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)


Alberta Bound

I own a gate to this prairie
that ends facing the Rocky Mountains.
They call it Alberta,
trail of endless blue sky,
asylum of endless winters,
hermitage of indolent retracted sun.
Deep freeze drips haphazardly into spring.
Drumheller, dinosaur badlands, dried bones,
ancient hoodoos sculpt high, prairie toadstools.
Alberta Highway 2 opens the gateway of endless miles.
Travel weary I stop by roadsides, ears open to whispering pines.
In harmony North to South
Gordon Lightfoot pitches out
a tune,
‘Alberta Bound.’
With independence in my veins,
I am long way from home.

Michael Lee Johnson (USA)


Special Class

I dreamed X in a swimming pool a man on the side with a stopwatch a race I in the water too with others all competing

I dreamed X won because part of the scoring was on how elegantly you moved your body I just couldn't match her flow I would move nicely for a while but then my muscles would rebel a distracted twitch I couldn't get my parts to synchronise whereas she

She won a trophy ‘Special Class’ it said and I was both jealous and glad jealous because I didn't win glad because I didn't want the trophy object cluttering my bookshelf and needing to be dusted and justified

Jackson (Western Australia)



He had tears rolling down his face
He said:
‘I’ve spent all my money on speed
I’ve stolen off my parents
I’ve stolen off my friends
I’ve broken into houses
I’m dealing to support my habit’
I should have said:
‘You’re really fucked up man’ and got him some help
But I said:
‘Have you got some now? Well let’s have some then’

Timothy Parkin (Western Australia)

Editor's reminder: we should not assume that this poem (or any poem) is autobiographical.


Spoonful of thoughts

rainy day
the count of every drop
from the hut's roof

the pack of words

what becomes of I
is what is left after

Poornima Laxmeshwar (India)

The feathers of the wilder colours

Is it really freefall
Or will you bounce off bends of the tunnel
Is it really freefall
Or will you also pass thru gray clouds of unease
Is it really freefall
Or will feathers of the wilder colours bounce off you
Is it really freefall
Or have the motors merely stalled
Is it really freefall
Or is it sometimes actually a sinking into...
Is it really freefall — can it really happen like that?

Photo of the crumpled manuscript

First published on the author's Facebook page

Too much thinking

While discussing death
With Marley
At 5 a.m.
Leaning forward
On a 3-legged chair
To keep from tipping
I noticed the dust
Collecting in the corners of the room
And wondered
If we kept talking too long
Would we bury ourselves
I kicked him out
And began to lay down
Strips of aluminium foil
So the light
Would cast my reflection
And I would know
That I was still alive

Andrew R Crow (Canada)


Touch of the Butterfly

Ever watch a butterfly touch down?
There’s no screech of tyres or smoke puff,
just the fractional stopping of time
as the selected leaf or red bud
trembles imperceptibly and
braces for this,
the softest

Glen Phillips (Western Australia)
From Glen's forthcoming book Crouching Tigers: China Poems 1



morning has to come
at some point.

you are the sole pedestrian
measuring the length of the body
trailing your shadow
under the street lights.

it all belongs to you.
the night sky and vacant streets.
the passing cars that do not stop for you.
and the voices whispering
into the distance, especially.

and when it begins to rain
you will not seek cover
or turn back towards the room
where you are living.

you know that no one can help you.
at this distance everyone is gone
and the rain is telling you something.

Robbie Coburn (Victoria)


It all comes down to
the division of land
the subtraction of trees
the addition of fertilisers
the multiplication of wheat
the sum total of salt

Horst Kornberger (Western Australia)



This is Omran. He is alive.
He sits, face bloodied and tearless.
He sits, his five year old body too little
For the orange ambulance seat.
His legs too short to reach the floor.

This is Omran. He is alive.
His knees and legs are dusty from the rubble
That his family may still be buried under.

This is Omran. He is alive.
He sits mute, alone, still.
All around, the sounds of war, sirens,
Traffic, men shouting.

This is Omran. He is alive.
One minute playing with a toy truck at home.
The next, bloodied and buried.
This is Omran. He is alive.

