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)



I went to another dead end town
just to be somewhere else.
It was quiet
a few women in shops smiled at me
and i even got adventurous in Nando's
ordered something different.

There was a table in front of mine
about 10 young men on it
and time after time the girl came up with food and shouted it out
but they couldn't remember what they ordered
and some took other people's food.
Eventually they got it all.

As i was about to get up for a drink
one of the men got up
He was carrying his plate of chips
but as i got up behind him
he went for a drink
I thought he was going to put some sauce on his chips
but he didn't he just went back to the table
with his drink and plate of chips
I guess he didn't trust the blokes at his table
I can't blame him
sometimes it is hard to trust

Marc Carver (UK)



It’s your bad handwriting
I like to look at,
your giant hands,
sharp stubble,
the grey in your hair,
the lines on your face,
jagged finger nails,
you picking food from your teeth.

I don’t want you to catch me
looking. I’m too afraid I’ll annoy you
by saying the wrong thing.

But I'll always be right there.
Unless the cat walks in.

Gayle Richardson (UK)


When I asked my brain to stop playing games with me
it made my eyes roll so far back
I could see flashes of where all the self-punishment began.

I felt so stupid the moment I realised —
It wasn’t my brain on a mission to destroy me.
It was just all that junk I chose to hoard up there.

Gayle Richardson (UK)


before dawn

he wants her in the
before the bird chorus
and the idea of daily news
breath like silk
cheeks flushed
body warm from the river of
dreams running through

he wants her in the
hair spooling out in rings
wild bracken water
nuzzling her skin
mossed wet rocks she climbs
to dry off

he wants her on the
flesh open to the sun
skin turning in the
golden light
eyes closed and flickering
remembering her dreams

Kathryn Lyster (Australia)



They forgot to make me a boy. I was born and everything. Smelted in the forge. I’ve got a good bowl. Weighty handle. But they made me a not-boy. I know I’m a boy. I can feel my cock. Or perhaps it is the stirring of power tools. How can I prove my boyness to you? Or should I proclaim to be a man by now? I do not count age by years but soups. I know I am a man because I do not want to be a woman. Must find a beard. Waiter there’s a hair in my soup. I want to fuck things. I’m always hard as stainless steel. Maker’s mark stamped on my spine. I want to fuck things up.

Monica Carroll (Australian Capital Territory)

Isolator by Monica Carroll book cover
Monica's new book from Recent Work Press


I knew

I knew the woman who
walked into the river that winter
it took three days to find her
bundled like a sleeping swan
in the frost-sharpened reeds
I was a child in those days
even mud-heavy emptiness
was something to make into a song
practised silently over tea
before going out to play
the new game of Drop Down Dead.

Andrew Turner (UK)

Whatever Happened to Infinity

They call me Nowhere; a non-place
known, at least, to non-people —
They think. But a where cannot
not exist and be a non-position.
Thus logic wins its arm-wrestle
with the Theys and the question.

And I might have a brother nowhere.
Let’s not stop at two. Everywhere
that isn’t somewhere’s nowhere, Brother:
on my right — nowheres in the noughts,
on my other — legion. Simple addition.
Cheers for Nowhere the mathematician.

I’m in love with Anywhere, leader of vague;
queen of can’t-pin-me-down-ness, blipped
into the gap between somewhere and yonder;
my lover, lost wanderer — Anywhere;
unseen but known to be somewhere;
alluring in her wherever.

Then omnipotent Everywhere, god of where-ness
king of location, in every corner
of planets and space. E.W. — slang for Universe.
But he’s only position and place-ness. Our cousins,
Thing-ness and When-ness, each harbour
their deities — Everything, All and Eternity.

E A M Harris (England)


Ceyx azureus

on a bough of wattle
jutting over water,
a little azure kingfisher,
Ceyx azureus,

Blue as a summer sky,
with long beak disproportionate,
it waits.

I know that if its
keen eye spots a fish
it will dart down
and splash
and instantly be back there
with its catch.

