Archived in Pandora
from Meuse Press –
Light the way
open arms beckoning
the water reveals glory
offers an unwrinkled hand
Through the window
shroud the light in doubt
cast a shadow on picture frames
Memories shattered by tempered light
shining for her
And in looking at the source
finds she controls its brightness
by the tightness of her grip
on the extended hand.
They say that on a clear day
you can see the Blue for miles
nothing else acceptable
It’s the winning post!
rump slapped with a blue ribbon
for a race, well done
Can you see the Blue?
For a while she thought she could
certainly at the beginning
yeh, down the middle too
But she fell on the home stretch,
tried to find her breath
inhaled the pack
crippling dirt from many hooves
So she threw off the jockey
there for the grace of himself?
Never! only in the name of the Blue
took off for a track of her own colour
though blue had always been her favourite colour
Yes, she left the Blue deification
to those that quite like
blue ribbons in the saddle
and one hoof in the knackery.
A dry red sunball
floats down through
dust from mine dumps;
hangs in the air
with coal smoke
from cooking fires
Cars stream home
to the bosom
of wire garnished walls
The traffic lights stop us
red in our tracks.
A picannin starts
along the row of glittering fringe benefits.
We have been warned:
These boys are used by men,
they run in packs to
distract and steal
through smashed windows
I look at him, this victim
big-eyed he begs
Madam - give me money
I turn away, steely eyed
from my reflection
in his brown and yellow disks.
There are so many beggars
Wait. I say. No please
from me to him.
I pick an orange from the foot well
poke it through the gap
to him outside
Here - I smile a bit
He stares at the orange
I turn away
so not to see him
throw away my selfishness.
I have my pride.
But at last I look
(He will have gone by now)
And he is eating the orange - ripping its flesh with his teeth
sucking thirstily to save the drops
and hunching over so they do not drip
on his dusty bare feet
He could be my own.
I pull away
and driving home,
There are so many beggars
at midnight mostly
in vengeful dark
i scream in silence
see the stark
in my unpolished
of the day
I held back secrets
long fermenting in my belly
desperate for your approval
I must not tear out
the roots of our promises
Stop up your ears
so I am not forced
to choke back venom
Let me lift this child-mask
from my face
spit out the mustard
painted on my tongue
excrete the toxin
trapped beneath my skin
And let me speak as a woman
before the fastening
is hammered home again
Waiting at the Lights
I had never seen
a dead person before
lying on the footpath in the rain
An anxious doctor knelt
pounding his chest
and giving him mouth-to-mouth
The man his eyes open
skin faintly blue appeared serene
as if embarking on a trip
he'd been planning
for a long time
I am distraught as I sit in this barrister’s sedate office;
memory is absent when most needed.
I recall the pain,
the quality of its sharpness as it shot through my hand.
But what is its trigger?
I am being questioned about hobbies, tapestry,
the use of my hand, my solicitor sits quietly;
pain’s memory forces itself on my attention
only half of me responds.
I want to say – yes, tapestry was one of my hobbies
as were knitting, crochet, embroidery,
dressmaking, tailoring, all kinds of needlework.
Yet I remain mute, frustrated by my incapacity.
The moment passes, conversation shifts.
I mention my inability to respond spontaneously,
my need to go apart to think, but they find it hard to believe.
I’m brain damaged I’d like to shout to them.
With a calmness I cannot feel,
I suggest the neuropsychological report
only to find they have all my medical reports
from the Brisbane lawyers. I have no privacy, no secrets.
I feel denuded, stripped, spilled out,
everything is public property –
but the emptiness is mine.
The Thrill Seekers
On the verandah rail, inquisitive Willie Wagtails,
dressed ready for a black tie dinner,
dance, twist, flit in a flash to perch teasingly
on a magpie’s back, saucy tale upright.
Do they hope perhaps, for a free flight?
With a sudden song—burst they dash through water spray,
wing span maximised to ride the wind, surf air waves,
ski the skies, in flight so free assistance is superfluous.
As they skim, waft, dare – devil dart
my enthralled spirit soars but I sit, frustrated,
trapped in a body which lurches drunkenly
because my water – logged head has lost its authority.
Like an astronaut re adjusting to gravity
I struggle clumsily to move rubbery legs on unwilling feet;
clutch my pen to capture the thrill seekers’ rapture
but contrary hands with a will of their own
thwart my intention, leaving me
with an indecipherable scrawl.
My fascination cannot be denied.
Forced to this electronic servant
I record a fleeting experience
of grace, freedom, nature’s beauty.
With the thrill of the dance a distant memory
vivid awareness of physical limitation heightens frustration,
Let Me Not Die an Old Girl's Death
(After Roger McGough)
let me not die an old girl's death not in a rocking chair ‘doesn't she look peaceful like that’ death not a curtains drawn with the sun going down in black armbands death nor laid out cold in the front room with background organ music and me stiff as the pipes no father o'leary giving me the last rites death (when I didn't ever have any rights in the first place) and not a between the starched sheets in a smells of pee nursing home calling softly I'm coming to join you fred death (& him thin as a rake by then anyway) no blessing in the end death or propped up with pillows so's I could look out over the yard and see the two pigs rummaging through the rubbish death no mrs swift from next door & all the other neighbours downstairs making tea and drinking whisky while I'm up there gasping my last breath
and I don't want a holier than thou and free from sin surrounded by candles and wilting flowers death either with kind last minute words to people I never liked anyway none of their noisy children coming to say a last goodbye to me when I couldn't stand the sight of them while I was alive death
let me go out when I'm a hundred and four gnashing my gums and conducting loud beautiful music (beethoven would be good ) flashing my painted fingernails & overthetop dyed hair smoking cigarettes that are bad for my health while drinking french cognac & me singing and kicking and showing everybody my bright red knickers
The pilot of the plane that dropped the
the first atomic bomb - over Hiroshima -
in 1945 named the aircraft after his mother
After it was all over
what happened then?
