The Olive Pit (Lucas Smith)

Posted on March 31, 2017 by in Lies To Live By

When Janice agreed to marry me ten years ago, her one condition was that I give up active duty and take a desk job. At the time I was one of the best marksmen on the force and at thirty-five I still had good years ahead of me. ‘I love you honey, but I couldn’t handle it if you killed someone in the line of duty or if I saw you on the news beating someone with a nightstick,’ she said. ‘Even if they deserved it a million times over, you’d be a monster to me.’

We live, or used to live, on five and a half acres in the foothills, about ten minutes drive from the station. The previous owners of our property raised racehorses and when we bought it I converted the stable into a studio for Janice. I ripped out the stalls, bleached the floor, laid down hard wood, and installed insulation and double-paned sky-lights. Janice used the spectacular views of the valley and the Traverse Mountains as inspiration for most of her work.

Sometimes she painted a whole picture in just one day, in a trance, brush hand on the canvas, the other stretched out, palm up behind her like Tinkerbell. Her paintings were all over our walls. They still sell some of them as posters and postcards at the tourist centre. She said that the valley and the mountains changed every time she looked at them, brightness, colour, shadow, and eventually I came to see that too.

 

In 1989, after a nationwide manhunt, Jordan Depaul, hydroponics specialist, was found in the Salt Lake City house he’d barely left for years. He was convicted of the murder of five Dole Fruit truck-drivers between the years 1985 and 1987. God’s work. He had no regrets. It was the usual story, absent mother, bitter father, twisted personal religion. After he was sentenced to death he pored over the criminal statutes and discovered that a forgotten writ permitted him to choose the firing squad instead of the customary lethal injection. Depaul’s loophole was closed the next year, but it wasn’t retroactive. His wish had to be carried out and I volunteered for some of the carrying.

After ten years of shooting paper targets at the range, ten years of reading about robberies and on-duty deaths; even petty vandalism reports started to get my blood rushing. My brother was a typist in the Vietnam War and developed sympathetic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—even though he was never fired upon—transmuting his guilt at spending the war in an air-conditioned base. That guilt, fostered by typing up accounts of atrocities day after day, destroyed him. Maybe worse than if he’d actually fought himself. I understood him.

And, I wanted to know what it felt like to shoot someone. Some of my colleagues had killed perpetrators in self-defense and it changed them, lent them a certain gravitas. Any man who tells you he’s not envious, on some level, of men with combat experience is a liar. It sounds bad to say, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by. And, what difference did it make if I did the shooting or not? Someone else would.

A week before the execution Warden Jeffries gave the five of us a tour of the execution chamber. He showed us the whitewashed wall with a slit cut in it for us to shoot through, and a mockup of the target that was to be pinned over his heart; a white paper square with a black circle in the middle. ‘Now, you all know this is highly unusual. Your job is not to let it turn into a spectacle,’ he said.

He then explained the procedure we were to follow on the night. An unmarked van with no windows would pick us up at the police station at eleven and drive us to the prison. Before our arrival, our five rifles would be loaded with two rounds each. According to tradition, one of the rifles would contain two wax bullets. At five to midnight we would be handed our weapons by an officer who had not seen them being loaded. We would enter the chamber and take our positions while the warden watched from the second level through one-way glass. Depaul would walk, or, if unable to move under his own power, be escorted in and given two minutes to speak. The shooters would kneel down behind their rifles and the squad captain—the role that fell to me, as the most senior volunteer—would whisper to each in turn to see if they were ready. Then the squad captain would give the ready signal to the warden, receive final confirmation from him through an earpiece, lower his rifle and count down from one to five. Then we would fire.

