather, I never forget.

Vicki Viidikas

 

No one will know for sure.

But there was the enamelled beak

poking through the blue orthodox

domes of our front picket fence.

Melissa found it. Rhiannon’s pet

chicken. Arrested, as the empty

case moth cocoon still attached

to the broken gate.

 

It could not be missed.

 

Its body hung on the wooden

flipside; an auto-erotic asphyxiation

gone wrong. It’s lace garter neck

stripped of its hierarchy on death’s

wedding list. Hung. A warning perhaps

against the complacency of our skin

& wishbone pecking order. Against,

the crematorium’s bright red comb.

 

 

 

2. Bacchanalia

 

 

Hammer

 

The river’s broad back was still.

An arm of steel bridged it, seeking

comfort from its huge shoulder of water.

Now & then a train flickered by, briefly

illuminating the peppercorn darkness

which ground, ground down the day.

 

Pretty soon the trees were just silhouettes;

shadow puppet-gods orchestrating the night.

As the last sparks from the arc-welding sun

embered the horizon, clouds of blue smoke

dissipated before a wind which blew

in from somewhere cold. There was

 

a chill to everything. Here, no one had

eyes, only blowholes that had to be kept

open by chipping away at the ice with tusks.

Eventually, the anvil of the earth cracked

apart as frostbitten skulls hammered it.

Everyone was late for something.

 

Only the night was on time

keeping its tight schedule, falling

at the right moment on every living thing.

Lulling some into sleep, awakening others

& occasionally killing those

who had no idea it was coming.

 

 

Tongue of Shells

 

The ocean kept rolling

its aquamarine tongue

around & around in the liquid

sky of its mouth.

Tried to spit out its thick

salty words like blood.

To communicate something urgent

but couldn’t.

 

In frustration it dumped people

brittle as driftwood into the beach.

Drowned some, or thrashed them

against rocks when it was misunderstood.

But no one could interpret

what it was trying to say.

Not even the man & his sea-nymph

daughter who floated the length

of its silicon lip & picked

stories out of its teeth

like fish bones.

 

Even the blue-bottles

washed up with the tide

were misconstrued.

Their mute chorus silenced

by a shard of cuttlefish backbone.

Their sign language dissolved

into empty voice bubbles;

pale rider crabs in quicksand.

At the water’s edge, strands

of shark egg delicate as crystal,

caught on nets of razor-wire.

 

It was only when it had flattened

the sea nymph’s castle, that the man

& his daughter realised what the ocean

was trying to tell them.

 

Your language may be secret

but mine is the tongue of shells.

 

 

Rural Epidural

 

Fifty metres from the Bowenville

turn-off nothing remains of the man

& his Mack truck, except shards

of red indicator glass scattered

like sorghum over an alluvial

plain of bitumen.

 

Brown-eared daisies

lean against the power pole;

a ribcage of cellophane heaves

like the chest of a cattle dog.

Petals droop their tongues into

the pseudo-water of a heat mirage.

Crystals of Carlton Cold stubbies

numerous as bindi-eyes puncture

the road to its asphalt spine.

Pain evaporates like diesel

into the pink-blue sky.

 

In the dead grass

a ghost road has been cut.

Bypasses the blocked artery

of the Warrego highway;

avoids the heart of the matter.

Further along two farmers

stand in the middle of their

small crops planting thoughts

in the fertile imagination

of stone-fruit.

A tree has skinned

its knee on a car.

Somebody brings

it flowers.

 

On the outskirts

of Toowoomba my parents

point as we pass his house.

Outside in the front yard

the body of his semi-trailer

lies beheaded.

Here & there a hubcap

twinkles on the side of the road

like the eye of a crow.

 

 

Yellow Spot

 

Talking to my mother on the phone

& I could sow this inner city carpet

with my own blood; but its been a good

season hasn’t it? With all the rain

they expected a bumper crop in the summer,

but too much water on the brain is a bad thing.

I could send a thunderstorm down the line to her

but she doesn’t need it anymore; tells me

yellow spot has snaked into the crops

& will not let go.

 

The Malu silos turning truck loads

of farmers away, their shrivelled wheat

unwanted as a mouse plague. No one

in the district knowing exactly what to do.

Some, their emotion bubbling to the surface

like unstoppable artesian bores, put

their crops to the torch, burn out

their confusion, their helpless rage.

This summer, the rains

return as black ash.

 

Almost as an afterthought, she tells me

Grainco will buy some of their barley for feed.

I hang up the telephone & discover

the yellow spot has infected me as well,

as my childhood begins to turn brown

& the leaves of my thought wilt

in the hot, humid air.

 

I end the day looking

for something to burn myself.

 

 

Crow the Birdbrain

or how Crow lost his marbles

but gained his freedom

 

Crow did not know

that he was a crow.

He did not remember being

snatched from the nest.

He did not remember the boys

who crushed his siblings underfoot

as if they were grasshoppers.

