For Teddyboy

Here’s to a Clay Path

All that rain has gone to only topsoil
beneath the clay wants hacking blows
joking awful murder stories truth
lying shrouded in a car boot
shady at least so no want of air
blocking one last door that boy
showers clotting boot patterns
down by a metre it’s a terracotta jerk
friends and family phoning up
the whisky you bought staggering
blood-eyed and snotted round Foster plus
last night’s Bolognese and Choc Ripples
which knew what was going to come today
hum quietly to you while you take turns
like real plumber’s boys too out of body
to blubber any more Shakespeare
gravedigger jokes about terrible
ditches they’ve known young hoes
grip to plough on seeping air until you make
the call once more over with Charlie’s massive
pry bar and one scrape and endless fickle tidy
litter of him the scene from that film
Molière two steps up stairs one back down
all that routine that will not happen now
you hold one another for all eternity
cover him and fetch bluegum and Veronica
Kunzea and a yellow button Calocephalus
sit his bench and photograph her planting
fall towards the shed behind tool barrow
mulch a dreary mound against the very end of light
thoughts returning in this harvest glory
night not falling after all only thunderheads
now begin kind
you two walking paths around where he has gone
all flesh is clay is stone.


sing an ordinary girl
sitting on a wall
humming tunelessly to sunshine
just like anybody else
looking forward to a juicy chop
hiding all her peas
praise the ordinary sunshine
till mummy’s evening bell
will tinkle
call her in to splash her face
chatter some and see
a sunburned freckle
shining warm in shadow
country sunshine
country sleep

under the green sea of our face
we manage forever the seeker
duty giving dull and fine stuff power alike
which keeps rising like a blood well
Jacob’s pillow out of Perthshire rock
flitting scarlet finches every one diadem flashing
one feather cape for that matter
one bunny fur bush hat
like an other
olive and balsam making the great salad
labour perfecting buffalo cheese as well
given millennia we can
make wonder
trees anointed by spring
creak with it
defy gravity in divine transpiration

hold      to      hold      to      hold      to

you are my queen
what secret line can make more of that?
years and floods ringing through us from faraway she
coronation sofa giving mossy beneath us all
for ever and ever
she is properly resigning to glory

Ferry to Bute with dolphins, May 2022.


I happened to be reading Chris Priest’s novel when I learned of his death. I have not been able say what I feel to Leigh, or his children, or Nina. I found myself writing about what I assume is his last novel, if not his last book. That has helped a bit.

I knew Chris for forty-seven years. He was one of those people with whom we didn’t talk around stuff—politics, progress, writing, personalities—just got stuck in. Something he pointed out back in 1979, when I first dropped in to see him, was that friends took up where they left off. We did.

The Fascination

Airside by Christopher Priest Gollancz UK 2023 (298 pp)  

Christopher Priest’s last novel is named for the airport zone beyond which exists only atmosphere and vapour.

Airside. Outside of our sovereign inside.

It is the story of once-famous Hollywood actress Jeanette Marchand, whose public beauty and domestic pain made it impossible for her to escape in her own country in the 1940s, but who in Britain vanishes without a trace at an airport. Justin Farmer is a boy in Manchester when Marchand disappears, one whose obsessive and systematic nature picks up both film and aircraft.

Paul Kincaid has pointed out that Farmer is close to Priest in some historical life circumstances. Yes, and no.

Airside‘s plot flirts in several of its turns with a story written by any other science fiction writer that might satisfy content generation, but Christopher Priest has been plying his own way well beyond the field for many decades. There are cheeky moments where the reader believes Justin’s story might resolve conventionally. Priest’s prose stands back from its subject, paces regularly, leaving spaces, lulling the reader into average expectations while all the while the author has been moving partitions around and altering the lighting and angles. Pages go by and before you know it you’re somewhere the ordinary words make poetry.

The novel form in Priest’s hands is itself is an excuse to write up to a sequence of words which would make no sense without the previous novel, but which glow away from the pages with a plain truth it has taken hundreds of thousands of others piled up beneath author and reader to scramble upon.

I’ve been reading them for about fifty years. Priest’s novels have always revolved around an image of the infinite, or perhaps heading toward the infinite like the city Earth in Inverted World. Since Indoctrinaire and Fugue for a Darkening Island, the world has changed yet is the same, only thinner. Priest’s work moved very quickly from what that might have been identified with SFF movements such as the New Wave and publications such as New Worlds, to novels outstanding for originality and seriousness. Even The Space Machine, a Wells pastiche which as a teenager and something of a stylistic snob I regarded as Priest breaking out of Priest but which in retrospect was just him breaking further into being Priest, is much more than a romp, arguably the origin of a rigorous and yet still frolicsome Steampunk and making postmodern comment on the genre with which Priest’s work always maintained an ambivalent relationship.

For all Priest’s affection for the science fiction fantasy communities, his relationship with all genres and cliques, his relationship with its conventions is broader-based in its fantasy and at once more factual than its science, leading him out of genre, including the “literary” one, and into a place that will continue to influence not only such limited origins but, through The Prestige and The Space Machine, The Adjacent, and his various Dream Archipelago stories, the world’s outlook in general.

This is a bold claim to make. He was no George Lucas.

Priest, I would maintain, was that beast rising from genre wetland, “storyteller,” where the magic of a printed stretch of pages comes from the author’s conspiratorial “plotting” in the devious sense of the word as much from the ideas and literary forms and stylistic twerking. This is what has helped Priest’s reputation for metafictional trickery in a way only matched in the great practitioners of it. And without the Lucas bullshit.

It isn’t enough to cleverly comment on the art of fiction and its history and connections to other art forms; to play an old song; Priest’s work depends from his connections with other art in a way completely integrated with his characters and places. Priest was always at work on the reader’s expectation of what was about to happen or should happen in a story such as by what he found himself the fascinated.

I can still see his eyes glittering with the joke, one often taken so seriously it took on greater proportions than the confines of a novel. Or a movie.

Not just geekery, those Priest interests in flight, photography, and stage magic, all miraculous. In Airside, Justin Farmer keeps a card catalogue of every film he has seen and runs into trouble when he attempts to catalogue his first relationship. It is not mentioned whether Justin continues this practise in his romantic life. Certainly he destroys this early assembly with the determination, “Never again. Never.” And yet his follow-through on Jeanette Marchand’s disappearance is quietly persistent and arguably all-absorbing in the finish.

In scenes echoing the films his character reviews throughout the book, Justin Farmer enters the liminal world of Jeanette Marchand, lands on whose far side lie uncertainty and alarm, whose border anxiety is managed by unseen and incomprehensible forces ministering according to scripts the passengers cannot share.

Part of the enigma, brand names are points of reference when the globalised and novelty-based architecture dissolves a sense of sovereignty to place or one’s body. Such logos and shapes are superficial but familiar, at least on the face. Christopher Priest has always seen through his own industry’s branding and travelators and boarding pass Cerberuses.

His work has taken appealing ideas—invisible man, alternate WWII, professional magicians’ secrets, bizarre topologies—and never led them to predictable conclusions. Airside is no exception. The glamorous combines with the nerdy, locating the birth of classic early science fiction and its fandom and its nervous Edwardian reaction to the corners of the planet having contracted (an earlier incarnation of an “end of history”) as the mystery origin of this popular, global, systematised mythology.

Priest wrote book-length caustic screeds on the deceptive moneymaking patter of fandom. Yet to the end of his life he remained a cheerful participant in fandom’s amateur public expression.

The shiny belly of the aircraft, or its shadow, or its descent into fire, stands in for the looming of real nature always ready to break with a climate-led, water-dependent shit-crash into our sterile profit-maximised and yet puffed-up baggage roundabout of entertainment, our peach veneer of luxury without real legroom: the moment of maximum vertigo for me in this novel concerns the boarding gate tunnel repetition of posters of tourists enjoying themselves in manufactured paradises.

And relief from that, however illusory this also might be, takes us back into coherent story, where we expect and want a “solution”, however qualified and ironic.

Justin reflected that being conducted through a terminal in this semi-official way temporarily removed the feeling of dysfunction. The one mixed blessing allowed to passengers waiting in a terminal, the false and restricted freedom to walk or wander around, was replaced by a sense of purpose, motion, transportation. No options existed. Was this a key to understanding? The solution to the enigma? The elevator halted. The journey resumed. The walls were the same, so were the advertisements.

A mystery is perhaps solved and Justin and his partner Matty, a writer with professional interests lending her an x-ray view into his obsessions, if not a collaborative fascination over them, must satisfy themselves with Jeanette Marchand’s new location, somewhere beyond their current movable partitions. Such an ending could have been perfunctory.

It could have been Concrete Island and not a novel in which this appears:

She disbelieved in coincidence. The circle of connections, double-headed arrows like arms pointing towards each other, a symbol of a loose friendly hug, the names made into a never-ending link. For Justin that day in the old cemetery was the first tentative confession of Matty’s love scribbled on the title page of an old book, or the approach of love, or its likelihood. Or its truth. That warm summer’s day on the bench beneath the canopy of trees—that was when he had Matty had begun their lives together.

We read shortly afterwards about “a mature and stable love” as opposed to Justin’s fannish obsession with Marchand. Priest’s Earth is fractured but not entirely a crystal world.

The reason Christopher Priest left writing and film artistry a better place than he found them is that in a career across six decades he maintained a story-based relationship with his reader, an unwavering gaze upon his own and others’ human natures, and work always firmly Christopher Priest no matter the influence.

Playfully, Priest’s characters have departed without confirmed arrival, into the clouds as, unlike their pages’ author, human being Christopher Mackenzie Priest has done as well.

Christopher Priest
14 July 1943-2 February 2024


Burning Beans on New Year’s Eve

(verses I forgot)

Chaff like petals on a coffee Buddha fretting:
Sunday roast does stink up a worthy one,
some other me in love with gods and gallimaufry

rates me so awful we skip to the next crack, 223°
daily jabber with this guy over, in the face of it,
growing small. Is metaphor low serotonin now?

Always roast to primes, my father never said
seedy common or exclusive composites—
that cloud burns away with the vision fade

fogged instead, memory for desire
one small circle the other’s child and the other—
more than I can say. Is more TV apprehension?

Shooting through unlikely integers annually
child-me plumped for quite a lot, fingers done,
and now, repetitively, quite a lot more

moving onto whatever’s next and, failing that,
inventing next, my page never neat as a story
loss of day, joke-made, boredom-perfect,

beans abandoned to the fireworks.

Two Friends

Well it’s done.

Printed (don’t ask me) and sent for the first read. Pretty nervous. However, I find there is not just joy in finishing it. I have written something quite worth reading, I reckon. As I like to think, I’m onto something.

The subject matter started with my family. Started thinking of it and actually had a go in 1979. Research began 1993 with a trip to Indonesia. Several interviews with my father before that but none of it used—in this one, anyway.

It did not remain with my family. For a long time (is it really forty-four years?) I struggled with facts and historical accuracy. Now I’ve read enough and seen enough to think I’ve had a respectable go at the history; that’s just labour, but the real breakthrough was not trying to tell the story of my family at all. Just inspire a story. Otherwise, it’s history—which is fine, but I’m no historian. I am a storyteller.

I can’t help thinking that perhaps I ought to pick another title. Then I think, nah.