Did you hide behind the curtains
when the doorbell rang
or write your memoirs
mother to a famous man?
And when they held a barbeque
honouring your sudden fame
dressed in floral prints and Sunday hat
did you smile
through all the sizzle and the flame
hold your plate above the smoke
and dripping fat
while the rare steaks charred amid the heat
accept a well-cooked sausage
with the skin quite split
and compliment the chef
for having hit the spot?
you trail festive streamers
wearing cap with rippling fringe
as frenzied fish
flash vivid violet.
not guilty of malice
you extend your welcome
languidly wrapping visitors
in an acrid embrace.
DON'T TURN THE LIGHTS OUT
Don't turn the lights out.
In the darkness
I can hear again
the shuffling traitor
in the hall
I feel the syrup breath
ice on my neck.
The nausea rises
paralysis sets in.
Don't turn the lights out.
In the darkness
I can hear quicksilver words
In the dark
the shutter falls on senses.
I cease to be
vacate time and space
for some other victim
until I hear again
the door whispering shut
I return to guilt
unable to trade in trust
trapped in torment
facing dark days.
Robbed of hope and joy
impossible to escape
the cruellest betrayal of all
while the predator
Don't turn the lights out.
The world is already too dark.
This issue contains poetry collected from local writers following an October 2000 POETS ON WHEELS tour of northern New South Wales (an Australian state)… from the surfing/alternative centre Byron Bay, south to the state’s 2nd largest city, Newcastle. This is a small cross section of the range of energetic writing communities thriving in the regions.
NAKED IN SEPIA
Sorting through her things
I glimpsed it for a moment --
my sepia mother
under the waterfall.
She, who straight-laced
tutored me in modesty,
was rising --
from a scalloped rock:
soft pearl-shell skin
in rainbow light,
the sight ethereal --
her body luminescent
with a nuptial glow,
arms arced aloft,
head tossed and tresses flowing
over nubile breasts,
in her gift for him.
I glimpsed her joy
in sensual discovery
and felt an envy of her daring
in defiance of her time.
I glimpsed her joy
and wondered why
she tried so hard
to stifle mine.
(previously published "Poetrix", Issue 14, May 2000)
all mouths tits defining flanks and restless tails
this cocktail crowd enfolding the joneses they
bounce from 'hello' off 'hi' to 'how are yooo' he
senses the random molecular motion which dumps them
spinning their social wheels alone on the fringe she
frets until they remesh and pinball through to a side wall
from there it's clear the herd's a fractal pattern
of seething sub-circles all properly self-similar
each ring of tails proscribing otherness he
notes internal heat triggers convection currents which drive
some to the edge to cool before they drop back in she
has an eye for particulars is restless and fidgets
newcomers swell the herd and all is dense flux
critical closeness of members sweat
evaporates from hides to cloud against the ceiling his
nose differentiates boiled cabbage from testosterone
and other strange attractors she
leaves his side to cleave into the chaos
on a passage far from random he
jiggles their keys in his pocket
watches her present herself
You woke me with a smile
torn from pages of a bygone era
I turned on the axis of the universe
for a closer look.
The twilight began to capture the view.
Old Clarrie sat on
his porch and watched
several Landrovers disturb the dust.
Another usual day,
cattle and the garden.
Late afternoons staring out
over the paddocks to the coast,
money in cattle anymore
with the pension and bananas.
not all there
bought in brothels
during Show times.
Now the loins are never warm.
other than the daily routine
and the view of the coast
from the lighthouse to Brunswick Heads.
A training of the eyesight.
Always magnificent, sometimes magical.
Old Clarrie lived in a postcard,
the television told him so,
but it was always everyday,
left their clouds
Saw a snake
near the shed in which were
stored feed, paints, parts
The twilight focused
the lights in the landscape.
A lot more lights these days,
used be a time when there'd be the lighthouse,
meatworks and a couple of bright lights
at Mullum and at Brunswick.
That's all you'd see.
pain in the left lung.
A rub with a knuckle
and a deep breath.
Better start dinner soon,
or I'll miss 'Sale of the Century'.
Another stab held his breath,
like the writing he had seen,
earlier by the road.
Half-way to the highway.
That rear tyre must be flat!
Get out the spare and the jack.
That's where he saw
spray painted on road,
'I had a joint with Jesus on the way to Uncle Tom's'.
What did it
You can get used to hippies,
but not to disrespect.
Jesus looks after you.
The flat tyre replaced,
no longer felt like going to Brunswick.
Get back up the hill now.
The twilight was about to introduce the stars.
Shouldn't be said or read.
Swirled inside his head.
The lung hurt ferociously.
Spasm of the chest.
Left arm clawed and cramped.
Hidden pressure stopping breath.
The moon is getting high in the afterglow.
So many lights now,
between the lighthouse and Brunswick Heads.
Then there was one less.
Can I relax now?
Trust the fortune
sky, a depthless blue?
Dare I revel
in the luck
of being born
almost half century ago,
as peace raged
in the land of plenty?
Am I allowed to forget
incinerated human bones,
ash of my ancestors,
who made a religion
out of suffering?
