Deadspeak (Jennifer Liston)

Posted on April 24, 2018 by in Heightened Talk



It’s that time of the month again:
time to open the lowest drawer
of the dustiest dresser. Sit awhile.
Gaze at gauze enfolding precious.
Peel it back, fingers trembling.
There it waits.
                           My pelt of wolf.

I lift it out. The weight of it.
Grey and thick and fibrous fur,
smell of a thousand ancient forests,
odour of caribou’d Arctic tundra:
I faint in lupine overwhelm.

I step into the rear legs first
body quivers at the contact
boundaries that separate me from
Canis lupus liquefy.
Front legs, head, and lastly, shoulders;
metamorphosis complete.

That month-old scent of blood and flesh of deer.
I’m ravenous, salivating. Need to eat.
This is alien territory. Prowl
around the room, out and down the stairs.
Claws click-clacking on the parquet floor.
Scentual overpower. Big bad clock
hammers human moments. Caught the cat
just there last time. Kitty disappeared.
Rifle kitchen bin. Scanty leftovers.

Out back door. Head for easy picking
chickens. Minor uproar, fur and feathers
flying. Tasty morsel. Need me more
substantial prey. Hear the howls, dash
over fields to join my pack, my mate,
my pups.
                  Oh how they’ve grown.
                                                             How grown.
How want to stay.
                                  How this.
                                                     How home.
How like before.
                               How human mate won’t miss me.


Jennifer Liston
is originally from Galway, Ireland, and now lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has published three poetry collections and her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies such as Jacket2, The Canberra Times, The Found Poetry Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Transnational Literature and Best Australian Poems. She has a Bachelor of Electronic Engineering from the University of Limerick, Ireland and an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide. You can read her work and about her rescued poetry at and

The Dilemma of Job, or Hope into the Wilderness (henry 7 reneau, jr)

Posted on April 13, 2018 by in Discoursing Diaspora, Heightened Talk

A close up of an African man wearing a hat

A close up of an African man wearing a hatThe Great Migration is the parable of dispossession pursuing a Northern star. Leaving rock-salted sorrow to come to terms with dignity deferred. Leaving hate, too long in place, that had tread over Jim Crow crippled bodies, that had taken without asking, & mayhem-ed. Leaving, with no pot to piss in.

They filed from rural patches of sharecrop-spent dirt & Parchman work farms, from cotton-field holla’ to electrified Chicago blues, from segregation to ‘I Am A Man’ & Detroit assembly-line dreams of reinvention. From minstrels to uptown cabarets to Broadway. From jump the broom to rent parties: a citified brand of jook joint in up-north ghetto gatherings. From So. Baptist shake, rattle & roll to ‘Thank God almighty, I’m free at last,’ fantasizing a ‘formula’ to the Mountaintop.

They brought catfish, greens & cornbread, blood-bucket daddy Blues & mama Gospel.

They carried battered hope in bundled cardboard boxes & rope-tied satchels, in dreams that convinced them to hallelujah-amen! the risen Son, even as the legitimacy of their pain struggled helplessly at the seams of the Veil. Darkness seeking light living darkness, every kind of sorrow in every voice they heard, & rarely judged by what their hands could do, but rather, by how they looked or spoke.

They came, with stories that spoke the generational hum of persistence, the endeavor to persevere, despite the ‘outside gaze’ that measured beauty in increments of silk or sackcloth. They came, a threadbare, black reflection of white entitlement: the upturned, razor-blade nose & racist cop.

They came, in Pullman carriage, in hope-and-a-shoestring beat-up cars, in get-there-soon, North Star-true—one foot, then the other, like runaway slaves: the O.G. triathletes on the Underground Railroad.

They came, like wandering Jews, drawn to the discriminating flame that seduced by combustion, that warmed desire & distilled a ghost of a chance from the segregated liquor of trial & tribulation—flashes of silvered hope, darting through & around a gale force wind, howling back into the heart of the question: are we there yet?