One small reason, apart from the fact that the title is utterly appropriate, and that an editor may still have a say in the matter, is that the novel I wrote before Two Friends was Three Friends. Don’t worry, I don’t have One Friend in mind, yet. (It is possible, but I have thought of a much, much better title for the WIP and the novel I excerpted earlier on this site is called Written on the Golden Page.)

The “friends” thing is no coincidence, or gimmick. Finally, I started thinking about what I’ve written, and if there is anything I am actually writing about without knowing it. The thinking goes like this. Deep thought is a little pretentious in someone like me, suburban boy without a degree, believing writers need to have a job besides writing, to correct the lack of observation and formula writing I see, as much in myself as the genres I’ve traversed.

It turns out what I’ve been on about is friendship. My homelife, I always took as a mess, and now that it’s not a mess, it’s not worth writing about. So, friends have always been my joy and sorrow.

All my novels were really about making friends, some lovers, some betrayers, some just a gang of fools. So here is a title in which “friends” and “two” mean something. Here is doubling; here is enmity; company; hilarity; separation—making friends.

So there we have it: begun as biographical historical; now it’s an historical fantasy. Hope you can read it soon.

The Voice—My Intervention

Yes, that’s a joke. Yet, the very least we can do is mention where we stand. Where I stand is, typically, not coherent. That all this is complicated has been seen as a drawback for the Yes case. Well, damn our simple declarative sentences.

Stop making sense.

Sense is progress in science, but it’s a drawback in public life. My sister is volunteering for the Yes campaign, handing out leaflets and so on. She was told by an old white bloke that she ought to admit she’s Indigenous. Pretty sure it was the same guy who later was having a go at those he saw as unfairly (!) claiming aboriginality. Our family is not, let me say, indigenous to this unceded land.

Here I try to think about the problem with the word “racism”. We are individually likeable people, many of us, not actively racist. Passively racist? Well, there it gets complicated.

Having said all that, there is of course a simple set of words which really do promote the Yes case: love is the answer.

Vote Yes for love.

Not a Racist

Breaking out of my sovereign mind today
Caste detritus my personal chicken run,

Bath of the bath of the bath is a bath
All dust is crime.

I have my reasons and they’re terrible
That’s the way I like it, unexamined,

Law of the law of the law is a law
All pure in time.

Shooting a koala sign isn’t gunning for them
Driving a car too fast at night, driving any car,

Line of the line of the line is a line
All side by side.

In your dead Indo-Dutch tongue petjo
Several words for “concubine” means,

Word of the word of the word is a word
All said out loud.

I can what I want and laugh and it’s whatever
No need to fix things I am happy,

I of the I of the I is an I
We’re all the same.

Imagined, all of this country, like it or leave.

So furious I could not say with the weather, who
Slight of clouds, sneer of rain, too well-observed
I thought promised,
We got ready to dance but we woke before the band
Glad in garish flappy things, gladder, and that’s serious
Irresistible rhythms of the chuff reused as sand:
It was a battle hymn we hopped to
Horn gone
In the finish
At the dawn
Barefoot in our heads

Get up

All things drive to ends forgotten on the road
All things and a bentwood chair as well, creaking
I lost my love on a day of equal night,
Forgot memory of air is not campaign,
This cheap context idiot fake for a crown,

Get up and dance.

Why on Earth is there Scat on a Stick?

In which we risk no readers at all due to assumed immaturity, possibly justified. (I have had a recent blow to the head.)

Why do creatures defecate in a high place? On a rock, alright, but—a stick? We like to blame this on dogs and we like also to atribute base motives to dogs. Google it. We’re talking mark of territory. I say you can’t rule out fun. Face it, dogs are pretty base, and they are territorial, but above all they love fun. It’s all unsubstantiated, however. Lacking a peer-reviewed study, as it were, we must regard it all as speculation. Please let me know if you come across genuine science on the subject.

Click below to read. Be advised the illustration here is a fungus—not poo—and a dead frog. Many kilometres from anywhere. What’s remarkable is that on this one stick, there was also a hefty defecation on the other end. Was it staged? By whom? Surely not the dog. (It didn’t look like a dog turd either. Nor any herbivore.)

I have left the reverse angle shot out so as to spare offence. Those interested in fecal photography may DM on the site formerly know as Twitter.

a building site

Here, because so little of my work gets sent out, because I’m working on three books at once, and because what we have here is at least a little of the surface of our building project, I’ve released another few thoughts on this place, driven by Cathy’s need for a shed and my own increasing despair at the vast and growing concrete slab of Melbourne.

I have to say it smells consistently sweet here.

Shed: exhortation

(because we live here only nominally)

Each beam every
Noggin complicates our space:
Word by phrase populate this
Address number: lose fingerprint gain
Split nail and puzzle order
And reward and nature and
Material layer and temperature and flow
Walk me through in dreams: nobody
Told you to do it except vision of
Vista-filled clearing
Insisted like a dog nose, eye
Singular and no question once
Four o’clock spreadsheet found
End and first line:
Cliché by mangled conjunction
Clad in stone and steel and soft sheet
Insulated glassily, questions
Delayed for their time their
Own population in town mind
Rented and full anyway of
Blithe new furniture
Build by kingfisher
Puddle and fur
Finch and eagle glancing
Drip and feather
Path of koala unalterable
Treeward certainly change,
I shall little by minor sprain
Cheek by stumble in sweet
Repeated ignorance build
This field is my ocean and I
Bloody fisherman
Dwell until closing time paddocky—
Until next mishap—proud fashioning
Love severally large
As usual as foolishly as due by
Law and preparation and fate
Soft turned in the way of water
Away from a street holding fast
Something next in mind never
Far away.

Grey violence of first magpie
Permit me to pray
One more day.

Paul Voermans 2022

Chipping Away

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like anything is happening. Until it does. We are living in South Gippsland now, without a house for two years. Slowly, things have improved: composting toilet; worm farm septic (without a house we just dump the “solids” into the land of wormies); hot water (a Victorian clawfoot bath with a shower soon to have Cathy’s tiles); woodfired oven+heater. So we are not completely without amenities any more, but it’s taken many months. We have internet, just, by virtue of an directional antenna I put up on the shed. We have a TV my mate Tim lent us, and of course we have the coffee roaster and machine we had in Reservoir.

So we are not destitute, though we’re existing on Cathy’s pottery and my super only. Can’t get the dole because the we have the money to pay for the house, technically. I have applied for some jobs, but none successfully so far. An irrational reaction was to start a fantasy novel. Written on the Golden Page. This is now in first draft!

Encountering Two Friends, also in first draft, after a year’s resting, I am pleased and surprised to say it’s a novel I’m drawn to read, unlike many I come across these days! Surely that’s not simply my conceit, never having read it, and a year’s setting aside…. I know already what to do with it, but I’ll go through it in the way I’ve taught myself, doing synopses as a story told, as a series of scenes, as what it might be, as a text I’m digging in for meaning, then a synopsis of it as it should be, and another of each chapter as they ought to be. Finally a retype and a third pass, plus whatever obsessive tinkering I get up to, with another pass or two after comment and hopefully editorial suggestions. Five drafts, I suppose. A lot of fact checking.

I am settled into writing in the morning and building in the afternoon. Roughly. Today a poem called, “Parma with Chilli Chorizo Before Bed” about lighting a fire and a cat dream. No building due to website rebuilding.

Cathy is finished the house tiles. They are so beautiful. (More later.)

All of a sudden, after frustration of planning and the universal pandemic delays, we get a house delivered in three weeks! I hope to keep this site up-to-date a bit more. So you’ll get a shot of the delivery, perhaps. Wish us luck. We may be living in it in November. inshallah, as my old dad used to say.

The modesty shield reads: “Manufactured in the United States of Australia Coburg.”

New Life, New Novel

Because we have only Cathy’s income to live on, and are used to a fair bit more than that, there are 3:30am moments when I Really Ought to Do Something About Money. Of course, if a job exists that would let me take weeks off in the first month to build the workshop and only do days that suit me I’d—but wait! There is! I COULD WRITE A NOVEL THAT WOULD ACTUALLY SELL COPIES!! So I started noodling on the laptop. I mean, if it’s going to be airport fodder I can avoid writing the whole elaborate rotate-13-times-widdershins-on-the-cushion-draft-on-paper-then-input-then-input-again thing, surely. Noodling. Anyway, I discovered two things: noodling always turns into Something. And twothly, I am incapable of writing something that doesn’t interest me, so whatever I write is going to be less airporty than all that. I mean, I like airportly books as much as the next snob, but I have only one in me, surely, and this isn’t it. (Is it?) I have learned from trying this: my writing survives the worst assault I can make on it, driving four hours back and forth from home to new home (building site), actively trying to write relatably yet plotlessly; and that such an “assault” jettisons some serious baggage I’ve accumulated. And I do plot! This move to our new place is all about jettisoning, so here is another break with my private rules.

An extract, from what I’ve been calling Written on the Golden Page: a game of light and darkness. It’s a fantasy! For someone who maintains all fiction is fantasy, this is just being honest. I cannot deny, though, that my favourite authors in the genre as published include Joanna Russ, Christopher Stasheff, Patricia McKillop, Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula Le Guin, Phillip Pullman, Samuel Delany, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, and Fritz Lieber. Yes of course Tolkein and Lewis, but you may find it interesting—and without reason but time—that I haven’t read much Pratchett or Bradbury. I have, though, read Vincent King, Norton Juster, EE Nesbit, and Richard Cowper. Anyway. Who knows if it will find the cutting room floor?

I do know it’s fun.

