Warning for developing minds: this site contains a few poems that use 'swear' words or relate to sex or other 'adult themes'.

Perth Poetry Club invades Armadale Library: Jackson, Ross, Gunzburg, Pattinson. Thu 25 Sep

Poets, live, armed with words! Perth Poetry Club presents

  • Jackson
  • Zan Ross
  • Danny Gunzburg
  • Neil J ‘BRiLO’ Pattinson
plus (I think!) open mike.

7-9pm
Thursday 25 September 2014
Armadale Library
Shop 64, Armadale Central Shopping Centre
10 Orchard Avenue
Map

The light

The light has to get somewhere, touch something, to exist
You take acid as we’re sitting in the air
The old woman pours whitewash over her husband’s head
We’re on the left
There’s no box, no comfort zone
Anything but raw paper is a compromise
Two girls with acne and stringy bleached hair
Occupy Wall Street
A month in the hole
In solitary
The way to connect is to work together
I had a clear vision
Looming orange clouds, an apocalyptic sunset
Something that makes you smaller or channels your movement

The light has to get somewhere
A curve through spacetime
A function
A journey, transmission, idea
In the dream we’re on a plane, rows of seats, going somewhere
We don’t know what we want but it isn’t this
People keep pets
The husband is grey and decrepit
If your mother couldn’t hold you while you cried
hold yourself now
Try to hide yourself
If you throw up the next morning
does that mean you’ve poisoned yourself?
When you look for yourself as a thing
there is nothing there

The light has to get somewhere, touch something
Is that the same t-shirt?
Occupy Breastfeeding
Howl, keen, be the banshee of yourself, announcing your death
I take scissors out of your hand
You’re taking acid
Seeing the nothing inside yourself
A curve through spacetime
A function
A journey, transmission, idea
In touching something, the light
is not destroyed, but changed
In the dream
the husband is grey and decrepit
The woman pours whitewash
Anything but raw paper is a compromise
The noises when I cried and cried frightened me

The light has to get somewhere, touch something, to exist
People keep pets instead
Curl into a ball, try to hide yourself
We don’t know what we want but it isn’t this
Fenced in, fenced out
You in the aisle seat
I in the middle
Light is nothing, only
potential
When you look for yourself as a thing
there is nothing
The way to connect is to work
against each other
In touching something, the light
is not destroyed, but changed
Reflected, absorbed, refracted
Tear at your clothes and hair, bite yourself

The light has to get somewhere
I smile a little
Acid, you’re taking acid
Light is nothing, only
potential, just
an idea
Occupy Everything
Looming orange clouds
The window seat free
No-one looking out
This is not conditional
A month in the hole
Two months
Give you time to think
What if the neighbours come
and try to cheer me up?
Not depressed
Not ill
Don’t need anything
In full control
of self, life, responses
An adult
Tear at your clothes and hair, bite yourself
I don’t know what I want
If your father couldn’t hold you while you cried
hold yourself now
In touching something, the light
is not destroyed, but changed
Polarised, amplified, focussed
There’s no box
This is not
conditional
You don’t have to be
a good boy, a good girl
I had a clear vision
The light
has to touch something

(First published in Uneven Floor)

On the road 2

I met him on the road like I wanted
but we were walking in opposite directions
We rested and talked a while
That     was all

I met him on the road
like I wanted
We were walking in the same direction
but I could see shapes in the distance
and got ahead of him
When     I looked back he was gone

After that I walked slowly
I studied the stones in the road
the politicians’ posters
the trees of unpicked olives
the ornamental roses
Yes, I stopped to smell the roses
The roses were thick with     longing

I met him on the road like I wanted
We were walking in the same direction
but he talked about shapes in the distance
and got ahead of me
I could have matched his pace
but there were roses on my left
I called his little name
as he went off towards     whatever

I met him on the road
like I wanted
We were walking in the same direction
We walked and talked for an hour
We stopped to steal the roses
one for me and one for him
We walked for another hour
comparing petals and thorns
Then I     put out     my free hand

On the road 1

In case I meet you
on the road
I will don
my sharpest clothes

shine my boots
gird up my guts
soften my hands
confine my hair

practise my words
arrange my face
squeegee my eyes
check my teeth
     in the cracked mirror

I will don
my sharpest clothes
in case I meet you on
the road

     however unlikely that
     may be

(First published in Uneven Floor)

Essence

Lao Tzu says dwell
with the fruit, not the flower.