Crow certainly did not remember

having his tongue split in two

by the Publican so he could talk

to the rest of the clientele

in the Public Bar.

 

Crow stood all day

at one end of the counter

answering the questions

of the coalminers & farmers

who came from miles around

to hear him speak.

 

Crow did not mind being their oracle.

He was happy to sit & listen,

offer advice where he could.

Mostly they told Crow sad things,

like how little Billy Bremner

drowned in a cattle trough

or how the drought was sucking

everybody dry.

 

Crow took particular attention

when they told him the details

of how old man Cummerow

killed himself with his

Belgian shotgun.

 

After they had finished

telling Crow these things,

he would cock one beady eye

puff out his chest like a bellows,

look everyone in the face

& tell them how he saw it.

 

For years Crow attended his flock

like a diligent country Pastor,

soothing grown men of their fears,

propping up their egos,

enriching their lives with a quiet joke.

In this way Crow

grew quite famous.

 

Then one day Crow overheard

a conversation between a melon

farmer & a fruit grower from out

of the district.

They swapped stories about

how many thieving crows

they had killed in their lifetime.

Crow stood there without blinking

& listened.

 

Suddenly the fruit grower

turned to Crow & said;

‘How does it make you feel

to know that I have killed thousands

of your brothers & sisters?’

 

For the first time in his life

Crow was utterly speechless.

He thought that the two men

had mistaken him for someone else.

‘How does it make you feel

to know that I hung your dead

brothers & sisters on my fence

by their scrawny toes?’

 

Crow tried to explain to the men

that he was not a crow but human.

But when he opened his mouth,

he could only utter an inhuman cackle.

‘How does it make you feel

to know that I crushed your brothers

& sisters to death while they were

still inside their eggs?’

 

Crow looked into the mirror

behind the bar for reassurance,

but he only saw a large black crow

staring back at him.

 

It was now that Crow

who thought he was a human

& not a crow at all –

went completely mad.

 

Crow cleared the bar in seconds.

He leapt upon the two farmers

& scratched out their eyes

with his wicked talons.

He saved most of his rage

for the Publican though,

& took special pleasure

in ripping out his tongue

as if it were a giant bloodworm

Crow sucked out of the earth.

 

Then Crow who had been

in denial over the existence

of his wings all these years,

used them to smash through

the pub’s window & flew off

into the sunset.

 

Nobody ever knew what

became of Crow after that.

Some believed he perished

in the desert or died in a hail

of shotgun pellets as he tried

to steal his first melon.

 

The strongest clue

to the fate of Crow came

one day in the Ducklo pub.

A jackeroo from out West

swore that one evening as

he camped in the bush,

a crow landed in the tree

next to him & simply said;

‘I may be crazy, but you

can call me Crow.

 

Strawberry Season

How does a poet see them;

these black worms on his

red strawberries?

 

Dwarf leeches sucking fruit blood

bloated with vitamins in the July sun.

Coarse hairs circumnavigating a nipple,

worshipping the erect plateau of ruby flesh.

Australopithecus huddled around a lightning

struck tree, thumbs extended like twigs.

Black snakes drinking from a red clay pan,

sunset mirrored in their tinted window eyes.

Basaltic dolmens encircling a sun dial

graffitied by snot-green, Neolithic lichen.

Hairless skunk kittens pawing at pink teats,

white stripes painted on by Pepi La Phew.

Mascared eyelashes orbiting bloodshot eyes,

a volcanic headache depositing ash on the brain.

Hyenas tug of war with an antelope carcass,

bite craters littered over its dead surface.

The black of a zebra crossing; intersecting

with the singularity of a hit and run.

Killer whales playing with an emperor penguin,

red ink fountaining from the pen of its beak.

Crows loosening the blue tongue of a child,

on the womb canvas, a cuneiform of polyps.

 

How does a gardener see them?

These black worms on his

red strawberries?

 

He lets the heel of his boot

create the metaphor for him.

 

 

How the Man Became a Flower

 

He walked out into a bare paddock, looked around.

Made sure there were no other flowers watching.

Then taking some seeds out of his trouser pocket

he swallowed them like a bunch of tranquillisers

& waited for nature to take her course.

 

Twenty minutes later, the tips of his fingers

sprouted into snapdragons. Curious, he raised

the bouquet to his nose. The faint perfume

triggered a response in his brain which blossomed

into a sunflower & opened a crack in his skull.

When this huge fist of a flower withered & died,

its black teardrop seeds fell onto his shoulders

where they buried themselves to wait

for the next season in his skin.

 

When he tried to see what he had become,

the man realised that two honey bees had

substituted themselves for his eyes & that

now he could only see in ultra-violet.

Suddenly, all of his spring splendour

vanished like a dandelion-clock in the wind.

The impatiens that crowned his toes

were not pink but blood red.

The field of pansies along his arms

stared at him with eight pairs of crystalline eyes.

Small, white spiders hopped over his mouth.

