I text you a photo of my knitting
(Tricia Dearborn)

Posted on August 4, 2017 by in Heightened Talk


the knitting lies curved
along its cable
it rests on the pattern

which covers my journal
in which is secreted
my dream of two nights ago

the one where I called our father
a cunt, a complete cunt
then walked out of the house

past the bedroom we shared
from the day they brought you home
in a bassinette

will you feel it
can my dream, through layers
of paper and card, through wool

and plastic and steel
through the ether, via satellite
find you, transmit to you

what you’ve forbidden me to speak of

 

____________________________________________________________

Tricia Dearborn’s poetry has been widely published in literary journals including Meanjin, Southerly, Island Magazine and Westerly, and in anthologies including Contemporary Australian Poetry, Australian Poetry since 1788, Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets and The Best Australian Poems 2012 and 2010. She is on the editorial board of Plumwood Mountain, an online journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics, and was guest poetry editor for the February 2016 issue. She has been awarded several grants by the Australia Council, and a 2017 Residential Fellowship at Varuna, the Writers’ House, to work on her manuscript in progress. Her latest collection is The Ringing World (Puncher & Wattmann, 2012).

White Noise (Beth Spencer)

Posted on July 21, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

those clouds I could
almost    touch

and the tickety-tick of
talk at ten-thousand

‘tea? tea? tea?’
the steward mows down the aisle

spoons clinking    paper on screens
a new coal mine    the boats pushed back

we tuck in our    elbows and knees
mind our business

hurtle on    in stillness
until the signs:

‘fasten seat belts’
and the earth    draws us back

‘more heat!’    the weather predicts
‘nothing to worry about!’    the captain calls

we shuffle
and fiddle

grab up our possessions
note    exits

prepare
for descent

____________________________________________________________


Beth Spencer
is the author of Vagabondage (UWAP), The Party of Life (Flying Islands), How to Conceive of a Girl (Random House) and Things in a Glass Box (FIP). A selection of her ABC-Radio National sound and text pieces – including a feature on Poetica – were collected on the double CD, Body of Words (dogmedia). Her awards include the Age Short Story Award, runner up for the Steele Rudd, the inaugural Dinny O’Hearn Fellowship, a Varuna Writers Fellowship, and several Literature Board fellowships from the Australia Council. She also has a PhD on ‘The Body as Fiction/Fiction as a Way of Thinking’ and a website at www.bethspencer.com.

Poems From Glasshouses
(Stuart Barnes/Leigh Backhouse)

Posted on July 18, 2017 by in Book Extracts, Heightened Talk

Untitled, 2016, by Leigh Backhouse


ENDONE® Oxycodone hydrochloride 5 mg

Blister-white tablet engraved with ‘ENDONE’
on one side, break bar the other.
It does not take the place of your doctor
or pharmacist: opium or morphine:
Accident or Emergency.

Store it below ground, above ground, in
an unlocked cupboard. Store it in the bathroom,
store it near the sink. Leave it on every
window sill, leave it in the car. Swallow
it before meals with a glass of nausea.

Do not show your pupils, abnormal,
do not show your restlessness, do not show your goose
-flesh, do not show your fast heart rate, do not show your new
-born child to a doctor or pharmacist.

 

Port Curtis Road’s End

The inability to weep furrows the
pit of my gut like a plough. I, a bull’s-eye,
Port Curtis Road’s end. Why won’t you return my
calls. Cows gawk. Wind scallops algae-

green water, grass and fingers. Pop … Pop … Fish?
My heart, too, is scalloped. The A1, a crane
pirouettes. The iPhone pumps Let England Shake.
I scratch at a plump mosquito bite, inner

right knee. My mind pumps also: Why won’t you re-
turn my calls, return my calls, ret
Ducks startle, zip the river as though a dredge
were suctioning their webbing. Heehaw. Heehaw.

Hush. Hush. I marvel at my indifference.
I also gawk, at the cows’ simplicity.

*

I turn to a gathering murmuration.
Starlings dip below this bridge then boomerang,
passing over easy meat, to Uluru-
shrewd Mount Archer. Dead white gums. Tonight you’ll wail

Your neck’s burnt, yet proffer no aloe. Bottle-
green shards, hectares and farmhouses. Shadows
crane from left to right, lengthen: I gabble O’s,
sculpture a hedge of tiny white stones: Oxy-

codone: bulging disc: God, I’d kill for a drink.
Something larger’s taken to the air: a rap-
tor, black against unmoving clouds. A foolscap
saccule swishes: Thoroughbred horsehair: a syn-

chronization: Grey Goose, Raven Ale, Wild Turkey. I
narrow blinders: tropical boondocks widen.

