Modern Athens (2011, Unpublished)

 

Acknowledgements

 

Poems in this collection have previously appeared in Antithesis, Australian Poetry Journal, Blast, Cordite, dotdotdash, FourW, Ipswich City Council – Ipswich Poetry Feast website, Ipswich Poetry Feast 2003-2012: Reflections around a Waterhole anthology, Macmillan English 10 for the Australian Curriculum, Social Alternatives, The Age, The Enchanting Verses Literary Review (India), The Red Room Company ‘Clubs & Societies’ Project, Social Alternatives, The Weekend Australian, Westerly and in Words’ Worth: the English Teachers’ Association of Queensland Inc. magazine.

‘Visiting the dying poet’ was highly commended in the 2012 Ipswich Poetry Feast.

Arrochar’ was highly commended in the 2012 Ipswich Poetry Feast.

‘Pink Balloon’ was second in the 2011 Ipswich Poetry Feast.

‘Crossroads’ was Highly Commended in the 2011 Ipswich Poetry Feast.

‘Flight’ won the 2010 Booranga Poetry Prize.

‘Old Boy’ won the 2010 Ipswich Poetry Feast.

‘River’ was Highly Commended in the 2010 Ipswich Poetry Feast.

‘Rugby’ (First Fifteen, Second Fifteen, Third Fifteen, Fourth Fifteen) was Highly Commended in the 2009 Ipswich Poetry Feast.

 

 

Contents

Rugby

My Daughter Piggybacks the Skeleton

Budda

Koel

Carpet Snake

Torresian Crow

Lewin’s Honeyeater

Honour Board

Flight

Cane Toad

Old Boy

Pink Balloon

River

On Not Having Encountered Snow, Aged 40

Cloth

Boobook Owl

Crossroads

On Not Having Encountered Snow, Aged 42

Doppelganger

Novae

Visiting the Dying Poet

Superb Fairy Wrens

Omphalus

Cat

Arrochar

Don’t Take Your Guns to Town

Babies of Walloon

Teaching

The Red and the White

‘Banjo’ Paterson Reads His Poetry in Ipswich, March 1901

Dr Sydney Evan Jones Speaks at Speech Night, 1913

Vance Palmer Dines with Boarders, September 1958

Dr John Bradfield Speaks at Assembly, 1935

Salute

On Not Having Encountered Snow, Aged 43

Zebra Finch

What’s Your Connection?

The Resurrection

Mundagatta (Bunyip)

Bomb

Chicken

Atlas Shrugged


 

for the City of Ipswich

 

 

 

Rugby

 

  1. First Fifteen

Memory is the afterglow of experience.

The forward’s scraped cheek is a misguided

Love bite, a gift of circumstance to his skin.

His blackened eye is history’s war paint, which

Fades to yellow like the index of a well-thumbed

Manual. Their minds are diamond-tipped, drilled

To perfection, tunnels form around them; visions

Of gates unlocked electrify backs & crowds jolt

Upright, their spines at attention. They awaken

The lightness in our own step, bodies laid down

In the sediment of youth. Forces crush them,

But there is always an escape. Victory is hollow

Without a victorious soul: answer to life’s sum.

Before tags bruise grass, they’ve already won.

 

 

  1. Second Fifteen

If youth were a flavour it would hug

A field position between sweet & sour.

A blissbomb under time’s mouthguard

Dissolving childhood & its wicked rule.

Radical thoughts they send through gaps

In the mind’s defence. Heavy penalties

Apply to gun players at random, fish-

Tailing around the best laid game plans,

Lives, careening off the side of the boot.

Tag marks obliterate those left by others;

A middle brother who benefits from hind-

Sight. They are the fountain always full,

Water holy taken & oranges like cut up

Quarters of the sun, burn at halftime.

 

 

  1. Third Fifteen

Give them too much space on the outside

& they’re through, wrong footing fate &

Its angry crew. With room to move they

Grow, outpacing all opposition even as

The goalposts change & up the tempo.

They channel war cries; heartsongs of

The earth really & remain solid in defence.

Every loss is another sacred win, as a crow

Shoulders its rallying call amidst the din.

Cecil Plains’ eyes scan next season’s field.

They always get back what they put in. Not

So experimental, but proven. Their gutsy

Theorem puts everyone on side. It is hard

Not to smile, when you are flying young.

 

 

  1. Fourth Fifteen

Adolescence is an intercept pass, stolen

That blunts a child’s forward momentum.

Against the run of play, a team can only

Watch the hard sprint to the line, even

Fleet wingers, their gait streamlined F-111

Cannot react in time. Barriers are broken

As youth touches down. Crowds cheer but

For more than the game as this parade of

Skin tight princes swap jerseys at fulltime.

Puberty is a rugby touring side tired & sore

That eventually, injury free, returns home

Forever changed. & when they look back

One thing will be understood; they sucked

In great lungfuls of air & it tasted good.

 

 

My Daughter Piggybacks the Skeleton

 

Don’t hurt it we involuntarily screech,

As our daughter piggybacks the model

Skeleton down the hallway of our home.

She giggles as if sensing beyond her four

Years that our concern for something

Cardboard & glue is surreal as life itself.

Gripping it by the ankles she teases,

‘Is death very old?’ How do you answer

Such a young request? Keep it fresh?

Later, on her bone-white dresser

I find it curled, still, like a family

Snapshot from a Saharan dig.

Limbs entwined; as if reaching out

Is all that matters in the end.


 

Budda

for Theo

 

In the car the fernery of his lashes fall,

As lids feather, then eclipse the blue pack

Ice of his eyes. Lyrebird hairs uncoil, fuse

Strong & come to rest; wakefulness sunk.

Thin, black oars settle on beds of white silt.

Later the sun’s loudspeaker hails him warm.

He lifts, background calculations beneath

His skin hum as he sends a hand through a

Shaft’s, dust mote mockery. Light animates

The living; the text of his fingers check on

Invisible maps. The mid-air archipelago stirs

As he brushes islands apart with the boulders

Of his thumbs, wears the star’s orange glove.

Nature, accessorised to his mind’s fashion.


 

Koel

 

Not exactly ‘crow’ class, but a sleeker

Aeronaut, its black fuselage a full stop

On the camphor laurel’s leafy sentence.

The male’s red eye punctuates the inner

Darkness of its sex drive, as it scouts an

Empty nest syndrome & transmits its

Perfect crime. His collaborator, dressed

Sensibly in speckled grey & white, replies

Quizzically to the find, more apostrophe

Than end. Their egg, an exclamation of

The foster soul; non-nuclear families’

Rule of law in a parenting conundrum.

Responsibility, a weight shifted from

Beak to claw when all instinct has fled.