My four deputies were Johnson, who exasperated his partner with his inexplicable silences on duty; Young, who lost his left ring finger to the knife of a heroin pusher in Liberty Wells; Kupeofola, an imposing, black-eyed Tongan; and Selwood, the serious one, who never broached a joke, about himself or anyone else. We all had scored perfect 75s at the range at least a dozen times and averaged above 72, our identities were unknown to everyone but ourselves and the warden, and, it must be emphasised, we all volunteered for the detail. That week, the five of us practiced with blanks at the range every day during lunch break; our goal was to fire simultaneously with one loud report instead of five scattered cracks. Accuracy was a given. From twenty feet you can’t miss with a .30-30. When we started we sounded like five cork pop guns competing for attention. By the day before the execution, after about four hundred rounds, we finally started to sound like a cannon.

 

When I got home from work on the night before the execution, Janice was chopping onions. I could hear the sharp knock of the knife on the wood chopping board as I opened the front door. As always when she cooks, she had the radio on and of course they were jabbering in concerned tones about the big execution. She was the only person I know who prefers radio to television. She said radio allows her to imagine a scene while television imposes one on her.

After I shook the snow off my boots I came up behind her, wrapped my arms around her and kissed the back of her neck. The sting of the onion caught my eyes and I started to tear.

‘What are you making?’

‘Bolognaise. As if you care, so long as there’s plenty of it.’ She cracked a handful of spaghetti in half and dropped it in the pot. The water hissed briefly. She turned down the radio. ‘They just said the attorneys aren’t going to file any last minute appeals. It’s up to the Parole Board now.’

‘I doubt they’ll issue a stay.’

‘Do you know any of the firing squad?’

‘I’ve met them,’ I said, which wasn’t lying.

She set out the bowls and thudded the steaming pot of pasta in the center of the table. As usual, I finished her leftovers. While we were eating desert—mint chip ice cream—she asked, ‘Do you know what he asked for? For his last meal?’

‘No.’ The warden had advised me not to read the papers until it was over.

‘An olive.’

‘Just an olive?’

‘Just an olive. And he asked to be buried with the pit in his pocket.’

I didn’t know what to say so I scooped up a spoonful of ice cream. In the silence my spoon clattered on the rim of the bowl.

She began again. ‘Why do you think he asked for that olive and nothing else?’

‘Hmmm,’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t want anything but this ice cream.’

‘It seems odd, doesn’t it? Some kind of spiritual exercise, maybe? I can’t see a political point being made with an olive.’

‘Maybe he’s trying to invoke the olive branch of peace. Trying to tell us he’s found inner peace.’

‘What would you know about inner peace?’ she said with that teasing smile.

‘More than him, I bet. What would you want for a last meal?’ I asked.

‘You,’ she said, and leaned over the table and kissed me. ‘Or five blocks of Valrhona dark chocolate.’

 

The next morning I woke up before dawn, primed and alert. At six I did my half hour on the treadmill, had a shower, and then put my uniform and boots on—I forgot I didn’t need to be at the station until eleven that night. I walked downstairs to the kitchen with a heightened sense of reality, that transcendent awareness that used to make me turn the patrol car down an alley on impulse to find a mugging in progress. Everything looked newly congealed. I fixed myself a cup of coffee and went over to the living room window. The soft blanket of snow outside had thickened overnight.

‘What are you doing up this early?’ Janice had come down silently in her pink slippers. I always liked how she looked in the mornings. She never took her pajamas off before noon and when she walked I’d catch hints of her firm legs and smooth hips as the material brushed against her skin.

‘I don’t know, just looking at the mountains. They aren’t half as beautiful as those paintings by Janice Lee Draper. You heard of her?’

‘Aint she the wife of that handsome cop?’

‘I believe so, yes. He sure is one lucky man.’

‘I thought you weren’t working until tonight.’ She’d noticed my uniform. I’d told her I had the eight-to-two overnight dispatch shift.

‘Uh, I don’t know. I just forgot.’

She laughed and gave me a little pat on the behind. ‘Well, put something else on and I’ll get the pancakes ready.’

I came back down in civilian clothes and sat down in front of five steaming pancakes.

‘Mmm,’ I said, as I chewed, ‘these are good enough to be a last meal.’

‘Aren’t you funny,’ she said. Then she became quiet and I knew by the way she was cutting her pancakes, slowly with exaggerated precision, that she was about to say something serious.