May I lay down the burden
for the luxury of love?
Dare to praise
all that is good, strong and true,
to sing out my gratitude,
sift through dross
and find gleaming wonders?
Have I the right
Or is it my duty
to keen and wail,
to remind those in paradise
that somewhere near
What do I owe
for the feast,
for the sumptuous
anointing, for the blessings
of a compassionate God?
Or was my debt
paid in full
before I was born?
And this radiant sky,
my personal boon,
not the prelude
to a drought at all.
Her thick blue pelt
swallowed the moonlight
into it’s cavernous folds.
Greasy sperm smeared up her belly.
Her tail flattened and sated
floated on the lapping tide.
refusing her instincts
for deep water and fish
denying the cry of her herd
even the lonely yelps of her pups.
She knew only that man; and those hands
every roving finger an undreamed thrill
running thru her fur
feeling deep into her creases
underneath her risen tail.
His smooth belly bouncing
against her tough hide.
His limbs suckered to her
as the waves pommelled.
His meagre penis;
no match for the muscled bulls
she had surrendered to;
did not leave her bleeding
licking her salt-burnt wounds;
but filled her in such a way
she would be forever empty without him.
Only his throaty whispers
hovered around her in the wind.
So faintly familiar they ruffled her;
a ghostly picture prickled her
and twisted her head
toward his mad form in firelight
brewing her yielded juice with his.
Rushing, rushing desperately
to beat the moon, the waning tide
her drowsy mind.
But the past rose vivid
viciously clawing at her
dragging her thru the waves.
The silky sunk wretchedly under sobs
watching her demented lover crumble
spilling his last attempt at sanity
on the sand.
Still the man-fearing beast
drowned her sorrow in layers of fat
and barnacled hide
and sped it's whiskered snout
away from the gruesome fate
it had twice endured;
hung lifeless, dehydrated on a rusty hook
and three times would mean forever.
The blue seal swam that temptation cruelly;
blindly into blackened water
pressed it against violent currents
mercilessly stripping every sensate memory
until only survival mattered.
And on her rock in the warm sun
she rolled over
one eye closed; exhausted
the other glazed;
scanning the glassy deep
waiting. . . .
the frangipani leaves plop…plop……plop,
a slight, uncertain drum beat for a
half the garden thinks it’s Spring again
my joints know it’s not
He lives roughly under
the same patchy clouds
as everyone else's paycheck
where, impatiently sixteen,
choices refuse to rain on him.
Manhood is a closed shop.
Though witness grandad's sepia
memory, coaltrimmer on the docks
for two years by his age, and dad
in a union lurk, apprenticed
three years to the boilermakers
before Vietnam beckoned.
Mum said even grandma sweated
dresses at thirteen, as if he ought
to be shocked, not impressed.
School says nothing to his hands.
The girls in Blundstones wink
'*no ticket, no start*'
with every precious flutter
of their long eyelashes.
How safe the world has become
for his testosterone. The big engines,
loud noise, sparks and smoke, always
on the wrong side of the cyclone fence.
Even shovels and hammers
are out of reach. It's a lockout,
that's what it is. That's what
he spray-painted on a picket fence
last night. No job, no pay, might
as well make work for *somebody*.
Reclaim the night.
Claim me at all
Who are you to
ride this beast?
I am night.
dark fins and claw.
dreams and demons
Mightily I shadow
your hearts terrain.
I am night. Sign
of women, travellers,
Even the sun that I rebirth
claims me not
There is no authority
beyond the moon
the stars, the velvet
cloak of clouds
The storm in all its joy
I am night
Lay no imposition on me
I am never claimed
You must look to yourselves.
Ladder of ages
four little ones run
No. 5 wheeled by Mother
strung out dog leg line
Grit stings our eyes
we are grasshoppers on the move
and wander on
doing cartwheels in the air
Past the smelly abattoirs
our favourite place
this wondrous hideaway
Rolling in red vibrant sands
our inner sanctum stirs
blue tongue overlooks the scene
as eagle wings flap the air
Magnets draw us
to pluck the red and black carpet
sixpence a bunch we offer
tied with worn out string
Would STURT awaken
as we seal the fate
of his desert pea
rest assured rebirth exists
hitches a ride on the stroller step
warrior mother intervenes
and our little nipper lives
Weary, battle scarred
home from dust and heat
Sandy bend conquered us
but our secret is well kept
Grasshoppers have grown now
and we return to claim the sands
of our wondrous playground
Sadly, progress quarried it
Push the turnstile, music fills the ears
of brainwashed impulse buyers
sharing aisles with stacks of boxes
playing leap-frog might be fun
Dodging wayward wheels with laden baskets
and babies cradled at the top
squishy tomatoes with prices that don't match
sticky juice spurting from a split bottle
Like a gathering of the clan
groups of four hold up the parade
watch the child hop, bobbing about
while mum's waiting, dad's cursing and dinner's late
A race to the checkout, almost colliding
bell rings Price check is the call
grab a magazine and catch up on some news
while shuffling throbbing feet
Entertainment to the observer
watching from a bench
while he sits he pens his paper
missing not this chance to tell
Rebellion a springtime lodger
defiance paid the bills
summer boiled and dallied
desire I knew well
The chill looms in distant shivers
soon the shackles will tighten
but, winter can wait in the company
My autumn will be falling leaves
serenely quiet, but stirred by breeze
Barbara De Franceschi
The acid taste of fear drips caustic saliva
to still the tongue
into paralysed silence
Odour rank with dread oozes from
body braced for cruelty
upon a reclining wrack
Terror gathers in beads like droplets
from a crown of thorns
eyes stare into blinding light
I implore with a silent prayer let me be brave
so I will not disgrace the name
of my family
In a voice strangely devoid of menace
my tormentor speaks
tools of infliction poised
Open wide please, only one filling today.
