Trees Without Passports
(Mark O’Flynn)

Posted on May 12, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Between two palm trees thick with starlings
the horizon flattens the waves
beneath the sea’s heavy rag.
Here before we were, the ocean runs downhill
from the perpendicular of one trunk to its partner.
Like me, the rough exterior keeping balloons
and children off with a thorny I-told-you-so.
Raffia fronds hang from the crowns
exhausted with salt and the natural way of age.
Who was here first, the apple or the cactus?
asks the non-stop chatter of the starlings.
Those roughed-up trunks frame only the view,
not a way of living in this world,
subsistence requires something more.
The direction of the swell
poised in anticipation of a photograph
aren’t they same waves as yesterday?
One of these days the sea will kick a goal,
where the water in its never-ceasing movement,
examines, up close and personal, the new status quo.
Gulls will confuse themselves with pigeons
and why not? It’s all confusing. Are those bananas
or sausages? That cold hand of death.
Unripe dates hang competing with the street lights,
orange and testicular like the ganglions
of pendulum clocks, still carrying on
an hour behind the dwindling sun.
We’ve lived here for many a year.
The view between the palm trees still
thick with starlings and their parasites,
they’ll not put up much resistance
and who else will remember them?

 

____________________________________________________________


Mark O’Flynn’s
most recent collection of poems is Shared Breath (Hope Street Press, 2017). His latest novel The Last Days of Ava Langdon (2016) was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award.

Transcarpathia
(Nathanael O’Reilly)

Posted on May 2, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

I.

We spent a summer late
last century in the former
USSR at the confluence

of the Tiza and Rika rivers
living in a Transcarpathian
valley with the mafia

the unemployed and the future
our students guided us
around town, to the castle

ruins, Gorodskoy park
the outdoor markets
and the plains of blood

accompanied us to neighbouring
villages, towns and cities
Rokosovo, Velyatyn, and Uzhgorod

we shot vodka with our principal
students’ parents, government officials
and gangsters, afraid to offend

our students competed for turns
to sweep the classroom floor
clean the blackboard, read aloud

take us swimming after classes
have coffee with us in cafes
serve us dinner in their homes

II.

we arrived by train at the Hungarian-
Ukrainian border in the darkness
met our driver on the platform

loaded our luggage into his ancient
van and took our seats beside
curtain-covered windows

for the drive from Chop to Khust
through the unknown over potholes
to a pumping techno soundtrack

disoriented and alien, we arrived
in town near midnight, met hosts
who insisted on measuring us

before unloading, eating and drinking
declared our unusual Western height
qualified us for double rations

III.

reading a novel in Gorodskoy
park I was approached
by local gangsters who took

up positions in front and behind
pistols tucked conspicuously
into tracksuit pants waistbands

demanded to know my business
and nationality before deciding
I was harmless, the leader

making homophobic jokes
in English about his comrade
my faggot buddy doesn’t understand

before inviting me to their bar
where we played pool in the basement
drank pivo with the local boss

IV.

local gang members climbed
our dark stairwell, pounded
on our steel door, demanded

in urgent fragmented English
that we come outside
hand over our passports

inside we stood silently
still against cracked walls
waiting for danger to fade

V.

every weekday morning we walked
to school, past government offices
empty storefronts, crumbling

Soviet-built apartment blocks
past Romanian gypsies siting
in the dirt begging for kopeks

across the Mlynovytsya river
past groups of kids yelling
Hey, fuck you buddy! 

Hey, suck my dick, buddy!
mimicking Hollywood
bad-guy rhetoric

collecting our students
in ones and twos as we walked
we arrived at school in a gang

VI.

on scorching hot afternoons
our students took us to the Tisa
served us packed picnic lunches

cooked pig fat on sticks over fires
lit in the sand, ganged up
and threw us in the river

jumped with us off the abandoned
railway bridge into dangerous water
vying for our admiration

the teenage girls wore tiny bikinis
the teenage boys wore speedos
called us gypsies for wearing shorts

exhausted after swimming
we sat cross-legged on the sand
in a circle while Sasha played

Nirvana covers on his battered
acoustic guitar and the girls
sang mournful folk songs

VII.

on the road to Lviv
miles from the nearest village
we passed a Babushka

head covered in traditional
fashion, sitting on the ground
beside an upturned bucket

a lone cabbage perched atop
patiently waiting in the heat
to make the day’s final sale

VIII.

we walked unpaved dusty streets
occasionally passed by a vehicle
a local riding in an engineless

Lada or Volga towed by a donkey
or a tracksuit-clad mafia man
driving a late-model BMW

IX.

the majority of the town’s men
unemployed filled their days
drinking vodka outside cafes

until they passed out with heads
and arms on tables or fell sideways
from plastic chairs onto concrete

the town’s women went to market
haggled over the price of bread
cabbage and potatoes, desperate

to save precious gryvnya
and kopeks, unable to afford
luxuries like meat or fruit

X.

late at night we wandered home
from cafes and friends’ apartments
down narrow brick-paved streets

past abandoned Soviet army trucks
across the Khustet’s river
through the square where Father

Lenin’s statue stood, past the war
memorial, onion-domed
icon-filled Orthodox churches

concrete-block houses under construction
grassless front yards full of precious
cabbages, potatoes and onions

XI.

students’ parents took us in
to their homes, told us tales
of their lives under Soviet rule

showed us family albums of holidays
to Odessa and Chornomosk
kids frolicking on Black Sea sand

taught us their post-independence
mantra: under communism, we had jobs,
we had money, but there was nothing

to buy – now we have no jobs
we have no money
and there’s still nothing to buy!