This is Omran. He is alive.

Jhilmil Breckenridge (India)


Inconvenient Numbers

The video is a slightly shortened version of the following poem.

When a tower falls elsewhere, the ash settles in my city.

I study how heavy the air becomes. I try to make peace with war; instead I learn lessons in rupture. What it means to not know.
How to be okay with not knowing.
How to search for answers through the past.

In the year 1978 —
          soft brown shoulder-length curls
          big eyes and a milky complexion —

my mother is ten years old when a nun at her convent dies.
She is buried in a black cloak.
          With school closed for the day,
          death comes wrapped in a caravan of joys.

When my grandfather tells her God listens to the prayers of children,
she prays for a nun to die every night
so she can stay home from school.

In the winter of 2001,
          I am ten years old.

The city my mother once knew sits on an altered map.
The planes have changed direction —
the high-rises my grandfather built
          have crumbled into debris.
          The clouded smoke that stood around New York
                    has long dissipated into Lahore, and Islamabad, and Karachi,
                    all across the playgrounds of my mothers childhood,
                    into the sanctity of my grandparents home.

A generation later,
I have no need for wishing stars —
bomb threats become routine and keep me home from school.

Back in 1978 my mother would spend her nights stargazing:
          It used to be so quiet, she tells me.

But in 2012
God watches over a different city —
          the drum of dulled heartbeats shines brighter than the most vibrant skies,
          the night is girdled with funeral processions
          and there is a faint rumbling over the mountains targeted as terrorist bases where civilians live.
                    Their screams are a backdrop melody,
                    a ripple in an ocean full of water:

we are told to ignore the white noise.
          Their bodies become sites of target practice —
          blindfolded and bound
                    they are dropped to the ground like lines of dominoes
                    They are torched into embers without warning
                              and the night burns,
                              somewhere a cricket chirps,
                              and still,
                              it is a hollowed silence.

In a few years when the numbers are tallied
          and the ash cloud dissipates,
the dead will be statistics on charts we will study when regret won’t matter anymore.

          In the year 1978 my mother did not know
          when you wish death upon someone else
          you begin to write your own eulogy
                    you are asking God
                              to turn your gardens into battlefields
                              to bury your nation
                              as you watch your city’s skin wither into ash —

ash skin is not a prayer that ever falls onto a wishing star from the lips of those who have something to lose.
          My mother didn’t know how much she had to lose once.

Now no matter how hard she tries she cannot take back her wish
          or bury it beneath a black cloak —
                    black cloaks cannot hold the scars of our sins:

                    our mistakes become unholy
                    when we choose to hide them.

So listen to the white noise;
                    it is the sound of a people burning,
                              torched by those who never realised
                                        a wish once made can never be undone.

Zainab Syed (Western Australia / Pakistan)



If I had a child
I would tell them
Hold your stars in your hands
You never know when someone may tear away your sky

Remilekun (Fiji)
First published on the author's website


On seeing Kiama

When I reach the first glimmer of the sea
my heart sings.
Is it my sea-faring DNA welling up
or the sheer beauty of the day?

Gone from my head are concrete bollards,
road work and forty miles an hour,
cyclists pedestrians police cars,
watch for the cameras

I slow to savor the glisten, the gliding swell
the furling white, the tiny figures
surfing the lift with boards
in salt wind.

Let the road ragers toot, P-platers
overtake     This is my own moment
I am halfway home
looking at the sea.

Jennifer Dickerson (New South Wales)


for a moon

what tiny wants
to put here
for a moon

Jackson (Western Australia)
Written with the Magnetic Poetry Kit


The Bride Who Became Frightened When She Saw Life Opened

After a painting by Frida Kahlo

She hasn’t read a book in seven years
he doesn’t like the light on
if she gets in before him     he says nothing
she could read all night
but the thing is     he’s in bed by nine
every night     every night she has
something to do     she folds their washing
in three piles on the kitchen bench and once
he’s passing through     and it’s on his way
so     she asks him to take one pile
the kids’ clothes     put them on the bed
that’s all she asks     he wouldn’t have to open
a cupboard or a drawer
but he refuses     another time
she’s peeling potatoes and stacking dishes
and showing Sonya how to tie a shoelace
in a double-knot     she asks him to take the rubbish
out     but he says no     why should he?
she’s closer to the door and she says
for the first time ever     about anybody
I hate you     to the window
as if she’s talking to herself     or talking
about the weather and she goes back
to peeling the potatoes.