‘You know, I had a dream about it last night. I was facing the firing squad. But no-one put a hood on me and I was trying to explain that I was the wife of a police officer. They had mistaken me for someone else. I screamed and screamed but they shot anyway. I didn’t feel any of the shots and I still had all my senses. The bright lights were on me and a doctor came and felt my wrist and I tried to tell everyone that I was still alive but no sound would come out. And I was complaining that I didn’t even get a last meal. Then I woke up.’

‘Always thinking about food, you.’ I chuckled a little but she wasn’t laughing. ‘What was your crime?’

‘Nothing. I hadn’t done anything.’

‘But they must have at least accused you of something?’

‘I suppose they did but I didn’t know what it was.’

 

After breakfast Janice went off to paint so I drove to the batting cages in town. You can just put all your focus on counting the rhythm of the mechanical arm and smacking the ball as hard as you can.

After warming-up in the 75 mile-an-hour cage I moved up to the 85 and was hitting nearly every ball into the back of the net. I was in a groove. Step, swing, pop. Step, swing, pop. Two eight or nine year-olds came over to watch me and after a particularly flat line drive I heard one of them say, ‘Maybe he plays for the Bees.’

The next pitch came out with no spin on the ball. The red stitches, two curves on the white, enlarged in slow motion as they rushed towards me. Before I could get out of the way, the ball hit the knuckle of my right index finger—my trigger finger—jamming it into the bat handle. For a second I felt nothing and then it felt like my knuckle had been cracked in a vise. I’d never seen a worse pitch from a machine. Six seconds later the next pitch thudded into the canvas backstop, straight down the middle.

‘If you rub it you’re a wimp,’ said one of the kids, ‘do you play for the Bees?’

‘No, but I’m flattered you asked.’

I peeled my gloves off and walked back to the girl behind the counter clutching her phone between her two thumbs—the kids trailing—and said, ‘You should check the 85 machine. It just hit me on the hand.’

She looked up. ‘Which one?’

‘The 85.’

‘We had them all serviced last week. No one else has complained.’

‘I’m not complaining. I should have been able to dodge it anyway. I just want to make sure it won’t get anyone else.’

‘Well I don’t know what you want me to do then.’

‘Think if it hit someone in the head.’

‘I’ll tell the manager when he gets back.’

The two boys, having lost interest in me, were looking at the rare baseball cards laid out in individual cases underneath the glass countertop. Generosity sneaks up on me sometimes. Their parents probably dropped them off at the batting cages for the day because it was too cold to throw them outside. It might be hours before they were picked up again.

‘Two packs of Topps, please,’ I said to the girl.

‘Ten dollars.’

I stretched out my hurt finger, which had begun to swell like a kielbasa, and opened my wallet with my thumb and middle finger.

‘Hey,’ I said, ‘take one each.’

They ripped open the foil packaging. ‘Thanks, Mister.’

 

Twenty-three years of shooting have given me hands like gold dust scales and my rifle weighed not a gram under regulation.

Aside from the few eager souls at the prison gate waving blue glow sticks and holding hands and singing, the ride over had been silent. We waited in an anteroom for what seemed like a long time. I kept my gloves on so no one would see my injury. Small talk was difficult but we did it anyway. It’s funny, I still remember Selwood saying his daughter had pneumonia.

We stood behind the concrete wall as Depaul shuffled out unassisted. A lick of white hair stood up at the back of his head. It was hard to picture this wispy man as the brash murderer on TV from fifteen years before. He declined to speak. The guard asked if he had understood that he had a right to speak. He said ‘yes, sir’ and then he was strapped to his wooden chair up on the wooden platform with black sand bags stacked high around to prevent ricochets.

