Teeth in a jar, corks screwed to
arthritic fists. A ten-mile stretch
of frozen sky reflected in it.
They stoop there, anchored,
boy & old man pocketing scrap
from the condemned lot.
It’s not what was promised, but there’s a pattern in it:
an interior surface
gazetting the solemn
of the late lamented.
Putting on the glad rags,
the wowsers fluff their wings on the power lines,
eyes out for a chance at a dog’s dinner.
The beseeched world
extends a charitable view –
things construed as y’d construe a missing link,
a tribe of unhinged dressing table mirrors.
They’re standing now
at the lopsided front door.
& the whole
Well they set up shop there ’cause all around was swamp-
infested, making a campfire of their one lifeboat
& kept watch from under the charred gunwale. Y’d’ve
mistook ’em all for Rabbis. And this was the grand
beacon-on-the-hill that squirt Austrayan with the turd
in his buttonhole was busy praising to the portside of Blighty.
(They knew a good thing when they could sell it cheap.)
It was time, all hands agreed, to found a new master race,
so one of them gold-panning yanks stuck a Wiradjuri girl
up a stag tree & they sat around downing turps while the march
of the black cockatoos dressed them in feathers & buckshot
& gold raiment & made right royal bastards of the lot.
Who knows, how long it lasts –
bringing in the salt harvest,
the dying species under a wire-frame moon,
life after the fact?
You lie there, a withered bathtub demagogue
dreaming a swansong’s bought encore.
Television. The cosmic dark horse
hanged with a two-dollar belt.
One last unbearable meal –
the man in the Houdini mindtrap,
the matchstick tower, the smear on the
sidewalk. Let these be warnings
to children weaving fairyfloss from your dead hair.
Spectral teeth grind-out 4 a.m. soliloquies.
The Indian Summer that year
stalked them more abjectly than ever.
In the dead of night – creeping up to the bar
at the Australia Hotel
like a Burma Railroad demolition crew.
Another April fool
on a three-week binge, hoisting
the Southern Cross
& digging-in for a saga of recaps long as the Mekong,
taxing to a nation
with a five-minute attention span.
The night they burnt
the place down, tabloid photo-fit intaglios
with a lip stiffened by a piece of four-by-two:
Such is life, they said,
sensing the moment was historical. The closing-time
an anti-republic six generations antique
bred from Bex powders
& fluked sheep. The fire brigade rang the anthem
through the streets,
the Unknown Soldier wept. Hearing a parade
was in the offing,
the whole town lined up for miles around,
just for the chance to piss on it.
Louis Armand is the author of eight novels, including The Combinations (2016), Cairo (2014), and Breakfast at Midnight (2012). In addition, he has published ten collections of poetry – most recently, East Broadway Rundown (2015) & The Rube Goldberg Variations (2015) – & is the author of Videology (2015) & The Organ-Grinder’s Monkey: Culture after the Avantgarde (2013). He lives in Prague.