Gayelene Carbis (Victoria)

Previously published in MUSE — Canberra Arts Magazine


Jet Ski Ride

Eventually, I rode a jet ski.
I waited for the cacophony to clear,
left behind by speed
and a surge of freedom

but my thoughts churned
on their usual continuum.
I revved the engine harder,
felt the jolt, the smack of waves,

though that made me worry
about fish swimming below.
Would they bite on my toes?
Would my sunglasses fall off?

sink to the bay's sandy depths?
I imagined angry fish
swimming off in sunglasses.
And then there was the need

to ride around in circles —
figures of eight at best —
the man on the beach running
in zigzags, wildly gesturing,

and so, still, I was trapped
in tight arcs of monotony.
A pure, straight line to the horizon
and I'd be caught, eventually.

Jane Frank (Queensland)


Roman Catholic section, Karrakatta Cemetery

rows of Celtic crosses
stand tall for

small brass plaques on concrete kerbs recall
           Mothers and Sisters

Rita Tognini (Western Australia)


Always madness at the door
Unmedicated schizophrenics
Rambling to mirror images
Muttering rhetoric and racism
Denying their mental illness
Saying the CIA and NBN are analyzing their brainwaves
Saying there are messages for them in X-Press
Saying the whole planet is controlled by the Masons
Convinced that their medication is poison
Convinced they speak to God

But these are God's children
And we must love them no matter how irritating they may be
In tribal societies they would be shaman
With one foot in the realm of Spirit and one foot in reality
Hearing voices of the dead and interpreting them for the tribe
Speaking in poetry
Mystifying and incandescent

We used to fill them full of anti-psychotics and sit them in corners
Increasingly now they roam free
Sometimes inspiring, sometimes annoying
Sometimes dangerous to themselves or others
But they make the world a more interesting place

Timothy Parkin (Western Australia)


First Voices

You would wait in that dark room
for the dawn to create geometric shapes.

You would wait for each square, rectangle,
to mould a door, a wardrobe, a chair.

You would wait for the chest-of-drawers
to colour cream with brass handles.

You would wait for a silhouette to fashion
a lamp with a gold fringe; a book alongside.

You would wait for curtains to flower lilac,
for light to seep through linen weave.

You would wait for a chink to streak
down a mirror; a hairbrush would appear.

You would wait for furry caterpillars to flow
as wavy blue lines of candlewick bedspread.

You would stretch out your legs;
soft toys at the foot of the bed would shuffle.

You would wait for first voices in the house.

Carolyn Abbs (Western Australia)


The Song

In a Muslim handmade noodle place
near the Guangzhou railway terminus
the proprietor must like this song
because he plays it in an endless loop.
I can't tell if it's English or another language
but one line seems to be ‘Everybody loves me now.’
The man pushes the dough into a thick cylinder,
pulls it into a tube, twirls it, then
whacks it on the tabletop with a tremendous smack.
At one phrase of the song he lets out a bellow.
A song, a whack, a bellow can sum up a life.
I could sit here forever, listening.

Fraser Sutherland (Canada)

Death into Life

I get scared of death
So I decided to write it down
So maybe I could move on
Bold and brave and strong

I can’t comprehend death
It’s too hard to understand
The unknown is like the dark
A primal fear for humans

So here I mention death
Put it in front of the mirror
Hold it up to the light
So we can see it a little clearer

Maybe death is just like life
Perhaps another version
Maybe it’s a circle instead of a line
I think we make our own translation

I get scared of death
So I decided to write it down
And now I’m moving on
Bold and brave and strong

Beckie D (Western Australia)


Barely Tame

We are on the quay buying sun-cream —
pelicans and painted fish at arm's length,
day trips to see the whales — when all I can look at
is this dog of sorts, dancing in the sun.