Barbara De Franceschi
From my chair I see
a weathered seat of timber planks
people lounge, couples rub
not for me to join
grey ocean lunges and rolls with force
to gnaw the sandy beach and grind
Detail I gather in segregation
Castles left forgotten in ebbs
canvas deck chairs sit lopsided
scattered towels amidst lost shoes
salty droplets splashed
as old men trot and children paddle
in tidal pools with seaweed laced
The essence of dreams I yearn
To be part of all I see would lift my spirits high
at my nursing home window, I just sit and sigh
Barbara De Franceschi
They say my love is dead.
They say my love is dead and yet
in that place where dreams are tumbled,
all the boundaries of the real erased
I see him corporeal and glowing
welcomed as he climbs into my bed.
They say my love is dead and yes
his is no fleshly frame, but shrivelled grey
bloodied bone, festooned with tissue strings decayed.
The object of my need and lust.
They say my love is dead and yet
in those dark fetid hours I rise to him in wonder
like the Calophoridae, Sarcophigidae, viviperous
flesh eaters before me, I feast upon his carcass.
They say my love is dead and so he is.
for I have stroked the cooling belly of all that I desire.
I have stood above his grave and thrown
another red, red rose upon the growing pile
of desiccated dead remembrance.
They say my love is dead but he is not.
From his grave he weaves all spells
He fills me. The very living breath
of my devout necrophilia.
I bought my HQ
for a hundred dollars
after I left
in the drive.
It was a beaten up old Holden
padding torn out
A dull metal shell.
so bone bleak sharp
It could slice noses
lips, from any living thing
pressed up against it.
The old HQ shared my ambition
to return to origins
amputate the past
and then drive on.
Many a good tune
lepidopterous admirers gaggle.
Irradiated innocence disarms.
Deceived as sulphur tongue licks
Fawning shoulder rubbers
I witness from an opposite place
Simmer in complacent envy
My seductress wife
The hermetic door seals
Tatters of a private life
Against the fishbowl
The remote control
Cough, scratch, fart, all alone
Alone with me
Eyes reflecting yesterday
She can soothe the savage breast
Or beckon banshees
Neck trying too hard
And very much older than she looks.
evening cloud sponges
raindrops wink in ocean of pitch
scarlet screams, clear sere sun
day has begun ad infinitum
How to write.
I simply start writing
and words come out nicely
and I draw my ideas
and paint them precisely
Shit I’m saying and
now I’m starting, inging
I’ll have to redraft
from the very beginging
Now I’m just going silly
I’m a slave to the form
I’m forcing the rhyming
In a way that’s not norm
I’ll get back on the track
and explain how to write
and I’ll use lots of ands,
and clichés, so trite
‘Cause this is my poem
and though it might rhyme
It deserves an existence,
Its own space and time
It’ll never be published
‘Cause it’s not clever, clever
Just a simple expression
As old as forever
I like that I write,
mostly just to please me
and my thoughts fill the void
of this A4, ex-tree
and if you want to write
and you think you’re so hot
just bloody well do it
and get published.........Not!
The work was collated by Les Wicks during a Writer in Residency in December 2000.
Thanks go to the sponsors:
NSW Ministry for the Arts
Broken Hill City Council
This collection is published by MEUSE PRESS.
All work © the authors.
APC is an occasional anthology.
As the Derwent embraces
an old man cries in his sleep
as the fishing boat enters
a man wakes with
as the nurse drives over
the Tasman bridge
the night lifts
as the child sits
on the bus
he can still see Venus
over the Queen's Domain
and an old man cries
as a man questions
the night's answers
and Venus' reply
that it is nothing
but salt and water
and the reflection of
Think of her when you're dreaming
kiss her eyelids when she sleep-murmurs
make a cup of your body
gather and weave her a braid of flowers
see her likeness in every bird
bring her the depths of a sky in storm
make the sun shine
when she is cold
hold out your hand
and offer her
in which to write her lines.
S e c r e t s
if you want to come with me if you want me to show you this secret place you must slip like a shadow along the walls don't make a noise there's no one here now only me the others have shrunk into corners scuttled into mouse holes under the skirting boards blown away like smoke from the turreted chimney I take this place stake my claim on forbidden rooms out of bounds where the muttering adults kept secrets from me and from themselves I stamp my feet on Elsie's polished linoleum and crap behind the kitchen door where Captain Cook did a poop wring out the cloth drenched with blood in the enamel dish serve my father tea and scones in the comfortable chair pulled up beside Gran's cooking range I slap my cousin's face play ragtime loudly on the pianola open the mirrored doors of all the chiselled wardrobes in all the mysterious bedrooms pull the stoppers out of all the jars on the powder-dusted dressing tables empty every drawer run down the hall singing and shouting at the top of my lungs invite all the children in the street to eat birthday cake with coloured icing blow out the candles with one breath let all the secrets out
I'm hitching a ride on your dream
but when we set out I believed
we were headed the same way.
You're in the driver's seat and won't
share the wheel, won't even let me
navigate, since I read maps downside-up
and, anyway, you've been this route before,
know it like the back of your cereal packet.