His black hood was fitted, then the target was pinned to his chest with two safety pins. His bonds were double-checked and the guards withdrew. Perched between the black stacks he reminded me of a statue in its tabernacle. The others were ready. I kneeled down on the right end and took my right glove off but kept my hand in front of me so the warden couldn’t see from behind. I turned the safety off my rifle and put my finger, as tight and firm as a hose on full blast, pain barreling through it, on the outside of the trigger guard. I raised my left hand, the signal to the warden. ‘All clear, buddy,’ I heard him say. The paper target slowly turned into a baseball card and I heard myself starting to count. Around two, I remember thinking that the black now looked more like purple and the lights had brightened. I could barely make out the sandbags. I fainted somewhere before four with my finger on the trigger.

I don’t remember my rifle going off or the recoil hitting my shoulder but there was a bruise there the next day. When I came to, Kupeofola was shaking me from behind and three doctors were frantically undoing Jordan’s bonds. Blood was dripping down his chair and onto the floor. My finger was in a crucible of pain. I sat up and wrapped my arms around my knees. Kupeofola, Young and Johnson were staring at me with puzzled expressions. ‘What happened?’ I asked.

‘You hit him in the stomach,’ Selwood said.

They performed emergency surgery on Depaul that night. At two a.m. the warden decided I couldn’t be charged with any crime but I would have to present at the inquest. He drove me back to the station so I could get my car. I didn’t go home straight away but drove around looking at the encircling Traverses in the three-quarter moon.

When I got home Janice was still up, painting in the sky-lit stable. ‘The moon is good tonight,’ she said. She kissed me. ‘How was work?’

‘Quiet. It’s too cold for criminals. Did you finish anything?’

‘You’re gonna laugh at me.’

‘No, I’m not.’

‘Yes you will.’

There on the canvas, in shades of ash and pale green, was an olive. The morning took a long time to arrive.

 

____________________________________________________________

Lucas Smith
is a poet and writer from California and Gippsland, currently living in Melbourne. His work has appeared in The Lifted Brow, Voiceworks, Australian Book Review, Gargouille, Cordite and elsewhere. One of his stories was highly commended in the 2012 Age Short Story Award.

Forecast (Jamie Alcock)

Posted on March 23, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

I am under the silence of a silent migraine yet before me are seas of blessed days. click. In the future eagles nest in cardboard boxes and women and children share the sky. click. An artist paints a picture of a girl being raped and spends three years crying. click. He suffers from double vision and earthquakes. click. I demand no effort nor support towards the absurdity of death. click. I demand a voice for women and distinctive ring tones. click. I demand cats on walls and rooftops and for stick men to eat lamb stews. click. I demand an armour of mist. click. I expect morbid criticism of the organisation and of tambourines on the street. click. I encourage the waste of human beings on Himalayan mountains. click. I encourage leeched colour. click. I believe I am an epilogue for spiders. click. I lost a race in heavy traffic with a chav. click. I am under the silence of a silent migraine yet before me are seas of blessed days. click. My mind is filled with sallow fantasies. click. My mind is a rubber puddle as peaceful as purdah. click. I stand at my full lunar height and sea brine blows onto my teeth. click. I taste juniper berries. click. Remember: only cats, engines, and promises purr. click. I am under the silence of a silent migraine yet before me are seas of blessed days.

____________________________________________________________

Jamie Alcock
is from North Wales and lives and works in Devon, UK. He divides his time between writing and working as an outdoor educator with vulnerable young people and adults. He holds a MA in creative writing (dist.) from Bangor University, where he is currently studying for a PhD in creative writing. He has been shortlisted for the Bridport poetry prize, has poetry currently in The Seventh Quarry, a novel extract in The Manchester Review, and a short story forthcoming in Prick of the Spindle.

Rabbit on the Promenade
(Ariel Riveros Pavez)

Posted on March 17, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Rabbit on the Promenade

in homage to JS Harry

Umwelt of responses
and in the substrates below
a silt of muted action.
There are inaudible gasps
bouncing in echo chambers

from delicate atria
to delicate atria
in a soundproof dugout
which pre-empts any
sour acoustic.

This is my skittish
rabbit’s heart
which hops softly
so my fellow crowd members
won’t fear my paw pound

like I fear hammers creating
this fur face of crushed paper
setting these eyes straight
ahead, up and down,
and any periphery lopped.