The flowers sun themselves
and fall from the vine
The fruits get pulped
between teeth, under heels

But you, my beloved,
are beyond all that.

Long-stemmed,
you’re not the flower.
Liquid-hipped,
you’re not the fruit.

You, lucent,
sunlight-scented,
you, wooded,
oblivion-tongued,

only you,
Essence, are the wine.

(First published in Australian Love Poems, Inkerman & Blunt 2013)

The alkali cleansing

In this forest I smell
the leaves, always the leaves,
their eucalyptus breath
But not today

Today I smell, dark but not dirty,
the alkali cleansing
of charcoal and ash

I hear not beaks, not bright feathers, only
the baritone wind
and my soft alto heart

I taste not smoke, not now, but fire-dust
surrounded and spent
in the wet film on my tongue

Rain is coming
I smell the negative charge
Rain is coming
Rain is coming and I feel
the fire-sprung seeds
making ready

(First published in Fire, Margaret River Press 2013)

Australians

She said ‘They put me
in a prison, took away
my name, gave me a number
instead. For a year
I was there, called by a number,
answering to a number,
giving a number
when they asked my
identity.’

My eyes were wet
as she bravely made her speech.
A young woman. I can’t remember
whether she was Tamil, Afghan,
or what. I can’t remember
whether it was her who spoke
about travelling on a boat
across the open sea, with people
getting sick
and dying.

I came here on a ‘boat’, too.
A luxury liner.

One rainy English day
my parents saw a billboard.
Come to Australia! Sunshine, opportunity!
Ten pounds passage—the government
paid the rest.

We stayed one week
in a migrant hostel. The photo shows a cabin
with curtains at the windows.
My mother shy on the wooden steps,
sunshine on her pale cheek,
babies on her lap.

The shire of Bunbury needed a labourer.
For three months we lived in lodgings
on the main street, near the beach.

The next job came with a house.
A front garden, a backyard.
My dad heaved logs into the boilers
of the last steam pump
on the Goldfields water scheme.
The photo shows him shirtless,
all taut muscle.
There were shit jobs then, too

but in the pub
the blokes called him ‘mate’
and the local families
invited us to their parties.

‘They locked me
in a prison, took away
my name, gave me
a number.’

I’m old enough to have gone to school
in an all-white class.
At uni the white students hardly mixed
with the ones from South-East Asia.
We called them ‘choges’.
We said it to name
what we couldn’t speak:
the newness, the fascination,

the fear.

Even now, whenever I meet
a person whose language
is different to mine, whose idea of fashion
is different to mine, whose idea of God
might be different to mine, whose idea of breakfast
might be different to mine, whose manners
are different to the ones my mother showed me

I’m afraid. The stupid reptile
at the base of my brain
is scared that this
unfamiliar creature
might want my eyes
as a snack

but that day, they were wet
as the gentle young woman spoke.

‘They locked me up.
They took away my name.
They gave me a number
instead, for a year.’

She didn’t give this ‘they’ a name.

She was talking about
Australians.

(First published in Uneven Floor)

say something

If I
want to speak
here, it seems I must wear
this colourful suit
they have given me. They say
it looks good on me,
makes me appear more
interesting. But

it’s too small:
my shoulders are too broad,
my arms reach well beyond the cuffs,
my hips are too wide,
I can hardly bend my knees
and everyone can see
my Achilles tendons.

Also, I’m afraid of getting stuck in it.

I long to tear it off,
shrug on my own
plain garments, go
home.

