Lizzy tries to still her sister’s storm —
a milk teeth tempest that only a mother
could quell — follows her father’s
engine scent downstairs

where dull studs rivet blade
to bone, blink back oxide-blind
behind his fingers. He draws
the blade on grey grit:

a take–take relationship
floods the floor of his mouth;
leaves steel honed
and stone sunk at its centre.

He sets pitted soles of worn
work boots on the bottom stair:
his third journey to the house’s brow,
its neck cricked and headache raging.

Lizzy sets her sister on the bed,
sees his aconite stance in the hall:
shirt front monkshood blue.
His index finger lines the knife’s spine.

He sets the girl on his hip.
His knuckles under her chin
shove wet cheeks and shut eyes up;
he draws his wrist to the right.

Chris Arnold (Western Australia)

From ‘The Black Country’


I grow these seeds
for my dearest friend
because I said I’d
open every closet
in every dream
until I find the bear pelt.

This morning, a white,
limp thing lies in a pot.
Cigarette ash, I think.
In this moment
I have company:
I stand in the yard with an impulse
to remove my poison.

But it can't be ash,
not after last night's rain.
I look closer
and see that it fell from
the trees that line the fence.
It is a single petal;

I leave it where it is.

Chris Arnold (Western Australia)

Outside, duck

probability density function
frequency, phase
orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing
carrier sense multiple access /  collision detect
internet protocol
transfer control protocol
hypertext transfer protocol
ducks' quacks don't echo

medium undermines meme
metal beaked mallard
catch me
RJ-45 jack
cat six
sunk mid-skull
twisted pair
speaks SYN
on the stack


Chris Arnold (Western Australia)

Reason Seven

October shadows grow long on Glenroyd Street.
I haven’t slept, and the house at Hill View
looks along its nose. I, far below,
know I won’t climb this hill —
even with eyes burnt insomniac black —
I know you’re near.

The day seems hot when wedged
in this Helmut Lang, a gift from a friend
it no longer fits. Only I know its age,
its lining shot: acetate frayed at the vent,
and you could say the same of me,
once I tell you the night was taken with turning.

The white pot with silver trim —
technically too tall for tea —
nevertheless lemongrass scents the room.
I look at my cup
as I say that someone in Sydney had said
that he thought that I loved you;

that I was inclined to agree.
You stare at the grain in my table,
explain how long you’ve felt the same.
We stay where we are: you seated,
me next to your feet.
We leave the tea unfinished.

We stand, my night’s rest and balance
wrecked on the reef of the message you sent
last night; mind picked by clownfish.
We stand because you have to go
home to your boy, your friend from Melbourne.
You stand so close that perhaps it’s your breath,

or maybe the sense that my chest
can no longer contain me;
but look where I will, I will never recover
the button that breaks from my front.
This old jacket, its lining in tatters,
will never close again.

Chris Arnold (Western Australia)

This poem is an excerpt from a longer work, ‘The Process of Knowing’.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

The white bear named his price,
and the python inside her twisted.
Call it fright,
call it poor foresight,
call it prudence if you like:

her old man pimped her after all;
after all she was young, exquisite —
a great landscape hung on crumbled walls
of a home she’d always known —
and she was destined, she thought,
for someone large, someone strong,
someone altogether less

so she stood fixed like Ionic stone:
lips curved toward
her grass green frock,
arms enfolded in white sleeves
like strongly worded letters,
heels mortared in flagstones.

She had no choice but to go.
The white bear lies cloistered
under tundra for months,
sleep-rendered against the sleet
of six-moon nights,
heart and lungs as still
as hummingbirds on film,

and he wakes
when his pelt channels the sun.
Dim with sleep, fat depleted,
he throws his bulk against the snow,
cracks ice with swipes of granite hands
as he seeks what he needs
on his bearing.

Some who tell her story say
her father’s constant drone bewitched
her into riding through the frost
with painful fingers tangled in his hair,
tendons tight with cortisol and cold
until her knuckles camouflaged
against his back;

but I prefer to think that at the sight
of this great beast erased in blizzard —
tail small and coy
against his glacial flanks —
I like to think
the python inside her climbed a higher limb
and snapped the bones of her heart.

Chris Arnold (Western Australia)

East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a Nordic folktale.

Reason Six

The text read:
‘Kissing you under an umbrella in the rain
goes straight to my list of favourite things.’
At Murray and Pier, the lunch crowd
passed around us. We, aside in time,
sealed in my wide column of dry —

my old golf umbrella's canopy
like a night sky far from city lights:
stars clear, uncounted pins in black
nylon weave. I don't remember
why I didn't walk you — maybe the rain
had let its arms go slack.

You left behind the scent of magnolia;
left makeup on my dark blue suit:
your cheek's relief on my shoulder —
the pale foundation print on flax escapes
authentication — a recollection, a relic I've kept
from the yellowing hands of time and air.

Chris Arnold (Western Australia)

This poem is an excerpt from a longer work, ‘The Process of Knowing’.


Harbour Noir

Liana Joy Christensen (Western Australia)

First published in Performance Poets, Fremantle Press 2013

Editor's note: MUA stands for Maritime Union of Australia. ‘MUA Here to Stay’ is their slogan.