      The bup did it. They had been avoiding meaningful conversation successfully. They had gotten rooms—though only two, by some misunderstanding they didn’t dare question—and meals and directions to a place near but not too near the Library, unmemorably they hoped. The innkeeper, an individual of very wrinkled face and skin hard not to goggle at because it was as pale as any of them had encountered in person, had hardly looked up, so exhausted were they from the evening’s festivities.
      Colly ruined all of this by cuteness.
      Colly was a variegated bup. Khaki and deep green blotches like leaf shadow, with a coral pink and ivory speckling on their belly. Everybody looked at Colly and nobody at the westerners. As it happened, there was a huge bunch of bups at the hotel, who did not appear to belong to anybody but came and went with people, hoping for scraps or play.
      Colly met them as a long-lost pal. They went straight to wrestling and growling, frills raised then falling again when mouthed or swiped with a (potentially) razor sharp paw. In Colly’s eyes, the downcast look of months of travel without complaint, leading and tracking good-naturedly but wearing as much as it had the humans, evaporated. They romped on the hardwood courtyard at the centre of the inn, where below aquatic mammals that only lived here in the east and which Dwey said were “careens” splashed and rolled hoping for scraps of the bup scraps. The water chucked and wooshed and careens peeped and slapped flat fingers on the pylons to whatever tune they were singing in their mournful language. It was a kind of permanent carnival. The bups raced as a pack from one side to the courtyard to the other, drumming loudly as they galloped. Plants filled the space and the animals bumped heavily into them, shaking leaves and autumn blossoms to the grey boards.
      After they had established their status within the pack (happily at the bottom) Colly charmed a huge bone from a kitchen hand by skidding to halt at the feet of a woman on a break.
      “Colly,” they said. Their only word besides swearing.
      She grinned and scritched Colly, who began to purr loudly, a western trait not unknown here but rare and highly prized. This delighted the hand, who went in and came out with something plainly meant for a soup.
      “Shh Colly!” the hand told them, dropping it at their feet.
      Colly looked at the hand in disbelief, then down at the bone. They licked it experimentally as if to test that it was not something else just resembling a bone. They clamped onto it with a needle-tooth grip nobody could break.
      Which was just a challenge to the other bups. When they raced past first one bup, then another peeled off and on their return from whatever game was going on a few more smelled and then saw Colly’s prize. Soon all of them surrounded Colly. They, too, could not believe what had happened. Colly was growling and gnawing, heedless. The other bups crept up on her, bellies to the boards and frills and spines flat to their backs.
      They stopped. Colly crunched and slurped. There was plenty of meat on it, eucalyptus fragrant, probably the massive thigh of a drop bear. The pack shuffled forward. One or two began to whine. When finally Colly glanced up, thirteen drooling faces oggled their gift. There came a loud whine.
      They pounced.
      Colly was quick, fit from her long trek. The bone was easily as big as their head but they lifted it and galloped across the garden of pots and hanging flowers and ferns to the far side, crashing and zigzagging.
      With a collective howl, the bups set off in pursuit. There was no good exit from the courtyard except by steps that led down to the water where it was occasionally necessary to receive glee shells and nautilus via submarine troa. After a half circle, knocking down chairs and tripping the linen boy, and another cross of the courtyard, Colly made a beeline to the steps, which she made in twos and threes for the water, where she propped.
      The rest of the bups spilled over and around her, into the drink. Yelps and splashes burbles, more splashing.
      Bups can swim but only after a fashion. Almost half of the thirteen were in real danger of drowning, if not saved by the careens, who slipped over rolling green swell and reached under them with tail and, steadying with hands, flipped them back up the seps into the courtyard where the shocked bups flopped and flapped about, too stunned to do anything but weep and pant. Watching the fiasco, Colly dropped their bone to say her word, feeling quite safe. She did not count on the careens, who were as omnivorous as bups. One slipped it from below Colly’s snout and dived. The rest followed and soon the bups were looking at one another as if they suspected that the treat was not gone but hidden by one of their own kind. They were yelping softly, even as they licked their wet feathers.
      Every person at the inn was now in the courtyard.

Written on the Golden Page, Paul Voermans 2022. Reproduce this as long as you tell me.

Another Peek at What’s Going on Besides the Novels

(Don’t worry it’s not a poem. Or if it is it’s not loaded. Or if it is loaded it won’t hurt you. Or if it will hurt you it certainly doesn’t matter.)

Put this down to insomnia as well. This morning, after dreams that were pleasant yet still motivated by real concern, I woke free of a burden. Then I heard this voice.

I have shocked myself, writing about the Christian God. I mean, I am not without what might be called a spiritual side, but I am a firm atheist. So my “spirit” is that part of me not separable from the all of me which does things one can’t by definition think oneself into by force of mighty intellect alone, and yet which are vital to existence, let alone art. For me, of course, it’s words, always words. (Not Dignity, Karl) So reading John Berryman and more recently reading a number of other poets, reading Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace, more on Helen Garner’s feeling of “a mighty force”—wouldn’t the little bites in her diary make her great at Twitter? I am not sure I can recall if she ever mentioned this force to V, fuck I’d kill to ask her—and thinking back on the process of my writing because I was asked to do a Nova Mob talk—all this has led me back to my muse in a way I haven’t mused since I was a febrile teenager who didn’t want to grow up, have children, eat meat, drive a car, in South Caulfield, sharing a house with Helen and Dave. But who did believe in letting the soul do its work so that the Devil’s music could make me dance.

How the New Novel is Going

So much of it is about realising what you’re writing. What’s going on? In our house we sing this out all the time as a greeting, punctuation, the existential complaint!

“What’s going oh-on?” I would love to make the words do all they can right now as they find their way into the world and some of that goes on. It’s in the rewrite where their final identities will emerge, their personality and even, now I am growing aware, their embraced imperfection. Once, I hunted down my solecism and eradicated it with glyphosate.

Today I wrote to an agent and I was asked two things I hate. It’s better for what we write that at least one or two people read it, so after my dismay I had a crack. This novel is not finished and the would-be creepy novelist in Promising Young Woman who doesn’t want to jinx the story he keeps tweaking in his wanky brain is more accurate than I’d like to admit: I used never to talk about work, having blathered about it in the past and somehow “set” it, which is of course not what I’ve ever done, even half-way through a first draft.

I simply don’t know what it’s about.

Even now, closing on the final chapters—with an outline, not my MO unless working with somebody else—I am wary, and I will not share what I wrote here. Still, it was pleasing that I can now write about it. And it does seem like something.

In fact, what I do normally after completing a manuscript and scanning it to PDF and uploading to a cloud and a drive and leaving it for a while, is outlines. I outline and I outline. That’s because there are outlines and there are outlines. Back when I was not so arrogant as I thought I could write a novel, I read John Braine’s excellent book on writing, which has great advice on rewriting, a process I enjoy for its intensity and proximity to the end of several years’ work, but most of all, because it’s how the form of what you’ve been on about emerges dripping from the sea. Braine recommended writing about what you’ve done until it’s a story told. I think. It’s been over forty years since I read it. Distance, anyway, and for me also, in another kind of synopsis, forensic examination of meaning. It’s hard. That’s at least one thing that’s hard to read in a review: the synopsis. Ow mah gawd! Nevertheless, bearing in mind also what Samuel Delany writes about in his Return to Nevèrÿon books on the first time you speak of an incident “irl”, where the marvellous woman Old Venn examines this experience, this has evolved into a part of my life, challenge to myself, and a useful tool when you have to talk about your work. I am not pure enough to remain behind a pseudonym or a door.,43:387

Of course writing is about “irl” it isn’t “irl” itself. Is it?

Anyway, you can have fun with craft, treating each chapter as a story with its own tension and release, breath, forward plot motion, tease. On top of all that pleasure comes the rainbow, the double rainbow, where at least one foot of it reaches toward yours and you touch toes with Meaning. “Truth.”

I’m not there yet with Two Friends. I’m not even sure that its eventual title will be Two Friends. (I mean, the novel I finished some time ago is called Three Friends for goodness sake! And it’s not even connected! What’s next, One Friend? Hm.) I can say that I have already begun to think of a new novel, which is a sure sign, whether or not it takes years for the new idea to become pages, the sun is on its way.

It’s spring here. We chatted to my daughter in Glasgow this week, on a night here as balmy as summer. The snapper are beginning to show up in Louttits Bay, the whiting are biting. Two months, give or take, from a draft. The other thing I was asked by the agent is what other books my book is like. I know this is a reasonable question when somebody doesn’t know your work. What sort of thing is it?

I was asked, fishing on the pier the other day, what I did and said I was in IT, much easier to say than writing, whatever that is. Then I had to say that IT was computers. Then I had so say that I didn’t fix computers. Whole networks of computers. That led to saying what a building of 40-odd floors of people going tappity-tap did on their computers all day.

Beats me.

Whole Body Lessons

Just as we were packing the kayaks I heard the cute squidgy sound and looked up to see vibrant green barreling overhead in a volley up to the steps at the end of our street. Where there is a bower in the bushes, blue plastic from fizzy CO2 and cooking propane in a tempting trail leading to what to me looks like a wicker bird from a craft nation flag. Only not creepy. Cool and a bit sexy. Pegs. Bottle tops. Mmm.

Now the whole body is a bit sore. Not too bad. I have been looking at kayaks for some time now, dating back to the time we went to Mallacoota and tried the Hobie kayaks with the foot-powered turtle paddles. They are certainly interesting but I think I’d screw up the paddles pretty quickly. Also, they are bricks when you’re not paddling. So if you need to steer with a hand paddle for some reason forget it. All this is fine, I’d say, if you’re not going to fish in shallow water, and there is little seagrass or other aquatic vegetation, and you want to pump leg more than arm.

When I decided on a “pathway to retirement” I noted this as necessary equipment for living rural, along with chainsaw (check), trailer (check), ute (uh, not quite), and, oh, a house (don’t get me started). Some of these items are worth a little sketch on their own—three-phase solar, electric car, Cathy’s kiln—to which I may or may not get around. My mate Tim and I have been talking for some time about the seagrass beds just off Yanakie, and a couple of bits of Shallow Inlet, as places to explore for sustainable flathead and King George whiting. Or to find them not, just be. You could do these with an aluminium boat with two stroke outboard and hard spiked anchor; you could also drift in a 4.3m fishing “sit on top” kayak, silently dangling soft lure among twice as many species of seabirds I can identify and above starfish and flounder and rays and cunjevoi, and that “lungs of the bay” seagrass. All of which of course is good for you old body, too.

It will also be a doddle to launch from Toora, where we used to live, by the milk plant where our father assaulted his boss and got fired, by the garage where he cooked roo in a caldron, by the tadpole drain I followed to the sea, and where there are also seagrass shallows surrounding the boat ramp and an area called Swan Bay, for obvious reasons if you have ever seen a ragged V (a “glide”? a “skein”?) slitting a dawn surface there. Just toward the channel we have set off at dawn and found ourselves in fog and in the still grew aware that dolphins had surrounded us. I have a picture somewhere of this, but you’ll have to make do with dawn on another day, near Yanakie.

We’re locked down, so it’s not easy to kayak, even masked and nobody nearby and police approved (the divvy van passed and we waved and they waved). We had agreed, Cathy and I, that if anybody was about we would go home. Ready not to go, we went. Inexperienced middle-aged idiots shouldn’t get out on the ocean except when it’s very calm here and the only place we can launch is the Erskine River, a few hundred metres from our door.

So we set off. Our first launch on a bright day and two hours of regulation exercise to spend. Tense with one another, dealing carefully with the non-theoretical mass of them on the roof, using blanket on each car and straps. We drove around the corner and over the speed bumps by the empty caravan park gingerly. We packed goods into a waterproof bag. Each kayak has a trolley you strap on one end; it is 35 kilos. One has to stand in the car doorway to reach and grab an inset handle slide the kayak down to the other without losing control. All masked and wetsuited in the unexpected sun. You strap the wheels on one end then heave and trolley to the water. We agreed to do our own on our own. We did it.

On the empty water, we discovered we had one thing wrong and the instructions had one thing wrong. We paddled out carefully then back in to fix the rudders and seats. We agreed on how we might set up and we scoured the beach and shallow water for the split pin from Cathy’s rudder, then put a keyring on her rudder, a much better solution than a pin, reclipped the lumbar support of our seats, strapped them taut, set off again.

Paddling is as difficult as you want to make near the Erskine mouth. There was a wind and there was a current, neither as strong as it gets. Tanin water. Bream territory. Dry reeds and what Cathy calls “fake mangrove”. We went up, we went down—not too close to the beach—discovering how it felt to paddle as hard as, that if you just stopped paddling, you could glide silently observing cormorant and duck and wren, looking out for fish and rocks and likely snags where the bream might take a fly in predawn summer, under the clear heavens and beside the odd boardwalk runner or dog walker. We still felt guilty that this might not be proper lockdown behaviour, that this was what city people cannot do in these circumstances. We are up to the stage of locking down where everyone ought to have an idea of what is safe and not—ought to—I still see the looks in people’s eyes when I’m running and puffing, mask-less, though generally I do my best to cross the street or turn a corner. We are good. We get tested. We are fully vaccinated.

