The Special (David Stavanger)

Posted on March 13, 2015 by in Heightened Talk


Queensland_State_Archives_1438_Goodna_Mental_Hospital_Conversion_of_Male_Ward_July_1950the Psychiatrist

the Psychiatrist can sign you away
the Psychiatrist can give you a script
or several pills depending on the diagnosis

pills to start having an erection again
pills to stop obsessive thoughts and irrational beliefs
such as the world is going to end or
the sink is dirty like a big wet asshole

the Psychiatrist can give you a title
the Psychiatrist can give you a new name
so that when you start barking on the train
you can introduce yourself on your own terms

when you are at its desk
it will not smile but will frown
if you say I’m not happy
if you say the small pills make you feel small
it will only frown more

the Psychiatrist is a doctor
the Psychiatrist can take your pulse
or remove your kidney should the situation arise
more likely they will take your money, insisting
you should be okay in twelve months
but something will always be wrong with you

 

head lines

MAN’S HEAD USED AS BOWLING BALL

IMPALED FENCE CUT FROM MAN

TWINS LIVE BUT GRAN DIES AVOIDING ECHIDNA

EXCREMENT PILE SAVES CHINESE WOMAN AFTER BALCONY FALL

EYE DROPS OFF SHELF

SIX PEOPLE KILLED IN SAUNA FIRE

PERTH MAN RUN OVER TWICE BY SAME SKATEBOARD

FATHER ELECTROCUTED WHILE SAVING KIDS’ KITE

TRIAL TOLD OF CAKE-THROWING ASSASSIN

SPEAR REMOVED FROM MAN’S HEAD

 

survey

Please only fill out this form. Drink plenty of water within.
Take care to consider                        the space between lines.
Without looking at your stopwatch, start now.

1. Are you afraid ofSpecial
a) the void
b) getting up
c) the ascending colon

2. It is rare these days to find
a) white gold
b) fool’s gold
c) lymph nodes behind the ear

3. My life is in balance
a) emotionally
b) there is nothing more to say
c) spiritually
d) when other people ask

4. Outside my window I see
a) the gathering of clouds
b) the Polish neighbour screaming
c) the hospital car park
d) another window

5. I deal with stress by
a) eating organic food
b) milking the sun
c) running into doors
d) everything below

6. If you open up my chest you will find
a) another chest
b) Lou Reed
c) a barrel of soft cheese
d) the enormity of the unfulfilled

7. I am a _______ person
a) strong
b) tea
c) narrow
d) warrant ego snort

8. Every Monday I look forward to
a) others going to work
b) going to work with others
c) watching spiders eat birds

9. I use social media to
a) tell you how you are doing
b) show you I am doing fine
c) communicate with the dead

10. Bleeding from the nipple
a) no
b) no
c) no
d) yes

11. To be human is to
a) wear the right name tag
b) shower daily
c) give what you can’t give
d) fold back into the white

12. In all relationships
a) couch desire in concer
b) Barry White
c) you will feel like crying
d) everything I’ve got, belongs to you

13. Men grow moustaches
a) to hide thin lips
b) to catch morning snow
c) Salvador Dali
d) one step closer to war

14. In dreams
a) flick the light switch
b) bite the man who murdered love
c) open the wrong door
d) administer is no longer a word

15. This is where we
a) disappear
b) find our way up
c) tell the rabbit to run
d) open out


the inheritance triptych

Hearing Dad piss in the night.  Noisy Miners cry out  anticipating
the first  coal  train  as  we  pass  each  other  in  the hall. Four a.m.
Hope   his   kidneys  are  okay.   He  turns  seventy  next   year  and
still  wears   shorts   through  winter.  The  winds  calm  something
uncalled  within.  He  disappears  outside  often  and  names  birds
incorrectly.   Dad   likes   to   look   at   women   when   they’re   not
looking  at  him.  We  all  have  strange  talents. My  first  girlfriend
calls  out  of   the  blue  and  he  reminisces  about  her blonde  hair
but  can’t  recall  her  name.  Seeing  the  record-player  he  tells me
he  once   saw   Johnny  Cash  and  Bob  Dylan. Not that Dylan can
sing 
Dad  says  Not  like Don  McLean.  Don  never lets you down,
you get what you pay for
.  I  put  ‘Winterwood’  on   once  my   boy
goes  to  bed,  and   Dad   falls   asleep   on    the   couch,  not  letting
anyone  down.   I  put  down  my  wine   and   study   what  remains.
In   this   room  of   empty   chairs,  I  am  the  ghost   and  he  is  the
father.