You've costed the trip down to the last
benefit payment and will only eat at the old
familiar roadhouses where you can get
a decent cup of tea.
All night the moon
leans on my shoulder breathing its big
bright secrets into my ear and at midday
the shimmering V on the horizon
aches with possibilities.
A mirage, you say, an accident of light.
Other drivers overtake. We clamber on,
stopping now and then to cool
the hissing radiator. Just ahead
there's a bend where the road forks.
Thanks for the lift. I'll walk from here.
Xmas Day with the Troops
He saw a hill of dead horses
brushed snow from his beard
adjusted his crimson-dyed suit
did a last minute check
on a notebook of requests
and he walked through the campsite
shaking hands with the men.
He imagined a large table
with a red cloth
where he could leave
boxes of horehound candy
pipes filled with tobacco
and pages ripped from his Bible.
He handed out five cent coins
to the men, who held them
as if they were the finishing touch
to a brandy-soaked pudding.
A Day in the Life
Visited a gymnasium to observe, not exercise.
Took my usual stroll down to the Battery.
Stopped at a pistol gallery.
Amused myself by riding back and forth on the ferry.
Dropped into the museum.
Yawned through a literary luncheon.
Had my palm read by a gypsy girl.
Met a young man who shook me violently by the hand
and expressed in heated language the affection he felt for me.
Attended a temperance meeting.
Was greatly stirred by the arrest of fifty prostitutes
ordered by a police court magistrate.
Dined with the Queen of Bohemia on her return
from Paris with an illegitimate son.
Whistled through a graveyard.
Wrote to my sister, Hannah the fairest and most delicate of human
Gave thanks to this roaring city.
Both poems from All Under the One Granite Roof - a collection of poems about Walt Whitman during the American Civil War period to be published by Pardalote Press in late 2003
The clock in the heavens "strikes" for the tide, the navigator
and this time for me.
Visited my pillow it was 10 pm.
The shining moon stirs the thoughts of men.
Earth's child with not a breath
At low perigee passing my window
What does your visit signify? Death!
A message from the barren world on your face
Take stock of life and supply it with goodness
He will fill your soul with grace.
The sun puts out the moon as it puts out a fire
I lie beside the morning,
gathering prudence. I'll exercise its desire.
Marked beside the metronome of moon and time
The ebb of life forgotten.
Tomorrow a new journey.
I bid my guest adieu.
Wisdom has no Purpose but to Speak
The politician speaks.
Words arrive in gouts.
Red with meaning.
Stamping years ring
In the soothsayer's ear.
Wise words come, undiluted.
Should you contemplate
Such n' such.
Ears and hands go electric.
Silence empty as a widow's womb.
Nobody claims to understand history
Or believe in it.
A man on a desert road
To somewhere was struck
The Hapsberg jaw chomps on
Gutz and Gaul is all we need-
Ask the Caesars!
than Rome could hide.
The audience clambers to the podium.
All is not well!
From Hapsberg eyes.
I will finish!
But a sneak thief Doomsdayist
With dagger and foul breath.
The wise man trips on the curtain
And wisdom's done to death.
THE MAN I MET YESTERDAY
Had wild grey hair
Blue lake eyes
In his bay blue eyes
I saw a small boy
reaching for his father's hand
But the man mistook his son's voice
for the whine of the wind.
Saw eyes that beggared need
the soft lips
a crushed rose.
He patted his son's head
pulling his hat down hard
he crossed the street.
The lad reached in his pocket
and took out the packet
of sweets his father slipped him
He ripped the cellophane off
tossed the sweets in the air.
Then he crossed the road
and followed his dad.
Stopped to watch him step
into the strange woman's arms
Saw a ginger cat gladwrap her legs.
AT NETTLEY BAY
We wake to long surf, a slow sunrise
masked by eastward hills
and the arrival of fishermen
who climb to a ledge and fling
whirring lines, small parabolas of patience
cast not too far ahead.
Understoreys of bull-kelp have lost their footing
and flounder at the surface;
stones of all the kinds
have been left on the beach like fears
we must step around.
I choose one - yellow-greenish,
sugared with quartz.
Sea-days wear at our edges until
we are reconciled to this stranding
and smooth enough to be held in the hand.
[After Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Archaic Torso of Apollo’]
From my bed you watch me undress,
then offer your arms, their tender undersides,
your defenceless belly. This is a welcome so weightless
I cannot name or understand it. I slide in beside you,
irretrievable as sent mail. You fall so easily asleep,
your just-asthmatic breath intimate as whalesong,
a rough cheekbone pressing on my ear,
the soft-shelled bivalves of your hands
closing on my smaller flesh. You hold me
against our separate pasts and this short present.
Night opens to the moon. The estuary lies still
as a road, as if there were no undercurrent;
she-oaks trail untroubled at its edge.
There is no place that does not see us;
our secret selves have vanished
like the words they were confessed upon.
You fall so easily asleep. Or, perhaps, are rising.
The light-filled canopy is hung with mist and visions.
Everything is altering. You have opened your arms.
They will be large enough to carry me.
FEATURING: Felicity Daphne Baldry, Peter Bowden, Jean Frances, Pam Heard,
Paula Mckay, Rene L Manning, marny owen & Pat Pillai
Home of the Bidjigal people, Hurstville became a timber felling area for the
newly established town of Sydney in the early 1800's. The township rapidly
grew into a farming community and once the railway arrived in 1884, its
urban development took off.
Hurstville is now one of eight regional centres within metropolitan Sydney.