We learned you should stick with your companion. We learned rowing backwards to turn. I crashed into three things. We splashed one another, a skill needing much more practice. I thought about bailing tools and upper body strength. This is not excercise that will easily puff you out, but it is the whole body and the whole mind you involve when you row. It’s always been a notion, that I might regularly exercise this way. (Once I got my son a rowing machine to help him recover from his adenoid-induced apnoea, knowing it was my own idea of exercise.) We do have many more things to improve about our kayaking routine and perhaps we need a checklist for boating, like my father-in-law, because when you go on the water the feeling of surrender to a larger power only comes with careful and clean preparation, maintenance habits, weather watching, and good practise. Never disrespect the sea gods.

I don’t think we’ll be going out on Loutit Bay until we have ourselves better prepared with the right lifejackets and perhaps an electric motor as well —purely for safety, mind—and a study of tides and currents and a final move to Gippsland are defiinitely in order, because it can be quiet here on the Great Ocean Road but it’s the shoals of Corner and Shallow Inlets, with whiting scales there the glittering shades of the sand and flathead skin like the spotted rich mud, that I’m imagining pretty much daily, and fear only rationally, and know. So it will be a while before we reach peak kayak. Before we feed ourselves with a handful of shells. This won’t be the last time I’ll be writing about it.

Didn’t seem like we had done that much exercise, but by the end of our stint, tying craft to car roof, I ran into headfirst into the stern. That’s what we call chop-your-leg-off-o’clock. We drove carefully back to our temporary home and unloaded carefully beneath the carefree flights of randy bowerbirds.

Today I’m a bit sore. Good sore. We learned a lot. And we did it without killing ourselves, or one another. Good sore.

Lordsy Prayersies SNEAK PREVIEW!

Free and gratis extract of a series in reply to Christian mediation, Lordsy Prayersies. I think it’s XIII, therefore enough to reply to Berryman.

A Rationale for Angling

shows us Taoist Fishing swollen bunions
plays us TikTok elderly Sports God
Offers Lumbar Yearning to Ice Chest
(inaction replay with punk effects)
scrolls Buddhist boasting snaps tonight
perhaps no fat rainbow lent to proud iPhone;
a cloudburst, rather, extinction glory cropped
Caspian terns wheeling heedless in a storm;
can only stand the moon in flushing water
where bream might rise to swallow it
only offer ocean or ferny streams
mindless flotation or hopeless battle:
better the half-moon than my family
lead swell heaving than my enemy.

Friends and Three Friends

My new novel, The White Library, is out everywhere now. It’s a pity there is no paperback; still, digital can be something better these days. So far, people seem to like it. There’s an excellent review from Ian Mond in Locus and a five star review on Amazon by somebody who ought to know, a librarian. I must get get off my arse and make sure that the next novel will get read. That one is called Three Friends. It’s been sitting around pretty much finished without me approaching publishers. (Covid. Moving house. Building a house.) At last, on the Surf Coast, I can think.

What is it about? First attempt at a pitch. <clears throat>

Three Friends is subtitled a massive conspiracy. That kind of does it, I reckon, because it is, and if I saw that it would grab me. If you look at the fact that it’s an “anti-anti-utopia”, as Kim Stanley Robinson has recently described the mode, set in the near future, you might think that politics is what motivated me, but it’s more like a reflection on what my work has been over the years. A collision of two things. Quite incidentally, I’ve been looking for an agent recently and, collecting reviews, having to read them, I must admit reviewers have for decades picked up my preoccupations.

My work is always about friendship. Groups of friends. Told in natural dialogue.

In the Locus review, Ian Mond wrote, about the plot of The White Library,

I will say it features a romance as heartfelt, genuine, and unconventional as anything you’re likely to encounter in literary or genre fiction.

Which, apart from being embarrassingly kind, echoes Martin Livings in Eidolon nearly thirty years ago, talking about The Weird Colonial Boy. He uses the words,

Voermans’ second novel has a kind of open-hearted sincerity that makes Adams’ Mostly Harmless look like a cynical marketing ploy.

It goes on in a still more embarrassing vein, the kind of review you wish everybody read. (Thank you Martin Livings!)

The point is, I think it’s driven by the dialogue.

I’m motivated by what are essentially poetic images. At least one has to settle before I begin to write. There is a doozy in this one. Yet, what brings this down to earth is the way people speak and what surprises and delights me and if I am honest is one big reason I write: even those people in my novels who may start out “unsympathetic” are never only that. They turn around and do—such things! And the sympathetic can be more than flawed. All in their words. I have an urge to inscribe what I see as ordinary existence into the—frankly—whacko plots and ideas in my work. Don’t know why. It’s something I have in common with Samuel Delany and is probably more what attracted me to his work than a lasting influence. Even in the Neolithic, a character is close miked and you can hear coloratura, feel bass growl. Such influence is hard to tease out, though, obviously, when he’s such a genuine superhero to the whole field. And I love Hemingway dialogue as well, whatever else he may have done. Le Guin I admire as much, but there is none of those qualities in her dialogue. It’s complicated.

So, character. But where are the limits to naturalism? Written before the pandemic, Three Friends takes off from such an MO at the points language will break down, like suicide, childhood sexual abuse, loneliness. Rhythm changes, as Jerzy Grotowski pointed out in Towards a Poor Theatre. So each character has a style of non-prose—poetry, if you must. Three Friends is part-autobiography, a reaction to a workplace with HR that promotes “mindfulness” as if the workplace and world are not dysfunctional. And I have to say it is an anti-dystopia set in Melbourne; it’s also made of my life.

When will we see it? Perhaps next year! Oh, and here’s some Surf Coast, our new front yard view:

Next interruption will be moving to Gippsland.

Shipping Container Painting with Birdsong

came across two saucy wrens
name of Gough and Bobby
both with classic eyebrows
classic curiosity
talked of time that won’t return
when tertiary school was free
lingering by Eumemmering creek
far from the liberal sea
their interest complimented me
mine seemed to please them also
looking forward to conversation
like great debates but moreso
they know all the gossip
who’s visiting at what bush
when i talk back to one or both
nobody tells me shoosh
cock their tiny heads
hop upon barbed wire
say to me what i must hear
warn of coming fire
say to me
i’m listening
tell us what we must do
hard to hear as ever it was
Bob and Gough you will cut through
i work and you attend
you speak and i listen for signs
sounds only
like little twittering birds
but you know aeons

Solstice 2020:persistence

Stillness like caramel
on tongue and swallow
feeling so much so
it’s yet to be
paint-spattered and weary.
Everything stands in for love
even death and seasons
for parts of love at least.

He stands listening to the rain
in the neighbourhood of your simile.
He is alarmed still at his invincibility
the charm of his own grin.
The poo Rorschach fooled him,
sometimes shit is just shit.
The overexamined life not worth extra—
genuine complacency costs
more than the petrochemical kind.
And anyway he’d rather walk.


the new occupiers at our joint got this note

• respect the geckos
• watch the blackbirds but just grumble
• doves nest in the treefern
• rats cross the fence (not possums)
• at dusk our bats do not stop
• but almonds and apples and apricots and figs draw parrots on a single day
• keep mulch and water on the magnolias
• gall wasp want drowning twice a year
• mice foiling when weather drives them in
• when the days are baking three days still
• you may then vent night air
• (don’t cook indoors)
• (not just because the grill knob’s dodgy)
• bee keeper
• bird watcher
• arrak distiller
• pomegranate adorner
• Olafur Arnalds player
• all okay
• UFO survivor
• dog stoner
• rose stripper
• council dobber
• watch out let lips thin
• when the day reaches in
• shutter
• in the seasons of wattle and butterfly and eel
• respect the snakes early
• (if kookaburras are pairing you’re okay)
• on the edges and at water
• (bin chickens eat them too)
• walk for cranes
• gargle to magpies in their own voice
• no matter what nonsense
• (to shirtless cyclists this does not apply)
• keep the wild pear parrot poo off your car
• find the frogmouth if you can
• welcome the passage of wind back to front but not north-south
• listen for the rain but don’t count on it
• drier here and uphill on a treadly
• down on your way into town
• or the Westgarth or all fish and chips
• always down to the creek in eel flood
• when shampoo and shit run freely
• where in fennel autumn a platypus and even button quail
• let alone thrip and wild bees and cicadas throng
• be in on New Year and out Saturday mornings
• specify grams to the pasta dude
• scoops to the nuts
• and individual prawns
• while metres of boerewors
• thumbs of fetta
• and single slices of margherita will do
• afternoons of mud crab
• slow minutes of vegan banh mi
• late nights of mixed lot everything salad
• high noons of mowing
• and midnight choppers
• fireworks! Whenever
• buy yourself time here
• have the silly stuff delivered
• do not go out unless you must
• until the cats roast their brains on the heating
• and dogs in the noon of the sun
• feel it here
• do
• with all your hearts and your kids and grandkids
• godmothers and uncles and cream-faced teens
• regret schooling as much as they won’t remember yours
• die here if you can
• moving on is for wimps
• live in dark as well as your friends of the sucker under tin
• pale and a bit bitey if disturbed
• live here and nowhere else
• this deserves you and you this
• live here fortunately and lucky and kind
• long and eager and free
• wait till your children bust out
• live here some more
• some thing more
• be gentle to the moths and spiders
• even the Jack Russell next door loves you
• all day
• sometimes everyone and everything is just fine
• you cannot buy that for money
• but you can
• you did

My New Novel–The White Library

This morning I noticed that US voting booths look like Star Wars All Terrain Scout Transports.

This news is a climb down from yesterday’s buzz: I am so pleased to announce The White Library is on the PS Publishing website! You can pre-order here hopefully in time for Christmas. Do get the lovely print edition.

Way down at the end of this kind of long post is the excerpt they published in the PS Newsletter. I have to say I’m pleased with the design and editing process. I have to thank everyone involved, especially at this time of our collective and private lives, to get this out at all. And I’m so impressed by the sheer energy of the PS folks, with so much going on there.

The White library is a novel on one level about the Dotcom explosion. It’s a science fiction story of course, so bears little resemblance to the real State Library of Victoria, or the people there, or what went on there in the nineties.

Except for the excitement.

Dotcom? State Library? Well, yes. Now, it seems weird to have thought that the internet might not change the world if not promoted. If you could connect all the information around the world and use it to help people it needed organisation and collection, nurturing, so a library of course was a good place to start. It’s still a good place. Back then, I was the proud possessor of a 2400 baud modem and a 486, upon which I marvelled at the Bodleian Library’s illustrated manuscripts as they downloaded for 20 minutes an image.

From the other side of the world!

I volunteered for the only Australian website I could find, which turned out to have been published on a Mac Classic on Gary Hardy’s desk (or perhaps under it) at RMIT. A friend told me about it and when I browsed there with Netscape 0.98 the site had crashed. No matter.

The site was VICNET and turned out to be a joint venture soon after housed at the State Library of Victoria. I was the second volunteer. First was Carey Handfield, well-known SF fan and publisher at Norstrilia Press (where I first saw print, along with Greg Egan and early work by Gerald Murnane). We stood before goggling community groups trying to make real the concept that computers could be joined to one another in some kind of web.

When a job opened up there I showed up with my HTML of the VICNET website on a floppy disk, no matter that I was no designer and that it slowed the page loading, a real issue back then. I became a modem whisperer and in the end a more or less genuine tech. VICNET was one of two commercial ISPs in the country, eventually developing a budget and contracts measured in millions of dollars. Thanks to its founders Stuart Hall and Gary Hardy, Adrian Bates and Indra Kurzeme (three out of four of whom are librarians), it established the concept of free internet in libraries; it built and crashed Wi-Fi and broadband and databased websites and site searches; it confronted web filtering and censorship, content moderation, and cyber security–all for the first time.

