Black Dog

By the third day, he is my grinning Familiar,
standing by my side, rubbing at my leg,
my bathroom companion at 3 AM, burbling
reminders that if I've gone insane, at least
I lack the soul of Berryman or Lowell,
neither as gifted, nor as wholly mad.

He gently nibbles on my ankle, but big as he is,
his teeth do not break skin, nor is there any malice.
He is as Churchill named him: my tutelary spirit,
my personal Melancholia, my anatomist of dismay.
If his teeth are like the needle's sting
they are not angry, just persistent.

I am just a common-garden nut-job drunk,
smoking in the bathroom, exhaust fan on,
making the next day's hangover as I make piss,
perfect aim in the dark, imagining a waterfall
glowing down into the Amazon, far away,
far enough away so even I'm not here.

Kenneth Wolman (USA)



how I hate the park

they don't
they long for it
they beg for the park
their first words are
onomatopoeic utterings
meaning swing or slide

they love the secret hiding spots behind the toilet block
the so much sand
the soft edge of the pond
where shoes schtock schlurp
the space to run and run and run
away towards the busy road

at the park
my neck aches with pre-prepared anxiety
which I've packed along with drinks and sliced apples

within minutes
I'm secret service agent or minder
scanning the area for danger
while they squeal and whirl and fly
loving everything about the park

how I hate it

one faraway day
teenaged and taller
they'll head here with their friends
to make out or hang out
slouching ironically in the swings
and pushing each other into the pond

at least then I can worry at home

Rebecca Freeman (Western Australia)
From Rebecca's book The Pretend Parent


Christmas Eve

It’s snowing out to sea,
lights are harboured in narrow streets,
all labour ceased, only cats prowling;
the clicking masts indifferent
to the hours’ pass.
Breathe slowly in this precious night,
morning will come, wrapped
in its own surprises.
And January waits in the wings:
dry ice and drama
for a new year.

Robin Daglish (UK)



He gives the clothes back
to them. They are not really his. He walks back
into the snow — the avalanches — they have broken him
many times. He knows he has to find a way
to pile the snow, to lie across it —
to become the river.
And now he returns to the cave.
He will walk deep enough to paint the sun
on the wall. Where the cave eats,
he will pile the rocks, the fragments
of his wood. After the sun has bled
a thousand days he will be able to open his eyes,
to breathe — to make his fire.

Annie Blake (Victoria)


Life and Death

by Remiel Ruah (aged 7)

There are things still living
in graveyards
Plants... trees...
with golden leaves...
If I died, I'd like to be buried here
In the graveyard.
And the headstone have two things:
A wizard, and a dragon.
The dragon be made of gold
with rubies for eyes
the scales crimson velvet.
And the wizard, made of silver,
his wand with a diamond at the top,
I would have his eyes as amethysts.
I think it would be better
to live forever,

I have a friend
that had a baby
and the baby died
even before it was born.
That is the saddest thing
that I can think of.

I love Morgana.
She died.
I saw a shooting star when she died.
I don't know how she died, precisely.
But she died in the night, peacefully.

I would die, if I could,
as old as about
one hundred and nine years old.
And with love.
I think it isn't very good to die as a baby or a child.
Like, I would say, an elder grown up would be better.
I say, it would be better to die in battle
than to die old and weak in bed.
I think, I will travel the world...
if I can...
when I'm grown up.

When lizards are creeping through the leaves
in the graves
it sounds like dead people creeping.
But really...
it isn't.
There's things still alive in graveyards.
Such as golden trees.
And snails.
A lizard I saw was eating a snail.
I saw it crack it open and eat it.
There are also other things
I've discovered.
For instance, there are larvae, living larvae.
In little pots, flowerpots.
It's really interesting how they move
and dance across it.
I don't know how they got there.
Probably by the rain.
But how should I know?
I think it's really interesting.
Their movements
and how there's a spiderweb over their pot.

I would like to hang around graveyards more
of the time.
Just to find more interesting stuff
like lizards and stuff, you know?
There are actually things that are born in this cemetery.
For instance, baby lorikeets, that you can hear now.
(eee, eee)
I love baby lorikeets,
although I've never seen one.
They make such cute little noises.
They live so wonderfully
their colour all RAINBOW.

When I die
I would like to have
a little place
in my gravestone
where snails can rest
and live.
So the lizards can eat them.

Remiel Ruah (aged 7) (Western Australia)


The Footings are Poured on the Future

Trying to be a man of the people
(no people in particular, just people generally),
I got out where the limo stopped,
(having blown a tire, or run out of fuel or something),
there was no time to arrange a media opportunity
so I engaged one of the workers there in conversation
(to keep my hand in, so to speak).
He was grimed in powdery dust
shovelling at cement with curt monotony,
behind him, scaffolding and rebar
brooded and coagulated in uneasy geometries.
I asked him what he was building,
but he could not tell me what he was working on,
(evidently, contractors had been called in).
Wouldn’t you want to know what thing was being made?
He gave me a short grin as I walked back to the car
(like a Unionist disembowelling a contract negotiator).
We never get to see all the plans on these rush jobs.
There’s a lesson in that, he said.

Damen O'Brien (Queensland)

Korora Beach, Dusk

What did I see or thought I saw
as the slatted sun closed down the beach
and the crescent-sanded shadows reached
and fishermen pulled their hooks from the wave’s jaw?
I saw a man step helplessly off the break,
or perhaps an oystercatcher sewing fish.
I wonder if my breath was a windy wish
held gulped and filtered by flathead and flake.

What did I see, or hope I saw?
I saw a man step silently into the panes
of glass and steel, but who knows if he rose again.
Soon I’ll pick through the lantana’s claw,
but marking the site of a cormorant’s plunge, I stare
at the grey water, until the sandpiper wind steals a blink.
He’s swimming somewhere out there still, I think,
with the strange strokes of a seal, coming up for air.

Damen O'Brien (Queensland)


You Don't Know When Light Will Come Again, But It Will

It's how you move at night
the late hour biting through
torn photographs strewn across the floor
from a time when memories were tangible
you could rip right through them
but you can't delete the shred
it shows up again in the back yard
from a heavy fall wind
through a hole in the trash bag
as if to say ‘you cannot undo yourself,
no matter the cost’

all love has a danger in it
the love of parents & friends
the profoundest feelings
can tear you apart
in an instant

it's how you handle yourself in the dark
that matters
how you go on living
beyond right now,
& now, & now.

James Diaz (USA)