We are located 15 kilometers to the south west of the CBD. Our city is close
to two airports, two major sea ports and traversed by main highways.
Covering an area of 2,460 hectares, the community of over 70,000 residents
has a rich cultural dive arersity with major non-English speaking groups
including Chinese, Macedonian and Greek.
Felicity Daphne Baldry
Somewhere it happens
it's only ever in the here and now
what it is has to reveal itself
rumbling and roaring
like a nightmare
what it has to say
becomes clearer with
every sleepless sleep
somewhere somehow it happens
and the answers are
in clouds baby's spittle
one derelict's lifeless eyes
looking in that mirror
becomes a journey
Sunday's sermon rattles
(now a headache)
will it happen somewhere
what makes sense
dissect the woes distrust doubt
throw them to the wind
birds feather their nests
allow for everything
furtively the youngster looks around
then leans right over the lip
of the tall container
her fair cropped hair and torso
her left hand holding on
and left foot on tippy-toes
right foot in the air knee bent
for extra leverage
within seconds she is upright again
as if she's done this before
explores her finds
brushes them off with small fingers
at first a tentative bite
more substantial ones
and lengthy chewing
she relishes each mouthful
her plunder some broken biscuits
from the schoolyard rubbish bin
THE LIFE I LIVE; THE VERSE I WRITE
The life I live,
The verse I write
Come I hope, from a mould
which is forever the same for each
Simple, perhaps, not deep,
I write of a searching
The looking for a voice
of what we all can be
A belief? a hope? a wish?
Of lives as they can be
But also, I think, I hope,
of lives of love and laughter.
But refugees, and politicians, and war
are far from love and laughter
And they are the truth, not hidden,
of my world as it is today
So we laugh, and watch the screen
With Big Brother, the reality shows
Like bread and the circuses, and never think
of what the world could be.
Grandpa & the Rest
I don’t remember Grandpop
Except for his chamber pot
Out on the lawn by the path
There for weeks before it went.
I have an odd and distant memory
Of a shadowed image in the house
But perhaps I recall the photo, the one
they give us all as kids.
The one of him and grandma.
A big man from the photo
Sergeant of police no less
Not a man who’d use a pot.
Was it perhaps the other grandpop
Mother’s pa, the one who had the pot?
But he is not even a shadow
I have no memory of him at all.
An Inspector of police the first one,
But Sergeant in Taree,
And in a dozen other towns
from the Queensland border down
Grandma I remember well
She’s not far from me now.
Musicians hands I had, she told me
A butcher’s was nearer the mark
They have gone now, both of them
to the big family grave by the river.
With sons and daughters.
Our aunts and uncles, now long gone
Born in those dozen country towns
Here the last to go was Edith, Pops we used to call her
All that now remains are us,
And we are going now too.
And when the last of us has gone
We can only hope their names
are not to be forgotten - , George and Ernie,
Mabel and Toots, Wanda and the rest.
Twelve of them, over twenty there are of us
And again the ones who follow us. Then theirs again
- Max and Piper, Chris and Josh , Tom and Fleur -
so many – to remember the big man and us all.
After Listening to Jack and Jill on Play School
I can't help wondering why
they climbed the hill in the first place
Surely water flows to lower levels
or maybe in this case there was a well up there
However I am most interested
in the efficacy of brown paper and vinegar
as a dressing for Jack's wound
Perhaps it could work nowadays
instead of the all-purpose cortisone
Though I'm truly sorry for clumsy Jack
and can almost feel his headache
my real sympathy lies with Jill
having to lug a full bucket
down the slope by herself
Next time she ought to consider
inviting another boy to join her
Maybe Boy Blue with his horn
Back to the Trees
How quiet it must have been
as we swung through branches
or leapt from rock to rock
across a river speechless
with maybe a puff cough
a grunt of satisfaction
or the occasional piercing scream
to ward off predators
Now we overflow with sound
words for anger
pain fear and love
whatever that may mean
We talk aloud in our sleep
the haunting speech of dreams
You might like to return
take a ride in a time machine
but even with memory
erased by hypnosis
there may still remain
the image of a child
running down a road
with her skin on fire
or a giant bird slicing into a tower
the blinding flash behind your eyes
hot water carefully poured
pot-warmed fingers wrapped around
blended leaves infusing
green porcelain of Russian descent
placed delicately on the tray
a soft smile lingers
in anticipation of an evening reading
Somewhere between contentment and anxiety
my grin combines the settled condition
of a woman entirely suited to her lot
and the faded snarl of an exile.
From the comfort of a sagging chair
I play with words like a she-cat
toying with her terrified prey
in the expanding grey of my universe.
Old-age it seems, is a hit-and-miss game
between the heady laurels of a sage
and the shuffling steps of the utterly bewildered.
My reflection tells me
all I need to know about a changing world.
Home's a dusty place of pictures, books
mostly out of print, African masks,
statues of Adonis and heathen gods.
A creaking ship listing at its mooring.
For exercise I swim in a deep pool of inertia
buoyed by the constant hope
I can put off dying for another day.
Allegory of a Supermarket
after Jorie Graham
Faces in the conflux look around,
bodies push and pass among the crowd.
Those who stand in lines, in groups, alone
letting the noise wash over them,
absorbed by the fast, the different, the new.
Those hanging about head-down
holding onto some one thing.
Food for worms, for fish or gods.
Those where the movement is,
the pulsing, the forward motion,
letting themselves, like flocks of birds
(flamingos) gather; the leaving-behind-of-nests
they've come to feather.