 

 

Carpet Snake

for Sylvie

 

On the front lawn of the low set flats

Dotted with kid’s toys – plastic megaliths

To an age of pre-responsibility, the shirtless

Clean shaven man stood draped with a 10ft

Rod of carpet snake. Its hide covered with

Green Rorschach prints, the serpent probed

The children drawn in from the hot footpath,

Too innocent for myths that shed darkness

Like old skin. Cradling the hatchet-shaped

Head, as if it were butterfly fragile, the girl

Exchanged finger knowledge with this sleek

Organic picture book. Then, quick as lava

Its blue litmus tongue licked her pink cheek

& let slip its secret on how to stay young.


Torresian Crow

 

They take turns, two Torresian crows at the dry

Food, identical twins only the soul would know.

Furtive, they crook their heads, one yellow eye

On the goal, one on death’s emergency manual,

& spread stage cloak wings when they think they

Are sprung; a black mourning fan to filter the sun.

With the precision of a dark-garbed jeweller, who

Facets a valuable stone, or a parent with tweezers

Extracting their child’s splinter, the crows pocket

From the treasury of the cat’s red plastic bowl, &

So cram their desire. Angry or content a curt word

Always leaves their throat. Of a shy intelligence, it

Is hard to judge them wicked; if they were Omen

Mean & vicious, we could only hope they’d choke.


 

Lewin’s Honeyeater

for Sylvie

 

Under the cool forest canopy that made

Their skin Antarctic to the touch, it alighted

On a child’s wrist of root, blackened by

An eternity of lichen. A hand’s length,

It stalked them for metres, deliberating on

The danger they posed, or didn’t; after all,

They came to witness its habitat miracle.

Cheeks yellowed, as if it had touched

Up its face with a eucalypt pollen blush,

It emerged, half ark survivor, half sage

To chat & sing, this curved beak diva.

Rushing their eldest, it hovered right in

Front of her face; this delicate balance

Left their hearts at hummingbird pace.


 

Honour Board

for Norman Gibbins

 

After ninety-two years of commenting on

My disappearance, the asterisk, its golden

Paint rubbed smooth as a prayer tree limb

Will be scraped off, my status touched up.

No longer missing in action; the sad rank

That punctuated my death after Fromelles.

Only God wore the full pocket of my story

Sewn into time’s red blazer, tin buttons lost.

My old school colours lent the lean poppies

Their blood shade, gave the wind its war cry.

Nothing is ever omitted from school glory.

The ‘little star’ that summed me up will be

Edited out. But there’s no honour board for

The full stop that cut me off, mid-sentence.

 

Flight

for Peta Green

 

I have sent ripples through the deep pools

Of bloodlines with each sure footstep that

Imprinted on the earth. Claws, grip the world

Beneath my feet, the strength of blonde eagles

In the arch of my soul. When I nudged you out

Of the nest of me, the boughs of my hips grew;

Your feathers dried & you won your first flight.

My breath, a hot thermal raised your gooseflesh.

I called the clouds down around your ears to tuck

You in. You clutched them as an Emperor’s cloak,

Silk-woven with pure love. Our threads entwined

Through eternity’s rich veil; my skin embroidered

Your face. I picture you for the rest of your life,

Wearing the mysterious smile I turn to god.

 

 

Cane Toad

 

As if the bottom of a kid’s cordial-filled tippy cup

Had been upended, the cane toad’s eyes brimmed

With red, as if something sticky had spilled on the

Inside of its lids. His daughter caught & paraded it

Around the yard like some hideous frog prince, its

Pitted eyebrows ridged in concern, its mind closed

Behind the pillbox of its head. Sensing the failure

Of its armoured hulk, it sweated out its poisonous

Liquid paper & so shelved its early release. She

Squeezed it like a familiar pet, leashed it to fate.

In the end, it inflated like a flabby wrestler, or

A barrage balloon tethered to death. The steel

Cords of its fingers curled like witches’ toes in

Defeat, as she nursed it gently into its final state.


 

Old Boy

 

Woodend

School was church & church was school.

He knelt, transfixed by the cross-hairs of

Jesus, the clean lines of silver & wood he

Shot his thoughts at like the tin cans his

Mates lined up on stumps & blew away.

Here he was centred, focused on the job

Of collecting pockets, as if he was some

Apprentice ferryman in his dark training.

He grew used to taking orders. Masters,

Crow-ragged, their coal black gowns taut

As funeral shrouds, beckoned to him from

Their wooden pulpit. He left school, ears

& head ringing, a hierarchy of spirit hand

Sewn onto his soul’s candy-striped blazer.

 

Ipswich

He helped his father nail iron & timber crosses

Over the western downs, as the congregation

Of industry flocked to the town. Mayors threw

Pennies to children from trains as they opened

Up the district, added a skeleton of commerce

To Queensland’s body. Bullock drays were put

Out to pasture as new economies built up steam.

Here he was centred, focused on the work of

Bonding rail to the land, applying a steel splint

To the country’s old bones. When he was done

Southern fields beckoned to him, a subtle twist

Of animal & earth, a need he wanted to fence in.

But other gates broke open, a stampede of ideas

Overshadowed his dreams of a grass empire.

 

Gallipoli

He marvelled at their engineering. The lack of iron

In these colossal headstones as he shone his bayonet

Into the eyes of the photographer. He drew on their

Power, these Pyramids saved him later as he dug into

The cove’s bone-coloured sand. Here he was centred.

Focused on the role of energising his men. Wounded

In the thigh & shoulder, he fought on for three days

Until his spirit escaped from the holes in his body, like

Water leaking out of a rusted rain tank; the ruby tinge

Of iron so potent on the tongue. Injured men flapped

Weakly as torn flags in a slight breeze, or heavy factory

Machinery shutting down for the night, as red crosses

Bore them out. Low whistles of steam left some; a spent

Fuel never to be returned to the body’s soft engine.

 

Fromelles

Oh cruel! Cruel! With a wounded Bavarian he

Shared this thought, as he helped the man crawl

Off, then ankle-tapped the Germans’ advance &

Bogged down their troops like a steam tractor caught,

In a creek bed, its iron paddle-wheels trapped deep.

But things turned blunt. His superiors needed a new

Thermopylae. So he gathered acolytes around him

& together they worshipped at the sap-head. Here

He was centred. Focused on the task of guarding

Their retreat. In a trench, men writhed like needle

Sharp rats after eating strychnine, so he jumped up

On the parapet, his gentle nature ending the giant’s

Run. He stood, transfixed in the cross-hairs of a gun.

He was a child, hit in the back of the head by a stone.

 

Epping

The very end of all things. The government of the spirit

Ruled her decisions as she fought her brother’s death

With all her life. Letters poured from her hand, as if

This printed fountain of youth could resurrect him.