XII.

on the train to Solotvyno we followed
the Ukrainian-Romanian border
southeast, barbed wire always

within view outside the right-hand
train windows, soldiers gripping machine
guns in guard towers watching over

the border, ready to kill if necessary
identically-dressed peasants working
the fields either side of the border

XIII.

at Solotvyno we walked from the station
through unpaved village streets
browsed stores selling icons

purchased wooden jewellery, crosses
necklaces, bracelets and blouses
before arriving at the salt lakes

we floated on our backs in dark water
slathered each other in black mud
erased each other’s identities

XIV.

on Voloshyna, Lvivska and Ivana Franka
students, friends and acquaintances
crossed the street to shake hands

men and boys kissed us
on the cheeks declaring affection
signalling their importance

as buddies of the Australianski
and Canadianski, local television
reporters stopped us on Karpatskoyi

to conduct interviews
Who are you? Why are you here?
Do you like our country?

XV.

on my twenty-fourth birthday
my students decorated
our classroom with banners

before my arrival, sang
Happy Birthday in English,
presented me with a gift

they purchased collectively:
a plastic mantel-piece-sized
Swiss clock replica

upon my departure
the clock was confiscated
at the Hungarian border

along with landscape paintings
gifts from students and parents
all declared National Treasures

by Ukrainian customs officials
too precious for export, worth
a few gryvnya on the black market

XVI.

on the road to Lviv we passed
an abandoned nuclear power plant
ten times the size of any American mall

a VISA billboard between the road
and a wheat field proclaimed
IT’S EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE

defying reality and our experience
an advance party advocate for capitalism
convenience and Westernization

 

____________________________________________________________

Nathanael O’Reilly was born and raised in Australia. He has travelled on five continents and spent extended periods in England, Ireland, Germany, Ukraine and the United States, where he currently resides. His poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in nine countries, including Antipodes, Australian Love Poems, Cordite, FourW, LiNQ, Mascara, Postcolonial Text, Prosopisia, Red River Review, Snorkel, Social Alternatives, Tincture, Transnational Literature and Verity La. O’Reilly is the recipient of an Emerging Writers Grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council. He is the author of Preparations for Departure (UWAP Poetry, 2017), Distance (Picaro Press, 2014; Ginninderra Press, 2015) and the chapbooks Cult (Ginninderra Press, 2016), Suburban Exile (Picaro Press, 2011) and Symptoms of Homesickness (Picaro Press, 2010).


‘Transcarpathia’ appears in Nathanael’s new book, Preparations for Departure, which has just been released by UWA Publishing. The book will be launched on May 23rd in Wagga by Lachlan Brown. Nat will also be reading in Griffith on May 25th and running the Booranga Workshop on May 20th as part of his duties as Writer-in-Residence at Booranga Writers’ Centre, where he’ll be in residence for the second half of May.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps the Adventure
(Les Wicks)

Posted on April 24, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

or maybe just the thrushes, their pecks. Paris, 1940.
Les Boches have lined up our Gauloises & shot them.
Plus the internet hasn’t even been invented.

Klaus thinks Feminism is all about the Jews.
Who said monstrosity can’t be flexible –
those Aufseherinnen –
given a real job by clueless men but
Women in Uniforms, they get ideas.

As America undergoes a talking-to
intrepid British spies bugger each other
like tertiary educations.

Kristallnacht is a brand of champagne – everything makes sense
if you forget hard enough.
Pétain has been reading about Panama he
has niggles about the mosquito problem, the heat,
that way  pianos so easily warp into jazz
when accosted by humidity.
There is a war, sacrifice is the fuel
so he gives up worrying.

Paris must be preserved!
Think of all the movies to come
Hepburn, Marlon, Woody, Kate Hudson.

The last lies are progress,
77 years later
arthritis has spread to the Arc de Triomphe
& Europe can no longer promise home to
those across ex-colonies as they
flee grand plans imposed on them.
Such ingratitude, thank god it sticks in their throats.

 

_______________________________________________________

Photo credit: Susan Adams


Les Wicks
has toured widely and seen publication in over 350 different magazines, anthologies & newspapers across 28 countries in 13 languages. His 13th book of poetry is Getting By    Not Fitting In (Island, 2016). Find more from Les here.

The Picketer (Justin Lowe)

Posted on April 21, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

I am told there’s been trouble at the plant.
they tell me this with that strange mixture
of fear and relish so characteristic of the beaten.