Those with nowhere else to go,
dreading the walk in solitary streets.
The lonely, unloved, unlovable.
Those standing in the light, pointing, lifted,
up-lifted, music bathing the ears,
those heads under the water of its sound.
Specials as tit-bits
grabbed like worms to beaks.
Those looking and reaching, squeezing the ripeness.
Teased or mollified,
eating the grapes.
Those stopped by an ocean of green
searching for the guarantees
grabbing the red, the plastic sheen
of bread and circus.
Those following their wives, their instincts,
their imagination, or followed by stalkers,
store detectives, history, fluff stuck to the heel.
Time moving over whoever's watching
from this point-of-sale.
This watching being walked from
along the maze-like path; at a glance
seeing mouths open, lips move, speak.
Words leaping over their own saying.
A clutch of words for chicken, egg
hatching out and up and over into the warm air.
This queuing, this paying, this pushing
Bells ringing ever-after, ever-after,
Charon at the check-out.
Rene L Manning
Butterflies, familiar with the Way, in olden times
could nurture philosophical pretensions –
so Zhuangzi said, a sage not prone to lie.
These days they’re smarter still:
they flutter by, wings a-winking,
then, puffed with power, stamp their feet, sparking
apocalypse afar, chaos and catastrophes.
But now, regard this lowly grub nearby,
some ill-begotten spawn, born of unlovely moth –
what prospects can be fostered for its future ?
Will it miss out on laurel leaves, only to starve
on bland rejection snips, at best tempered
by some emollient turn of phrase ?
Who knows, it may miraculously moult,
its imago soaring to Parnassus,
thence to unending days, not skewered to a board
but for all time preserved, inside the covers of a book.
Home Sweat Home
with the cast-iron complexion and
bakelite breath, life - a layer of enamels
beginning to chip, wit - a jelly-red compote
known to challenge men, constitution
formed by birthing the committee
on days made difficult by materials.
Pure-white linens, just asking for a stain
mocking every hand-stitch
straining relationship like those
massive pans and pots, shocking
always dirty, black and greasy.
Did your back in.
Life was ever kitchen-busy
kettle whistle, baby cry.
She'd counter grime
in a steam sweat
revealed at her table
and dream with the dishes
to rise above them.
Why did she suffer like all the rest?
Fenced in by pride and the culture of inside.
Nothing really lasts like the laughter of a child.
She lives for family to come again, play the games
but knowing this is wishful, fills her world
with water pots for the birds
waits for grass to grow
and sinks in the past
with a worn-terrazzo look
and tired-metal edges.
and I am away with the barnstorming daredevils
standing on the wing, waiting for take off
Finch, sure footed, attempts a field goal
sure footed, not flat footed
sure that the pilot will slip us somehow through
that skin which contains the sky
ref halts play
we taxi on one wheel
video ref will check for body contact
between body and contact there is out of body
flying goggles define the shape of the field
white lines are like cave drawings on your back
a lizard slides backwards from the path
flicks a forked tongue
the sun bites hard
I am walking on the cliffs
where sandstone cradles a curved ocean
their blackened pods hurled down
birthed by fire and water
I want to lie down here and drink from rain pools
I want to lie down now
allow salt ghosts
FEATURING: Carolyne Bruyn, Michelle Carter,
Helen Chambers, Dougie Herd, Esme Morrice,
Michael Roberts, Mary Rose & Brenda Saunders
Moisture draws to its gathering point
and is pulled up and up into cloud mass
herded by a warm wind into identity.
Like a giant wheel she begins to turn
slowly slowly looking harmless
a low someone in an Institute alone
is monitoring closely.
The satellite picture is contained
on his small screen but he can hear
the siren’s song. Stormsurge builds.
Disturbs peaceful inlets and beachside cafes.
Cars float out to sea on torrential roads.
Desire stirs. He knows these waters well,
all the reefs are charted.
He cannot be held responsible for
this cloaked unknown
this invasion of lust.
She’s coming, single-minded,
straight for him. Moaning
he rises to meet her
hands flat against the screen.
Mind bent double like palms
along the boulevard
he begs for her frenzy.
The limits of desire hypnotise
as one eyewall spinning clockwise
thrills him under the stiletto
of her psychotic progress.
When demand seems spent
he looks into the stillness
of her mean
where only his breath can be heard
or his heart
pounding like heavy metal
until, blasting out of the clear screen
of his fragile hope
the other eyewall slams in
intent on what civilisation hoped
she would spare.
The screen goes black.
He sobs for her disdain as she puts down
turns back on herself
everything skewed on the first pass.
to ride the curved fronds
of rain-splashed palms
with nothing but
to cut through
like the sunburnt skin
of a gum tree
wounds flayed exposing
an ivory gleam
to drown in the truth
as rain glistens silver
on a ripple of green
to feel like a panther
in an auditorium
like a cripple
on a glass mountain
to enter my heart
the arc of a bird
to fly from my pain
an entire flock
there’s a shiver
stretched like a graft
the mottled clouds
their generosity tireless
a whipbird hides
in coils of lantana
his serrated tongue
gentle stanza of dusk
its verdant syllables
its fragrant leaves
Refugee Intake Quota 1994
I visit with Lily
to taste coffee,
sometimes rich cake eaten with teaspoons.
Tethered breasts drop at table level
as she reaches for another cigarette.
Her olive skin
has grown thick with mothering.
Lily talks of Algiers,
of the mother who died last year,
the house on the Adriatic Coast
before that war.
You don't know me she says
I've been like an animal.