This torso the only aligned
part of raw automata
a straight ahead up and down
line. A body made for tunnels.
No slouches allowed.

My wet nose touches
another wet nose
and white whiskers
twitch on pockmarked
cheeks. Red eyes as a

skittish rabbit. The home
is proof of damage. It’s
quiet here. Outside the grass
blades swash my floppy ears.
It’s a clash of waves

cotton battles till the
punched hugs
and small slide
of wet noses.
There’s much activity here

the grass blades rattle,
the busy prowls and promenade predates
are like a pocket turned inside out
and lint falls like a feather
(there was a bus ticket too).

I ate at a restaurant with lah-di friends
nibbled on crispy wafers
caramel flan for dessert.
I put my money away and counted my
approving recollections of a city outing.

 

A Poet Knows When

Right up against me
before sleep
after waking
I carry carcass.

It taps me on the shoulder
I lug it from room to room.
It tells me the Vedic line
when I will join carcass earth.

When the meteorite lands
on its feet
it drags me like
repulsive lovers can

declaring undying
alarm buzz
it thrusts its cunt at me
I kiss its bare bone breasts.

It’s ten it says,
set the wake up
for then, the port
of entry in ten years

and when I arise
without bladder organs
with calcified face
torso tilted with rattle coin

I latch on to the next
keeler. The one for me
who wakes and sleeps
in dread in a canoe called bed.

 

____________________________________________________________

Ariel Riveros Pavez is a Sydney based writer. His works have appeared in various publications including Contrappasso, FourW, Journal of Postcolonial Text, Social Alternatives and Southerly. He also has a chapbook through Blank Rune Press, Self Imposed House Arrest, and appears in their anthology Forgetting is So Long: An Anthology of Australian Love Poetry.

Apologies, I forgot you exist
(Fleur Beaupert)

Posted on March 10, 2017 by in Discoursing Diaspora


On the verge of this sheer pink
dress fits my childhood fantasy

glass slipper | Inside it

I’m so brown I’m clear White gold
un dress | B(l)onded into celibacy

I’m so blonde I’m pure Blackness
so blue black invisible I explode

in a WHAM!

I’m so B(l)ond I’m action shot awe
mega secret gadget car chase galore

I’ll turn those Batwings you gave me
into | Angel | I am so food so smooth
so smoothie mmm so #street dope

You’d be cute in our commercial
but we can’t find a mum
of your shade of shade of shade

I’ll be your best friend bodyguard
Illegal Maid Refugee Gangsta
I’ll dance in the #toostreet boulevard

of Beatnik diversity | I could be a fairy

Princess from a parallel universe
Don’t PC me | I’m sorry sweet
Seeking: Preferably Blonde Fairies

I rehearse | I rehearse

#actressjustgratefultohaveajob

I’m dancing dancing dancing
in the #toostreet where I exist
as universal | Red Riding | I am

the hood | Your curved transversal
un dream | I resist your fantasy
that cannot transcend its own lack

of imagination | I am | I can | I exist |

The only barrier to me playing Ophelia
is the colour of your text | The texture
of your lie | The truth born of your

starvation | How you live and let die

Taste my skin golden brown and black
My Terrorist crown glinting, in epitaph

 

This poem was prompted by the comment that Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play James Bond.

____________________________________________________________

Fleur Beaupert is a Melbourne based poet. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in spaces such as aaduna, 404 Ink, Blue Pepper, Bimblebox 153 Birds, Regime and Cordite Poetry Review.

VERITY LA POETRY PODCAST
Episode 5: Anne Elvey and Phillip Hall on Ecopoetry

Posted on March 3, 2017 by in Verity La Poetry Podcast

podcast2 (1)

If you’re thinking birds, trees and butterflies, take a seat.

Join Anne Elvey and Phillip Hall as they pick their way through defining ecopoetry (vs ‘nature poetry’), looking at the work of the praise poem and the lament, and wondering what it all means for the work poets do away from the page.