She was centred. Focused on the need of fighting

For her brother’s honour. She won. Bean penned

His great tragedy, down to the last turn of his head,

Checking to make sure that no one was left behind.

Purely a familial trait. His campaign medals halved,

Her power reached even France. Her words forming

On his wooden cross like a deep mist over no man’s

Land. With my soul’s homage and my heart’s utmost love

To my beloved and deeply mourned brother. Her gutsy war

For recognition forged in the furnace of public awe.

 

 

Pink Balloon

 

Death surprises in summer like the two dollar birds

Who winged in one morning & shored up residence

On the power lines. Their claws hooked around steel

Cables, these natives mimicked dread symbols; tiny

Blue-green eagles gripped twisted lightning bolts, as

If their dark, historical caricature would conquer all.

It was signs all day. Black clad mourners filed down

To the church’s pulpit, voiceless, as a seam of pure

Silence crystallising in their souls’ rich deposits. As

Everyone found their station, the process of living

Began; words painted what their eyes could not see.

Tears wrote across their cheek slates & were rubbed

Out again, just in time for the little lunch bell. When

The dollar birds left, the sky raised its pink balloon.


 

River

 

If you were an Indian river, then you’d be some kind

Of affluent goddess, still in popular circulation like a

Foreign coin of identical circumference that turns up

In your pocket’s loose change. Sans shape, sans metal,

Sans weight, but honouring an exotic marine animal or

Head of state. Perhaps flowers strung together like some

Fragrant abacus would float on your brown waters; petal

Sacrifice gifted to the river for a town’s future calculation.

Tiny eddies would churn up these green funeral barges, but

Only a rusted, blue, gas bottle bobs along in your weak tidal

Current, leaking fumes into your stream like a pestilent breath

From Bhopal’s toxic flood. People think you’re dead. You’re

The Bremer. You’ve immersed this city a hundred times, you’re

The grim reminder; the body that drifts past until it’s gone.

 

 

On Not Having Encountered Snow, Aged 40

 

A battery hen on being released from her penned

Life, does not comprehend the curly green slopes

Underneath her claws, as she slips on bright clover.

The sun cuts like galvanised wire on the bottom of

A cage the volume of four shoeboxes stuck together.

The body is burnt by guillotine rays that slice inside

Collars & leaves a red, V-shaped comb tattooed to

His chest. With each shovelful his back goes nova,

His vertebrae expands with heat, swallowing muscles

That orbit like ignorant planets. Pretty soon the chook

Pen rises like a new satellite suburb in his own backyard.

The compost slow cooks its microbes, nature’s nuclear

Furnace smoulders away like a coal shaft ignited since

The nineteenth century, still roasting beneath his feet.


 

Cloth

 

The flag, spread-eagled, flanked by two boys

Who held it up like a history project out front

Of the assembly. Eyes raked over the tiny stars

That winked; dying embers of memory’s blaze,

As the faint hint of smoke ghosted silky fabric.

This weighty pennant, rolled up respectfully like

A newspaper used to contain a surge of broken

Wine glass after a party. The neat folds, a printed

Triangle hand-delivered to their wounded guests.

Razor sharp angst picked up off the kitchen floor.

Names, etched on the textile, countless as fallen

Stars, visible for only a few brief seconds across

Night’s black stripe. Cloth draped over the lectern;

A funeral shroud dressing the dark wood of grief.


 

Boobook Owl

 

If they had been Roman, then someone would have

Died every night for months on end as the Boobook

Owl’s chime coursed through the evening like a late

Night telephone call’s bad news. Metronome regular,

The beat of its hoot shelled them relentlessly, enfilading

Their ears from the patch of remnant blue gums across

Waghorn Street. The book book of its mournful cry, as if

It was a trapped sailor in an air pocket of a capsized ship,

Beating a morse code tattoo with a leaden wrench. Inside

Its tree’s iron hull, the school ruler long bird received the

Suburb’s dying souls nightly, like an apprehensive mother

Drawing up her child’s medicine in a feather light syringe.

When he heard it, fear suckled their young son who forbade

The repetition of its summons & shrieked if he heard its call.


 

Crossroads

 

His native garden continued to grow; his daughter hugged a cane toad to death.

Its upside down eyes she shook up; a scaly snow globe filled with fresh blood.

 

He tossed it onto the road where cars would flatten it; letter-thin mummification.

The things were pests; boys went at them with golf swings, cricket bats clubbed.

 

That night he heard a siren tear down Harlin Rd; it wasn’t for the dead amphibian.

He wondered whose soul was measured; checked the rain gauge of their last breath.

 

The radio spat its local news in the kitchen; the fear of hot oil in a forgotten frypan.

A sixteen year old had threatened police with a machete, later it swung into a baseball

 

Bat. Cuffed face-down on Albion Street he didn’t see the headlights; the blood swell

Deafened him so he heard nothing either; not even the officer’s frantic dynamite call.

 

She didn’t recognise him as human; maybe green waste that didn’t matter where it fell?

His brain pounded his ears with adrenaline; he was afraid of being thrown into the can.

 

Cars, thousands of cars have crossed over the spot, zipped past the cream-white posts.

Death is a burnout on a corner of the heart; clouds of rubber smoke to frighten ghosts.

 

 

On Not Having Encountered Snow, Aged 42

 

He inhabits the inferno they never managed, daily.

Like mothers who dance with their disappeared sons

Across flinty cobblestones where the heart is ablaze,

Their wet cheeks rub against the air’s electric clasp;

But still their momentum kindles, as when stubble

Succeeds in breaking through the chin’s dead floor.

She has moved from the fire’s intense blue strength.

Too hot, her cheeks were glowing coal-red, so she

Climbed into a more distant orbit, where the flames

Were less immediate, & night’s cold could smooth

Her neck. The bonfire flashed across her eyes; she

Blinked as though a rod of sunlight dangled into her

Face’s deep water & distracted, she doused the fire.

Next morning, the campfire was clad in grey snow.

 

 

Doppelganger

 

In the drink fridge’s glass door, he saw her face rise

Up beside him in the sky’s fractured doppelganger;

As though a party balloon had grown suddenly from

Helium’s reckless embrace. For a second he thought

It was a challenge by one of the bare-chested youths

Who were wrestling around him in the corner shop;

But then her voice trailed into his ear’s open space,

A commissioner for the truth; that strange double

Which had body-snatched the cold hard facts of her

Late son. Their responses had failed her all round,

So the papers said she’d turned to psychics for her

Answers; a medium above even the law. Something

Light did pass between them; if memory had a mass

Than they each took away, a tiny measure of his soul.

 

Novae

 

Her hair comes from a red giant’s dying breath;

It flows down into the small of her back, crimson

Wavelength reaching to caress the universe’s hip.