I am at a loss as to why they come to me,
but they seem to seek me out,
as though they regarded me as some sort of bridge.

but when they come like this
with their dark, beseeching eyes
to tell me there is trouble at the plant,

something in me folds,
and all the distance I have put between
myself and their worries, so assiduously maintained

like a prim hedge,
the kind of hedge that states more emphatically
than a strand of razor wire

KEEP OUT!

suddenly all that distance melts away
and all my loathing turns inwards,
like when I spy the boss’ daughter in her summer skirt

and I realise in a flash I am not the prince of my mother’s songs.

_______________________________________________________
Justin Lowe was born in Sydney but spent significant portions of his childhood on the Spanish island of Minorca with his younger sister and artist mother. He developed a penchant for writing poetry while penning lyrics for a string of bands, successful and not so, and has since been published all over the world. Justin currently resides in a house called “Doug” in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney where he edits poetry blog Bluepepper. His selected, Days of Wine and Bruises, 1996-2016, was released in April 2016.

Lucilia Cuprina — an Ode
(SB Wright)

Posted on April 13, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

first beat of spring
careening down chimney
full bore into wall,
window pane, again
again.

daylight moth snared
by sun – carry on in vain
til spent; flaring,
failing filament
in backstroked spasms
on the sill

silent.

life erupts
wriggling free from
bulbous husk,
such plenty that one
might fall,
find some scrap or
cat food bowl.

there.
all life; death
in one space.
all lessons
in its maligned
embrace.

_______________________________________________________

SB Wright was born in the town of Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land, though most of his life has been spent in Alice Springs. A graduate of NTU he has spent his adult working life as a security guard, a martial arts instructor, a trainer in an international gaming company and currently works as a primary school teacher.

His work has been published in Tincture Journal, INDaily Adelaide, Eureka Street, Bluepepper, Writ Poetry Review and the anthologies The Stars Like Sand and Poetry & Place 2015.

manifest (Melinda Smith)

Posted on April 4, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

If you must make me,
draw me forth through that
needle’s eye

have a care for this raw skin
what abrades it, how
it may be sliced and sutured

I was pure electricity, pure simian ululation
If you must cage me
box and bottle me

franken-birth me
in a clumsy bucket
you will learn the sorrow of mangle and botch

of the warp and the scorch mark

You will see it is no sorrow

With luck I may multiply

I may layer, matrix, palimpsest
I may go choral, become geology
Take your hand from me

set me among a swarm of eyes
As they move over me
they will mark me, too

 

* The poem ‘manifest’ won category 3 of the 2016 ANCA (Australian National Capital Artists) Art Writing and Criticism Awards for a creative response to Material Poetics.

____________________________________________________________


ACT poet Melinda Smith
won the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary award for her fourth book of poems, Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call. Her poems have been anthologised widely in Australia and overseas, and translated into multiple languages.

Melinda’s next collection, Goodbye, Cruel, will be launched on Saturday 8 April at the 2017 Newcastle Writers Festival, where she will also be making a number of other appearances. A Canberra launch of Goodbye, Cruel will take place on Thursday 20 April, with appearances at Muse Canberra & Manning Clark House on the 23rd & 27th.

Melinda is currently poetry editor of the Canberra Times.

 

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.

Trainwreck (Miguel Jacq)

Posted on February 28, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Worlds away in the grey
harbour of St Nazaire
my second cousin reveals

railway tracks encased inside
shipyard walls — an over-engineered

defence of resolute rust;
the only steadfast structure
predating the city around it.

Years later at airports we’d discover
that grand-père also wore medals
embedded in his chest.

Having out-stared him, this gaping
and twisted maw of mid-scream metal
now locks eyes with me.

Have I interrupted like Medusa?
Does the war rage on?

But I am not my grand-père.
Home is a shore far from here:
another invaded country

with a history for covering up
conflict, carpeting the dust.

It’s me who is immobilised.
Fixed to the stones of a place where
horror is a head of snake-steel

gnawing its way out of concrete
into collective memory —
                        Meanwhile
not even a train line to
Tullamarine yet.

 

____________________________________________________________

Miguel Jacq is a French-Australian poet from Melbourne. In 2016 he won the Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Award, and was shortlisted for the New Shoots Poetry Prize. You can read more of Miguel’s poetry on his blog.

Bivouac (Charlotte Guest)

Posted on February 17, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

The terms of our
arrangement are revised
every three days. You
trace my bones, protruding
through my skin, as we
recap the clauses, their causes,
and intended effects. Let’s

press together the bodies we live in,
and, in doing so, express a great deal.
Let’s let in a modicum of wildness.
Let’s select for each other new monikers,
and mine our histories. Let’s act out
attentiveness to language, small acts
of understanding, setting all else aside
to erect a shelter under each other’s
smells, each other’s sounds.

All we want
whittled down
to this night, this bed,
these woven fingers.

 

____________________________________________________________

Charlotte Guest is a Western Australian writer and Publishing Officer at UWA Publishing. Her writing has appeared in Griffith Review, Overland, Westerly, Voiceworks, Cordite, Writ Poetry Review and elsewhere.