The summer day being long,
I take a spell from busyness
to sit
in stillness
like this little bird
whose business is stillness.

I watch the kingfisher
watching for fish.

Yvonne Deering (Victoria)

The Wren Boy

I must have been having the time
of my life the year I started singing,
trying hard to remember the words,
but high on applause and silver.

In the lounge bar of a pub
in Swinford I tried out a repertoire
I’d culled from The Clancys and mixed
to a Home Counties hybrid.

Shock-headed, crowd-pleasing,
I might have been one of their own,
giving them back The Irish Rover,
The Woman from Wexford Town.

Lured by the promise of easy pickings,
I tagged along St Stephen’s Day,
togged out as a mummer,
and welcomed for miles around.

Strapped across her shoulder,
my cousin lugged her squeezebox,
melodeon, whatever, down lanes
and over fields. At each house

we stopped I gave them my party piece,
while across the buttons and keys
perished fingers danced
like spiders on warm stones.

David Cooke (UK)

What's a wren boy?


Purple Lady

Big City
Busy Street
People catching buses

Sit down
Wait for bus
Next to purple lady

Busy busy
Coming and going
Lady unmoving, staring

Odd smell
Is it me?
Hope not

There again
This time stronger
Sweet but unclean

Purple lady
hands unsettled
Mumbles under breath

I look at her

I look

I notice

Short hair once highlighted
Clothes seem neat
Like for travelling
She wears a zipped up purple jacket
Neat and tidy over black pants
Cowboy boots underneath

Clean complexion
In her 30’s
Rather pretty except

Staring vacantly
Waiting for the night
Alone and withdrawn

She is not catching a bus

Should I offer to help?

Last few times
I received fear and anger
I hesitate

Bus arrives and I am whisked away.

A few days later
Walking in the crowd
Face marked with dirt and a white smear

Clothes are the same but
Dirty and unkempt
Greywhite t-shirt hanging out raggedly

The days have been unkind

She is washed away
River of people
Lost in the crowd.

I am filled with sadness, loss, and feel ashamed.

Kim Robertson (Queensland)
First published on the author's blog


Collision on Winthrop Avenue

It isn’t just the impact
that shocks.

It’s the violence
of the sound
exploding your reveries.

It’s the surprise
of your car spinning
and others whizzing past.

It’s the vehicle
facing oncoming traffic.

It’s the surprise
of children’s workbooks
strewn across lanes
colouring-in weeping in soft drizzle.

It’s the insistence
of the blaring horn
refusing to be silenced
and the door that won’t open.

It’s the surprise
of what might have been.

Rita Tognini (Western Australia)



So let’s say
we’re centaurs

& in front
we keep a face

a place
to land

if someone’s

while behind
we go for what

we can get
& as for love

& death while
we’re ripe

they run

along for the ride

Laurinda Lind (USA)
First published in Afterthoughts (London, ON, Canada, 1997)


The waiting

‘My lungs burst
like fire in dry grass.
You are scarred from rib to rib 
and it looks like a smile.

It’s loud when the moon’s out —
the dancing branches shake 
blossoms from the trees.

We were gentle when the night fell 
like eventual rain
and we slept like curled dogs 
our hearts jumping at the night owls
and all the birds sleeping.

I called you in the gum drenched dark
and you were just a shiver,
so I warmed myself 
on the curve of your spine.
I can bear it more 
if we feel real.’

Kirsty Oehlers (Western Australia)


Sneaky Piggely

I’m the sneaky piggely
I always steal the capsicum
And when the big alpha piggelys come
I pretend to be retarded

I’m the sneaky piggely
I pretend to be normal but it never works
And when the big alpha piggelys come
I pretend to be dead

I’m the sneaky piggely
I steal the corn leaves and hide in a box
And none of you big alpha piggelys are going to stop me
‘Cos I pretend to be sad

I’m the sneaky piggely
I’m disabled and dysfunctional
Please love me alpha piggely
I wish I knew more tricks

Timothy Parkin (Western Australia)
First published on the author's blog


The Clairvoyant

The clairvoyant never explains his gift,

how he comes to see what he sees,
how flashes of vision, insight, intuition

coalesce into a divining rod to point

in one direction or another,
how far they take him from himself.