It tugs at the harness with its teeth,
bucks at the end of its lead.
The owner, a girl, tries to calm it gingerly.
I wonder if it’s the heat — the day’s or its own —

sand on its back, soil on its ears,
frost settled around its neck — Dingo.
Driving its tongue into an armpit, eyes in revolt,
pressing its teeth around a wrist — a cub’s neck,

paws pushed against its mother’s face,
fighting for its place in the pack —
creature from a guidebook, outside a gift-shop.
The girl calls out a name, it bounds,

looks into her eyes, then into the sky.
A man shouts from behind a double ice cream
You can shoot that, shoot that if you want.
It howls in mourning and licks her face.

Michael Crowley (UK)
From Michael's book First Fleet


Elegy, with Sorghum Amplum

I keep remembering
that you are dead.

I remember
the sorghum fields, the fissures
in the earth running through them, running
to catch ourselves on the wire fences.
If you wrap your hands
around the barbs slow enough,
you don’t break the skin

I remember you, lying on your back in
the dead grass, the blades of it
sticking, brown and flyweight, to your shirt;
a girl pouring milk into your eyes
because you’d burned them
staring too long at the sun. Milk,
filling the hollows of your orbits,
and drying on your cheeks; milk
rolling down over your temples
and into your hair like tears.

I wonder if they found my clothes in the harvest.

I wonder if your eyes look like that now,
white and glazed.

Madeleine Dale (Queensland)


The Floating Bars of Ohio

The summers were always nice and warm
We used to go to lakeside bars on Saturdays
and have Bloody Mary and Corona alternately
till we got buzzed. The old couples used to bring their private
boats and get wasted at around noon.
Once I met an old lady who claimed
to have babysat Patrick Carney from Black Keys.
Her 20-years-younger boyfriend
kept looking at us as if we were from Mars
and one nice Saturday afternoon
a girl came and started asking about my whereabouts
and said she was from down South. Her cousin came
all red-eyed and said ‘Why are you talking with this terrorist?’
I had long hair and a beard at the time
and I also had a very long laugh to follow.
I was not offended. I dug his context
but I hated his teeth,
which kept reminding me of Global Warming and Nickelback.

Sudeep Adhikari (Nepal)


The Cuckoo Clock Shop

There is a small gate invitingly open
To a path narrow and stony through a cottage garden
To a door with the sign above
The Cuckoo Clock Shop
Unreal world we enter
Into a rain of tik-tak-tik-taking seconds
A little old lady smiling
Winds up all the carved dark wood masterpieces
She makes them play their tunes and all their dwellers appear
To drink their beer and crash their glasses
In toast to friendship
The wood-cutters bend to and fro over their long saws
And the men and women in their fancy outfits
Dance on the balconies round and around
And the old little lady smiles proudly

What if they started
Arguing loudly about
Politics history wars religion immigrants dishonesty in sport
And money when it comes to the core of it all
And some husband would bash his unfaithful Helga
On the minute terrace
Above the big hand of the clock too fast
Missing the noon for just about a minute

But then the shopkeeper lets the music stop
And she looks at me with questioning eyes
Teary with nostalgia
In this gingerbread house from a fairytale
On my trip across the Australian outback
I can afford nothing
But she is happy to let me
Buy nothing else but a myth
Of her happy village in Schwarzwald

Anna Habryn (Western Australia)



Small translucent oracle
please tell me,
          is it time?

Your echo call on blast
of sour night air
          brings me hope.

Are your toes
          drumming       against skirting board,
          tinkling          against stale bottles,
a code tapped out in your scuttle language
          that says,        pack your bags?

Are your throaty brays
          chk chk chk   laughs of disbelief
that I've stayed this long?
Or are they
          a warning call:
                                  leave! right! now!

Tell me soon
for my ears are tensed
to your cries and to his keys scratching
stumbling to find the keyhole of the door

Rae White (Queensland)


Ten Pound Alan

Fastest runner in the school — I watched him
ease ahead of me on sports days, his chest
pressed against the finishing tape, first every time.
A good fighter, brilliant at rounders, climbing trees,
he once ate dog biscuits in my back garden,
sitting in a deck chair, Fritz’s paws on his knees.