Knots of time she straightens out in the mornings,

Bending light in front of the mirror, as though these

Little fluctuations were kinks in her radiant structure.

Each stroke of her brush ignites that sun’s memory,

The colossal age it spent binding loose strands of

Matter into a ball of light & the even longer time

It raged against its own dying space; a lit sparkler

Burning brightly at a party until it sizzled out.

The pink corona of a cosmic death, glowing as

She turns her head in the late Tallegalla afternoon.

Her hair falling over her shoulder; a rose nebula.

 

 

Visiting the Dying Poet

for John Knight 03/12/11

 

(I)

At first he thought it was human – fear of break & enter

A bold thief sneaking up the backstairs to nick his wallet

& phone from the bureau’s silky oak pocket. He caught

A smear of black, as if a child had driven their hand over

A Christmas painting & ruined it; Black Peter coming for

The smack. Peering into his children’s bedroom, there it

Sat, hunched on the pine rail of the top bunk – claws as

Taut as a wire hanger, its flight response summoned up

Like a spell surging into its wings & legs; instinct’s volt.

Topaz irises inserted into an ebony ring. The crow shat

On the carpet & sheets; its fear of capture greater than

Its wingspan, it flew at the closed windows & careened

Into the kitchen, where its wing broke a drinking glass.

More than a diversion; it was something close to omen.

 

(ii)

He was raking some mulch back onto his native garden

Reverently picking up stray leaves caught on the railway

Sleeper’s blunt edge & tossing them on the mounded bed,

Like a mourner throwing down dirt across a coffin’s solid

Lid. A meditative process; he didn’t mind his hens’ wanton

Destruction; when he heard the tiny war chatter amongst

The bougainvillea’s hot pink signals, as though he was

Straining at a radar post, listening for an enemy’s low

Decibel approach. Rake poised like a microphone, he

Inspected the thorny fulcrum above his head & saw them,

Eight superb fairy wrens sussing out his garden; delicate

Shadow puppets behind the hedge’s murky olive screen.

The males’ breeding plumage ignited like blue magnesium.

In the midst of death, the little birds were all for living.

(iii)

Writing in his dual purpose birthday & farewell card

An early Australian butterfly’s blue watercolour birth,

He was conscious of trying not to smudge the black ink

With his left hand awkwardness, but it was the cheap,

Education conference pen’s flow that kept on writing

Invisibly all down the page, as if it were the textbook

Metaphor for their trip that afternoon into Mt Gravatt.

Wordless. The rest is silence. What ribbon of language

Could go with death’s fancy gift wrap? All meaning

Sucked out of platitudes in the face of the hardest sell;

Sorrow’s intense golden alchemy. He wasn’t even sure

If the poet read the whole page through, or merely

Glossed over his appraisal, as though it was just another

Mediocre review of his life’s work that he’d get back to.

 

(iv)

They argued over the best way to drive there naturally,

Her devious backstreet route to his straight down Kessels

Road. Having navigation rights to this trip, she plugged away

At her spiel in true telemarketer ritual before he could reply.

Though, parked at Dan Murphys’, he changed his stratagem;

Being late to the poet’s living wake, not kosher or fashionable.

Their pull of wills as strong as anything gravity could muster.

He could imagine her chastising even Charon on how to most

Efficiently haul on his polished black oar & in which direction

Through the agonising mist & eternal wails, was the fatal shore.

Because of the way he drove she said, the shortbread smashed

In the boot. Reaching through the glad wrap to the other side,

They ate the fragments; he gave each half of one to their hungry

Brood. To shut them up, he pumped up, California Dreaming.

 

(v)

The oleander flowers were tightly wrapped yellow umbrellas

& spilled across the lichen-tattooed concrete path like spent

Shell casings at a forensics scene, bemused by their endgame.

The frangipani leaves fared no better; upturned like miniature

Big tops, their pink & white candy-striped canvas petals were

Chewed with brown decay, as if mildew climbed the fabric,

Agile as an acrobat. They entered the neat post-war wooden

Home to a poem; reverent bodies strained to catch the poet’s

Final summation, ‘Letting Go’. Most stood to hear his last

Statement on living. Still strength in that voice they noticed,

As though his ability to speak was the last loyal outpost

Left to defend his body’s declining empire. The mourners

Asked for a new poem, but they had brought none; mumbled

Something about a work in progress & cracked open their beers.

 

(vi)

There was a piece of cardboard with the poet’s name taped

To his beige leather recliner; as if it was a commemorative

Plaque beneath some ancient statue. This inscription was

Decipherable, a clear warning of ownership; illness clears

A holy space around everyone. His yellowed skin felt like

Hardening wax as they kissed each cheek; does death make

Cowards of us all in the end? There was more fear in what

Not to say. Quotes useless. They squatted on either side

Of his great chair like a pair of gargoyles nesting at a throne,

Their stony faces impassive. He regurgitated his birthday

Card’s symposium on his creative legacy; how he helped

The Sunshine State’s bedraggled poets survive the 1990s

Mainstream publishing spill, how the small press concept

Sprung from his forehead like a grand thought from Zeus.

 

(vii)

Tears did not come, nor any of his poems from recollection.

His fear, not of dying, but of being forgotten, like the fifty

Dollar bill he once, when poor, stuck inside a novel for safe

Keeping & only recalled years later, when a friend returned

The text replete with its posh bookmark. He was richer then.

The dying poet craned his head; his chameleon’s face took on

The buttery colour of the aging chair as he whispered to him;

‘Does it work?’ Letting go of his last poems, or the very last?

At seventy-six, his body the shade of burnt winter grass, still

Fixed to the earth, but drained of life, as though the light was

Somehow leaving him; his soul going novae, rays of memory

Shooting out into the universe, as the moment collapsed in

On itself. Or like a golden lure, his life reeled into a neat coil

Without its prize catch, by a fisherman eager to get home.

 

(viii)

Their children fell asleep on the way back. The sun shining

Through the car’s crystal windows turned them into mirror

Selves; their peaceful faces mimicked the dying poet’s skin.

Death was a fairy-tale that afternoon. In the backyard the

Offspring swung, hypnotised like dwarves who’d found

Something; the tyre swing’s pendulum arc lulled them with

Chaos’s measured beat. Upstairs, the rhythm of toasts raised

A din, but the children, filled with laughtrons radiated their

Own abstract positions. Energies poured into hide & seek.

The forged process of death was only a game; exactness

The desired outcome. They appeared regularly like waves

To consume small strawberry & fruit suns; these planet

Eaters who jostled like gods for the sweetest conclusion.

& on the Ipswich motorway; the fading light found them.