Advice  comes  in  pairs. When  being  a  tourist  guide  in your  own
town,  take  your  relatives  to  the  places  they  least  expect to hate.
Start  with  West  End,  include  a  book  shop  and  random  cultural
commentary.  Walk  the  thousand  stairs   at   Kangaroo  Point   and
watch  the  fit  climb  into  storm. Then the Valley. There your father
tells  you  to  be  careful, this  is  the land of the King Hit.  It’s not the
punch you have to worry about 
David, it’s the impact when you hit
the ground
.  He’s  more  concrete  than  you  about  actions  but  you
know  what  to  order  at  Yum  Cha.   Pork   and   peanut  dumplings.
Green  Jasmine  tea.  Dad  looks  around  and  declares  there’s  a  lot
of  Asians   here  so   the   food  must   be   good.   Also,  there  are  no
photos  of  the  food  on  the  wall  so  the   risk  of  food  poisoning  is
reduced.  He  asks   for   an   itemised   bill,  you  watch   the  flounder
trapped  in   glass.  You  proceed  down   to   New  Farm  park,  where
your   boy   makes   friends   under   the   figs   with   the  grandson  of
Tommy  Solano,  the  alleged  mob  figure  who   set  fire  to  shadows.
Things  are  on  the  up.   The  boy’s  dad,  Tommy   Solano  Jnr,  finds
out  you’re  a  poet  but  doesn’t  ask  what  else  you   do  on   the  side.
He   has   a   thick  neck.   Branches   snap   nearby.  Some  parents   at
school   think   you   run   a   meth   lab.  You’re   not   that   ambitious.
Tommy  Solano  Jnr  can  see  that.  He  says  no-one  else  talks  to his
boy. His  boy  is  five  and  has  angry  fists  for eyes. He goes on  to tell
you  he  wanted   to   name   his  son   Zoltan,  that  his   father  Tommy
Snr fathered   more   kids  than   there   are   new  cafes   in   this  town.
Narcissists  know  how  to  make  their  mark. You make  a  joke  about
bolstering   gang  numbers.  He  doesn’t   laugh,  tells  you  it’s  hard  to
grow   up   in   a   nightclub.  Tommy  Solano  Snr  is   currently  getting
paid  three  million  by  Hollywood   for   a   screenplay  about  his   life.
Crime  pays.  So   does   art.   Your  dad  is  nearby,  wearing   the  same
clothes  as   yesterday   and   the  day  before  that.   If   someone  put   a
hit  on  him,  you  couldn’t  describe   him  to  the   police.  We  all  need
somewhere  to  hide.   This  town   is   as   good   a   place  as  any  other.

Rewriting  history  takes  time.  Dad  has  been   here   three  days  and
I   am   starting   to   see   where   I  am   headed.   Charisma   only   gets
you   so   far,   keep    the   earth   nearer.   Whenever   he   would    meet
one   of    my   girlfriends,   he   would   size   her   up.   I    would   watch
him    do    it,    casting    his    watery   gaze     while    asking    questions
without    waiting    for    answers.    Lack   of    love   leads     some   men
to   suicide,   others   to   acting.   I   am  a   dark   one,  if  I  let  it  run   I
only  see   bridges   and  water.   Dad   goes   the   other  path,  trying   to
convince    himself    through    others.   Mirrors   don’t   catch    his   fall.
He   finally   shaved    and   showered    yesterday.   This   is   the   palace
of    broken    men.    Collectively   we   have    three   divorces   and   five
children.   When   I   grieve   I   can’t   masturbate,   if   Dad’s   the   same
he  renounced   such   acts   thirty   years   ago.  He  has  the  look  of  the
untouched.   Holding    Dad    reminds    me    to    eat    more    fruit.  He
says   that   yoghurt    helps    reflower    the    gut,   I   don’t    know  what
that    means    but   I    buy    more   yoghurt.    This   morning   I   awoke
to    dried   blood   on    the    pillow.    No-one   by   my   side,    my   right
ear    bitten    in    sleep.    I   think   it    was   a   cockroach.   Better   than
the   rats   dancing    in   the   walls.   I’m   not   sure   if   it    was  German
or   Oriental,   I   saw   a    light    brown    one   near   the   toothpaste  the
other   evening.    My   son    walked   in,   saw    the    blood   and   started
writing    me    doctors    notes.    He    is    convinced    my    phone   is   to
blame.    Started    sticking     cold     cotton    balls    up    my    nose,   he’s
worried   it    will    start    bleeding    next.    There    are   so    many    exit
points    from    a   body.   Over    dinner    Dad    retold   the    passing    of
his   brother   on    his   own   terms.   Now   they   were   close,   Dad   was
kind   of   noble,   and    there    were   stories   to   laugh   at.   How   many
times  does   it   take   for   a   truth   to   become   a   lie? Later over  white
wine   he   told   me   how   he    had   proposed   to   his   second   wife   on
the    one-seater    couch    on    my   deck.    He   gave   it   to   me   when  I
moved    south.   It    needed    upholstering.   We   still   do.   Now   I    live
in   the   north,   I   am   the   liar.

 

skywhale
for Anne-Marie

they lied
there is no whale in the sky
the ocean is not blue right through

on the hottest of days
wearing black inside and out
swept off course to land

looking up at the tallest trees
wounded men weep in the woods
you’re all I need to get by

the oracle spoke of your untold faith
now we are chasing the wonderful
there is no more that can be planned

I don’t care who gets angry
there have been such times of hate
this place is the last place to hide

no longing left to hang from the nearest branch
we drift dive, sleeping side by side
in the black house across the river

I wake up living

 

___________________________________________________________

These poems are from David Stavanger’s The Special, published by University of Queensland Press, 2014. Our poetry editor Stuart Barnes has selected one poem from each ‘Axis’ of the book to provide an overview of the collection. You can order The Special here, and find David on FaceBook and at www.davidstavanger.com.

David will be appearing as a featured poet at Live Poets at Don Bank on Wednesday 25th of March. He will also be relaunching The Special at Gleebooks on Saturday 28th of March.

 

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