When he tried to raise his voice, he couldn’t.

His widow’s tongue was rooted firmly

to his hothouse mouth.

He found he couldn’t swallow either,

or dislodge the callistemon

caught in his throat-stem.

 

It was only when a swarm of honey eaters

licked his teeth-buds clean of nectar,

that he could utter a small noise

like the petal of a rose shearing off.

‘I do not want to become a flower’, he moaned

spitting out watermelons seeds as his body,

tired of being root-bound, sunk its bulb

further into the ground.

 

Unable to move, the man-flower

felt something slide across his chest

of leaves & screamed as the first

thick caterpillar began to feast

on his new green flesh.

 


Stars in My Eyes My Country

for Martin Bryant

 

My blue-green eyes

are the planet earth

opening & closing;

a Gaia face-mask

for the smoke & dust

of my civilisation.

I blink away the tears

& gunpowder fumes

that leach into my

universe’s skin.

 

Sometimes I want to drag

a cut throat razor across

my eyes like in that film,

Un Chien Andalou

(The Andalusian Dog).

Let everything I have

ever seen or will witness

on the Seven Nightly News

be purged from

my satellite skull.

 

Open wide the fly-screens

of my brain & let a billion

deaths head moths extinguish

themselves on the sticky

flypaper of my soul.

 

I have stars

in my eyes

my country;

comets shooting

through my veins.

A lump of asteroid

stuck in my throat.

 

Shoot me. Shoot me

my country.

 

 

1234 I Love the Marine Corp

 

The bomb

was half a ton of TNT

stuffed into a suitcase

wedged under the front seat

of a delivery truck driven

into the Headquarters

of the USMC

Beirut.

 

Body parts

were plastered

all over the dormitories

like seventies,

psychedelic wallpaper.

Bone fragments

were found in the lungs

of enlisted men.

 

In the remains

of the laundry,

Corporals wiped

their comrades

off their fatigues

with Kleenex.

 

The suicide bomber

left behind a VHS cassette

& a tear stained copy

of the Koran.

 

In the desert

Mohammed turned

a tortoise onto its back

& walked through

a mine field.

 

On the walls

of the Embassy,

the blood of Americans

hardened into sap.

 

 

Fleshpetal

 

In this country

there are two landmines

for every one of us.

 

Eight unexploded shells

half an armoured car,

a quarter of the wing of a plane

& a thousand rounds of ammunition.

 

If it wanted to

this country could kill us

ten times over.

 

Murder entire generations

of playwrights.

 

If it wanted to

this country could

eliminate our history

with a hair-pin trigger

or a signature.

 

In this country

there are two deaths

for every birth.

 

Three deaths

for every poem written.

 

In this country

the flowers

will kill you.

 

 

Butterfly Effect

 

The earth was too spongy

& would not let me kill.

The centipede kept twisting

around on the ground,

like the Indian terrorist on TV

in full commando roll, spinning

over the New Delhi tarmac.

 

The earth was protecting

its own as best it could.

Again & again I struck

with the sole of my boot

as Presidents winged

their way across oceans,

a young mass murderer

smiled from the dock &

a million Tutsi refugees

marched in hunger across

the spine of civilisation.

 

The earth finally yielded

to the pressure of our kind.

The centipede died as it lived,

in heady, microscopic anger.

With the toe of my boot

I flung it under a shroud

of leaf litter & continued

uprooting Madeira vine.

 

Some of the Presidents

flicked ash out the window

of their planes & were later

assassinated by their bodyguards.

The young mass murderer

rolled his head around & around,

swelled himself up with time

like a water-clock & from the air

a million Tutsi refugees mimicked

a giant, wounded centipede

crawling away to die.

 

 

The Green Emerald of Dying

 

In a back alley in Bogota

a woman lies spreadeagle

 

with the tears of archangels

flooding the smooth, brown

 

cello skin of her stomach.

Above her, the delta of the moon

 

drip feeds the body of the universe.

She is trying to swallow stars

 

but the blood is singing softly to her.

A lullaby leaks from her left ear

 

& croons slowly down her cheek

to the ground where her daughter

 

hand paints a house & a sun

with the crayon stick of her finger;

 

dipping it into the wet concrete

congealing to her mother’s head.

 

Later, when the world sat bolt upright

in bed & remembered how bright

 

had been the emeralds of her eyes

it sent a stray dog to lick the heavy flesh

 

of her lids that now shone with

the bluish tint of lapis lazuli.

 

Her daughter, not quite four

sat beside her mother’s body

 

until she was led away into

a night she would long remember

 

beneath the men who spasmed

inside of her like maggots

 

see-sawing into flyhood.


 

A Brief History of Sperm

who will howl, in the dead of night, for your dark time.

Federico Garcia Lorca

 

For four hours each day

the Greek girl vomited

into the toilet bowl before breakfast.

Every morning she sat down

to a sliver of Special K.

She’s nervous about the wedding

was all her mother

would say.