To get deeper into the discussion check out Harriet Tarlo’s editorial for the latest edition of Plumwood Mountain, Robin Cadwallader’s review of John Kinsella’s The Vision of Error: A Sextet of Activist Poems, and grab yourself a copy of Bonny Cassidy’s Final Theory (Giramondo, 2014).


Missed our earlier episodes? Listen here!

____________________________________________________________

photo credit: Monica Williams

photo credit: Monica Williams


Anne Elvey
is managing editor of Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics. Her recent publications include: Kin (2014), shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, and This flesh that you know (2015), international winner of the Overleaf Chapbook Manuscript Award. White on White is forthcoming from Cordite Books in 2018. Anne holds honorary appointments at University of Divinity and Monash University.

Phillip Hall is a poet, reviewer and essayist working as an editor with Verity La’s Emerging Indigenous Writers Project and as a poetry reader at Overland. From 2011 to 2015 he lived in the Gulf of Carpentaria where he ran sport and camp programs designed to re-engage and foster emotional resilience, cooperative group learning and safe decision-making. In 2014 he published Sweetened in Coals. In 2015 he published Diwurruwurru, a book of his collaborations with the Borroloola Poetry Club. He is currently working on a collection of place-based poetry called Fume. This project celebrates First Australians in the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria. Phillip now lives in Melbourne’s Sunshine (western suburbs) where he is a very passionate member of the Western Bulldogs Football Club.

alice-allan

Alice Allan’s poetry has been published in previous issues of Verity La as well as in CorditeRabbit and Australian Book Review. She is the creator and convenor of the Verity La Poetry Podcast and produces her own weekly podcast, Poetry Says.

Exodus (David Adès)

Posted on February 10, 2017 by in Discoursing Diaspora

You hold a catacomb of memories.
I wait outside your door to catch fragments.
How much can any of us know

of what preceded? We interrogate
doors we cannot pass through,
look at shadows through keyholes.

*

Can I trace the path of your flight from Egypt
in the old grainy black and white photographs
of a young man and a younger woman

honeymooning in Luxor over sixty years ago,
in the French you speak with an Egyptian accent,
or those long nights playing cards in the lounge room

in clouds of cigarette smoke, the murmuring of
Egyptian voices transplanted across the world
billowing like the sail of a felucca in my childhood sleep?

*

You strolled along the Corniche
in Alexandria when you were a girl,
moved to Cairo,

fell down the stairs and cracked open
your head when you were ten (we can still
feel the scar through your hair),

recall blocks of ice hauled from the street
to the balcony, siestas and lazy afternoons
at The Club, visits to Groppi’s.

I imagine a world moving around you
like the intricate workings of a watch:
you were immersed in friends, community,

large family gatherings, a hubbub of siblings,
warm and close. Looking back
from this distance, it seems carefree

like the young woman in the photographs,
but I can see only shadows: and your
mother’s early death in childbirth,

your father, your beloved father.
You were caught in the spokes
of history’s turning wheel.

A plague of war came closer, Rommel
pushing through the desert to El Alamein,
synagogues destroying their records,

the threads of your life unravelling
— and further unravelling
even as Israel was being born,

even as a tide of refugees,
a great ingathering of the displaced
landed on her shores —

with waves of departure,
family splintering off to America,
to England, to Israel, one after

the other — the mass dispersion
of everything known,
everything familiar, everything.

*

Leaving is not a simple thing:
what is left behind? What comes
with you? What stowaways?

Affix a moment to it:
the act of leaving — boarding ship
at Port Said in 1952;

or the commitment to leaving —
the Australian crew bringing
you a birthday cake,

wishing you ‘many happy returns’
and your puzzled response:
‘I’m not going back’.

A moment as artifice:
to mark passage, to denote
before and after, despite

the continuum of leaving:
making landfall, arriving
elsewhere, continuing.

*

The Egypt of your childhood
receded before you left,
before you took what few possessions

you were allowed — leaving behind
what was already gone;
taking with you what you imagined

you were leaving —
and boarded the ship to your future
with hardly a backward glance.