 

Black Cockatoos

after David Brooks

Red-
tailed Bedouins
of Poetry, black
cockatoos embroider
the sun into us,
seam-rip it asunder.

*

On the Fitzroy’s
bank at midday,
cracking seeds of eucalypts
that outrank Council, a hundred
Banksian black cockatoos,
a paroxysm of commas.

*

With their subtler
complex-
ions, the females infinitely
more beautiful
than the ludic-
rously coloured gatherers.

*

The gospel according to the locals:
‘Four black cockatoos
kreeing seawards
means four days of rain’
(burkesbackyard.com.au confirms it).
I am not a God-fearing man.

*

Should black cockatoos
know
that theirs are the colours of life?
Indefatigable black
and needlepointed into this
starry orange and yellow.

*

Imprisoned
black cockatoos
long-lived as man
neglectful beneath the same
white sun, its ROYGBIV illusion
destroyed by the tiniest prism.

 

Matrimonies

Their delicate armies sway
   the ambiguities of space.
Feel in your hands, before you play,

trembling in warmth, and rising,
the agitation of the strings.
It would be comforting to sing

      to the solid mercy of water.
Grasshoppers click and whirr.
      I am high on acid rock, on wandering glitter.

I feel your pulsebeat through my fingertips.
Look, where the grass grows more intense:
grows luminous in distance,

shaping my lips. I lie
      among dazzling visions, lying
to the fine edge of clarity:

The season for philosophy draws on.
Sparrows flock to my pond.
Verses flow in a never-ending torrent.

Death has no features of his own.
Music’s much more than flesh and bone.
What’s all this but the language of illusion?

 

These poems are excerpted from Stuart Barnes’ award winning collection Glasshouses (UQP).

Note: ‘ENDONE® Oxycodone hydrochloride 5 mg’ is a remix of ENDONE® oxycodone hydrochloride CMI

‘Matrimonies’ is a cento from Gwen Harwood’s ‘Reed Voices’, ‘The Wasps’, ‘A Music Lesson’, ‘Songs of Eve I’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘An Old Graveyard’, ‘Looking towards Bruny’, ‘Carnal Knowledge II’, ‘Mappings of the Plane’, ‘Night Thoughts: Baby & Demon’, ‘Oyster Cove Pastorals’, ‘Shellgrit’, ‘Dust to Dust’, ‘Night Flight’, ‘Littoral’, ‘Thoughts before Sunrise’, ‘Three Poems for Margaret Diesendorf’, ‘A Public Place’, ‘Death Has No Features of His Own’, ‘A Music Lesson’, ‘After a Dream’

____________________________________________________________

Photo: Leigh Backhouse


Stuart
Barnes
was born in Hobart, Tasmania, and educated at Monash University, Victoria. His first poetry collection Glasshouses (UQP, 2016) won the 2015 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize, was commended for the 2016 FAW Anne Elder Award, and was shortlisted for the 2017 ASAL Mary Gilmore Award. Stuart‘s learning Catalan and translating Imma Tubella’s Un secret de l’Empordà into English. Since 2013 he has lived in Central Queensland and been poetry editor for Tincture Journal. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

*

Leigh Backhouse is a photographer and can be contacted on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Burroughs Does Oz (Joe Dolce)

Posted on July 11, 2017 by in Arrests of Attention, Heightened Talk

____________________________________________________________

The Burroughs from Snowy River

Burroughs of the Overflow

Burrough’s Five Heys

*Cut-ups sourced from The Man from Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow by A.B Paterson, Five Bells by Kenneth Slessor, and Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce.

____________________________________________________________

Joe Dolce is a singer, songwriter, composer, poet, and the writer and performer of the most successful Australian song in history. He was shortlisted for both the Newcastle Poetry Prize and Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize in 2014, and was the winner of the 25th Launceston Poetry Cup. His poetry has appeared in Best Australian Poems 2015 & 2014, and has been published in Meanjin, Monthly, Southerly, Cordite, Canberra Times, Quadrant, Australian Poetry Journal, Overland, Contrappasso, and Antipodes (US). Joe is a recipient of the Advance Australia Award. He is presently on staff at the Australian Institute of Music, teaching Composition, Ensemble and Personal Tutoring in setting lyrics and poetry to music. His forthcoming book, On Murray’s Run, 150 poems and songlyrics selected by Les Murray, will be published by Ginninderra Press in Oct, 2017.