 

& this in a letter

to the North Pole;

Dear Santa

my mummy and daddy

never stop hitting me

and yelling at me

could I please have

a new mummy

and daddy for Xmas.

 

Millions of sperm-children

died in the war to end all wars.

Billions more in shower cubicles

throughout the twentieth century.

These lost boys & girls drain

down to the ocean’s blue womb;

fertilise the world with

egg-white entropy.

 

Sperm counts drop

as the seas gradually rise

& all hell breaks loose on

the Western intellectual front.

 

Who will howl

in the dead of night

for your dark time.

 

No one. No one

at all.

 

 

Cincinnati Zoo, 1914

 

It was I who discovered/the last Passenger Pigeon/dead in her cage/I her humble cleaner/everyday I came/a priest attending/this innocent on death row/I was more to her/than just a shit shoveller/I kept her private aviary/clean as a whistle/changed her water & seed/listened to the final/early morning confessions/of her race.

One day/I tried to touch her/coax her closer with some panacum/I wondered/what it would feel like/to caress/the swansong of a species/rub her powdery chest feathers/see the dinosaur claws/pinch the flesh of my hands/I advanced/palms outstretched/like a disciple/beckoning for salvation.

I didn’t mean to frighten her/she crawled/to the furthermost/corner of her perch/her tiny agitated head/bobbed up & down/her wings flapped madly/like a weather-cock/caught in a hurricane/she flew once into the wire/blood beaded on her beak/I was gone.

The chicken wire bit/into my fingers/like the macaws at feeding time/my blood trickled/onto the newspaper floor/stained the Kaiser red/I stood there/not knowing what the first man/to discover the end of a species/should do/not knowing what to do/when it was I who killed her.

She lay on her back/the damp straw/still warm/her beautiful head bent under/a glazed wing/ her neck broken/flying into the chicken wire/of her dusk suicide/the last crazed member of her sect/feathers askew/claws curled in perfect question marks/her eyes eaten out by ants/thick on her head as lice/just another dead pigeon/I brushed them off/best I could/had to tell the Head Zookeeper/we’d failed God again.

I thought of my counterpart/who’d found the last/African Quagga/dead in its stable/Amsterdam Zoo/1883/fed it some clover by mistake/ bloated up with gas/like a dead body on the front/the cleaner was found in his apartment/one week later/all the best intentions of the West/could not save/either of them.

I delivered her last rites/carefully brushed her feathers/back into place/laid her head out straight/her seed & water were untouched/she had refused her last meal/shit clung to her perch/at the end/she too had been scared shitless/of death.

On the way out/I plucked some feathers/my job blew out into history/I heard/the British Museum wanted to stuff her/to display our failure/to the rest of the World/the Head Zookeeper/did not bother to wire London back.

Three years later/I enlisted in the Great War/shipped out from New York harbour/one bright August morning/her feathers I kept/in a glass phial/for good luck/as I stepped ashore in France/my own extinction began.

 

 

Il Duce

 

‘I will be your Emperor’, he

declared as they fitted his noose

& yanked it tight as a bow-tie.

 

As the sun’s dialogue wore on

they cut him off in the middle

of an old speech about Caesar.

 

His laurel crown withered

& was driven into the slush

as the crowd surged forward.

 

He hung there in mid-sentence

as crows marched out his eyes

from his skull’s amphitheatre.

 

They never knew who cut him down.

A fanatical peasant they presumed

clinging to the Elysian glories.

 

The golden eagles, a hint of bronze

winking through columns of wood-smoke.

Horse-hair plumes hard as a jaw-line.

 

Years later, bed-time stories

would brow-beat at grandparents:

Just how black did his tongue go?’

 

 

Colditz

 

The Nazis war machine

really couldn’t afford them –

but because he had bedazzled them all,

because the little alchemist

Goebbels had discovered the secret

of turning his tongue,

into a silver strip of magnesium –

he was able to pull as many frontline

units as he wanted from the last ditch

defence of Berlin.

 

These storm-troopers reduced to extras

dressed in scratchy period uniforms,

paid off with cigarettes for his epic

70mm propaganda masterpiece.

The lightning bolts of his eyes

flared as he moved the set pieces.

His megaphone laced with spittle,

his secretaries glancing skyward,

his artistic dream corroding

hour by hour in the tin

canister of his head.

 

The director of darkness

losing his light.

 

 

Flowers from Hell

for Nguyen Chi Thien

 

  1. The Politics of Victory

 

i am so proud of my country i could cry. today we won a great victory

over france over the west over imperialism. i could kiss these cadres

parading through the streets of hanoi. i am so proud of my country

i think my tongue might burst like a firework.

 

  1. The Politics of Disillusionment

 

i cannot believe it could happen here. what am i to do? what would aristotle do? how can i just stand around & watch them cart away my friends? this land reform is nothing but sheer bloody murder. they are denouncing everyone who opposes them. my country is going insane. my heart burns like a skull left out in the sun. what would plato do?