VICNET grew into the biggest and most popular website in the country by giving sites away, designing them on behalf of the organisations, and roaming the state showing the contents to other groups. (The elderly were particularly responsive.) That there was any Victorian content at all was down to us. We published the first sites for the Melbourne Comedy Festival, The Age, The Department of Premier and Cabinet, The Council for the Ageing, The Australian Grand Prix, Readings Bookstore (I developed a version of the legendary front window which advertised shared houses), 3RRR shows, and a host of our own inventions that we convinced the Thatcherite State Premier and Treasurer, Jeff Kennett and Alan Stockdale to sponsor, sites like MC2 and which basically invented web-based social media. (Not that we would want to take credit, but it was all happening in many places at once back then and features fed from one place to another.)

I started a site called Post-paid Poetry, where people sent money (to a PO Box!) if they liked a poem and wanted to support. I wrote the first databased ancestry website, at least in the country, possibly anywhere. I also devised an intranet, for my sins, in order to track knowledge and customers in what would now be something like SalesForce. Back then we called it the Duck Database, for its duck buttons, and our support website sported the Tip-o’-the-Week for many months: “Socks first, then shoes.”

VICNET was populated by a weird menagerie of types, from pale programmers to garrulous unionists to atypical librarians (is there a type? not really), growing from four to over sixty before it was destroyed for basically ideological reasons.

My novel is about so much else besides inventing the internet as we went along. But the friendship and wild business and home jiggery pokery of those days is a strong part of it. The single-mindedness necessary for creativity, too. It’s a novel, which in my fairly naturalistic style has people in it I hope are believable, even if the incredible is its air and poetic imagination its soil. These are the people, in all their variety and imperfection, necessary to bring something new into the world.

She knew him for an idiot on sight, but it did not stop her loving him. Helped. She didn’t know it at the time. Had no idea what it was. She just went over a calming one, seven, four, five . . . The sequence unfolded in serene paisley. Angela did sense he stood for everything unquiet and maddening in the universe. She was drawn to it as a goldfish is mesmerised by the motionless cat above. Knowing if she stayed inside herself and her numbers and their shapes she would die more surely than by this cat lofting her out of her world. Beyond the surface tension.

She took her chances in the air. She stopped counting. She watched him noticing things. She knew this much: nothing got by him, perhaps not the movement of the planet in the solar system, Milky Way in galaxy cluster. He teetered on it all as they spiralled off in multiple attractors. It was a wonder more of his hair was not standing on end. While she noticed nothing. It was his agony and people wanted to please him in it, and he them, and it turned into a competition. No, after you.

She did not know how she knew such a thing. Imitating someone who knew such stuff paid off unpredictably. More than imitating. Being is destiny.

Frederic Hillacre, pleased to meet you. Angela Donohoe, of course. Waggish chin tilt. This had to be self-satire, so she smiled. The sparkling Nordic eyes locked with Angela for a moment and then his mouth dropped open. That—that was realising something and that, changing gears. She had practised them herself. Freddy transformed visibly from duffer wringing his hands on tiptoe into the inspired opportunist who’d invented this “Byllion Book Search Unit”. Less awfully, the Unit. Angela forced herself to keep looking up.

“So what are you currently on?”

“Pardon?” Chair? Medication? Parole? Back to the planets spinning round suns spinning round spinning . . . Knowing he was doing it and following his reasoning were different things.

“Remuneration. Piles of silver. Spondulicks. We can only offer you a pittance of a skerrick of a sou, I’m afraid. And when can you start?”

Flying through the air. She could almost see his whiskers. Little fish you have to fly. “15,485,863.” An outrageous lie but a lovely prime, light and airy.

“Thirteen,” he snapped. It was so swift it could have been rehearsed, except he’d picked a lovely prime as well. Wooshing. Suddenly he looked alarmed. Or was it gas?

“Done.” Angela held out a hand. That was what they did in the book. The large Freddy hand coming to meet her own flappy moist part was more delicate than hers, only larger because he was tall, tall, tall. She had called his bluff and he had not hesitated. Just like in The Job is Landed. A good sign.

Then the interview began.

On Attaining the Natural State

for Donald

Come misremember these:
the moon on a trapeze
Arlecchino and a fly—
the three of rule cannot apply
to an albatross—
no fight with getting small
no wandering the hall
no time to wonder why
he isn’t that stopping guy
or on a horse.
We took a left turn
(Hell shall overflow)
black cap and neck scarf
hero Twins to go
town cold as stone
no nobelium in sun so
reactors improvise:
this was the bloody story,
the eyeball getting hoary
it’s easy to forget
we haven’t seen what happens yet—
uncarved we try.

Da dumb da dumb da dumb
da dear da dear da dear
day die day die day die

his innocence of state returns
by thy beard and long grey eye.

Hound of Baskerville Street

for Teddy Boy

The dog of the situation
for the Angry Man
opening gates
bearing in mind NO PULLING
She hates
your jerking differential of rates.

to rush isn’t the same
as how
all four of us follow this game:
rolling Old Cow did a crash
what a shame
as per normal
Yours Truly to blame.

It’s not he’s some
furry assassin
Her ongoing faithful protection
wants a bump
beyond visualisation—
a reverse in the guy’s situation.

And he once saw Angry Cat
in contretemps
with a Rolling Thing rear.


Gumnuts rain on her car like rain
that does not sting if he knows its reason
but if it is to fall is like dread
is dread and such dread to
blast every very thing but love she said
in a word (as in mortality hazard ratio)
syllable in a word (as in crude death rate)
letter in a syllable in a word (as in R0)
as in a curve in a letter in a syllable in a word at last hooked
as in a serif in—breath caught

whose small terrors and wonders add up
to the band to the nation to the world
of magpie that watches man
that only the woman notices knowing
he could unflinch the man
high in the gumnut tree
he could he could who with a falling coo
could unflinch more if coming closer could
release them unto gargling play
all the while could so do
thrilling with the same beak
better corvid than we think
shrike bastard or national carillon
who is she to say
who? Indeed, she nods
feeling cloven in three
warding bearing striking
all at once
sprayed nutted cut
before they might settle into dreams
pied light and feathers

That’s condign reward for crimes he assumed
murder in his little dreams big enough for the world.

Newly unhappy or routinely altered
he has imagined this day this swoop
the signs were there in black and amber
spike and a chip flying from his scalp

for the reason of the world is
to do what must and not what her hands want
which would deal solitaire all day long
out of fear of the beak and laws of nature

trees where creatures lurk and wait
when they might perch and sing
the falling of a day some other’s way
to a dawn that is a joy to rise without us.

She closes the window and drives.

God-shaped Dance Hall

“For that which I work
I do not acknowledge
for not what I will
this I practise but
what I hate
this I do.”

Dance to that if you can.

Hello brother the Lord sang
Hello sister sang the younger man, listening
Too few stories for your life?
Her everybody day is a mystical playground
Song of grey fellowship with the humans—
She is dead or rather not dead but over there
Dancing with the dead in grey festival with shades
While he is speaking her dance and timbre
Making good the promise of news even if it is letters
NYKPDLMVRE over and over like the name of god
Or the god breath and mantra of her steps.
The Bible on this phone has a paywall of China
Of porcelain that nobody breaks but ancient geeks:
If only love were all you needed he would possess just one
And never have to read again.

“Come Lord she’s right beneath both our feet dancing.”

The breath the breath is catching
Believe her or not that’s what’s going on.

Solstice 2020: Shock and Awful on the Vegetable Way

Death once half-achieved
he returned
hands colder than work.

I’ve gathered the worst lessons all along:
what was a snail more shelly than before
what was a belly softer than a song:
punishment for each moment I was sure.
I lived my time on stalks of my own words
watching as trees take a bite of the earth
choral truth accreted by girls in beards
while I gave succour to fools for their wealth:
I am waking once again to their slap
the call of the weird wants me all alone
that evil scares me is my one true trick—
what they’re finally good for, and that’s fine,
it was in my nature to space these verbs
tidy packets of shocked-out wombat turds.

Small brown treefrogs ring
ringing stars
nearer than error.

Buck doesn’t turn to
keeps chewing—
koalas eat light.

Breath more certain for not getting noticed
drops kindly deeper if given a chance
we steady our hearts and do not pretend
veering careful if not smart from defence
beneath a new moon on to the next beast
captured by the verge in shock at the lights
much if not pretty back to the slant crossed.
When you’re asking what must change consider
we’ll arrive there anyway soon enough
walk or drive how we got there we’ll wonder
one breath at a time or another breath
together, it’s hard to say isn’t it?
So why do you have to be a fuckwit?

Horizon’s gone pale
treefrogs sleep
I hear traffic now.

Hope You Do

for Jacob on the event of his focusing

Really hope you see trees feeling air
like giant broccolis top and bottom
their birds on your side beautifully pert
worms and reptiles slide by soft and hard
if you let them by reasonably seeing.
Imagine it a big gold belly glimpsed
sleek and chequered nicking off to the
rocks and logs where these ones go
as fast as wiggling so scared so fast
keeping safe their inches even feet
safe from fingers by branch in litter leaf
looking just like sticks or shadows
tiger snakes use their trees as tricks on us.

Really hope you call to bird friends
where they sharpen beaks on branches
they’ll answer reedy-throated altogether
know you for their giant blatherer human
only knowing wind by lungs and skin
LIFT you by the ears as you’re passing to
wherever it is such beings go as you
imagine it mama and papa magpie
grey little one on his back playing dead
you a part of that if the time is right
their wood grubs and even road chips
magpies hurt but live with you very well.

Really hope you seek out quick things wet so
sun on water shiny cloud on sand alert and
slippery as a thought and vanished as a dream
these are sand cloud creatures that come to me or
rather do not come to me an ocean deep
disappointment as much as promise or a bit
more if we are not lucky and the wind does not say
down there they are circulating more tidal
at least more than us if not than our bloody blood
or the dogs and children that howl and dance
storm-soaked and wide-mouthed as a frog—
finny friends need more kindness because we eat them all.

Really hope their fungi are gouache to you on bark
on forest floor dotted out and out from deep
places bubbling onto curly or tubby or a bulb
lids bone pale or organ livid or wholemeal invisible
fans and stripes and dots like bloodspatter jewellery
Hollywood party glow for weird or subtle guests
we are sitting on a toadstool or dancing in a ring
we see the rise feel magic turning tree or litter or flour
into delicious fern or ciabatta or a perfect hatchling
no sunshine needed only fungus for our sweet dance
unfurling birth all over the place as invisible as water
we swim in drink in breathe in give ourselves over
because we do not know it’s there even if we know
because the things we know we feel with inside hands.

Really hope your really hopes are made of such embraces
that the inside is like the outside and at their meeting


for Rowan

Instead soften:
sun greys
buds rise
hard path
baked mud
tomb breaks
small herbs
feather the way
roots threading
bike treads
blurring sins
other seasons’
rain calligraphy
history now
old gents
weep together
with no shame
here and now
only tsking
small birds
cock heads—
what do wrens
know anyway
rain’s not tears
things rhyme badly
this old year
wet days
go sit
instead fellow.

massive whens

When we recover
we’ll dance
when we hear
toast and pray
when we are more
shout and laugh
when less
simply smile
when we die
we shall suffer and not
when not
we will no more
when we wander
when such songs
when such blessings
we heft.