A photo of Henry Reneau

Photo by Mercedes Herrera

henry 7. reneau, jr.
writes words in conflagration to awaken the world ablaze, free verse that breaks a rule every day, illuminated by his affinity for disobedience: a phoenix-flux of red & gold immolation that blazes from his heart, like a chambered bullet exploded through change, come to implement the fire. He is the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press), now available from their respective publishers. Additionally, he has self-published a chapbook entitled 13hirteen Levels of Resistance, and his work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Portrait of a Departed Lady
(Amanda Anastasi)

Posted on April 10, 2018 by in Heightened Talk

Funeral plans: a wall crypt underneath
her mother’s; pink roses on the pew ends.

A house-size increase upon the exodus
of children, husband, friends, dissention.

Her disdain for the coverings of foreigners,
unusual hairstyles, childless women.

The mismatched furniture, each piece
never appearing to belong in the room.

The cupboards filled to the flimsy doors
with unused containers and forgotten dolls.

Her terror of the freeway; ringed fingers
clutching the steering wheel, a precipice.

Today, my auntie’s sixtieth. She fidgets
and mumbles en route, wishing to be home.

I suggest revolt and a turning of the car.
She looks at me wide, an uncertain child.

Turning her head to avoid my repugnant
eye, she squeezes the wheel and continues.

Her lipstick: two red lines, ever-increasingly
not matching the shape of her mouth.

Her attendance at the funerals and parties
of strangers because they are family.


Amanda Anastasi
has been published as locally as Windsor’s Artists’ Lane walls to The Massachusetts Review in the US. Her debut poetry collection was 2012 and other poems and she recently co-authored The Silences with Robbie Coburn (Eaglemont Press, 2016). Amanda is the recipient of the 2017 Words in Winter Trentham Contemporary Poetry Prize, and a two-time winner of the Williamstown Literary Festival’s Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize.

Oh Lucky Me (Jill Jones)

Posted on March 27, 2018 by in Heightened Talk

Inside me is stuff I’m not sure anyone can explain.
Each day another statistic dances
as a testament to clickbait and big Pharma.
So what are all my chemicals doing
my karma cancer, my noodling nodules,
my sex dreams and gigantic spools of lymphatic anguish?
Who has ever measured anguish?
Who has another theory of black bile?
Is my static any flashier than yours when I brush against
the steel knobs of machines or portals?
Will there be anything left
for vampires after work or zombie picnics?
Or lice, nits, jitters, even thoughts?
Are thoughts worth a candle?
If you put a candle to my ear, would you see the other side of me?
If you left me out in the rain would I melt? Maybe.
And here, where the world picks at itself
continually trips up or dribbles
because it’s inside and out from hang-nail to otolith.
Oh lucky me, I’m alive everywhere I look
as I spit myself along ground and wheeze up air
almost as if I belonged, in another system, another explanation
something that curves as it drops
and laughs as it rises.


Photo by Annette Willis

Jill Jones’ most recent book is Brink (Five Islands Press, 2017). Her two previous books are The Beautiful Anxiety (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014) which won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry in 2015, and Breaking the Days (Whitmore Press, 2015) which won the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize 2014 and was shortlisted for the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. A new book, Viva the Real, is due from UQP in 2018. Her work is represented in a number of major anthologies including the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, Contemporary Australian Poetry and The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry. In 2014 she was poet-in-residence at Stockholm University.

Sarah T (Liam Ferney)

Posted on March 16, 2018 by in Heightened Talk

image: a man and woman kissing

I bring you back Cathay.
That’s what Cathy says
off the plane from Denpasar.
A bottle of Piper on my bed
waiting for you while you
outwait an Operations Manager’s
reallocation of resources,
hot & busy as HKG cargo.

This is how Saturday establishes itself
in the midst of an Instagram conceit
stretching the breadth
of a private school sports season.
& when Cathy clears customs
with Moses’ unbeaten strides
we cut the pleasantries,
get down to brass tacks.


image: portrait of Liam Ferney
Liam Ferney
‘s most recent collection, Content, was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award and the Judith Wright Calanthe Award. His previous collections include Boom (Grande Parade Poets), Career (Vagabond Press) and Popular Mechanics (Interactive Press). He is a media manager, holder of the all-time games record for the New Farm Traktor Collective and convenor of the Saturday Readings in Brisbane.