But this is the only Speakers Corner in town
and there are people
everywhere
unheard —
because they have no clothes,
or because they’re caged —
so please beware of popping buttons
as I say something

for them.

(First published in Performance Poets, Fremantle Press 2013)

Trauma teddies

The ambulance comes. My son —
soft hair, round face, big eyes —
gets a choice of bears: blue or yellow,
both hand-knitted, character-faced, hug-sized.
After some deliberation, he chooses blue,
names him Bluey, cuddles him
during the prodding and questioning
and afterwards brings him home.
It’s all the people
in their ones and twos
who are not ashamed
to give a damn.

Earning the minimum wage, fundraising
for the children’s hospital, I phone
Mrs Whieldon, alone
in her unit.
I ask for a hundred dollars
or eighty or fifty or
whatever she can manage. She says,
sorry, I’m a pensioner—
but I make quilts
for the hospital. I think
of a seven-year-old wired and tubed
in strange-smelling rooms,
finally relaxing under a grandmotherly patchwork.
It’s all the people
in their ones and twos,
the old ladies who have no
money, never
have, never
will, never
wanted to.

Mrs Weston, in another unit,
tells me how happy she is
that her hip-bone was recycled
for kids with spina bifida.
I think, that’s her excuse to say No,
but she gives twenty dollars and says
it’ll have to go on her credit card
this week.
I take the number.
The supervisor’s watching
the clock. I don’t ask Mrs Weston
how her hip feels —
but maybe she’d rather
not think about it. Better to think
about the children in the hospital.

Mrs Whieldon talks
about her friend, Betty,
who knits.
When the hospital ran
out of trauma teddies, Betty
knitted forty-nine.
It’s all the people
in their ones and twos.

(First published in Creatrix)

Big old gum trees

24 March 2013
Perth, Western Australia

To walk to the bakery
I put on my fedora.
I hate that it covers
my ash-blonde hair
but it shades my sensitive
English skin.

I go past the graffiti
and through the park to the bridge.
On my left below a railing
the river glints.
On my right behind a barrier
cars overtake me, howling.

I’m enjoying the smooth
motion of my legs,
the air coming in regularly
behind my breasts,
my Doc Martens
pushing back the asphalt.

A man my age approaches
on a bike, breathing hard,
cheeks pink. He smiles at me.
I meet his eyes,
grin back, walk
a little taller.

I stroll on, humming
in the sun, considering
the bridge. Beneath
the asphalt and metal
armour, it’s made
of big old gum trees.

A chainsaw shout yanks my head to the right!
Passenger window down, a Holden blasts by,
Australian flags whacking the air.

Dickheads.
I shrug, poke
out my tongue.
They’re gone before I can get
my middle finger
up.

This again.
Just some young dude
trying to amuse
his Holden-polishing mate
by making a random stranger
jump.

Then I realise
what he said.

That wasn’t OI! or HEY! —
that was RAPE!

Wasn’t it?

I try to shake off
the roar and punch of those consonants,
but my brain has it
on tape.

How strange.
The boys start picking on me
now? I mean, don’t I look
like someone’s eccentric aunt?
Boots, mannish hat,
legs veiled
in long
trousers…

Suddenly it doesn’t seem such a joke.
I’m a long way from Mumbai,
but the dudes saw me only from the back
and between the hat and boots I’m wearing
a long tunic with an embroidered hem
over the baggy drapes
of green
Indian
kameez.