The Inexplicable Hardness of Things (Ian Gibbins)

Posted on June 30, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Our location indeterminate: disused Mechanics’ Institute,
unlocked shipping container, crushed metal path beside
the bus lane or upgraded City Bypass. “It doesn’t matter
[…static…] you decide.”

Fairy floss hair in knots and she shelters under the glow,
reflects crossed wires, badly silvered disappointment.
“He texted me again last night.” Unnecessary now
to change trains,

since the surf is flat, fly-by cheeseburgers have jammed
the emergency release, recycle bins overflow the back end
of her shift. “Bite into pleasure”, they tell the Crow Patrol,
the razor wire.

Will nobody admit that cabbage palms and lilly pilly
trees cannot read, plates do not always break, rain can fall
from a clear blue sky? “How many lives can you lead
at the same time?”

Between my feet, bandages, a travel bag. Sandfly wheals
itch, irritated to bleeding point. Someone replaced fluoros
with LEDs. “I just don’t care anymore.” My screen, hers,
locks up, twice.

 

The Inexplicable Hardness of Things from Ian Gibbins on Vimeo.

____________________________________________________________

Ian Gibbins is a poet, electronic musician and video artist, having been a neuroscientist for more than 30 years and professor of anatomy for 20 of them. His poetry covers diverse styles and media, including electronic music, video, performance, art exhibitions, and public installations, and has been widely published in print and online, including three books with accompanying electronic music: Urban Biology (2012); The Microscope Project: How Things Work (2014); and Floribunda (2015), the last two in collaboration with visual artists. For more info, see www.iangibbins.com.au.

family portrait (Dave Drayton)

Posted on June 16, 2017 by in Heightened Talk


 
at first we were individual laugh
at a cherub flashing gang signals
so young that an assistant had to fold
& knot those chubby thighs cross-legged
but once the count can or is stop/ped
                                    the tubes are tied        the sheets of Vagifem
                                                                            and Cenestin emptied
                                                                            into pillboxes
it’s time to assemble the ranks in uniform
matching shirts that proclaim: I’M A BIG BROTHER
and in a few years, cream cargo pants
and navy blue Hawaiian shirts
                                                                               islands are a lot of things,
                                                                               and a lot of things are islands.

I hardly brushed my teeth then,
but hardly flinched to bare them,
grin     now my teeth are children
we keep a cramped family home
the youngest and wisest killed
by me just a few months ago
now their heads count 33
some wear caps of silver, tan
but all are jaundiced by my diet
             you shouldn’t smoke indoors
             you shouldn’t smoke near children
wash your hands if you want to hold my baby
home smells like the two bedroom flat
of Brady’s mum in which we washed
her fags, one by one,
down the dunny
for fun andor for safety
it and everything backfires
with a black eye or worse
my parents rarely see their grandchildren

                                                                                           my teeth
                                                                                           who chip off limbs and
                                                                                           make true reunions rare
                                                                                           impossibilities
I’m a terrible parent, let my guard
                                                             -ian down
turn off the car, no AC, and all the windows
and lips tight, not even a crack

this is how I smile now in
portraits alongside my own generation
hiding my children
all in the eyes
raising the corners of their house
and my mouth
unsettling the furniture
wrinkling the rug
but not opening the blinds
ashamed of their ugliness
embarrassed to invite you in
beyond this doormat chin

____________________________________________________________

Dave Drayton was an amateur banjo player, Kanganoulipian, founding member of the Atterton Academy, and the author of P(oe)Ms (Rabbit), Haiturograms (Stale Objects dePress) and Poetic Pentagons (Spacecraft Press).

SHAPING THE FRACTURED SELF (editor: Heather Taylor Johnson)

Posted on June 6, 2017 by in Book Extracts, Heightened Talk

Axiology
(Anne M Carson)

‘There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen

If I was ceramic I’d be kintsukuroi,
pottery which has been knocked,
dropped, broken into shards then
mended with gold or silver lacquer,
a delicate meander of liquid gold
flowing into the breach. Kintsukuroi
the word a whole world, evoking
the kind of place where mending
is valued more than the break,
where old is treasured more than
new, where putting things back
together is an art form, things more
beautiful for having been broken.