I saw Jacinda Ardern riding the other hill
blowing a bubble of gum
on way to a small cloud of love and
impatient flesh knowing just métier taught
you flinched not
at the rain.

On another hill I see pedalling for their love
on the other side
must be comfort to the poor
your heart always deserving the most cynical grab
marching unafraid on
to its end.

I saw Gough Whitlam here or maybe there on a farcical chopper
arms agley like Samothraki wings
cruising on to victory over time
born again this century and your bright eyebrows knowing he was right
tattooed into place
miss nothing.

Seeing Little Betty Isn’t nursing on her degree down south
brazenly provocative pervert cancelling
smirk not exactly joyous power over your body
all of me flinching at the very thought of her
no forgetting myself
compassion ends.

On the other hand I got the pillow that you dream on
with pure air I might like and hard boiled confection
is this what I get when I paid for connection?
Ludic body doesn’t know or care about what you made with your algorithm
even if I only wanna know about love
done like a bought one.

I talked to some of you and thought kindly of the rest
before I met your ordinary indifference and grew
suspicious you’re an idiot
so certain legs go further yet eyes long on to wings
I am perfectly OK with my difference
if it’s all the same.

Felt your Leading Vector deep deep in my pleura
going on inflaming news for his own sticky ends
the truth in his corpus
aching to complete before they’re ready
anticipating the end
so instrumental.

Actually I love you with every bit of my body
even the foreign quasi-living matter
with all the depth and breadth and height my lungs can muster,
on, these graces fall from air to water to air and such ordinary graces
even unto death unknowing
invent wonder.


When the sleep-bellied River rolls over clear
and wombats can stay from the Shoulders
till the flathead Rise Up in Joyous Choral my dear
and the miner birds fall short of Words,

Darling cleave to me and I shall cleave to you
until we cleave to the dust Both Together
cleave my dear Heart to me and you Know I’ll cleave to you
till love and lust cleave to dust and Forever—

when the sun-drooping branches won’t Fire
and the bellbird Cathedral won’t echo
till the elvers never Struggle from the Far Coral Sea
and Sunburn and Bumps never snapper,

this smoky morning
cleave to me and I shall cleave to you
until we cleave to the dust each together
cleave your Love unto me and all my Faith I’ll cleave to you
for every god cleaves to dry dust together—

in the far haze Ikara won’t purple it’s Jolly
and Mallee dirt bleaches your palm
till the spring doesn’t wait for the wattle busting Gold
and our hard summer star will go gentle,

that sweet evening
cleave to me as I cleave to you
until we cleave to the dust together
cleave to me and I shall cleave to you while darling
all the heavens cleave to dust altogether.

Mallee Rain

for my bike

riding curves
chocolate creek a river
slipping its edges
i am alone
wet as any thing will [be]
first foot down to mudded cadenza
going down
mudlarks scatter
dangerous proof
how every thing returns
after we pass [so] logically
asymptotic courses run
dust rain spattering less than narrow man
addled on the grass
truth forcing breath and sentence
to punctured closure on a gorge-side turning
error rolling [on] error
tumbling [to] in caesura
for want of patience with uncharming

[Your] mud currawong [only] suffers what it has to
[i push]



You’re simply there
a cloud on the moon
not water
impossible to breathe
madman on the street
all talk and talk
whereof you cannot speak
all fourth walls
what’s the use of peace
you quack
it breaks us apart.

Let’s break together
like eggs in a game
in on one another
bowling like friends for
all that we can manage for
what is is what we can be doing
more or less the same
all of these nouns are
written in the margins
like songs at a meeting
of fools.

Give me five dollars
I will build a casino of paper
I could really use a shave
but this is better it has drawers
that close and everything
like a bought one
children and dogs never think it will come
to this what’s that
all about it never ceases
to amaze me the power
a little honest exchange gets you
bump into anyone in this place.

no heart a rock

they’re spraying Hong Kong people blue
so this is me and that is you
so spray me too
joy arrives a-wailing
hope for longer childhood
hope for wetter nappies
they’re spraying Hong Kong people blue
why not Heidelberg Olympic too
why you?

no heart a rock but this
rock a heart
all those stars All that
surf you never
visit Stupid brain never comes when you call
down some viral hole with a wombat
it will never get
connected to everything just a little bit
arses big or pert must accept the regulation bite
joy is the hard part

worm-beknownst born rock swaddled
take joy where
you get it Where
you never visit Where
age finally sees black wattle Where—
weary you get that now about that gentle gold
blood on the late black wattle is all
over joy:
spray me too
fucking dare you

They are spraying Hong Kong people blue
breaking heads on trains
putting kids on planes.
sorts of things
seventeen by count so far Or just
Extinguishment, drowning what they knew
court completes our terror Doing
the easy part—
they’re spraying Queensland handcuffs blue
wouldn’t you?

what we saw

seamed by two am blue radio
analogue purpose beauty enough
like early magnolia reach
child mother stagger
refinery flame
this seated organism
all night-blind before intent
will in moments touch morning
mystery of forward motion
for the still kind
fair swap on the reason day line
no other time you know
seeing her is like a dream
only better at not yet a thing
not stream
blue radio numbers dog sense
so far with this logic swim in love
porpoise words to mirror surface
above below above
as we go we rhyme
thought to sense
light to time
radio numbers said
to memory of stuff
no dream ever mislaid
purely sitting on the bedspread cuff
still completely lost the while
more or less or more
than less without knowing what we saw
as certain as a smile

Ye Olde Went in His Sleep at Least

I am stupiding with age
ye fresh arterial blood clot
is blackening on the stage

i’m liquoring to eejit
ye povo amygdala
pickling to a walnut

i’m shrunkening to sundown
ye don’t even embig
in imagination

ye braine is gathered with bits of twine
how I don’t but know it’s mine
criss-cross gartering divine
accident or design
mighty fine

better out continent than in
may be

but let me die awake
spitting clueless gruel
stood on the painful table
not done yet
only my own stupid
flickering still
but mine.

little itches: the business of change

there’s a place my everything is due
clattering parrots barge through it
you and I suck a margin we can’t keep
waiting for disaster

à vos marques, prêts, faites vos jeux…

only this blank strategy it’s true
secret of sleep is believe it
we all of us shat a tax got on the cheap
clenching on disaster

ready me for something like prayer steady me
ready me said the dragonfly weeping your name
ready me for something like prayer steady me
ready me steady me on purpose

light in a room without you
night time without the hard bit
we both will swallow blood before we leap
stalling love’s disaster

it’s always in flames it’s always in flames
this time no-one’s waiting on the borders
from want to should is a couple of years
it’s a difficulty with orders

little itch that tempts you back to
living, though you know it ends in worm shit
my love we are rounded with a sleep
one last sweet disaster

steady me ready me winds away winds away
steady me cast your kindness to the air
steady me ready me winds away winds away
steady me ready me for fire

arise, shine, burn as well fuck that dew
even so enraged you have to spit
me and you are nicking stuff that keeps
past oceans of disaster


Thought I saw Les Murray in my rear vision mirror
walking with a black dog where the footpath isn’t clear.
Had like a simile in one hand but no lead gripped in the other:
puppy was or wasn’t his, it would appear.

Sun was shining on his temple and crows were sighing by the tracks
I got on to Preston Market in my café latte dacks
where railway bells are ringing and golden hocks are hanging
and Les is up ahead already singing.

Christmas 2018

for Cathy

Where is that crow going?
Same place as us.
Look at it rowing
Between a slog and a swallow.
Once heard it groaning
Now it fills the expanse
Mirror black where the oil spill was
Speck of midnight at noon
A little storm in the blue
No reminder of awful death,
My love, sweet shade in the belting sun
Soft dusk two words two words two words
All the murder soft-loud following-joining
Slowing the progress of twilight.
So we’re going the way of that crow my love
So the oceans are filling
With trivia
So bad men do great
While good women groan
So the trial of God secret
And appealed
So I am unkind—
Call low-hard soft-loud to your murder
From our crooks above the creek bend
Hunched and bright dark
We’ll answer.

Winter Solstice 2018: Ya Boo Sucks

If life gives you lemons fuck lemonade
All that sugar—just suck.
Find yourself winded on the kitchen floor
Don’t get up, lie a while and feel the dirt
Check your bits why don’t you
Giving up whatever knocked you down
Thank your stars for arms and legs
And move on—but not just yet
Where’s the hurry to do?
This is not wallowing.
If you’re humble about your failure—
Anybody could have done it
Shit just chose you—
Every now and again
Fail gloriously.
Bless and be still.

Time for a Good Hot Cuppa

Sleeplessness is awful
Insomnia is worse.
Dreaming of pomegranates
Left on our porch
Only to find they’re real—
Or did our porch dream them?
Why not bathe in cool tea
Instead of drinking your shame
All alongside the night?
Find our neighbour left the fruit
But still give credit to the porch:
Bathing in reality is not entirely sweet.
I shall run toward my story
After market, after poetry.
Now, where is that strainer?

Summer Solstice 2017: diary of a good year

Saw Alexander Putin waiting for a latte extra hot
They utterly failed to call him Put-in, not Poo-tin
I don’t know why he didn’t tell them call me Al
Now he’ll badmouth Melbourne coffee snobs at Summits.
As if Turnbull wasn’t bad enough in the queue
Deciding who and on what terms we would get mugs.
All I can depend on is the rain. 

The mighty cycle wheelwright robot of Dandenong:
No condition of special treatment and never was a banker,
I suspect its second career will run to dancer or neurosurgeon
But I would like to see it pulling coffees at ten to nine
Its citizenship unquestioned because an owned thing
Rights in the clear because it got no rights to speak of.
And all it can depend on is the rain. 

Now I that I am and grown to be a man
With a hey-ho and thicker every way
A little book is like a fire
And the rain it raineth every day. 

Like the preschooler sulking in her gutter
We forgot the good activities we got there
Let the bad things run away with the silver
Just because we were tired that afternoon
And had the headache. Is it so amazing that
We have worried that we have arrived at the final finish?
All we can depend on is a category five storm. 
All that is certain is grass. 

A hundred trillion bacteria can’t be wrong.
No damned oligarch or damned AI has them,
The solecism I trust I never uttered is down to them,
The guts to have a biome underrated:
All that was my enemy isn’t just pretending friendship
It’s me unrecognised all co-evolved in this mirror for all these ages–
And it’s pretence got me in this pickle in the first place.
For goodness sake go outside the rain is fine.

percentage game

now I am a snake
come October alarm clocks
cry – pesky mynahs

mornings by the creek
ceviche growling grass frog –
post-noon bake

now I am a snake
pretty basic black or brown
stick – lying doggo

grassy-banded spine
belly occasionally
crimson of attack

at rowing kookaburras
now I am a snake

now I am simple
reasons – in a hard black eye
slip by for goodness’ sake

snake I am right now
flicking through risk management
slides – no breaks

pleased as New Year sun
eminently singular –
not even in wait

five month news cycle
more lowly than the shade line
by April’s footnote


now I am a tree
small birds sing in me
never need to take a pee
no need of Brie
a Commonwealth of filigree
from grubs at my extremity
to nematodes hunting darkly,
brachiating heavily

now I am a tree –
well graced by leaves occasionally
and a gust one day to topple me
and wear golden dishes fungusy
and rings leave shelter hollowly,
alive a good brown century
merging incrementally
humus free.

never dance no eucalypts dance;
may ballerina curtsy may cleave to wind –
I will see human types in flames
set themselves, more wild than woods.

now I am a tree
love the mind I see in thee
miss my idiotic mind flea
traded weak lights close to me
for distance fusing brightly
love of nationality
for grasping a geography
for blind subsoil inquiry
far from passivity
sentient graduality.

language is distance one from another
an admission of more than one forest
language is also time away from language
or else we’d have nothing to say:
the death of the word is never a tree
it’s the chattering monkey in it.