His art is not science, not forensic,

not often reliable. When he closes
his eyes he sees cloud-mist,

he sees a veil he must lift or pierce,

and beyond the veil a clue, a locket,
a tuft of hair, a red sweater, a map,

a missing child’s body, hidden or visible

amongst a jumble of discarded items,
a woman’s heartache, a man’s bewilderment.

David Adès (South Australia)

Cover of book Afloat in Light
David's new book
Read an extract / buy


Public announcement

If you have been affected
by the contents of this drama
well that’s the point of art
isn’t it? If, however, you are
unmoved, then a helpline is available
to discuss how you might develop
your ability to empathise with others.
Calls are charged at the local rate.

Andrew Turner (UK)



Performed at GLITTER, Spoken Word Perth, May 2016 @ Paper Mountain Gallery

friend’s message on facebook reveals her disguise
of sexual pureness, a fabrication of lies
that hides the pain of consent stripped away
the horror that resides in her everyday

and I feel it, the pain of a past you can’t speak
the shudders in shop fronts, the shuffling of feet
subtly avoiding any spaces of fear
silent shadows, sharp corners, the stench of cheap beer

on another’s mouth, or another’s skin
innocent intoxication turned sinister grin
that snarls through nightmares, alone in her bed
his hands always present, always there in her head

former frame of fluidity reduced to regret
hip bones, now haunted, the site of lament
rib cage protrudes from translucent skin
starvation an escape from the body she’s in

my body is a prison, my body is a crime scene
my body is a puzzle and I don’t know what it means
my body isn’t mine, my body isn’t home
my body is broken and the cure remains unknown

I’m messaging my friend, she’s too far away to hold
I want to tell her it gets better, not each season is this cold
but my strength still shivers and my palms are turning pale
haunted by the malice which the human race entails

patriarchy perpetuates the purpose of penetration
as proving your penis has power past procreation
but my body is no piñata and there is no prize
for whoever hits it hard enough, whoever parts my thighs

she was asking for it
asking for it
asking for

I was asking for it
asking for it
asking for


Maddie Godfrey (Western Australia / UK)
Facebook: maddiegodfreypoet

From Maddie's zine Warm

Amateur Pole Queen

Poem page from zine
From Maddie's zine Warm

do not think about failure,
remember that even stars fall sometimes
and when they do, people wish on them

Maddie Godfrey (Western Australia / UK)
Facebook: maddiegodfreypoet

From Maddie's zine Warm


the last groove

the plates drip dry
up-turned cups drain
as water runs in rivulets
into the sink

smoke escapes
from the chimney
of the house
across the garden
while black birds forage
pull up worms
from moist
new turned soil

music is playing somewhere
but for now
my revolution is over
on the sterile CD
the unscratched
version of the Pistols
has come to an end

how I miss the sound
of a stylus
playing the last groove

Jim Bennett (UK)


The catbeing

A sleeping catbeing,
black white ochre body curled,
furred cheek turned
     (Her free ear flicks
     as I shift on the wooden stool,
     as my sock scuffs the floor)
The catbeing, catmind, lithe catbody
has made her toilette
     (as Eliot said)
and now takes her repose

Pets are banned
But she is not my pet
Responsibility is claimed
by Unit 33
Kipper, their collar calls her
     (A motorbike dopplers past:
     her head lifts, then subsides)
She is the gentlest
of the three local catbeings,
the one most partial to humans
     (or, at least, to me)
She has come to my room for refuge,
for a pause in her difficult war
with the powerful catbeing from
beyond the fence
whom I stroked at lunchtime
but did not admit

The weary catbeing has come to rest
on the faded quilt I use
as a meditation seat
I unfold it to cat dimensions,
smooth its green 70s geometries
flat on the scarred sofa
     (catbeings enjoy a soft bed)
She kneads and stretches and washes,
clips her claws with her teeth,
clamping and yanking,
then works through a sequence of postures
until, eventually, she settles.
     (I unplug the phone)

Her spine is an opening parenthesis,
a yang matched by the yin of her tail
All along her rounded back
her filaments stand proud, separate,
like iron filings inscribing
the north and south of a magnetic field.
The purring catbeing, earthed, live,
is locus, nexus, nucleus —
a cluster of cells making waves
of Thursday afternoon peace.