 

 

Superb Fairy Wrens

 

The flicker of a heartbeat on the suburb’s monitor,

Where the erratic pulse of urbanisation has fluctuated

In Woodend. Seven new houses built next to Pamela’s

& Graham’s land for wildlife refuge, an inner-city koala

Corridor cut in half, the remnant eucalypts bulldozed

For imported lawn, for the bland safety of new babies.

This they oppose: a flame’s young beginning that grows

In light’s energy to heat the night, some beacon of hope

That bobs in the ocean, or a warning, our very own native

Canary that measures square pounds of human pressure.

They sound like a Falcon’s dicky axle going round a corner,

A clatter of rusty old bearings. The two-toned males’ faces

Divided neatly with blue sky & black grease; some would

Call war paint. With smirks, we brace for their invasion.


 

Omphalus

for John Acutt

 

The shape is roughly circular, as though some child

Has stuck their finger into an orange’s crinkly skin

& pulled it open, but the edges are swollen & wild;

Like lava frozen by the sea or stoneware fired in a kiln.

It is a new edifice of the soul, with its unique entrance

& exit, an omphalus that his generations humbly touch,

His grandfather’s ancestral close shave. In an instance,

The navel of their world was founded by only this much;

A thumb & forefinger spread less than a millimetre apart.

Like a split lip, destiny arrived in a second; the rock of ages.

A tobacco tin in his breast pocket saved their sacred heart.

The others fell; fine actors who exited their muddy stages.

When he is thirsty, there are many stories that he can tell:

He drinks not from life’s full river, but from a family well.

 

 

Cat

 

She disappeared the long weekend of the wedding.

They thought inevitably a hit & run; some unlucky

Piece of timing crossing a midnight road’s noir face.

But no body was found cradled in a concrete gutter’s

Arm; no inflated stomach from death’s pregnant bloat.

So wanderlust & kidnapping were promoted up the order;

Her tortoise-shell colouring & lack of collar, too striking.

He left the pound too late; other death row kittens eyed him

As if they could now occupy the single vacancy of his heart.

But he moved on & the cats returned to their final inspection.

Forty days on, she was rescued from underground; a closed

Drain had almost sealed her fate, like a pharaoh’s chief pet.

On two legs the cat dragged herself over their back fence.

Like a drunken guest, she overturned night’s garbage bin.


 

Arrochar

for Melvin

 

After thirty years the bones of the house have rubbed

Smooth as a prayer tree’s limb. He reads each groan,

As though it is a sonic map of his mansion’s health.

His cartographer’s ear listens for the expansion of tile,

For time’s blistering of his paintwork, for dust grinding

His windows down like a lens. The grooves in the wood

Parallel the lines of his face. Their grain runs in the same

Direction. Their contours have aligned after all this time,

A deepening of age, a settling of foundations built on trust.

Like his house, his heart is a crafted piece of stained glass;

Soldered lead keeps their bright panes intact; at night they

Glow from the street with stories strangers hear as they pass.

This summer, his Poinciana trees showered the lush footpath

With their rubicund bloom; a red carpet for his return home.

 

 

Don’t Take Your Guns to Town

 

About now, the last stubble of ham is being shaved clean

From the thighbone’s pink face; bandaged in its tea towel

& sealed inside the fridge’s arctic bosom, as though it was

A rough sea burial. On the telly, the old year’s in review.

Disaster grabs return like electricity company spruikers

Trying to conscript residents. Sometimes you don’t have

To force impoliteness, it floods through you: the soul’s

Cordite cloud. It’s a kill me dance, a white pointer dance.

Osama couldn’t go down playing solitaire, so he went out

Reaching for his piece. All cover stories grasp for the Wild

West. His demise punched out on a card somewhere &

Filed in a heavy trophy cabinet. We all wait for our spot.

He was a plastic bottle top raced by children down a gutter’s

Wet fuse. When boys build robots; they always have guns.

 

 

Babies of Walloon

 

(i)

This is where we began.

We were flicked into black space

like rolled snot off the end of a finger.

Our sun took a long time to die;

as though it bled internally

from a gunshot wound

to its molten stomach.

Longer, than all the deaths

of everything single creature

that has ever lived on your planet

Put together. Many times over.

There were countless stages of dying.

Often our sun would rally,

like a terminal patient whose miraculous

turnaround defies all clinical experience.

But like a stubborn child holding their breath,

our sun’s cheeks blew out eventually.

Consumed with rage, its fiery spirit

burned away leaving only grey dust

to settle in the galaxy’s cold ashtray.

 

(ii)

We were born at the death.

Torn matter, that clung

together for protection.

We clumped like protozoa;

a mindless mass that drifted

through the cosmos’s oily sea,

at the mercy of gravity’s raw

pressure. In absolute zero

we cooled, we collected into lengths,

like a grim teenager gathering deadwood

to feed to their family’s campfire;

but tripping over the weight

of heavy limbs & heavy breath,

they drop the lot.

 

So bundled, our endless drift stopped.

There was the squeeze of a giant’s fist.

Our lump of clay rolled into a ball

on an artist’s grand workbench;

compact as an eyeball in its socket.

So began our second life, cooling

behind the Earth’s dark eye patch.

 

(iii)

You too, will one day understand

the span of our wait. The lengthy

stillness under the ground; squashed

dirt that time fixes into different

colours like a dried out palette.

You will become chalk perhaps,

or pure calcium; or if lucky,

an opalised fossil; your blue

veins glistening with crystal

under glass in some museum.

Three & a half billion times

we hooked up with the sun,

the casual dates going nowhere.

Until one day you cut in from

above; the shock of your rudeness

numbed us like the sound of half

a hillside disappearing into dust.

We were thrown onto

the back of a tray like the carcass

of some beast, freshly slain.

Only, our blood was copper

& our bones were tin.

 

(iv)

You gave us a name

that energised the aeons

of our existence; that gave

a new sheen to our substance.

You gave us original jobs too.

You used the heart of a supernova

to slice through the magnetic

attraction of skin to flesh;

to rend the gravitational pull

of muscle to skeleton.

We were the pointy end to your rise.

We helped you clear forests & beasts;

then you turned on each other like

rabid wolves; jade fangs bit your soft

tissue until hardier teeth were brewed.

After we proved our worth, you gave

thanks to the cosmos for our birth;

forged us into effigies of your glory.

We birthed a second meaning, as you

erected wasp-waisted statues

on every village green.

 

(v)

At some tragic point in the universe,

you used us to create the ceremonial

double of two young sisters. Babies

of Walloon. Cut down by the arrow

of time, fetching lilies from Ophelia’s

treacherous pond. Bridget & Mary frozen,

holding hands, as if stopped in the middle

of a stellar game of ring a ring a rosy.

The dizziness of love etched

into their metallic faces, as though

they wore a reverse death mask.

At some tragic point in the universe,

thieves took an angle grinder to their

memory & cut the Broderick girls apart.