(First published in Uneven Floor)

a book

a tree
trees
music
dancing
a coastline
a product
scent or breath
a shell
a voice
voices
furniture
hands or nails or fingers
hands or nails or fingers
a tarmac road
a bird
a bird
fabric or coat or clothing
fabric or coat or clothing
fabric or coat or clothing
fabric or coat
a building
a room
a cat
a cat
a city
a gun
a book
a book
depths
night
darkness
a screen
an email
Facebook
a tongue
a kiss
a mouth
semen
the moon
the moon
the moon
nothing
a penis
a penis
a penis and a vulva
wind
a toad
an insect
food
food
satellites
a pillow
a face
eyes
a mobile phone
a fluorescent tube
plants
fire
dreams
hair
hair
a knife
a name
a name
a wound
a path
hands or nails or fingers
a needle
a garden
a person
a person
fabric or coat or clothing
a book
shell-shards
skin being washed
a chain or leash or cord

carry

Carry on as if nothing has changed.
Let yourself be carried away.
Carry yourself like a dancer.

If I carry equal weights in my left and right hands,
I can walk much further.
People think I carry my computer everywhere.
I carried my babies close to my heart.

If I lived in America
I’d be tempted to carry a gun.
When will I be carried away?
Do I carry myself like a dancer?

I won’t be carried away
by anyone but myself.
I still carry a photograph somewhere.
Carry your baby close to your heart.

The Colonel

21 October 2011

Accept, writes the guru of the moment.

OK, I accept. This is what is here.
This grey-carpeted train. These people,
their Nikes and Havaianas, their knees,
bellies and chests, their palms
and fingers, their little screens.
This short journey.

Yesterday, Gaddafi died.
Frontpage. A blurred shot. Blood
on the famous face. The uneven
frame and louche flesh, the postures
and outfits, the smiles and snarls
no longer relevant. The lines

had sagged under their own
weight. Surrounded, unable
to surrender, holding onto only
the kernel
of his guard,
he ended up in a drain.

After he had the country
under control, he’d handed on
the administrative work
in order to write
his ideas and theories,
publish his revolutionary books.

Did he believe
that something
would save him? Did he think
of suicide? The word
of the Prophet says
No to that. Raging

from balls to gunpoints,
the revengers dragged him outa there
onto the tray of a pickup truck
and fucked him in the ass
with a long sharp weapon
and a camera phone.

It wasn’t the bright death
of a martyr. Many
of the ones
he had thought
were his people
danced in the streets for joy.

Do we have
to wait
for someone
to die?
For all the layers of face
to finally collapse?

As the men, as the thing
came for him, did he call
to Allah? Did he wail
like a man
crucified, Father, Father,
why have you forsaken me?

Or did the child
     who, six years old,
     playing in the neighbourhood
     of his mother’s tent, witnessed
     his friends turned to dust
     by a mine

throw off
all the layers
at last?

out

between the road and the kerb
in a cramped tarmac crack, a weed
finds itself

reaches its dark leaves out (not up)

throws yellow petals at
the trucks

(First published in Creatrix)

a black dress

Melbourne 17/9/2011

Bridget says the fog
is coming in I’m touched
by the road toll something veiled
in the distance a spoilt brat
raised in the firstworld cot
my every shit licked up
and praised my every shit
an activism my every shit
a scar you can breathe to make
you sick my sister I don’t notice you
coughing I don’t even see you I’m looking
for something veiled in the distance a long
cigarette holder Meg says given
a black dress a leather coat these disputable truths Bridget
says the fog is coming in
I’m touched by the road toll
this ship is yours not fucking likely Candice says
step up and be the man beside me my passive-
aggressive character defect my resistance by inaction not
my fault not my fault they
gave me it and when I drank it
the pain went away but his parents
are lovely she said such lovely people it must be him
there is something wrong with him his every shit
an action his every piss a resistance his every word
a bullet his every sigh a blanket his absence
the cold his absence the winter he is creating
all these beats where are my family? where
is my country? but he is so still sometimes no matter
where I go sometimes I wonder just what I’m doing
there someone says a black dress a leather coat what
do I do now that this has occurred? if I danced it would look
like a performance the floor is strong
smooth wood the music is fine nobody dares
to dance this is not my gig boys
with their doe-eyed dates eventually it will begin my eyes
are sharp no matter where I go it’s kind of dark
here he is creating all these beats a black dress nobody
dares to dance what
do I do now this
is not my gig