Jackson (Western Australia)


Broken TV

‘My mind is a TV with no sound. And the teletext is broken. But the show goes on and I have to watch.

It gets really good around 2am. Sometimes beautiful women light up the screen.
Sometimes they teach you how to fuck.
Sometimes they fall in love with men with perfect shoulders.
Sometimes they just spend hours talking.

Sometimes there are men fighting. Sometimes they bite great chunks out of each other.
Sometimes they stab and shoot and burn.
Sometimes they hold each other.
Sometimes they cry and bleed and die.

Sometimes there's just a kid who looks sad. He's got no toys so he makes friends with the mice in his walls. He builds little houses for them out of boxes off the floor. He makes tiny mice sized toys for them.

Sometimes there are just people crying.

Sometimes there is a teenage girl lying curled up in a ball on the floor. She writes in a diary that she just wants to die.

Sometimes there are women with empty bellies and blood on their feet. They sit on the ends of beds for hours. Just crying and holding their stomachs while men watch.

Sometimes there is a man buying a rope. No one asks him why he only wants rope.

Sometimes everyone is happy.
Sometimes everyone is laughing.
Sometimes a cat falls asleep on a dog.

Sometimes lovers finish each other's thoughts.
Sometimes a kiss leads to sex.
Sometimes they fall asleep all tangled up like a plate of spaghetti.

Sometimes nothing happens.

Well actually, dark happens. Different shades of dark. Sometimes that happens for ages.

Sometimes when it's dark I wonder if I could stop watching.
But without any sound what would happen to the pictures?
Sometimes I wish I could fix it. Sometimes I wish I could turn it all the way up so someone else could listen while I shut my eyes.’

Megan Watson (Western Australia)

Holiday Town

We watch them come, from Cup Day on,
The caravans and tents.
They’ll all be here on Boxing Day.
The foreshore will be dense.

They’re here — street signs are mangled now,
To confuse our whereabouts.
We shrug and sigh, and say aloud,
‘It’s all those holiday louts.’

Picket fences, letterboxes,
Local structures all abused.
We pay the damage someone does
Just to be amused.

The shops are full of trolleys.
They jam up all the aisles,
And queues to all the things we want
Go back for miles and miles.

But wait! We see kids paddling
And playing on the sand,
The bike track’s used by families,
They’re all in Happy Land.

The holidays end, it’s ‘Back to School’,
They’ve packed up in a flash.
So come again you happy lot,
And don’t forget your cash!

Shirley Burgess (Victoria)
First published in Positive Words


cradle of extinction

a cradle and a darkened glass
the moss of our extinction
hoarded here

the brush of skin and ash and hair
their fall a cry of loss
made infinitely small and rare

the tree that holds a family
comes to this
a hand-made dress
of Limerick lace

the bones of heirs
laid down to fade, to rest

Marjorie Lewis-Jones (New South Wales)


her nails dug in through flesh and pith
released the scent of Californian groves
and made an orange smile

Jim Bennett (UK)

on seed dispersal

! flood, come : wet the
. cells chime, molecules
bind : a body of water
stands up, stretching

rain-shaking hair slick
everywhere : here, the
pitter-patter’s chatter, as
heard by earth. girth

of seasonal birth is a
surge that drowns this
world in aqua love so
tense, plants relinquish

of themselves, circumvent
. future floral instances
float trope, swimming
pool in hope of rooting

from which to sew growth
, out further, at wetland’s
highest slope, a new note of
how melaleucas cope under