Solstice 2017: distracting

It is another year and we are not broken
Rather in the middle still, in the thick
The thicky thick thickly dense
Once which we were struck for
The rattan we still cringe before
A caning struggled not to pass on –
Craft and restrain and laugh.
Where once we were a mess
Today we fold and bless
You’d never get a guess
I’m not one to confess.
We do not demonstrate.
We are not broken and so we do not lie.
Our hearts are full and that is enough.
We indicate in our own way
And proceed.

It is another year and love is still awake
Another moon still passing;
It is another year and we are still listening
To the long ago and far away;
It is another year and we are no longer cold –
Rude as we like still what’s put off arrives –
It’s another year hooray!
I can scarcely bear to look
Stand with fingers on my eyes
No stops for my ears and nothing still
Still beating. Can bear it if we sing.

Another year slips by.

Marathon Haiku

Driving Up

following pale cracks
toward a yearning old sun –
surprised by the glare

Marathon Running

welcome swallows bank
by a slate sea dish
crow beats into light

Waiting for a Bus

above still saltbush
banksia honeyeaters
go on with business

Autumn Equinox 2017: guide to show judging

Comparing your skin to my guts, tamer
Your liver spots to my innocence, older
Your friends to my resting bitch fear, happier
Remarks to reactions, hedgerows to bedroom,
Wrinkles to giggles, rashes to tickles, radio to playlist,
Handbags contain time and elegance and not just stuff
And my mouth holds competitions with yours.
This is how it’s done, an achievement, really
My own aims make me but not you
Not a bad one thumbs up for sure just so
Focused on the pain blinded:
Crows fly close to the field
A parrot blows away
They advance on the road and blow back to shelter
Lines are long here
All the birds are here
But I can’t give you what you want
It’s incomprehensible
Solidity of certainty of design of care
Kind rectitude daffy with follow-through
Next day kookaburras row past as a couple
Covering the parts the other might miss
Arse feather floats to my feet
And I judge it is safe enough to cross.
Have to subscribe to some other minor crisis
This one is busy packing to depart
Predictively incorrect as usual I judge
And smarter than anyone allowed:
The animals in our lives hover at the edges
Unconsidered. Caged by evolution as we
It flowers quietly while we’re not looking
Beneath the resting face
In the atmosphere left in a lift as you step away into life
In the guilt left by normal ploughing through the day
In the blue sky
What I should do
What I have to do
What I must do
What I have done
These movements have nothing to do with you.
Grace so simple if you already have it
Uglier climbing the hill.

Summer Solstice 2016: Distraction

for UKL

“The necessity of having to do
Something” – make particular, dress, argue
Generally run in old road ruts, true
A well-worn course – “gives you something to do.”

An older fellow, socks labour Day-Glo
If the rest of me is deep romantic
My world playing catch-up will not pass you
Betting on our collision coming back,
On a big game hunt with no tomorrow
Shocking accident never wonders why
I am preposterous as a dog now
Christmas-awful traffic whizzing by,
This time is a fact as your credit is
In the moment before it turns to shit
Sweetest glade, après sweet Anopheles
Morning time until I remember it,
Rebel outgrowth is a grand old cypress
Refusing investment in a death flame
Shot out it’s like a tree with testicles
Sunwise go the nostrums all the same.

This dog does not spit dirt from a mouthful
His fines let fall the flies to gently lull.

Grammar of Parts: II

They cannot hold those facing eternity
And, taking ages, hold. They run across
A landscape unhurried after urgency
Imagined. Whorls bake into pastry cases
Evidence crunched and analysed on a tongue
Where good to go and not welcome play
Identically and sometimes both at once.
Show me your hand and what I see is your palm
But the tips are the pupils of that hand
Or, if unpicking a tangle of hooks
And fish slime, just one. They work so hard
You should give them a break and tickle them too
Lick some ice cream off them, buy some gloves
For goodness’ sake, bite your nails if you must,
Please don’t swallow. Unless you’re a god, that is
Whose touch gives light and even a hangnail is
Infinite. Tap time my dear, know that place.
Fingers may be digital but your tips
Analogue. They are not your employees.

Grammar of Parts: I

Our kiss slides
Noun to verb
And returns
A new place
A new thing.
Our kiss slips
Object to
Subject to
Question now
To answer
In good time.
Our kiss smacks
Our kiss sheds
This big pash
A new heart
Third word part
Going on
Phrase on phrase
Lip to lip
Drinking time
A full breath:
Knows no stop
While we live


Once all that’s left is my certificate
Not even rubble
A guy, you can sew him up from all my posts
Will be good enough to run for office –
Good enough? Superior! Going to win!
So why not have at it before I die?
I am a post-thought guy. High up
Everything is media anyway.

Once did nature, yeah:
That yellow liar with its blossom, not yellow really, see?
A conspiracy of colour,
Your opportunist dog robs your pity, just a thief
Probably a rapist,
This berry won’t be fruit later, I fear
Your loser sky gives it over so *needlessly* to the night.
Go on, sing a song of sixpence gone
That teeny little bird, for you, I’ll flame it
That’s a whole Realm of disappointment!
You know, its nature is to blame? Nature. Ah.
And I release my sadness, a great great sadness
Greater than any seen before, gotta be honest
It goes post and everyone agrees:
It’s a Revolution, it’s History. Sorry if I offend you.


Once I’m a handwritten entry in a church
Maybe some sort of clipping flyspeckled
Children forget you anyhow. Friends.
Who needs to be any of it? We’ve come so far.
No really. It’s great and I mean that sincerely
To live here down the side of your feed.
What I can do with that will amaze you.
No really. You can love me from that.
I have just so many friends, I can’t tell you.
You may call it drift and I may be getting on
Well past my bedtime, but even completely
Extinct I am still that guy. Whispers to self
Wanders like a satire round the square,
Sometimes I give a little hum. Cheerful
That’s me. Post-me, more so, bet on it.

Once somebody wrote a book
Dead person clawing up to hold us down
Unreasonably with permanence when he
Had no business. No I love life just as I
Love women. Let me press my nothing against you.
It doesn’t signify anyway. So I might as well have it.
I have aspirational thoughts, just as good
Better, ‘cause who’s got time for thinking right?
I’ve got guys for that, as long as they agree
See what a winner can do. See the importance of me
Post-me, me, naturally. That’s why deletion is such a gift!
I did a book once and it sold real well. Not as good as a building
Because it’s more permanent. Everyone knows the future is temporary.
Or better.

Once I got a legacy and naturally it’s a big one
Don’t believe they tell you that it’s small
But see we’re going to spend the legacy now
What’s the use of dead memory? That’s the smart move
Proves the legacy is magnificent too.
Cheer up! None of that’s gonna happen anyway.
You ask me it’s cleaner, purer, very clean.
You go for legacy legacy you can’t tell what’s going to happen,
And then I’m sad again. Real sad.
But then I have lunch. And post-lunch it’s totally clear
Just a nap and I’m fired upbeat for appearances
In your feed, well the side of your feed is good too –
Where do I sign?

Once I signed a thing, yeah.


gesticulated rataplan in dream.
The angel Chardonnay
left sugar on the table,
walked. Even.
Life is in motion:
Breezes in the blood:
Growling grass over at a step
Painted ladies collide on the knees
Mynah takes magpie takes dog
Oil slicker dove cock bobbing
Wattle glares, bouncing
(Stinking away)
Fine weeds unmown waving too
Street water cool as sin and arse-deep
Rolling drunk sweet on rubble flattering on toward
Fallacy of platypus
Lies of blackfish
However, elver –
Cormorant pied unreasonably past
The duck’s just gone
Valeria’s reclining and hanging on at once
As if stoned and cannot leave
Dragonfly is dancing casually off left bank
Thrip by the eyeful arrested
In a dead guilty tree top
Ecstasy of ravens declaring innocence,
Steep coming up
followed by a slope
everything is a thought
passing by

Winter’s End

Little golden baby guppies
Furry fighting biting puppies
Hammock and a pillow
Sunshine butter fellow
Ease because we can
Ease because we can.

Three times two is plenty
And a one-third twice is life
I calculate what makes us laugh:
Nothing makes us laugh like age.
Live with me without answers
Till we nod at horror’s yucky trousers
Lie until we lie for real
In a garden.

I get back from mud and rushing stormwater
Parrot, egret, and near-season box gum;
You are under midnight drizzle chasing moonlight
More difficult to do than tell it in a pitchy brochure:
What’s put off to get there is time recovered:
A glimpse of eternity in the shifting banks.
When we wash it off, warm up, tidy adverbs
Save and take advice on its passage into the world,
If we have time to examine the trace in daylight
With a breeze running by through screen door
Into domesticity; if we can filter the ordinary impression
Even our best friends can’t help but offer with just a look,
If the leash of probability is for an instant lifted
And the detail still keen in our eyes
Just in the gap between forgetting and distraction:
What was always present
What will always be
How we do anything real:
Just make it up as we go along, that’s all,
No parliament of effort and no industry of fools.
See it.

How the end is new again, the formula spinning sideways
Just from faithful mimesis because it’s so or it would hurt
Putting in the miles because by now you know the pay
Stepping into puddles without a beat, getting wet –
For Jesus as it were. For particles of heaven
Spinning lazily – fine bargain after all. Spring.

August is the kindest month to sums.

Qualia Soup

Might not know your blue
Know you have sky
Stipulate to your desert priest
Know you have storms
Your suffering dog-silent I admit
Like the girl sang it: you’re star.

Star stuff, no desperation
None available to matter
Nor kindness but a pinprick
Too bright to see alone.

A storm is best mended when it’s past
And if it takes the roof from your head
Listen for the signs in circling, groaning gale:
In the morning prepare to take advice.

Your sky is mine as well my dear,
It’s always there, a wide surprise
Stepping out of our limestone caves
With timing only sensible in the wash-up.

Exhalation once blood is now air
Once rust is now bird
Its colour as pertinent as mud’s
Its qualia holding aloft button quail.

Pituitary Blues

for Karl

It’s a sunny day in Melbourne
The rain is pouring down
I chased the nurse around my bed
I did it sitting down
I think I know just what to do
But I’ll put it off till spring
Easier to wrestle
When them alligators sing
For the minute think I’ll just relax and listen to the band
The pituitary blues has got me by the gland

Oh when them hormones come a knockin’
And the thyroid does the talkin’
It never works out pretty anyway
So go on and do your drillin’
I’ll just be here chillin’
It’s not as if I want the job today

It’s a great day to be going home
Lord knows I need some beauty sleep
This hotel’s got good service
But the barber isn’t cheap
My whusky days are over
Least till my brain begins to set
And women like a bearded gent
Though I knows I makes ‘em wet
So it’s songs I got and I’m gonna sing don’t give a fuck if you can’t stand
Them pituitary blues have got me by the gland

Makeshift Heart XIX: productivity

The heart it melts constantly
You would think it had a limit
It proceeds from some southern glacier
Kept climate change regardless
In the sticks.