Stealing the eldest, except for her bronze feet;

she clutched the wrists of her baby sister

leaving the maiden handless,

as they bundled her into the ute.

There’s nothing you can do to us now;

for we’ve come through much worse heat.

A million times fiercer than your scrapyard forge.

We end as we began; all children of the sun.

 

 

Teaching

for John Lyon

 

The tough plastic tidy trays that he once stacked

His students’ folders in, now coffin his old school

Technology. Stripped of its duty, the beige enamel

& chipboard desk stretches; Atlas shifting his weight.

It squats naked, but for his nikko-ed name tag; bare

Of the rows of Emily Dickinson & Death of a Salesman,

That bowed its metal for thirty years; like a job for life.

All boxed up; his signature pencilled on the inside covers

Like a tattoo of a child’s name on a tender shoulder blade.

Already his legacy has turned retro. His analogue counter

Stopped. Eighties audio cassettes hibernate in neat rows;

Tentacles of plastic film wrapped tightly around tiny

Starfish spindles; one says: Ego is Not a Dirty Word.

The Handbook of English rests on its broken spine.


 

The Red and the White

for Ipswich Grammar School

 

1863 – 1913

(i)

Wars topped and tailed our history like two children

Sharing a bed to keep winter’s unmoved breath at bay.

One was fought over the freedom of men; our first

Students’ fingers smudged black with newspaper ink

As they broke military faith with their lunch bread.

The other, their grandchildren would fight through,

Only pausing in some broken, muddy advance to

Wonder at what they were battling for; their school

Pride transformed into a love of nation, a care for

Comrades too heart-stricken by the heat of war.

Warrior-scholars who led men against ignorance,

Who soothed boys of their fears, who questioned

Hamlet’s resolute silence. Snatches of Latin phrase

Bolstered them over the top: Labore et Honore.

 

(ii)

An Ipswich renaissance; the gothic revival bricks

Were laid by local workers whose sons would later

Stride Queensland’s first grammar hall. More than

Just the city’s industrial genesis limestone, poured

Into the mortar; the Great Hall’s foundations laid

With hope. Education is the eternal time capsule

Which the future opens. The pounds raised from

Rich and common folk paid back a thousand fold,

As the new state invested in centuries long learning.

Our tower was the first torch of wisdom held aloft,

Its flames burned away privilege; the right to school

Universal. We are the strong hand of knowledge

Who passes on the mace; that holds truth’s trophy up.

We are those who pull on the red and the white.

 

1913 – 1963

(iii)

Both wars took our best. Our captains needed

To test their edge as though their minds were

A sword honed to razor sharpness. Europe’s

Poppy fields paraded their metal, as crimson

Blooms decorated boyish chests. Or, from

God-like heights an Old Boy’s slow release

Of breath was the signal for his pregnant bomber

To crown Armageddon’s birth. Sometimes,

Truth’s blade was a sword of Damocles which

Hung over wisdom’s head. When it fell by wars’

End, ideals of civilisation lay shattered like so

Many torn pages. What could be taught then?

When numbers took on a new significance and

Language was transcribed with chaos’s pen.

 

(iv)

Though its fire burned low post-war, our torch

Never gutted out; a solid base had been crafted

And as the world modernised so did contemporary

Thought. Men and women arrived to rebuild respect;

They breathed on the school’s smouldering embers

And fanned new life. One, Matron Fox came mid-war

And stayed on. For three decades she healed the wounds

The world threw at her boys; whether from war, sport

Or unrequited love. Her heart, steady as the school’s

Foundation stone, on which students tested their

Self-esteem and more than often, won. Another, inspired

By his vaulted schooling, watched the masters hook

Their gowns over wooden coathangers; the high arches

Of his youth propelling his vision to engineer steel icons.

 

 

1963 – 2013

(v)

Once, an ancient education was spruiked here,

Inside the woodland classroom, before even

A red brick was slung; lessons of fire-hardened

Spear beneath sun-speckled eucalypt were given.

A century on, our first people returned; Les Bunda

Threaded through the defence on Maud-Kerr oval,

His feet writing on the green page where his ancestors’

Stories were woven. Each season, more boys alighted

On the castle on the hill; at winter’s end the throaty

Cackles of Channel-billed Cuckoos or a Dollarbird’s

Silver coins led them. PNG lads, who like feathered

Migrants, left their highland homes and landed on our

New battlement. If school is the airspeed of thought;

Then both bird and boy flew an incredible distance.

 

(vi)

The 1863 brass plaque has been rubbed mirror bright

As the seniors brush over it on their way to the quad.

Every student’s shoe adds a little more buff. Warm

To the touch; a yellow sun, it has captured thousands

Of souls in its historical pull. School bonds are gravity

Strong, as the tug of war rope that coils snake patient,

Waiting annually to be won. Or a cheek-plate of bronze

Armour forged from the pages of Homer. Our school is

A victory cup; a sacred vessel where the ‘Milk of human

Kindness will not go sour from neglect.’ And the bell that

Sounds off each generation is a sanctuary’s gong that beats

Out a new beginning like a starter’s gun. And each tear

Shed on that final day, is a tiny looking glass that frames

The spirit of IGS for every boy; like a photo of their class.

 

 

‘Banjo’ Paterson reads his poetry in Ipswich, March 1901.

 

Their arm muscles burned as if they’d been throwing

Javelins all day, but the boarders were promised a rare

Night out. So they smashed their nails in too quickly;

The half-moons of their quicks blackened in eclipse

From the wild blows of hammers and curses rang

In the air like the sharp chimes of horse tack. Vance

Was keen to get the stable built; hastily their ironbark

Crosses were knocked together, as if they were Calvary

Journeymen eager for the pub. Sweat ran like blood

Down his palms as he imagined Clancy clopping up

Brisbane Street, driving a herd of big-horned cattle

& watering them in Limestone Park. All literature’s

A tease. His messiah didn’t fit with: ‘the spruce figure

In evening dress who spoke with professional ease’.


 

Dr Sydney Evan Jones Speaks at Speech Night, 1913

 

A man’s body will blacken in the extreme cold

Of Antarctica like the buttery skin of bananas left

For too long in a fruit basket in Ipswich & uneaten.

Or a bogman of Ireland, murdered when he was out

Cutting turf the size of igloo blocks, his body dumped

In the primeval swill; tar & feathered by the raw earth.

The ice will eat you though. Like a horde of army ants

Deconstructing a centipede. First, it’ll dip your flesh

In cold venom, the numbness will burn through your

Nerves like a blizzard until you feel as though you’re

Floating in space. Then it’ll cut off your fingers one

By one. Next, your toes wilt like wedding bouquets

After a week & your nose melts off like candlewax.

Mawson said; there’s no shame in pissing yourself.