......& the paperbarks gasp
grasp air round themselves
holdfast as trunks dive &
descend & up, water table

Scott-Patrick Mitchell (Western Australia)


When I Used To

I used to track porn sites
until I realised that
patting my dog
was a better use
of time and emotion.
I used to write love songs
and then, one extended day,
my thoughts turned
to the sourness of failed
words and a jumblefield of
vapourised dreams.
I used to love planting peppercorns
and watching them grow
into salt shakers,
until I realised that
the pharmaceuticals in
my brain were setting me on fire.
I used to suck on memory, until
one blistering whitehot night
only a vacuum remained
with no trace in sight
of the path I was on.
I used to read a poem once
that seemed to posit
a choice of turn:
left here and your boring
life can continue; right here,
and whatever may happen,

Allan Padgett (Western Australia)


yellow wall

‘writing for the rats’
— Charles Bukowski

I see a yellow wall
turn it over

there’s writing
on the other side
scribbled notes
theories on life

I haven’t been to Paris yet
but I will soon
then I’ll have lived

I might go to Turin
and Genoa, or Barcelona
or a village on that coast
or all of them

then I’ll have lived
a little bit more

I’ll come back here
or a place very like it
and find…

Owen Bullock (New Zealand / Canberra)


Jón Páll Sigmarsson’s first installation is a mobile phone standing twelve feet high. You type the letter A by pulling down a lever which takes all your strength. Activate letter B by lifting a 30 litre bucket of water from a shelf at chest height. Clock letter C by sawing through a 40cm log with a bow saw. A message can take an hour. The exhibit relays what you’ve written to a real cellphone which sends the message, though there might be network problems. Sigmarsson’s work will be tremendously popular, the gallery owners tell me.

Owen Bullock (New Zealand / Canberra)


What Happened When I Turned Off the Heat

Because I turned off the heat
Because I closed the back room windows
Because the wind is an empty threat
and the bottle is an empty bottle
Because the juice in the bottle was once sweet
Because the cheese in the refrigerator is molding
Because the bread on top of the refrigerator is green
Because there are seeds on your stockings
and you are tracking pollen through the house
Because antiseptic wipes can take only so much
and then they are as useless as the heat
when I went to the basement and turned it off

In the house of too much food
In the playground of too much exercise equipment
In the storeroom of too much of nothing
nothing to eat nowhere to sleep not a single seat
no toys no games no books no clothes
In the apartment of too many people
In the garden of too many weeds
dandelions, clover, crabgrass and so many
leaves for boiling and baking
In the street of too many cars and trucks
In the beach of too many dead fish and seagulls
In the ocean teeming with algae, a lack of oxygen
too much carbon dioxide, too much plastic debris

Then we’re in the castle of the big growth forests
Then we’re surrounded by acorns and pistachio nuts
Then the sunlight filters to the grandiose weeds
Then the path fills with sunlight and sunshine,
large clear shadows and large opaque beings
Then we run to clearings and find empty graves
full of stones, pebbles and grass clippings,
mites, centipedes and bluebird feathers
Then a dragon cloud devours the sky
Then it begins to rain and the roof of the castle leaks
stone and plaster and lead paint in large flakes
until the frescoed floor is dotted with white smudges
and our shoes are the color of lime ash and charcoaled wood
Then everything settles into a silence as great as God
and the nations of the planet do not even notice
Then the thinning begins, great birds, long reptiles,
one flick of the tongue of the Komodo dragon

Afterwards there will be little left of what was left to begin with
Afterwards the language of words will be devoid of vocal sounds
and pronunciation will be in the form of whistles and breathing
no one able to communicate until letters are again announced
fitting the afterwards of the world as we say it is directly now
Afterwards will be exactly after that one scar of a word loosens
itself into the realm of invention and intervention
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will eat the dry fruit on the plain
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will sleep in the tall grass
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will allow us to speak
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will speak for us and we will know
Afterwards the words will come freely and fill us with longing
Afterwards we will cry with relief and sing the song of words
whistling, breathing, growling, our teeth bright and sharp

Michael H. Brownstein (USA)

Everyone's father dies

Everyone’s father dies,
snow melts in February
sometimes and the robin
comes home.

