how many times
has she seen him
whittle the child
down to size

it never harmed me
the father says
using the knife to cut out
the curious knot in the wood
slit the vein of red       pare back
pale new growth

shaves his hair to the scalp

the child sticks out
his chin grits his teeth
keeps the pirate costume
on all the time
sword at the ready

at night he sucks his thumb
cries out

Annette Mullumby (Western Australia)


Why don’t you have teeth there
Nanna he says pointing to the gaps

oh I say they got worn out
chewing all those apples and nuts

bored with being stuck in one spot
they hungered to explore new caves

I tried to pep them up
twice a day they sang
to the twang of floss
squeaked when brushed clean

but it wasn’t enough
one by one they left

bring them back Nanna he sobs
bring them back

At a loss I make two fingers teeth
march them home
they climb the cliff of my chin
roll on the tongue
sink into the their plush sockets
chatter to each other

on my grandson’s wet face a wide smile

Annette Mullumby (Western Australia)

First published in Poetry D'Amour (WA Poets Inc 2014)

Reading under the elm

A black dot floats into my line of sight.
Sunlight slips along its silk as it
drops onto the cuff of my sleeve
swings to the edge of the page
lands on the back of my hand.

I try to coax it onto a stem
but it’s intent on weaving me
into the landscape.
Just a handy leaf and limb
to hang its airy net on.

Then I reach for the urgent phone
disrupt the slender threads
of this small story too big
for me to read

Annette Mullumby (Western Australia)

Echo and Narcissus

her first love Paul Newman
sees all his films
feeds her heart
with the gossip
of gaudy magazines
festoons her room
with his image

lies on her bed sighs
brushes her lips against his
nibbles the finely chiselled chin
sees herself dancing
in the pale blue pool
of his eyes as he in hers

she falls asleep
startles awake
to the weight
of a clammy embrace
shoves him off
pushes him out
slams the door

tears the pictures
from the walls
shreds with fingernails
flushes the confetti away

hides in the cold cave
of her bedroom echoes

I once loved you
                                    loved you
                                                            loved you

Annette Mullumby (Western Australia)


you’ve met someone new
he’s juicy, a sweet plum
then you bite hard
on the bitter pip
spit him out

stumble again
on that first rung

easier to run him through
with your guilt tipped sword

but what if you open
the box under the swirl
of bright skirts
find the faded photo
of you aged four
with that man

whose shadow hands
have partnered you
all these years

Annette Mullumby (Western Australia)

the road

the road scars right, across the
palm of land, tumbling, dwindling,
a groove, a history, a way in,
worn and healed slick

the road, oil on linen, bitumen
on peat, with all its gradations
of shadow, bruise to smear to brush

the road, cloud above scuffed and
tugged by wind, rain sifting down,
the ‘haar’ they call it here,
cold breath of wet

the road, its dip and sway, blur
of scrub, the urge, glimpse of roof,
swerve, the early dark, the entrance

Kevin Gillam (Western Australia)

A Western Australian Piano Graveyard

The farmer’s pressing oil, olives spread
on mashing mats. We talk of chooks
and foxes, irrigation and bush fires.

I’m here to see ruins in meadows,
on outcrops, brought from sheds
and yards, lashed to utes and trucks.

‘All good things return to earth.’
She tells how a choral hum is raised
by strong wind, how possums nest in felt

and termites engineer collapse; how once
after rain, a derelict played like a pianola
as green tree frogs leapt in its heart.

I take her hand-drawn map, find
a Gold Rush era upright, laminate
blistered, keys jammed and gapped.

Despite its barroom look
a brass plaque by the keyboard
names an outback orphanage.

A Foley artist’s dream, felt-less hammers
conjure horror from bass notes, or tap
a level crossing where the hero speeds

to make the gate. Each instrument
decays uniquely; a baby grand is legless,
veneer peeled like cherry bark.

Under cracked coffin-gloss
a clutch of white eggs.

Roy Marshall (UK)
From The Sun Bathers (Shoestring Press 2013)

Read more about the piano graveyard here


Rumi Dancing w/ Kangaroos

Cultural cringe doesn’t frighten me at all.
Kangaroos don’t frighten me at all.
The bush doesn’t frighten me at all.
Oh, kangaroos! I want to give you
a rose of my dreams.
Oh, kangaroos! I want you to dance w/ me.
Let’s dance in round swirls till madness!
Let’s ascend the sky!
Let’s write a new historiography of the bush!
Let’s swap trees!
I give you a palm tree,
& you give me a eucalyptus.
Weapons are not allowed here.
Let’s erase fear and cringe!
Oh, kangaroos! The bush is not the ultimate utopia.
Let’s dance together in frenzy-like swirls!
Let’s forget about differences & geography!
Let’s ascend the sky!
I’ll teach you Sufism, & you’ll teach me jumping.
I think Sufism and jumping are two interchangeable terms
helping us renew, & gain new foliage.

Ali Znaidi (Tunisia)

The Sydney Opera House

The Sydney of dream and the rainbow lorikeet’s songs
kept echoing in my ear
since the first session of a lecture series titled
‘Anglophone Civilisation’ at university in 1998.
Drenched in light the Sydney Opera House
serves as something mysterious & enigmatic:
Lights flashing, resembling rainbowesque strands of hair —
an anthology of lights deconstructing and reconstructing
visions of polyphony.
The Opera represents cultural transmutations;
many shades of light dwelling in the same rainbow.
Grief, fear, estrangement, & alienation thaw
a-long The Opera; synonymous w/ harmonious tunes
of rainbow lorikeets.

Lights flashing:

one, two, three, four

In Sydney you can’t hide because the kangaroo will expel you
from her pocket, & make you live life & bathe in lights:
Lights against the cringe, & light turns out to be an antonym
                                                                to [claustrophobia.]
& the lures always remain,
& if you are lucky enough you can have a cup of coffee w/
Kylie Minogue.

Ali Znaidi (Tunisia)