I wasn’t sure what emigrating meant.
How far was that? I was afraid to ask.
I knew where he was going though.
That country in the corner of the map on the wall,
spread out like orange peel.
Ages and ages on holiday.

We went to his house before they left.
I sat on the floor by the fire pulling threads
from the carpet, a varnished boomerang
above me on the wall. His mother, poised
in front of net curtains, a silhouette inside silver
cigarette smoke, talked about the wages out there.

It was June, we stood in assembly
holding blue hymn books,
too much sun in the hall. The teacher,
her long dress yellow with flowers,
asks us all to wave to Alan. He hands me his book,
runs along the row, down the corridor,
looking back at no one.

Michael Crowley (UK)
From Michael's book First Fleet

Editor's note: Ten-pound Poms



Every day,
memories place your name over morning.
The dust settles on the empty side of the bed.
My chest hollow as a pin-pricked egg.
Leaving is equal parts
laundry and gin, hot water and baking powder.
A car door that is too hot –
thick air on a summers day.
I wander broad-chested into the sky
and on the days that I want to die
I remember
there is sunlight in Alaska.

Kyra Gillespie (Victoria)



My communion coat got left on the bus
It is lost
My communion coat got left on the bus
And Dad is sorry
But it is lost
Someone else is wearing it now, I suppose
My new red coat

My communion coat cost seven pounds
(Granny Griffin paid)
Seven pounds!
‘And what am I to tell her now?’ shouts Mum
And she cries
And slaps my face, hard
‘You should never have taken it off!’

I remember the day my communion coat got left on the bus
Dad pawned it in the shop on Talbot Street
While I waited outside
And we never did get a bus
We walked home
And it was cold
With no coat

SG Capelli (Western Australia)

My Father’s Dying

My Father is dying.
Week by week the cancer swallows him up
so every week they have to move him
and every week the wards get smaller
and the walls close in around us

My Father is dying.
Today, he’s holding an orange, deep in thought
and no, he doesn’t want me to peel it for him
He just wants to hold it, he says,
‘I might smell it tomorrow. Maybe.’

It’s tomorrow, and my Father is dying,
and they need to move him to the hospice
but it’s proving difficult
because finally I comprehend that my Father is dying
and they need me to shut up wailing, now!
But I don’t know that I’m wailing

so I’m crying, pushing them away, shouting ‘fuck off nuns!’
as another version of me,
surprised, puzzled,
peers inside my soul,
‘What’s wrong with you? You don’t even know him’

SG Capelli (Western Australia)


open home

an so it is so i look inside
an i see wot i want
so she sezta me ya gotta take a chans
an i saw ta meself all them fings i like
thay ar jus wot she likes
an i carnt see eny reezin wy not
cos th sine sez its open an its home
an nobody mus be livin ther
cos th dor is open like thay sez
an evrythn is jus ther for evrywn to like

an then im inside an im lookin aroun
an my eys kinda gettin ussta it
til its not dark eny more
so i can see all thees fings
an i jus no sheel like em jus like i wd
an so i look aroun an kinda make a list
like wen ya go shoppin or wot ya want
for crissmus in case enywn evva shoz up
wen ya sposed ta be sleepin
an not holdin ya breth or jus pretendin

so therz a big room now
an im lookin aroun wv me list in me hed
but its a bit mixt up cos i keep seein
fings that i like an i no she likes
an fings i dunno wot thay ar
but thay look kinda cool an maybe cost a lot
an yeh maybe sheed reely like em 2
an yeh i wish she wos here yeh here wv me
so then i cd aks her
an then she cd tell me wot she reely likes
now my heds in a spin an i dunno wotta do
cos therz 2 meny fings to choos

but i don wonta make her sorry
an ya don get a chans like this very offen
so i turn roun wv me eys still sorta gettin ussta it
an i see a pitcha an i stop but i dunno wy
but enyway i look clos an pick it up
an it sorta makes me wonta cry
so i stop wile i can jus in case in case
she trys ta tell me sumfin diffrent