 

  1. The Politics of Revolt

 

this is madness. as an intellectual i must oppose my government. i must oppose my country. the land reform was nothing but a purge. pure systematic murder. i cannot stand for this any longer. ho chi minh & his central committee cronies must be stopped. ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’. how i thank the french for my education.

 

  1. The Politics of Repression

 

they have killed my country. they have butchered intellectualism. today i saw a red guard bayonet a professor of anthropology through the stomach. he could not believe it even when he was dying. i cannot believe it now. how did we let this happen? even the French did not kill so many of our own people. yesterday i saw a dog lap up the blood of a little girl. i wonder if she was a good communist?

 

  1. The Politics of Poetry

 

i cannot help myself. i must be a poet. i must write poetry. i must tell my people how our country is killing itself. i must tell the world how we are cutting our own throat. language is the last resort against tyranny. words enflame my heart. i must be a poet. i must write poetry. i write poetry like i have to take a piss.

 

  1. The Politics of Diplomacy

 

i cannot get into the french embassy. they are watching me. i walk down the road to the british consul. no one stops me as i walk straight in through the front door. finally, a military policeman challenges. i show him my manuscript & demand an audience with the ambassador. after a long while i am led into his private quarters. i hand him my letter, photographs & four hundred hand written poems. he flips through my manuscript briefly. on finding no secret documents he looks up disappointed. “these are only poems”, he says.

 

  1. The Politics of Arrest

 

i walk into his waiting arms as if i were a child & he, my stern, dead father. the captain of intelligence clips me behind the ear – am i the bad son again? he asks why have i betrayed my country. i tell him – this is not my country anymore. i get pistol whipped for good measure. they put a bag over my head & bundle me into the back of a jeep. the british ambassador will have burnt my poems by now. somewhere a dog barks.

 

  1. The Politics of Torture

 

i do not hate the cadres they are just doing their job. they have wives & children & dogs to feed. they are only following orders. i do not hate them when they tie my arms behind my back & work me over with their rifle butts. they know i am a famous poet. i do not even hate them when they stick electrodes under my armpits. sometimes they ask me to recite a poem while they do it. when my yelling irritates them, they clamp the wires on my balls. my screams are sound poetry. I do not hate them. i refuse to hate my fellow countrymen who have no say when they live or die.

 

  1. The Politics of Dysentery

 

there are about seventy of us inside the shipping container. the sickest sleep near the latrine & sacrifice themselves to make room for the rest of us. yesterday we lost a nobel prize nominee, a novelist and a composer of traditional mountain ballads. i think that they are more heroic than cosmonauts. today i nursed a poor southern girl with tb – blood flecked her lips like sweet, sticky papaya. she died in my arms & i didn’t even have the strength to bury her rice-paper thin body. i believe they have re-educated her.

 

  1. The Politics of Hunger

 

the hungerstrikers do not starve themselves in protest against the prison conditions, or even against the state. they starve themselves so they can die quicker. sometimes when they turn, the cadres will not feed them unless they sign a confession declaring the treason of their bodies. in our country it is now a crime to kill yourself.

 

  1. The Politics of Dogs & Buffalo

 

sometimes i hear the dogs yapping outside & i wonder which poor bastard they have bailed up now. i envy the mindless dogs of our country – because they have more of a voice than i do. i envy the hard working, uneducated buffalo – because they get to write down more poems than me, with every hoof print that shatters the ground of my starved nation. i envy these beasts because they can shit outside anytime they want.

 

  1. The Politics of Sanity

 

to keep sane i memorised seven hundred poems over twenty seven years in prison.

 

  1. The Politics of Amnesty

 

my lungs save me. they think i have been re-educated enough. they think that i will never be able to write another poem in my life. they think i’m a good communist now. they think that i cannot harm the state – that i have no more voice left. they are wrong.

 

  1. The Politics of Pen & Paper

 

it is 1991. i have not held a pen since 1979. my hand shakes as it tries to remember how to write.

 

  1. The Politics of Flowers

 

one day i will send my country some flowers from hell.

 

 

Chernobyl

 

(i)

I fly through some

kind of fairy dust.

The air glitters as

my rotor blades slice

through the atomic

weight of morning.

 

The intense heat

bear hugs my body

like a Siberian army

overcoat.

 

My ears roar

with a sonic boom

as I pour concrete

on reactor number 5.

It is like spitting

into an ocean

of invisible hate.

 

Blood trickles down

my cheeks like sideburns.

My half life cut in half

again & again as I

turn for home.

 

They keep their distance

when I put her down.

 

(ii)

On my fifth trip

the fluid wants to

flee my body, looks

for an escape hatch

through my mouth.

My lips froth red,

as if I’ve drunk

a sweet plum wine.

 

On my seventh trip

I miss the reactor

pour my cement onto

an admin centre.

Bury those already

dead under twenty tons

of lime and ash.

