Days of Wine and Bruises (Justin Lowe)

Verity La Heightened Talk

FullSizeRenderGod Drinks at the Sandringham
(from From Church to Alice, 1996)
He usually comes
to sit by me
in the grainy light
of 4 o’clock
He will often
sit on His hands
He is kind
but nervous
I don’t think
He has very much money
His conversation is minimal
He likes to sit
like pity
in the crook of my arm
He watches people
come in, smiles
they are of Him
they nod and pat His
back, He is what
we call
in our sinecure way
He has time for everyone
He drinks slowly, deliberately
from a schooner
that always looks
half full
what He does for a living
is anyone’s guess
and needless to say
has their own version
of how He came to be here
walk down King street any day
and you will find Him
waving at you
it is utterly spontaneous
a simple gesture
of recognition
at certain times
on certain days
He could almost be a white flag
in a brisk wind

Our Child
(from Try Laughter, 2000)

is painting a picture
I am hovering over its left shoulder
you over its right
we are watching its tiny hands
drift over the page
like the skeletons of wings
watching its ghost head rock
from side to side
humming to the flower in its mind
and every now and then
we catch a glimpse
of a pink little tongue
as a line is drawn straight down
between the elephants and mice
like some quiet demarcation
leaving you
on the left side
on the right

Sultan Mehmet receives a new set of quills
(from Glass Poems, 2006)
the jackdaw is a violent bird a little unsteady on its feet unsure
of its size unable to quite fix the parameters of its world, it
builds its nest in early spring out of stolen moments snatched
glances sighs caught on its graceless wings, in northern
Ethiopia the jackdaw is chased off as soon as it lands,
Schwabia also, the Armenian uplands, Georgia and the lush
Hungarian plains, on the island of Madagascar they have only
heard of the jackdaw through the thin lips of the Portugese
who warned of its evil never to meet its steely gaze as though
the bird’s arrival on the island was imminent, but the Latins
fuss and the jackdaw mercifully has never ventured that far
south, the Great Turks have a recipe for jackdaw attributed to
Saladin who liked to hunt them with his hawks, the Arabs do
not eat birds as a rule due to their abiding reverence for the
sky, they are a strangely passionate inveterate people whose
greatest wish seems to be wisdom peace and prosperity for all
the world, the Chinese have no strong opinion on the jackdaw
except that it steals from south-facing windows and will brain
itself to death if locked in a cage

(from The Great Big Show, 2007)

the Kikuyu gardeners
who finally found the time to rake my path
are shaking their heads at my roses
I am consoling them
a little west of where I sowed them
the same colour as the ground
sharp mbwana!
the tall one answers to my yelp
tsking the red bud on my thumb
he was married, that tall one
the same time Lionel left for Voi
the railhead there
took the name Simon
for my sake, apparently
in case I had to call for him
chased a jackal off my pup
I am lost somewhere
in the mist of the short rains
the dust finds me, asleep on my back
Lionel has been silent
for two weeks now
the roses were my first clear thought
I do not get lonely
I am simply not accustomed to waiting
I am like a child amongst these people

Archie Roach
(from Mistaken for Strangers, 2009)

I am
what young girls
think of each other
by the firelight
in some dark corner
of this island’s soul
I am that ancient grudge
shiny as a trooper’s button
as blood on dust
or as pennies
in the eyes of the dead
the no-longer criminal
I am
the exoneration of defeat
we have always clung to
black or white
when the smoke rises
to crimp our noses
when the locusts come
like a knife in our bellies
when the drought night
is empty but
for the pitiful mewling
of the lost lamb dying
in the dry creek bed
as the laughing crows
peck out her eyes
I am both
the magic and the terror
of that tiny lamb
the great ships brought
to my country

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, from which these poems are taken, has just been released. Justin will be launching Days of Wine and Bruises on Wednesday 27 April, 7 pm at Rhizomic Poetry in Glebe.