 

Jess
(Andy Jackson)

‘I would be giving in to a myth of sameness which I think can destroy us.’
– Audre Lorde

sometimes I wake into a quiet sadness
blood pooling in my mouth
bones on fire – this is the worst
and best thing that has ever happened to me

one morning I couldn’t walk
the white coats
gave me a chair – I became an adult
while they tried to work it out
the closest was marfanoid habitus
’til a sudden knife in the chest
gave me enough points for the full diagnosis
hearing it, I felt sick

I have mitral valve prolapse, regurgitation
multiple pulmonary nodules
I get short of breath and produce
excessive mucous (clearly I’m very attractive)
my joints are hypermobile
and dislocate (they go out more than I do)
I’m the walking rubber-band

comments and names at school
don’t cross your legs, you look disgusting
spider-woman, anorexic slut
other things I can’t write

doctors accused my parents of abuse
threatened me with feeding tubes
ironic, it was only all this pointing at my bones
that gave me an eating disorder

since I joined Chronic Illness Peer Support
they can’t shut me up
we go on camps, socials, talk about whatever we need to
I meet the most incredible people
and call them my friends
(my dog helps me enormously with my grief)

I’m so motivated people find me exhausting
started studying nursing
but they told me I was too unwell
cried so hard I broke a rib – now it’s psych

I haemorrhaged every day for eighteen months
clots bigger than my hand
doubled over in pain until I passed out
I think about my future a lot
imagine a husband, two golden retrievers
a blue house by the beach, veggie patch
all the people I will help
life is extraordinary and so are you

now look at this photo and tell me
you still want sameness

 

Cups
(Stuart Barnes)

after Gwen Harwood

I know them by their lips. I know the proverb
about immediacy. Many slip
and shatter on sheer concrete, the older, the glass.
They held the common cold in hieratic,

are octopus-suckers. I imagine them
thus, lying facedown on acupuncture tables.
I apprehend firebirds. Their fearsome vacuum
surfaces disturbance. Flying saucers

might inscribe similar discs of stillness
in cereal: formations of purple, rose:
thirteen moons, an earth, a sun in syzygy.
They order qi, are venerable remedy.

They never play hard to get. Foul deed, foul day they aren’t.
All bell, no whistle. Anti-insurrection.
A trance in sudsy buckets; rinsed, their lips
await others’ blue skin. Love, their love is blind.

 

What lies beneath my skin
(Rachael Mead) 

The ringing phone ratchets me into tension.
It is everything and nothing,
filling the place poetry used to be.
Management only works in practice
and right now I’m all about theory.
The circling around guilt’s drain.
The awareness of performance
– the inability to stop. The anger.
Everything turned inward.
I prefer silence and when I talk
it’s all repetition. I let the phone ring.

Fear of death drops away like a silk
dress slipping from its hanger. The
knife rack, the rafters are pregnant with
possibility. I know what to do.
Walk the dog. Sometimes, this is all.
The gum trees raise their lacy fists, a
level of defiance I find impossible.
The glitter of creek water,
the black field of stars.
I put myself in the path of wildness and
let it fill my long and hollow bones.

 

Her arms and legs are thin
(Fiona Wright)

for Pip Smith (and after T. S. Eliot)

Do I dare
Disturb the universe? Do I dare to eat a peach?
When I can’t see what remains
and in short, I am afraid
and I cannot know what stands within my reach;
and there is time yet for a hundred indecisions
and a hundred visions and revisions, every time
before the taking of a toast and cup of tea.

I sit in sawdust restaurants of insidious intent
and there is time yet for a hundred indecisions. I wait.
My glass hands lift and drop a question on my plate:
do I dare to eat a steak, the squid, a peach?
Have I the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
(And they say ‘But how her arms and legs are thin!’)
I lick my tongue instead into the corners of the evening.

In short, I am afraid. And though I have wept and fasted
(And they say ‘But how her arms and legs are thin!’)
Although I’ve measured out my life, checked every whim,
They try to fix me in a formulated phrase
and I don’t dare see what remains –
I’ve simply bitten off the matter with a smile.
(I know it never can be worth it, after all.)

And this is not what I meant
not it at all.