The first black man in Scotland
What boys we were
and innocents. Too young
but not quite young enough
to hide from truth.
And so we sheltered
where we could
behind the sideboard
in the kitchen
of that ‘room and kitchen’
in the grey east end
of no mean city
where he lived and worked
and died, the day
the first black man
in Scotland came to call.
A man as black as ebony.
Young with tight, black hair.
Obsidian eyes in pools of white.
And yellow palms.
His voice like velvet.
We watched in awe,
eavesdropped from our haven
as he told our father’s mother
how her husband fell,
redundant legs that buckled
as he clutched his chest,
and raised a hand forlornly
to clasp the outstretched arm
of the first black man
in Scotland, who caught him
as he tumbled down to God
while they waited in a queue
for a bus that never came.
And as my father thanked
the first black man in Scotland,
then showed him to the door,
my father’s widowed mother
crossed the floor
to hold her hiding grandsons
in her arms. And weeping,
with all colour drained out
of an empty, ghost-like face,
she said, oh boys, your
granda’s never coming home.
And we were mystified
but now a lifetime less
than innocent and lost
for words enough to say
what mattered on that day
the first black man in Scotland
came to tell the story
of our father’s father’s end.
But only this truth struck us
as we held on tight:
We said, that man was black.
And she said, yes, my boys.
- God bless him.
I remember the winter land,
the snow was very deep
on the east coast of England,
the snow was blue/white asleep.
My scarf and coat were warm,
as were the blankets on my bed.
A bird is singing somewhere, it sounds forlorn,
it's Mother calls, it flies away, so it can be fed!
Needles the road - frying.
Newborn bellyfull globules of silver cellulite
flop from rooftop gutters, slap
into the pavement below - bacon fat pops.
Crystal weaves nestle, tired hardened gutters.
The wind wheezes, lifts windowpanes to tantrum and,
the rippled road with neon bleed graze
plays host to two sets of front wheels tearing...
Flecks of dandruff drift downward through the honey glazed air of streetlight.
At irregular regular intervals,
lollypop whistles rise and fall and,
whoop and whirl across the city.
Cool air dances at my shins.
The Colours of Love
Love is like a pretty rainbow,
Or lovely flowers in the meadow,
For it comes in many colours,
Orange, violet, indigo,
Blue, green, red and yellow.
Love is blue,
When I am not with you,
When I cause you pain,
And heartaches too.
Love is yellow,
When I shine and glow
For whatever I do or wherever I go,
Your love for me will surely follow.
Love is green,
In summer, fall, winter or spring,
For the smile you give me each morning,
Fills my day with joy till evening.
Love is red, deep and strong
It keeps no record of things that went wrong,
Can forgive, though the list of hurts is long,
Will even turn faults into a wonderful song.
Love is violet, indigo or orange,
Colours that may seem strange,
But one sure thing that will not change,
That’s the love I have for you, sincere,
pure and true.
After the massage
I’m ironed out
the week ahead
ties that bind.
One woman’s hands
bound and slit
to the pain
at the night
her short fuse
leaves a note
on the fridge.
And the face of
in the morning.
FEATURING: Joan Cahill, Catherine Edwards, Barbara De Franceschi,
David Gilbey, Grace Hawes, Pauline Haynes, Jana Hlavica,
Geoff Sanders & Marvis Sofield
Barbara De Franceschi
The smell of boiled mutton
tossed in stench-
steaming from fresh horse dung,
odorise a forgotten back lane
sculptured on canvas.
Clamorous brush strokes
stir emotional surges,
unwind in freeze frames.
Sunshine prances hair
washed in carbolic soap
amongst weedy undergrowth.
Rubbish tins spill their guts,
summer wind spreads its rumours-
against a blood churned sky.
Children loiter in dobs of colour
like specks of dirt, tough and gritty.
Sticks and stones
couldn’t break their bones
but names unwrapped
meagre parcels of pride.
Sheds made from kerosene tins
the blue stamp on corrugated iron
fornicating body parts.
My tongue wants to skid across vibrant oils
lick quince jam from hot scones
whilst straining to hear jovial accusations
spread amongst clumsy drunks,
fruit tree bandits with bulging shirt fronts.
A collage preserved in a thicket of bedlam
so descendants of blue orbs and kero tins
… might float.
tall, thin, ungainly,
teetering on the edge of manhood
innocent, unaware, vulnerable.
His voice is joyful.
The old ballads come to life,
we listen spellbound.
But that was yesterday.
The years pass, we go our ways
to work, love, learn,
caught in the intricate web of life.
Today I saw his death notice.
All this is foreign to me.
a gangly boy,
RELENTLESS SEA SAT 17TH JULY 2004 3AM
Sky covered by clouds of dark grey
Hiding the sun away
Come with me
Down to the sea
The wind stirs the water high
Rolling in Rolling in
Churning the salt to foam
Frothing depositing on the sands
Bringing the ocean spoils
To deposit on the beach
Ocean trying hard to clean herself
Of seaweed by the tonne
Glistening bustamite mineral sands
A crab claw or two
All pretty and blue
The wind blows stronger
The sea’s rough and choppy…now
Moving dark clouds
Time to run
She’s about to
CABIN FEVER DREAM
If I walk and walk
into the wedge
between horizon and sky
will I be
crushed into the ground
drawn over the edge?
I stand but not very high
the pebble redness
by half-dead saltbush
the flicker from a desert kite’s wing
by hollow music
the crooked mulga hums.
Let there be
no other side.
Let there be only one kind of time