Measure (Eileen Chong)

Posted on March 2, 2018 by in Heightened Talk

image: a candle, writing book and penEverything we write
will be used against us
or against those we love.

North American Time’, Adrienne Rich

The innocence of cornflowers —
a dimpled, wheel-thrown cup.

Glazed on the inside. My hand
takes its pleasure from the rough.

Words: fallen soldiers on a page.
They come and they go. Memory

as surprising as a laden donkey
picking its way towards the church

at the top of a hill. On this island
even the cats sleep with one eye open.

The dark: the wind, the sea. These
cold hours measured by candlelight.


image: portrait of Eileen Chong

image: Charlene Winfred Photography

Eileen Chong is a poet who lives and works in Sydney, Australia. Her publications include Burning Rice (Australian Poetry, 2012), Peony (Pitt Street Poetry, 2014), Painting Red Orchids (Pitt Street Poetry, 2016), Another Language (George Braziller, 2017), The Uncommon Feast (Recent Work Press, 2018), and Rainforest (Pitt Street Poetry, forthcoming 2018). Her books have shortlisted for the Anne Elder Award, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and twice for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award.

Earth Apples of Modern Love and Mushrooms (Julie Maclean)

Posted on February 17, 2018 by in Heightened Talk

after Marina Abramovic at MOMA

They are lying again
about Putin’s hacking
I return to tears rolling
face to face
hungry for the strange one
to look deep
for longer than an orgasm

At midday
in my dressing gown
he looks bemused
as if I should be scrubbing
the floor or peeling potatoes
or making a list at least
It’s been a while since we kissed
so why would
I give myself to a root vegetable
before four pm?
I’m reading about love and mortality
where potatoes don’t come
into it

or maybe they would if
I were on Death Row
choosing my last meal
which would certainly
include chips or a jacket

I wish eating mushrooms
were less like eating eyeballs
or insides
I wish she hadn’t cut a cross
in the mushroom of her belly
or held a loaded gun to her head
and I wish she’d known
her death-defying mother better
before opening the box
under the bed

Doesn’t everyone have a box
of creased letters, photos,
unutterable love and loss
up in the attic
under the bed
collecting dust and webs of sorrow
and where will it go at the end?

We romanticise everything
making her cry after
making her walk
the extra mile
along the Great Wall
before they separated
for the last time

I am playing the artist today
gazing into my navel
of fluff and paralysis
where there should be jewels
or blood or both
and when I most need silence
shock jocks
invade my space
heaven screeching
with unbearable sounds
potatoes sprouting tendrils
in bleak corners
like mushrooms of a dead poet


Julie Maclean’s
books include Lips That Did, (Dancing Girl Press, US, 2016), collaboration with Terry Quinn, To Have To Follow (Indigo Dreams, 2016), Kiss of the Viking (Poetry Salzburg, 2014), e-chap You Love You Leave, (Kind of a Hurricane Press, US, 2014) and, as joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Poetry Prize, (shortlisted for The Crashaw Prize, Salt, UK), When I saw Jimi, (Indigo Dreams 2013). Find Julie at

Parentheses (Shastra Deo)

Posted on February 13, 2018 by in Heightened Talk

stitch our disunion into the gutshot
—split my belly, suture. spare me
your hand and bandage. kneel:

your thighs bracket my hips
as you etymologise me. anatomy
of my father in the skin

around my eyes. night-bathed
I want no light but stars and fire;
bloodletter, you only take me

after dark. needle your semantics
into my sartorius—trace the morphology,
the muscle with your mouth.

what tender masonry you build
in my limbs. carve your decree in
the milk light, mark me

with sweet relief. doctor and polemic
you craft me: a lexicon of want
awaiting your translation.