 

I create a new Pompeii.

 

On my tenth trip

I crash land –

the tail rotor spins

into the pine forest

decapitating trees

like Czarists.

 

I take another chopper.

No one stops me.

 

On my twelfth trip

I strip off the protective suit.

The heat no longer bothers me;

my face red with snow burn.

My ship glows like a firefly

in the evening sky.

 

On my twentieth trip

my body mutinies in mid-air.

Men in silver suits fish me

out of the sardine tin cabin.

 

An ambulance crouches

at the end of the tarmac.

Behind the stretcher, bulldozers

shove my helicopter into a hole

the size of a soccer field.

 

(iii)

In the army hospital

the faces of the doctors

melt like radiation clocks

at ground zero.

 

There are other men here.

Their bodies boiled lobster,

their fists tight as claws,

skin hard as shell.

 

Someone hands out

the Star of Lenin

like sugar candy.

 

(iv)

My wife will be

putting the children

to bed by now.

 

I try to speak to them

but my tongue refuses

to leave the volcano

of my mouth.

 

From the bed

I can see a haze

on the horizon,

faint as a nebulae.

 

They have stopped

giving us food.

 

(v)

Our nurse

incapacitated by

her cosmonaut suit,

wheels in six glasses

of water & six cyanide

pills on a steel trolley.

 

Behind her,

a procession of lead-lined

coffins black as hearses

skid to a stop.

 

They wait patiently

for the new stars

they have created

to go nova.

 

Outside my window

the first sparrow drops

to the earth like a stone.


Snake

Then the Lord God said to the snake, “You will be punished for this; you alone of all the animals must bear this curse: From now on you will crawl on your belly, and you will have to eat dust as long as you live. I will make you and the woman hate each other; her offspring and yours will always be enemies. Her offspring will crush your head, and you will bite their heel.”

Genesis 3:14-15

 

(i)

At around 2am

the snake struck her

under the cover of darkness.

The fingers of its teeth

pinched all the flesh it could find.

Somewhere, a baby Heracles

started crying.

 

(ii)

Nothing grew

where the blood of the dragon

ran out and scalded the earth.

Not a flower, not a weed

could be raised from

the burnt ground.

Vegetables wilted

in their beds

and butterflies

baked to death

in the hot steam

of its dying breath.

 

In solidarity

with the worm

children swarmed

over the land

picking every hill

clean of grass.

 

When there was

nothing left to pull out

the seed of the woman

bruised the serpent’s head

dark as plum flesh.

 

Only by putting

out its own eyes

could the snake

see its mistake.

 

See where it went wrong.

 

(iii)

“Adam & Eve

The serpent cracked

The mirror

In a thousand pieces,

& the apple

was his rock.”

 

Federico Garcia Lorca, Initium

 

As long as he could

remember the snake had

always been called names.

Satan. Samael.

Prince of demons.

The Angel of Death.

The Great Dragon.

 

One day he decided

to do something

about it.

 

In playgrounds

all over the world

children gagged as

the worms of their

tongues started to

weave and dance

like cobras.

 

(iv)

One day the woman

studded her armour

with knives, waded

out into the river

and waited.

 

The worm

could not help itself

and was cut to pieces

as it coiled its body

around her.

 

The fast flowing river

washed the shreds away

before the snake could

grow back together.

 

She knew

as the armour

fell at her feet

that it would return

to bite the heels

of her offspring.

 

(v)

“Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

 

The steel radials

did not damage

the snake at all.

It lunged, slack-jawed

at its knight-protectors

as their makeshift spears

drove it off the road

and into the trees.

 

Somewhere deep

below Britain,

St George trembled

as the old serpent

grew young again.

 

The would be heroes

got back into the car

ready to sow dragon’s teeth

with Mother Nature.

Anytime. Anywhere.

 

Camouflaged

by the leaf litter,

the carpet snake could

still sense the egg-warmth

of the bitumen road

radiating through the

thermometer of its tongue.

 

(vi)

Once, noted the woman

the serpent licked my ear

as I slept.

 

It was more

a tickle than a bite.

In the morning

I could see the future

clearly, even though

 

I was a blind dragon

and he my husband.

 

(vii)

The snake which

bit the boy’s father

is coming after him.

Black poison clenched

between its teeth

like a dagger.

 

Sometimes he sees it

curled at the foot

of the world; its ebony

body blotting out the sun.

Jormungandar,

the great serpent son

biting his own tail

cursing his absent

father,

Loki.