so then its sif im havin a dreem
sif im finkin about wen i was littel
wen she was warm an she had pretty hair
an flowrs an she ussta hol me hand doun the beesh
an showd me birds an shyny fish an seeshels
or sung me songs i didden unnerstan
nah but then ther wos a storm or a fire
an peepel havin fites or sumfin ya no
punchin an yellin all kindsa stuff i didden get
cos it wos dark an i wos jus ther by meself

an now she sezta me ya gotta go son
ya shouldna be here ya gotta find the lite
an follo it home 2 ya reel home
yeh i rekkin yeh but i dunno wotta do
cos i seen so meny fings i no sheel like
an i wanna giv her sumfin so she noz
im still here an this is an open home
jus like it sez on the sine out th front
an then maybe sheel tell me
wy i still got all thees tearz in me eys

Ian Gibbins (South Australia)

Howdy Mate

you beauty
what a prize
you're a champ mate
booze you made, mate
hits the spot
number one for me
howdy mate
your brew
is number one
you're a champ
hits the spot
right on
you beauty mate
what a surprise
the booze you made

Stephen Cole (Western Australia)



Back in the really wild days,
in this colonial outpost
as mud and stone houses went up
and Noongar folk looked on bewildered and confused,
so much was said by poets and others
about the wind in the Casuarinas.
As if that wind were sent to spook us.
Spindly trees with skinny leaves
all along the banks of the Swan.
Their real name Kweela.
That wind is surely just a wind?

Those skinny leaves make a soft and constant sound,
no ululation, no change in pitch,
just a long whisper, like a distant jet,
whooshing through our ears
reminding us of way way back
before we left our mark, and what a mark we left!
And now we've named a prison after those skinny trees
and fill it with the bewildered and confused...

Don Smith (Western Australia)


Post Office Creek, Bidyadanga

cod and red bream gasp
beat mud with their tails      a bird
calls from the mangrove                 spiders
prick the water’s edge to eddies

the ocean sighs in a bailer shell
Venus rises      all the other stars come out
from beyond the sandbar the sea calls
its Saltwater people
                                   draws their spirit
                                                                               with the tide

Rita Tognini (Western Australia)


I keep having this dream where

there is a crack running the length of Main Street;
when it rains the crack fills and flows like a river.
Tonight it is raining
Oil slicks on the road reflect street lamps;
artificial Northern Lights.

He hadn’t paid his power bill, so
he leads me through his apartment by the light on his phone.
In his bedroom I see the mess even in the almost dark.
His bed is a mattress on the floor;
sheets barely cover it.
He lets go of my hand, pulls his shirt over his head.
The light flickers as the phone battery runs low;
he puts the phone away.
He undresses me.
In the dark I stand, naked, in front of him.

But then I reach for this zip along my side.
The zip begins under my arm and runs the length of my torso.
There is another along the length of either leg — hip to ankle.

I step out of my skin.

A river runs out of me like the one in the crack along the sidewalk.

I’m much smaller now
                                                  much more myself.

Tamasine Loves (Victoria)


In my grandparents’ taut October house
time was a hanging fruit
swayed by the sea wind

My grandma finished her portion first
dropping by the mangle,
the pips still in her mouth.

Andrew Turner (UK)



I remember all sorts of things, that’s the problem. They all lie like objects you wouldn’t want to touch, on the surface of a scummy canal. Take one up and you’ll find that only a bit of it is visible amongst all the other dirt. The rest lies below the surface, out of sight in the murk where nothing can live anyway. In some places the water has backed up and looks like old, thick skin, as if some elephant met his end there and this is all that remains of him. It’s orange from the bacteria that feed off it. On cold nights, you can see the mist rising. Not like normal calm hovering but like it’s being spat out from underneath.

Take this here for example. A fragment of something. Could be an old photograph printed on glass. Is that someone’s eye looking at us now, looking across some medium I cannot name. Time maybe, whatever that really is. Careful now, it’s sharp. One day, they will come and clean the canal, drag it all into dirty, rusting barges and, since no one is going to take on the job of sorting that lot, they’ll bury it. In a licensed hole somewhere. Dump it and then push the earth back on top with a heavy machine that breathes out thick, black smoke when it gathers itself to move. The water will be clean then, free of history and ready for the holidaymakers’ boats.