 

Vance Palmer Dines with Boarders, September 1958

 

He told them; when he was last here, Australia

Wasn’t even its own country. Diggers were dying

Under the Union Jack, as the Boer gave the Brits

What for. But as advances go; we’d helped invent

Concentration camps, drawn a roadmap for Hitler’s

Grand adventure. Added a new word to the lingo –

Commando. And we believed no one lived here

Before us, no one of any worth that is; terra nullius

He told them. Do they still teach Latin? Greek?

We were ignorant of the larger world. So no one

Had problems with possessing this small land, for

We ourselves were possessed. He told them; the year

He enrolled, a teacher –Wilson was sacked & later

Killed a boy near Darra. He often quoted Cicero.

 

 

Dr John Bradfield Speaks at Assembly, 1935

 

Our school is built of brick & stone like some

Pig’s house from a nursery rhyme. Stone was

A good material for the ancient world; there’s

Some ten tonne blocks of granite in the wall

At Mycenae that you can’t slip a knife in between.

No mortar. Don’t know how they cut that rock

So precisely to fit all those slabs with just bronze

Saws? Brick did a sturdy job for the 19th century;

There’s bridge footings in India that’ll stay up for

Centuries, but boys, if you’re serious about design

You’ll have to agree that metal is the only artefact.

The march of science wears iron clad boots, I’m

Afraid. Shortly, you’ll see great things achieved in

Steel; Prometheus is at last unbound from his stone.


 

Salute

 

The curtains snap open; a prop of eyelids dazzled

By midday’s brilliant embrace, or a ship’s synaptic

Morse code that signals a journey’s end. ‘There it is!’

He shouts & is hushed by the teenage honour guard,

Breaking the minute’s silent salute, cleanly as a weld

In a rocked chair’s undercarriage. In the blue sky’s brain,

The grey cargo jet is created from inside the classroom,

Its bass thrum vibrates over the boys’ skin like the after-

Burn of a punch, as it banks, returning from Afghanistan.

Their English lesson homecoming; Walter Cunningham

Jnr’s poor dishonour becalmed on the projector screen.

His black syrup frozen as the dramatic loss of speech.

Then it’s over. They draw down blinds as in a poem;

& turn their faces toward, To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

 

On Not Having Encountered Snow, Aged 43

 

The Siberian whimbrel, all the weight of a human hand

Gestures to the artic wind as it rises, never looking back,

As if the greater insult is to survive winter’s chokehold.

The fingers of its wing feathers adjust reflexively to tiny

Snowflake fluxes like a glove scraping ice off a windshield,

As it leaves behind its dog-bowl shaped nest & two million

Other frozen craters on the tundra. It flees before the cold’s

Pack-ice strength crushes the life out of it; before its food

Reduces like a supply of cut firewood in a Russian folktale.

From this curlew’s eye view; Asian shore habitats chopped

Up by reclamation butchers, their fatty coastlines trimmed

Of their energy. Here, its oil-gauge bill fits the fiddler crab’s

Hole neatly, when it tests the marine engine of our estuaries.

On Nudgee beach, waders muscle up for their flight home.


 

Zebra Finch

 

He was watching the Watchmen; the scene when they bury

The Comedian to the sounds of the Sounds of Silence, when

The tempo of their birds’ emergency calls fast forwarded.

Pausing; the cage was half-twisted like a hospital tea trolley

Wrenched by a famished patient. The white-socked feline

Slid under the gate & down his wooden stairs like a grey

Silk runner, wearing a zebra finch mask. Its superpowers

Folded its wallet-body in half, as it slipped through the art

Deco iron gate & into night’s back pocket, the passerine

Hanging like a ticket stub from its mouth. Next morning

He tampered with the crime scene; bashed away the tiny

Breast feathers that lay like cigarette ash ground into his

Welcome mat & concocted his children’s cover story.

How their pet curlicued through its cage like smoke.


 

What’s Your Connection?

for Diana

 

Her words took him like some great white, which

After its exploratory chomp, dives deep to build up

Steam; a grinning automaton with guidance fins that

Pushed her violent question into his shocked carcass.

His electrical impulses could detect a black eyed anger,

But his blood was at a loss; after all they’d invited him

To read at their 10th birthday celebration. Apex predators

Need no Facebook invitation. What’s more, he’d been

In her coffee shop before; on holidays his kids chalked

Up their café experience on her walls, riding around on

The orange plastic postmodern dog like an aquatic park

Trainer. He should have told her he felt connected to her

City, like a Shapcott or a Palmer. ‘There’s your sugar,’ she

Snapped: a new, serrated tooth pushed forward to her jaw.

 

 

The Resurrection

 

When he leaves, the maggots pore over the wheelie bin

Like a reader’s eyes crawling across a favourite passage.

They are the length of a typed word & dust the green

Industrial fabric with arched precision, as though they

Are white stitches pulled tight by their hunger’s needle.

Where the river curves like a sunbather’s tanned elbow,

Mullet spring from the brown water; whether in festivity

Or to escape the Bremer’s failed health report he cannot

Judge. Animals are scatty. A channel-billed cuckoo tears

Over the river as if pursued; he looks, but only the bird’s

Shadow on the coffee still surface keeps pace like some

Skulking doppelganger. Returning, the seal of the bin’s

Cave yawns open. The maggots are gone; picked clean

As lint from a pair of jeans, or dew burnt off by the sun.


 

Mundagatta (Bunyip)

 

(i)

The two metre bull shark bunts its way up the Bremer river

With the incoming tide, as though it is a paper & paddle pop

Stick boat pushed by gravity down a rain swollen gutter. Like

Some aquatic & hairless Rottweiler, the shark snuffles along

The slimy bottom, its eyes useless in the watercourse’s twilight

Zone as it bounds through a thunderstorm of effluent run-off

& agricultural pesticide. Truly a river monster; it has adapted

To both salt and freshwater systems; at ease in this estuarine

DMZ. In its myopic habitat, the shark relies on its sixth sense

To zero in on catfish & turtles, electrical signals dance across

Its snout like sherbet fizzing on a tongue. Fisherman routinely

Pluck pups out of the brown water & bash their heads against

The nearest rock; euthanizing against the future where serrated

Teeth line up like ranks of dominoes waiting to fall into place.

 

(ii)

The Ugarapul people won’t tell you their true names, but refer

To three types of Mundagatta skulking in the Bremer. One eats

Flesh. One nibbles water lilies. The last is twenty metres long

& hypnotises its victims like Kaa from The Jungle Book. Near-

Fatalities swear that it has a glowing red eye that mesmerises

Like an angler fish’s luminescent worm. They won’t swim in

The river. The Three Mile swim race they knew was suicide.