 

 

Virgins

for Ann Wallace

 

that night shazza & i got shitfaced on a bottle of rum a bottle of vodka anything we could find in my mother’s bar we made cocktails mixed shit together sharon chucked all over the toilet floor the piss coursed through our bodies like molten lead it was the easter break nobody was home for days we were bored shitless broke into my brother’s room found his stash of ciggies & pornos up in his cupboard stupid place to hide them as if mum wouldn’t find it playboys penthouses hustler (pretty boring) electric blue black label european mags fat hairy chested men with purple tipped cocks shoved them into black women white women asian women put their pricks into cunts arses mouths between breasts sometimes three men shoved their cocks into one woman the woman were skinny sometimes really young always smiling (even with a mouthful of jism) there were stories to go with the pictures fantasies in shoe shops garages abandoned offices parks in three languages english french german a tri-nations spectacular that always ended the same way a huge ejaculation over the women their cheeks mouths breasts arses my pussy started to get really wet i thought about how johnno liked to do it doggy most of all in the cemetery “i’d like to fuck an angel” he would say laughing coiling my hair tighter around his wrist like a cowboy doing campdraught we put the mags back & then found my step-dad’s stash of videos xxx rated blue asia teen pussies anal action blacks on blondes we fast forwarded to the good parts gangbanging huge black men shoving enormous 12-14 inch cocks into the arses pussies mouths of huge breasted white women i was really wet sharon’s face flushed pink the phone rang i thought it was my parent’s but it was johnno he wanted us to come over to the saleyards said he had something to show us he sounded weird & fucked off his face we jumped into my father’s patrol i was so pissed that shazza had to drive when we got there it was almost nine o’clock pitch black johnno was there with the gang frank lachlan jodie scott drinking straight johnny walker smoking durries i grabbed johnno let him finger me in his ute he came as soon as i put my mouth over his cock i spat his cum out onto his new leopard skin seat covers he got mad yelled at me to fuck off out of his car the others pissed themselves laughing & went into the sheep-pens there were noises more yelling & bleating johnno & i got out of the ute & went to have a look frank was fucking a sheep from behind when he came he took out his bowie knife & slit its throat from ear to ear it screamed & kicked & thrashed on the ground blood jetted everywhere frank was covered in it the others joined in grabbed lumps of wood fence posts pipes anything to hand johnno grabbed sharon & i by the arms & took us into the yard the stupid sheep didn’t run they stood in the middle bleating johnno caught one by the head & gave it to shazza she was a virgin i knew johnno wanted to bust her cherry really bad i flogged his bowie knife out of its sheath i was angry at him for being so obvious sharon kept smiling at him i wanted to cut her throat i grabbed the sheep by the wool on its head it felt like a mass of pubes mud & shit got on my jeans i looked at johnno & shazza necking i screamed at him they looked up as i rammed the knife home again & again she didn’t look like a sheep she looked like a unicorn a dumb fucking unicorn.

 

 

Time & Cock

Neal, we’ll be real heroes now

                in a war between our cocks and time:

                let’s be the angel’s of the world’s desire

                                 and take the world to bed with us before

                                                                                                       we die.

Allen Ginsberg

 

1.

I think time has wilted my cock

& my testicles, these are now blunt

weapons that hang off the edge of the world

& swing like a fleshy pendulum

over the abyss of the Passaic;

my birth water welcomes me home.

Did I mention to you that I never picked up

an angel that wasn’t looking for it.

 

2.

All the water pipes are frozen solid

& I have to piss out the window again.

I watch my stream of yellow urine burn

through the snow like an oxy torch.

I try to write my name, but the steam

obscures everything; neon, snowflakes,

stars.

 

3.

My sperm are too lazy to swim.

They are more like hippopotami

supporting their greasy, grey weight

amongst the reeds & water lilies;

growing fat with age, more accustomed

to the dog paddle downstream

& the placing of an occasional hickey

on a tourist.

 

4.

I cannot take the world to bed anymore.

It pissed off years ago with Pioneer 10

& Carl Sagan. They sanctioned the first

intergalactic nudity & let NASA give out

Adam’s & Eve’s address to the universe.

In the end we lost the war, Neal, but got

our wish – became angels of the world’s desire

as young American men came all over Vietnam,

& everyone fucked the earth up the ass.

 

 

All Poetry

for Michael Dransfield

 

I twisted my youth

around the wreckage

of my motorbike

left beside the highway

in 1972.

 

I injected bits

of my flesh & metal

into the blue vein

of this country.

I swam in the bloodstream

of your children.

I lived in the poems

you mouthed.

 

When they hit me

from behind

I never stood a chance

of hitting them back.

I spread myself out

thin – a cyborg coming

to grief on the slick

of a twentieth century

road surface.

 

I was Voyager

caressing the moons

of Jupiter with my

atmospheric lens.

Sulphur & exhilaration

at the needle-tip

of self discovery.

They watched me explode.

 

The wreckers were

good at identifying

both car & body parts;

bought my soul for fifty bucks

& junked the rest.

 

My mind ticked

over like a two stroke

cutting a swathe

through wet grass.

 

My legs,

broken spokes

a country doctor

patched with pethidine.

 

My arms,

chopper handlebars

crucified to the chrome

of a hospital bed.

 

My heart,

a lawnmower engine

flooded & stalled

on a cattle grid.

 

My eyes,

headlights smashed

in by a drunk.