The sea parted before you.
You were young then
and the future lengthened into

a fall of manna, a dazzling antipodean
light that you entered
and kept entering for sixty years.

*

But Egypt kept returning —
in accents or turns of phrase,
in phone calls,

in visitors at your door
from Brazil or Europe:
messengers from an earlier life.

In the mornings, the rich smell
of Turkish coffee — Dad going through
the elaborate ritual, the practised

science of making it, his daily gift
of smell, of taste, of texture
from another land, another time.

*

Curious, I went back thirty years later,
returning to the Egypt I had never left
and never known, attached by an umbilicus

steeped in history. I looked to find my face
or its echo in a Cairo crowd,
but the half life of your quarter life is short,

and there were no traces: it takes so
little time to be obliterated, for all the markings
to disappear, buried in a sea of sand.

*

Each year at Pesach we remember the Exodus
in ritual, in food and song, in stories:
your story overlaying the biblical —

exodus upon exodus,
always leaving, lost markings hidden
though marking generation after generation.
 

____________________________________________________________

David Adès returned to Australia in 2016 after living for five years in Pittsburgh. He is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet and short story writer and the author of Mapping the World (Wakefield Press / Friendly Street Poets, 2008), the chapbook Only the Questions Are Eternal (Garron Publishing, 2015) and the forthcoming Afloat in Light (UWA Publishing, 2017).

David won the Wirra Wirra Vineyards Short Story Prize (2005). Mapping the World was commended for the Fellowship of Australian Writers Anne Elder Award 2008.

David has been a member of Friendly Street Poets since 1979. He is a former Convenor of Friendly Street Poets and co-edited the Friendly Street Poetry Reader 26. He was also one of a volunteer team of editors of the inaugural Australian Poetry Members Anthology Metabolism published in 2012. His poetry has been published in numerous journals in Australia and the U.S. with publications also in Israel, Romania and New Zealand.

David’s poems have been read on the Australian radio poetry program Poetica and have also featured on the U.S. radio poetry program Prosody. He is one of 9 poets featured on a CD titled Adelaide 9. In 2014 David won the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize. His poems were also Highly Commended in the 2016 Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize and a finalist in the Dora and Alexander Raynes Poetry Prize 2016.

How to live in a world that is burning (Omar Sakr)

Posted on February 3, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

1. there are many kinds of vision.

2. the nurse said getting glasses has been on her
to-do list since 2008         It’s a long list
but also, the world is burning
and what is the point of seeing all the colours
fire can become    if it all turns to ash

3. I haven’t figured out how to live
         in an unburned world

4. the nurse can’t see distances
It is the curse of our lazy, entitled generation
she laughs. This is her second shift of the day
and it is getting hard to see how not to laugh

5. the older patient beside me can only see distances
Between them

I hover in the void

6. I am constantly hard here

and not just because I suspect the gay couple
have been sucking each other off in the showers
a fluid exchange of themselves

7. in the void I am envy

but I am bled every day anyway
   & watching the red river
snake out       reminds my body
it is alive    & dying

  8. how can such a thin tube contain all the countries
  in my skin         so many mountains of fire

9. how can the world be burning &
               drowning at the same time

10. how can I be burning & drowning
at the same time   It is hard to see
through all these watery flames

11. the ultimate goal of hardness
is to soften   as the ultimate goal
of fire   is to change      no matter the cost
everything burns

                      12. every moment is designed to answer
     the question: who among us is a phoenix?

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Omar Sakr is an Arab Australian poet and the poetry editor of The Lifted Brow. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Island, Overland, Meanjin, Cordite, Tincture, Mascara Literary Review, Going Down Swinging and Strange Horizons, among others. Anthologised in Best Australian Poems 2016 and Contemporary Australian Poetry, Omar also placed runner-up in the Judith Wright Poetry Prize.
 
His debut collection, These Wild Houses, is out now with Cordite Books. It will be launched on Friday 10 March at The Alderman in Brunswick.