How can I spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways,
how can I dare to eat a peach
when I know I am no prophet?
They say ‘But how her arms and legs are thin!’
They say I’ll learn the moment of my greatness.
They try to fix me with a formulated phrase.
They say it could have all been worth it
but this is not what I meant.

This was never what I meant.
This is not it, not it at all.

 

Ten Things I Love to Hate About You
(Beth Spencer)

1.   Someone once described it as like walking across a room in the dark and no matter       which direction you go a board flies up and hits you in the face.

2.   Noticing, gradually – from the subtle clues amongst the cheery posts and triumphs        – the number of people in my Facebook feed who are living with a hidden illness.

3.  A change of government and the social terrain shifts; suddenly feeling like a        criminal again.

4.  The grief for all that never was. All the books, the friendships and loves, all the     children and grandchildren. All the students. All the clients. All the travels and        adventures. (Scaling inner mountains instead.)

5.   The exhilaration that rises with hope from a new theory or treatment or diagnostic      piece of the puzzle. And then under the surface (forged by too often), bracing for        the crash.

6.  Writing lists of how things have improved, to remind myself. (Because it’s        necessary. The reminding. And it has. In a way.)

7.  Writing lists of strategies and actions for the bad days when it’s hard to even      remember (or move) to consult such lists. But then I do. And that search for the       small obscure window, pushing against and through (don’t cut yourself), and then        finding the next little window, and the next.

8.   Salvaging a long difficult day spent prostrate by writing one not-great but not-awful       poem just before midnight. (Yay.)

9.  Imagining the events and parties and gatherings looked forward to with joy (but      then not up to going) laid out end to end in one long glorious summer of love. A        beautiful able-bodied parallel world.

10.  Learning (and unlearning and learning again) to embrace the space I be. Because      maybe, in the constellation of the universe, every misshapen star, every strange       permutation, is desired by life itself to be experienced and added to the mix. The      force of everything demanding everything. Even this. Learning and unlearning,      and learning it again, and again. (And again.) Until the star becomes the centre        (and shines).

 

On the eternal nature of fresh beginnings
(Peter Boyle)

This body next to you, said the German expert on design, is your ideal self – what you climbed out of once and have since forgotten about. Like gills and dialogues with rainbows, like your life as a ruminant quadruped, it has been erased from your waking story. When the time is right you will step inside it and it will transport you. Do not look at the claws that dangle from its withered right arm – consider only its wings. Say to yourself the word ‘Perfection’. Be confident. All the stars of the universe were placed millennia ago far inside you.

____________________________________________________________

Of course not all great art has its genesis in pain, and not all pain – not even a fraction – leads to the partial consolations of art. But if lancing an abscess is the surest way to healing, can poetry offer that same cleansing of emotional wounds? Shaping the Fractured Self showcases twenty-eight of Australia’s finest poets who happen to live with chronic illness and pain. The autobiographical short essays, in conjunction with the three poems from each of the poets, capture the body in trauma in its many and varied moods. Because those who live with chronic illness and pain experience shifts in their relationship to it on a yearly, monthly or daily basis, so do the words they use to describe it. Shaping the Fractured Self is available from UWAP. Poets will be reading from the book next Tuesday, 13 June at Sappho in Glebe. 

Heather Taylor Johnson is the editor of the anthology Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain (UWAP, 2017). She moved from the US to Australia in 1999 to begin a post graduate degree in Creative Writing. She received a PhD from the University of Adelaide and, while doing so, found a husband and had three children. Her first novel was Pursuing Love and Death (HarperCollins 2013) and her second is Jean Harley Was Here (UQP 2017). Her fourth book of poetry is Meanwhile, the Oak (Five Islands Press, 2016). She’s been writing reviews of poetry and fiction for various literary magazines for more than a decade and regularly reviews film for InDaily. She was the poetry editor for Wet Ink during the term of its publication and is currently the poetry editor for Transnational Literature. She’s co-edited two anthologies but Shaping the Fractured Self is her first solo effort.

Heather has lived with Meniere’s disease for almost half of her life and finds the illness keeps making its way into her writing. Having given a paper at Oxford on poetry-as-illness-narrative and having expanded her thesis to include lyric essays and novellas – the stuff of her current work-in-progress and something she will speak about at the NonfictioNow conference in Reykjavik – Heather is a passionate proponent of illness narrative.

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.