 

My thumbs,

shock absorbers

torn like a rubber glove

leaving no fingerprint.

 

My blood,

brake fluid that

leaked from the tip

of my penis & pooled

at the feet of an off-duty

policeman.

 

Tomorrow,

when the neons

flick into my skull

& the nurses slide

their smiles into me,

I will scream

with the realisation

of what I’ve become.

 

When you pick my brain,

I will be part animal

part machine –

all poetry.

 

 

On Wookiee’s, the SAS & poetry.

for Sam

 

The two-stroke sun retracts its clogged

blades through a tortoise-shell afternoon.

 

There’s another campaign on the wide-screen.

An upper house of ants tackle the leftover’s

 

from a kid’s party. Lollipops; war memorials

to fun liquefy inside made in china body bags.

 

In one of those hard to get at hotspots, confetti

dissidents escaped the catcher’s tawny frog-mouth.

 

Sam, as we sit now in judgement, George Lucas

sues the creators of Star Balls & the empire

 

strikes at Mohammed’s children’s children –

trying to get their heads around T.S Eliot.

 

‘Catpig’, who’s never seen a Wookiee before

or even a droid, sits on John Forbes’s mug-shot.

 

Her fishing line strength de-sex stitch tickles.

Wet washing powder tongue goose pimples his poems.

 

Sam, you’re right. The only literary career

left for a poet these days is the bloody SAS.

 

Poets of the machine. You know, we’ve got

to smoke them readers out of their holes &

 

carpet bomb bookstores with fuel-air poetry.

Little word machines in the rhetoric of war.

 

All artists are ‘evildoers’. “Remember, there’s

a poster back West with POET written on it!”

 

Sam, we’re closing the gap with forbesian

thinking. Thumbing through the 80’s & 90’s

 

tracing the gestalt of the anti-American

Poetry Association of Australasia. (NZ incl.)

 

The adult teeth of his words pushing

through & our gums bleeding.


 

Les Murray, Removalist

 

The freckled back of poetry

flexes prismatically through

the front door’s stained glass

kookaburra. Warped cells bunch

with rhythm; a paper crease vein

pulses in Antigone Kefala’s tongue

& groove neck. Melanomas gather;

flies thick on the crust of art.

On the enclosed verandah, spiders

cocoon time’s black idiom in bone.

In the small bedroom, she moves

a wardrobe language by rocking

it’s silky oak feet from side to side.

Hires a ‘big dinger’ for the real

heavy lifting – weighed down with

things she just can’t throw out.

Les Murray, removalist, drops

boxes of books, bends the covers

of new Icelandic translations,

dog-ears modern Australian poetry.

His workman’s crack, book-ended

between slabs of Boetian flesh,

entrances like a CWA cake stall.

Antigone tut tuts from the hallway

literature’s going to the gym now

(another new year’s resolution).

A tai-bo of new terminology;

the good fat stripped from obliques

of 20th century vernacular, portly

lyrical abdominals & quads of metaphor

lean as the Thorpedo (our greatest

cultural lungfish aside from Tangles

& Tugga & that Warwick Todd guy) –

all chucked on plastic.

Les hitches his stubbies up, dumps

Kefala’s boxes in the new library,

thumbs through a copy of Johnston’s

The Sea Cucumber he found hidden

under the kitchen sink cupboard.

Digs out strands of Greek rhetoric

from the plughole, a parting domestic

gesture. Fingers the congealed

plasticity of our final words

on the subject. Charges $25.00

per hour for elite removal.

 

 

On Wookiee’s, the SAS & Poetry.

for Sam Wagan Watson

 

The two-stroke sun retracts its clogged

blades through a tortoise-shell afternoon.

There’s another campaign on the wide-screen.

An upper house of ants tackle the leftover’s

from a kid’s party. Lollipops; war memorials

to fun liquefy inside made in china body bags.

In one of those hard to get at hotspots, confetti

dissidents escaped the catcher’s tawny frog-mouth.

Sam, as we sit now in judgement, George Lucas

sues the creators of Star Balls & the empire

strikes at Mohammed’s children’s children –

trying to get their heads around T.S Eliot.

‘Catpig’, who’s never seen a Wookiee before

or even a droid, sits on John Forbes’s mug-shot.

Her fishing line strength de-sex stitch tickles.

Wet washing powder tongue goose pimples his poems.

Sam, you’re right. The only literary career

left for a poet these days is the bloody SAS.

Poets of the machine. You know, we’ve got

to smoke them readers out of their holes &

carpet bomb bookstores with fuel-air poetry.

Little word machines in the rhetoric of war.

All artists are ‘evildoers’. “Remember, there’s

a poster back West with POET written on it!”

Sam, we’re closing the gap with forbesian

thinking. Thumbing through the 80’s & 90’s

tracing the gestalt of the anti-American

Poetry Association of Australasia. (NZ incl.)

The adult teeth of his words pushing

through & our gums bleeding.

 

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