Jim Conwell (UK)


Corner of a room

Can a room
preserve a memory?
The key is hidden,
but the curtain is drawn
back to allow the eyes
to settle on other lights.
Chairs, a table simply laid,
canvases at rest,
quietly the corner emerges
from darkness.
Summoned by the act of patience,
it is there in the mind's uncharted
corridors where life goes on.

Byron Beynon (Wales, UK)


"at rivers edge"

at rivers edge
this blackest swan
licking at my feet (again)
and the concretes
all spin up, up
at those weak birak skies
not ever deep, only ever
just bunuru empty

and in djeran
sometimes May storms
pummel-wreck our vegetables
spring onions broken, uneaten
and makuru silverbeet trainwrecks
and bugs, fat brown caterpillars
wait in plastic containers
for some hint
of djilba spring

yet here, kambarang
keeps the chiddi chiddi
talking, swish-tails at insects

seasons here, brother
are measured not in ¼s
but six times
until birak licks
at my feet (again)

Allan Boyd, aka Antipoet (Western Australia)

Editor's note: Click here to learn more about the six seasons of south-west Western Australia.


The Business Woman

The business woman hunts you
in a dark forest.
She’s got a head on her shoulders.
She’s not that much older than you.

The business woman haunts you.
In the past, you’ve heard her say,
‘If the evil got into my arm
I would cut it off.’

The business woman hounds you.
Her crossbow aim is deadly.
You know one bolt to the heart
is all it would take.

The business woman hunts you
and there’s light in the forest.
Everything is strangely clear
when you realise...

Christine Della Vedova (Western Australia)



We didn’t really need another
soft mouth to dote on, menagerie full

already of half-spoken demands for attention,
but something drew me to you.

Free of pet-shop guilt, no transaction
of bodies for profit, we welcomed you home.

All wool and angles, thin body and bat stares,
you hooked something in my shoulder.

Already you know these corners better than I,
a spear among hair pins. Let the eyes in.

No need to hide. Kitten’s coat is a patchwork
of tortoiseshell run-off, half-mask bare.

She weighs no more than the adoption forms
I threw upon the desk, but there is steel

inside those half-moon claws. She cuts tracks
in everything she touches. But it is no matter:

I’ll roll the ball and smile at her stumbles.
Silence is the most selfish affection today.

The worst kitten season on record, they said
at the shelter. Twenty today alone. We could take

only one, leaving her littermates
for a spell, until their time moves off

to the backroom. One survivor in our midst,
she tumbles across my lap, looks up and sees nothing.

At night, I will sleep lightly for fear
of covering her head in my arms.

No peace in those small moments, she paces
the edges of her realm. Refuge is only a larger cage,

after all. But here her amber eyes will track me
where guilt can always reach.

Her step will be a shadow that grows longer
with every year. Lily bulb eyes settling in damp earth.

My hands are an apology unwelcomed, face juts to mine,
then waits – whisker pads rise as if to bite.

Siobhan Hodge (Western Australia)



Between two high notes
The song leaves a crack
Wide enough
To let me in
Like a fish jumping back
Into night water

The fish and I leave no
Trace, and the world
Remains undisturbed as we swim
Deeper and deeper in blue silence

Upon my return, I find the music
Still going on, while the fish has
Disappeared into the unknown

Yuan Changming (Canada)



And you?
You're a cafe
with retro decor
On the wall
you have a picture
of Audrey Hepburn
as Holly Golightly
wearing that dress
showing you
in black
and white

You know
that Audrey is dead
and Holly lived only
in Capote's mind
Neither of them
will ever
come in

Each woman
who comes in
has a coffee at one
of your little tables
Maybe your faded formica surface
and chrome edges and screws
feel like her mother
and father

She raises
your warm black cup
Considers the froth
the white heart
you've drawn for her
Puts her mouth to it
Sucks it
to an abstract

as Audrey
and Holly
from your wall

Jackson (Western Australia)