An inverted Styx. No parent holds their child by their ankle

& dips them into its waters for magical protection. There is

Only mythological deviation. In crossing over to death this is

The kind of river where a ferryman perishes if they fall into it;

Mundagatta capsize boats, no souls of the damned drag these

Captains down, nor is it spiritual intoxication which smothers.

Many are the bunyips that lurk in the billabong of the heart.

 

(iii)

Here’s a clue then, to how the Broderick sisters, Lawson’s original

Babies of Walloon were doomed. In the lagoon, the plant-eating

Mundagatta gripped the lilies’ roots & gently tugged the greasy

Tendrils, so the green plates moved; a steam train’s cogs gathering

Speed. Their funnel-stems swayed as a tree buffeted by a westerly,

Their lilac blooms flared out like a shuttlecock’s girth. Entranced,

Even hypnotised, by the biggest flowers they’d ever wanted to pick,

The girls entered the coal black water, never noticing how the plants

Were not dancing to a breeze. The bubbles erupting in a long chain

Of breath they thought belonged to turtles; in the nineteenth century

Science back burnt superstitious fear. There was no rationale for the

Jabberwocky of Celtic Britannia, no Scottish red caps slavering after

Children. The Ugarapul didn’t even camp by the water’s edge; told

Their young’uns to avoid lilies, or suffer Ophelia’s garlanded fate.


 

Bomb

 

(i)

He hands it to me.

His fingers, a pale spider,

the ball, its bloated egg sac.

His hairs brush mine,

vibrations are sent from

the world wide web.

Between our two trunks

string begins to resonate.

Smooth as a river stone,

polished by eons of licks

to the face, dog-nose cold

the ball is dimpled as though

struck by meteors of hate.

My very own genesis rock.

 

(ii)

My vice puts friction’s

strong law on the golf ball.

My industrial popping candy.

The drill wheedles its way

twirling through hard, white

layers like some seismic rig

breaking through the Arctic’s

frozen crust. Scoops of white

plastic fall like nail clippings

onto the workshop floor.

The drill chews the icing down

to the quick of its rubber core.

Black strings reverse like smoke

up the drill’s steel chimney.

 

(iii)

He hands me a backpack.

It is asteroid heavy. He says

there are butterflies inside it

& that if I pull the rip cord

it’ll free them; blue & green

wings will fold like hands

at the end of loud applause.

The great sound of god

is in the seashell I hold to

my ear as I climb the fence.

I tip-toe so as not to shake

up my delicate cargo. I don’t

want to kill the insects; he says

the Americans will like me.

 

(iv)

My very own genesis rock.

He says there’s white powder

inside that will trigger dreams.

I draw the cigarette from behind

my ear like a hunting dart from

my neck’s soft quiver & he grasps

it in one of his pale mandibles.

As he transports it to his mouth

a fang jumps out onto his lip

like a white shark beaching

itself on the red sand of his lips.

As he slides back into the liquid

light, the tooth snags its prey.

He lights it like a fuse.

 

(v)

Up the drill’s steel chimney

my fingers scour like a huntsman

& flick the last wisps of the golf

ball’s black innards away. I pack

the bearings inside the hollowed

out shell, like a wasp depositing

its eggs into a caterpillar’s gut;

a time bomb’s interminable pause.

I shoot up the baby cannonball

with my violent mixture; an egg

timer fills with soot. Time runs

black. I cap the improvised device

with old chewing gum, like a coin

that seals a dead man’s fate.

 

(vi)

The Americans will like me &

maybe even decorate my chest

with chocolate when I release

my gift. Whose heart wouldn’t

expand at the thought; the velvet

texture, the eyelash thin antennae

that curl at the ends like a question

mark? The see-through wings that

shift your vision like a kaleidoscope.

I marvel, at how something so small

can bring laughter like a magician’s

trick. As I reach the soldiers, statue

still, their faces lit like new bronze,

I feather the cord & a dog barks.

 

(vii)

He lights it like a fuse.

The ball is shiny as volcanic glass;

the fused harmony of molecules

melted in the sun surface heat

of a violent pyroclastic eruption.

I up-end it to shake out the white

powder like a salt shaker that has

become damp. Nothing gives.

I bash it on my hand’s dinner table.

He rounds the garage & ducks low

like a demolitions expert. There is

a noise like lightning hitting a power

line. The skin frays from my fingers

like an umbrella that rips in a cyclone.

 

(viii)

That seals a dead man’s tongue?

What about who takes him down?

The blast is about twenty aerosol cans

of laughter lit up by a fire-eater’s belch.

I lose my balance momentarily like the

bottom step missed when dead drunk.

There’s a whimpering that’s not quite dog.

I sneak a look. He is witchetty-grub bent,

a white blob grounded, curled into himself

like a kick to the balls in a footy scrum.

My smile breaks open like a picked sore.

The inky ghost cordite, possesses my nose.

I’ll never run out of weapons; the internet

is my ammunition dump; I, its cyberpunk.

 

(ix)

I feather the cord & a dog barks.

I ask him for a grown up cigarette.

He takes one from his shirt pocket.

It slides out like a white torpedo

from its silver tube. He looks

into the face of his afterthought.

Beneath his helmet, his eyes are

half-lit, in shadow’s smudged kohl,

as if they’ve gone behind a cloud.

As I open the backpack’s cocoon,

bright wings flick out like a serpent’s

tongue & the butterflies are gone.

In the sheet lightning sky, helicopters

glow like black kites caught in the sun.


Chicken

 

There was a last mad flapping of wings; a kind

Of sheer desperation as if the dying mind knew

This was the final outpouring of energy; sugars

Firing inside its stringy muscles, a final barrage

Of movement, before everything blurred into

Blackness; firework ash dissolving into night.

The beak dipped like a spout, at the end, & its

Nostrils poured out a viscous liquid the colour

Of children’s Panadol. The eyes closed, bulged

Under their pale lids like the ends of a cotton

Bud. The rich, red comb deflated to become

Just a purple stain on its brown head. Its body

Stiffened as shoe leather as they dug a shallow

Grave. With shovels they kicked the earth in.

 

 

Atlas Shrugged

for Felicity

 

There comes a time when a god has to shore up

His own sphere. That’s what Atlas did thirty years

Ago, when he wanted the world’s first man-cave

Below his home’s kauri pine firmament. He was

A tinker born on the doorstep of war. He was

Taught to make do with little; so each of the fifty

Wooden house stumps he chiselled out of clay

Bedrock, shrugging off blisters as a salamander

Belittles fire. If that wasn’t heroic enough, he then

Cast the half century of twelve-foot concrete posts

Himself & sunk them craneless, into Martian-coloured

Moholes. Lifting each half-ton pylon with technology

Levered from the Egyptians. Foundation solid, his

House rose above his shoulders like the Earth.

.

 

 

 

 

 

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