We are left with place names
we have not been. Stories, too,
we will no longer hear, poems, essays,
the vocabulary of socialism, and paths.

You can see the space between the rooms,
stray hair curled and gray,
folded manuscripts
under an old oak chest.

In a dream a father turns to you,
smiling, his arms opening,
opening, and when you wake,
you are no longer crying.

Michael H. Brownstein


The New Slip Inn / The Pub With No Beer

Walking home past the village church, I'm drawn
to the lamplit window in the cottage
opposite, the old blacksmith's — before that
a pub: The New Slip Inn. (How come, this far
from a waterway?) The interior
is bedecked with memorabilia
that materialise, hammer and tongs
in the glow from a fire, wooden bellows
pumping the vision into life. Then it
cools, but somehow softens. It has the feel
of something dimly remembered, windows
opened in an old calendar. I lean
in to put right one of the slipped horseshoes
that has spilled its luck, making the world turn

upside down, I've passed through a cupboard door
and walked out onto a bleached verandah,
not that of my own childhood but to where
another family has assembled
for a shot outside The Pub with No Beer —
except the father has a glass of it.
He rests his forearms on the railing while
his son twists awkwardly bored, and mother
stands back in her sunnies. You — on the edge
of your new beauty — smile to camera,
a little white dog between your bare feet.
You're already telling me that the song's
what this is all about: Old Billy, a
blacksmith; how and when the warrigals called.

Paul Munden (UK)

The Bulmer Murder cover
Paul's book The Bulmer Murder will be published in April 2017 by Recent Work Press.


Women of Disharmony

Disharmony is not only a state of being
But a colourless cube, built from converging walls
Bound by the mason's mortar between the brickwork
Solidified by the hot breath of weeping women.

Philosophise — believe this concrete clad room does not exist
It is simply an invention of the mind, a mental bondage
To historical inaccuracies. Or it is best forgotten, left that way
Just a square of walls in a silent, fenced-off field. But I

Heard about disharmony, in their voices travelling along
The barbed wires that now coil within my DNA strands
And their words were silenced outside those walls
Yet their last breaths were born in my lung tissue.

Have you seen disharmony? It begins with one wall.
It can build a city that stands a thousand years by a river's grassy edge.
Painted walls, cultural facades spread over the landscape. A colourful city
With sweeping designs of yellow stars smeared onto its doorways.

In that cube, that bare room, all the women were gasping
Running their hands along the concrete looking for cracks, trapped
By disharmony. Naked and brown, without sunlight or moonbeams
Not far from undivided Berlin, somewhere by a whistling train line.

Perhaps it was the same track that ran to the sea
Where families boarded boats, some never to see each other again. Separated
Sisters and cousins, children cast out like ashes from a furnace
They waved goodbye and said ‘Shalom’ to the ghosts they left behind.

Last night, I dreamed I visited Auschwitz.
A man in uniform smiled and led me through the gates.
He reunited me with the lost women of my family. They held me close
Crying as we showered in the space where those walls converged.

Wendy Beach (Western Australia)


Join the Library

let’s see sir
you wish to
join the library
you state that
your name
is God
also known
as Jehovah, Yahweh
Sovereign of the Universe
The all Powerful
Lord of Lords
and others
but do you have any
proof of identity?
yes I can see that
you have a halo
and can do miracles
thanks for that
my pain is cured
but no sir please sir
do not get agitated
and do not threaten
library staff with
those winged heavies
standing outside
and plague and pestilence
showers of frogs fire
brimstone and treacle
they would damage
our book stock
and no sir
the Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse
had to fulfil the
same conditions
do you have a
council tax statement?
or driving licence?
or a passport?
no sir we
do not have
an original copy
of the
Dead Sea Scrolls

as it’s sadly
closing time sir
could you please
come back

Patrick McManus (UK)
First published in Phoenix, 2015


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)