Image: portrait of Shastra Deo


Shastra Deo was born in Fiji, raised in Melbourne, and lives in Brisbane. Her work deals with the intersection of trauma, memory, and selfhood, with a particular focus on corporeality and embodiment. She is currently investigating the linguistic representations of phantom limb sensation in war literature, and the relationship between war bodies, pain, and haunting. Her first book, The Agonist (UQP 2017), won the 2016 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize.

Shop girl

Posted on February 6, 2018 by in Heightened Talk

Image: male and female headless mannequins in a storeroom

if you are waiting for the right girl
the really truly special one who blows
your mind and cock and the girl shop
doesn’t have her in yet you can take
a loan girl until the right one comes
and then you can return the other one
since they mostly dust off fine
you might just have to wait a long time
to buy the girl you’re looking for
and even then she may not be available
straight away but thankfully
there are women who will let you
take them home with nothing sparkly
you can drive them round and round
for free while looking for a better one
there are women who will wait
in the passenger seat


Bronwyn Lovell is a writer living in Adelaide, Australia. Her work has appeared in Best Australian Poems, Meanjin, Antipodes, Cordite, Australian Love Poems, Australian Poetry Journal and Strange Horizons. Her poetry has won the Val Vallis Award and the Adrien Abbott Poetry Prize; been shortlisted for the Fair Australia, Newcastle, Bridport and Montreal prizes; and nominated for a Rhysling Award by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. She is a PhD candidate at Flinders University, where she is researching depictions of women in space in real life and science fiction stories, while composing a verse novel about a female astronaut on a mission to Mars. Her essay ‘Science Fiction’s Women Problem’ gained international attention and was a finalist for the CHASS Australia Prize for a Student. You can find her online at or follow her on Twitter @lovellybronwyn.

Burning the donkey (PS Cottier)

Posted on December 19, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Burning the donkey

We were suspicious from the start.
What decent man brings a wife
pregnant as a pudding
into a new country, unless
he wants the child to be
a kind of hidden penny,
a nice little earner?

She was obviously mad,
whispering something about
a visitation, from behind
an annoying, coy blue veil.
We weren’t sure if she meant
secret police (who are unbelievably
common, in the places these people
supposedly come from,
breeding like cane-toads
in their vivid crops of lies).
She mentioned flashes and wings.
As I said, a few bats short of an attic.

He even admitted that he wasn’t sure
if the kid was his, or at least
that’s what we think he said.
It was hard to source a proper interpreter,
if, indeed, the language was real,
rather than a melange of all things foreign,
stirred like another pudding,
to be tongued off a soon-to-be silver spoon.
Mike said he thought Aramaic
was a perfume for men,
and we all had a good laugh,
but there was absolutely no whiff of that,
I can assure you.

It turned out to be a boy,
born in necessary seclusion,
though Mike said all the lights
turned themselves on
the moment the kid drew breath.
That was undeniably weird,
and a further example
of their lack of thanks
expressed in clever sabotage.
Lawyers even brought in presents,
breaching clear regulations.

Their poor excuse for a boat,
which had evaded all detection
and wound its feral ways to Darwin
despite navy, barnacles, tides and policy,
overladen with stink and sick and
God knows what else,
was towed back out and burnt.

All in all it was nothing remarkable,
although my skin is itching,
itching like an alien.
A nice little souvenir, no doubt about it.

The press should really leave it alone,
and focus on some bigger issues -
a Test begins tomorrow.



Slashed into the sea,
it smiles between Gladstone
and the Cape York tip.

Whiter than a ghost’s teeth,
it still grins and beckons
and whispers of what was.

Such colours grew there,
opalescent and alive,
and the flutter of fins

cruised the coral jungle;
parrots and striped teams
scrummed over living rock.

Now there are these teeth,
whitened into brilliance
by industrial stupidity.

The reef a skeleton —
or a jaw stuck forever
in a bleached rictus.

And what burnt Hamlet
to soliloquise on death
bracketing our shore?

Two thousand kilometres
grinning white forever,
and rumours of fish

corralled into memory’s shoals.



PS Cottier
lives in Canberra, where she rides poetry and writes bikes. Some of this appears at