Gentle Lives

Your letter came, Irene
It rose up through the thorning patch
And flowered Robert's grave
I — know you spoke proud
I saw the name of your son
I ache when careful words
come, Irene

Your husband's here, Irene
When wardens cleared his tulips off
You drove a bramble deep
You sing to him still
You — held for twenty-five years
You found the strength to wait
here, Irene

Your colour left, Irene
I crawled beneath the airing shelf
And wishing to be found
I whispered your name
I hide    behind a Daniel
I — crush when gentle lives
leave, Irene

Daniel Hutley (Victoria)


Our Tree

     (For my brother Michael and my sister Margaret)

Our tree, lissom, muscular,
Stood forever tall against wind and rain,
Shading against intrusive suns.

Only the time-blind Moonbone
Sees the ants gnawing its guts,
Its fall, long as shame.

Naked in the dust of passers-by,
It and the sheep it killed
Grow grey together

Until Half-Eye’s quickening
Transforms worm etchings
Into airy silver chimes.

Peter Burges (Western Australia)

Don't Load Me Now

I looked into her deep brown eyes
tears rolled dark within
a scent of pasture
sweet upon her breath

mood welling
pity stumbling
I looked into her deep brown eyes
love is a word
legs are for standing
ears are for tagging
don't leave me now
don't count me now
don't load me now
eyes are for crying

I looked into her deep brown eyes
I hugged her crying
I wept her crying
a stench of bbq
chuck brisket t bone eye fillet
eyes are for crying
ribs are for holding

air is for breathing
cheeks are for eating
tail is for swishing
flies are for dying

eyes are for crying
don't eat me now
cow is for being
cow is for mooing
cow is for grazing
cow is for eating

eyes are for crying

Allan Padgett (Western Australia)


St Edmunds

I have washed downstairs in
a cold, functional corridor — the wash block.
And now I am permitted to walk around with only a jacket
to cover the nakedness of my chest.

Soon, I will know that tiny moment when the body is confused between pain and ecstasy.
I have been talking or eating
in those areas where talking and eating are offences punishable by caning.
I watch from a distance I have discovered inside myself.

At night,
the Devil walks the corridors of this place,
A huge black insect
given substance from the sweated essence
of each boy’s secret anguish.

He is looking for
someone whose eyes will widen at His darkness.
Some boy who is still small, not yet cold and closed.
He will lie on top of the young body, sucking into himself.
While the boy tries,
until the last moment, to hold his mouth up where the air is.

In the morning,
the bell will sound loudly
next to any sleeping heads that have not already been called to prayer
and we will pretend not to notice the empty bed.

Jim Conwell (UK)


the kiss

You find me in the secret place, that corner of
Rodin’s woods where his statues begin to thin,

forlorn in a sparseness of tourists who never
stray from the path or their first language,

where I’ve begun to wonder if I’m visitor
or visited, the wax heartbeat of a hot day.

You drag me to the shade where we hide from
the curator, wait for her to chain the gates,

lock us up in some out-of-hours limbic limbo,
insisting I’m a real boy: that an original rhythm

still thumps in me. — there’s room for two more here,
is what you said — already our skin peeling,

unfurling around ankles, discovering each
other’s earth.

The last light meets an unfettered moment, burns out
on our Balzac bodies, verdigris busy on new bronze.

Miguel Jacq (Victoria)


Where do you go?

Where do you go at night?
Do you wonder where I go? Whether I am really here?
Yesterday I rode the train but wasn't really there at all.
Years before I took a boat but all I know is that I did not drown.

Where do we go, if we go anywhere at all?
I know where I want to go, where I have been.
Why can I not tell you where I am now?

I roll into you. You roll away
                                                  into another
                                                                            space between us.

Leila Rahimtulla (Western Australia)

Bad Faith

Most often I spot them way off in the distance:
something in the gait and the weight of their symptoms
is bearing the stamp of repeat prescriptions.
Alarm bells screech, I turn on a sixpence
to cross roads inventing a previous engagement,
catch a flower arrangement, bend to tie laces,
bury my head in shop windows replete
with cheap trinkets. I tread light on my feet
for dejected spirits make cock-crow visits
and patches of ice combine with the rain
to throw me off-balance; I clutch at displacement
before facing ex-patients again.

Or maybe my elbow shudders at fingers
as a “Hello, stranger!” wraps round my shoulder.
I spin to a name that I can’t remember;
a drug, diagnosis or simply disorder.
The furrowed flesh of distress and despond;
their failure to bond and exasperation
with trial separations from errant husbands,
the scars and bruises borne by the infants;
a rooted abhorrence roared at the parents.
I am emptied of empathic slaps on the back —
all my unconditional regard is packed
into yellow plastic bags for waste disposal
alongside the attire of the non-judgemental.
What’s once contemplated can’t be unthought;
they take me at face value; I sell them short.

Raymond Miller (UK)


Orahovac poem

The man from Glasgow, surprisingly dull
and quick, like a sunshine of partial cloud,
stops near us and asks “These people, Serbs —”
We say they are Croats. It's not the same
to them. Take care. Think Scotland and England.
“Bugger that,” he says. “Do they have liquor?
Good stuff. Liqueurs and that?”. And we say Yes.
We are drinking Orahovac. Walnut.
We've had two litres in the last ten days.
We were surprised when we counted it. It is
delicious. He practices the name with us
and smiles: “Right then,” he says, walking off,
leaving his wife to speak apologies
and say that she prefers a glass of wine.
He returns with a brown bag: “Is this the one?”.
We say it is. “Right then.” He pulls the cork
and swigs a large mouthful; holds it; grimaces;
turns sideways to us and spits everything
on to the piazza. “Jesus Christ! That's bad.
What's that?” We say it's walnuts. “Is it now?
Nuts? I hate the bloody things. You have it.”
He pushes me bottle and top; and strides
towards the hotel bar, his wife following.

Lawrence Upton (UK)