Apart from the melting constant
It keeps time rather badly
Operating as if tuned by some other
Alien duid with a set of auto tools
And an ape.

It anticipates your great ideas
And, like a canine weatherman
Your woes, and yet throughout beats
Within quite narrow parameters
Of a muscle.

Like vongole it has no brain of its own
Dependent on the tide and shifting
Sand for a meal, only squirting departure
For defence, and clamming up
To the knife.

Still it’s got me. Wanders when it should sing
Clamours when silent running is the order
Not about to let me do the needful
Perfect in every way as long as there is no world
To be saved.

Solstice 2016: so bite me

for Jo Cox

Each recipe is a bucket list
Beet sequence Fibonacci strawberry
The end not dusty just a bit crumby
Misery more honoured in the fridge
Than here in the end of the world pot pie

“I can not…”

I get the dusk is more than ooh, now
Dawn awaiting first light dreaded, desired
Dark hours decorating regret, my sleep
Or exquisite shadows connections bring
All those parts on the part of other souls

“…can not hold her hand…”

The meaning of a day a bland cry
Lived not watched as the offices run by
Rising for a moment all gonna die
And somnambulant side stroke once again
Take bearings, light out new for the headland

Of crust. You may have burnt it, salted
Turned to mush, let it go cold on deck –
There is always another until not
Nibble around the raw bit and shut up
Remember that cake you dropped and rescued

“It was nice.”

Here at the perfect turn of the year
Turn in enough and knock back shots
Bust the dumb orbit of hate
The night owns enough
Without complaint
Take this bit
Bite it

From the Siren

This here is the story of Irene the sireen
We met in a restaurant they call Disco Beans
She ordered brown rice and I ordered spleen
I was a dumb poet and she was a queen
I crashed on her rocks and now I must get clean

Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
In what ocean your island?
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
She ruined my life or I wouldn’t be here
You got any sisters there?

Well she fed on my anger and I fed on her lips
Introduced me to tofu it went to my hips
No meth, pot, or whiskey, she always lived clean
But in loving she was otherwise, my dirty Irene
She is my Class A I gotta hide it Irene

Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
In what galaxy your world?
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
I traded in my phaser when I signed up
Now I’m that guy wearing that fatal red top

It’s been years since I seen her years since I smiled
Them cognitive therapies only worked for a while
I wrote all my secrets in a book of self-help
Running and dieting and a good dose of kelp
Made an enema me, I find nothing will help

Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
In what network your handle?
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
I’m checking as I drive for your little red heart
Parked in a car crash so what do I care?
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
In what asylum your cell?
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Have you no fixed address?
Should I do something crazy so our courses get crossed?
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Irene sireen
Sing to me O sing to me, teach me your song.
I cannot sail past that moment.

Dawn Stinks, Sined Nigel

for Karlos

Rage against the light or its dying
Or punt downstream in a pleasure craft for two
(Poop poop)
The foolish inventions of another time had their own uncharted value
Do not seek to know what Nigel can do for you:
Nigel is as Nigel does
Nigel is for the best in the best of Nigel possible worlds
So I did it Nigel’s way
For more years than I care to say to the likes of you.

Nigel helped me steer a course into myself
Nigel is a solid friend in times of trouble
(Even if you stink)
Because he helps you see
He is the one who would know where you’d be
When you fell
As you will
Because you do stink
You see.

So I’ll make my peace with Nigel
And the pile of steaming balderdash he stands for
And in. And something of his foolish luck
One foot on that cliff and one on cloud
One eye on the punchline and the other
For crying out loud it’s taking him to another trip
The pratfall to end them all.

We live in hope that something of his foolish luck will rub off
At least with a little elbow grease and Wonder Soap it might.

We know what stinks.
It’s okay, okay?
We know what stinks
It stinks

Four Vessels

for Cathy, after seven years

My heart is full
Our pulse of days
Simply cupped both ends
By our hands knit
Shaping turning light
My heart is full

My head is light
We chase the wheel
Across the night we race
No dog at our heels
(Though it could be)
My head is light

My eyes are wide
To catch us growing
Enough to see what may turn
Out or up or turn about
Transformed inside this fire
My eyes are wide

My head is wide
My heart is light
My eyes are full
And bones are mineral ware
Of course
The other vessels loft them
Toward our sun

JOBS AND GROWTH: once more with feeling

(thanks to Oscar for the mans in road)

i Speeches
Jobs and growth
Blobs what float
Flubs and bloat
For rubes and oafs
Gets on goat
Grubs in brogues
Yards and strophe
Two-word pith
Absent oath
Grandstand wroth
Stabs my faith

ii Monies
Jobs and growth
Bobs and groats
Fads and totes
Pud’s plum duff
Analogue of tough
Squibs but throes
Lord’s new clothes
Sheds income trove
Cod grand farce
Ords go south

Judge my half
Stubbs and girth
Bearded louche
Wads of gelt
Bloods and Goths
Mads up north
Slobs down south
Babs and Judiths
Plebs and toffs

Lobes of worth
Minds make wealth
Needs fund prof
Chav shines forth

iii Positive Planetary
Jobs and growth
Labs got proof
Global warmth
We burned gross
Ice lands float

Breed the most
Scads and loaf
Feeds the earth
Robs it first

Greed and wrath
Grabs for turf
Flood sand epitaph
Crabs and crows
Gods and ghosts

iv Human Relations
Jobs and growth
Aid’s poor worth
Dogs cut fifth 1
Mob sails forth
Babes in froth
Sobs shored off

Jubblies strewth
Club won’t morph
Boardroom blows
Head felt groped
Slap that mouth
Grab the roads

Subs say stealth
Pledge Yank troth
Just spend gobs
Hijabs and cloth
Hoods and coats
Dead in both

v Intern Ships
Jobs and growth
Mans in road
Slobs and sloth
Yobs and scrotes
Swab dat boat

vi Medicine
Jobs and growth
Open slather
Sads and meth
Carbs in teeth
Abs or sloth
Slabs and smokes
No jabs dopes
Dibs my death
Drugs end groans
Sods plan gulf
End free health

vii Culture and Myth
Jobs and growth
Boobs on toast
Snobs and poofs
Rebs and filth
Sobs and ruth
Lives and truth
Burbs and youth
Seeds inmost
Hubs of grace

Growth is no job
Growth is the lie
Growth is the little man that lives in the sky
Growth is no elbow
Growth is the limb
Growth is what stays on after sin after sin
Growth is no terror
Growth is the love
Growth is the searing pain not from above
Leave my growth alone
Talk to us of something else
Growth my eye.

According to calculations by the Development Policy Centre at ANU, the government’s budget cuts mark both the largest ever multi-year aid cuts (33%) and largest ever single year cut (20% and $1 billion in 2015-16). This will see Australian aid fall to 0.22% of Gross National Income (a global measure of donor generosity) in 2017-18, the lowest level in Australia’s history.



On April 26 2016, Omid Masoumali, a 23 year-old Iranian man, set himself on fire on the island of Nauru. This is for him.

Onshore offshore
I am the difference
Cake is forgetting
So cake is the difference
Onshore offshore
I am the law
The line is consent
So the job’s on the line
Onshore offshore
I am the purpose
Fear is the means
So I am the monster
Onshore offshore
I am the horde
Two is a family
So I am alone
Onshore offshore
I am the voter
Pork on the menu
So I am the flame
Onshore offshore
I am the process
The process is broken
So I fix an island
Onshore offshore
I am the army
The country is vacant
So I live in fear
Onshore offshore
I am the rescue
Your fall is illegal
So rescue is judgement
Onshore offshore
I am the time
Despair is my meeting
So a meeting’s my hour
Onshore offshore
I am the reason
War is a movie
So I am its star
Onshore offshore
I am the heartbeat
The muscle is tender
So the stomach’s to blame
Onshore offshore
I am the actor
Anguish is genuine
So my lines must be true
Onshore offshore
I am the deity
Your creed operational
So it vaults past belief
Onshore offshore
I am the fury
Nowhere a day’s end
So night is accelerant
Onshore offshore
I am the horror
Information snow blinds
So the beast walks on by.

Rich man
Tip fly
Food prep

Onshore offshore
Category error
Neither in nor out
My terror
Neither here nor there
This answer.
Nobody wants here
They just can’t stand it there.

Makeshift Heart XVIII: to be still

for Donald

imageMiddle of a life a work a love
Stitches cannot hold
Holding days and nights together
Horizon not a seam.
Why is he so anxious?
If all of it is worthless
He has nothing much to lose
Even if there’s so much of it.
Lost the thread
Knew he had it going
It went
A cheerful moron now, and rich.
Because it’s all inevitable
I repeat to pass the time
Because I have no choice I have no choice I have no choice
Because my life is chocolate
I eat sweets all the time
To leave no gaps leave no gaps leave no
I sing because I must
If no song comes I make one up
Radio isn’t good enough.
Isn’t that creative?
No, it’s war.


I have been thinking about the little girl who died by Darebin Creek. So have others. There is a poster advertising a newspaper that mentions her on my route to work. I hate this. There have been a couple of articles in The Age about why someone would kill their 15 month old daughter. One is a short google on some instances over the past few years and a few stats. The other is someone, like me, who knows the area. But there have been a few murders in the suburb. There are kids riding trail bikes along the muddy track beside “my” creek to the point where the police had an accident with a cyclist while looking out for them on a quad bike. More than once I’ve seen four wheel drive vehicles trundling along where there is no road, almost no path in places. Where when the water rises, eels cross. It’s a magical place. It has been damaged.

All the little creatures coming out again, can you see?
So quiet, if you listen very carefully that’s the sea!
Swing low sweet child Sanaya and don’t feel sad on a rainy day
The earth will make a cradle boat and and little feet will find the way.

Dawn seeps over she who murdered
My autumn fuzz trampled by horse cops is on you
Paths and lights and burn-back and standard council park monstrosity
Mother –
All on you.
A red plastic trolley, police tape fastened
Pile of rain-gravid bears in flowers
Touch my brow, my lip, I’m following
Two doors floating seaward –
Would equal scorch marks around scooter bodies
Flatscreen backs
White goods brown
More trolleys, resting on their side –
Only floating doors lead elsewhere
A better place than a mud stream bed
And they are not on you.

How can that be?

Did she cry, did she run, did you just do for her?
So awful so bloody hard to escape statistics
Taken seriously until the next time
Last in Heidelberg it was a couple
Before a row over noise
Missing teenagers go rhythmically
Every street’s got a house
Unhappy block
Derelict town
Homeless district
Failed little state
But never blue tree, twitchy crane
Not echidna overdosed nor murder ant
Never even vicious magpie, evil crow
Psycho tiger snake, no genocidal bee.
Mothers and fathers defending
Survive in sacrifice and fight and yes exposure
Never simply turn, no
Not quite like this, among the reeds
Not even in eternal drizzle
One of us: can I really not get it?
What we struggle with is the nature which does not murder
We shall tame this wasteland and filling with light add darkness
Which does not perish except generationally
And that I cannot comprehend.

Swing low Sanaya under blossoms
Your daddy didn’t know and your mummy’s in gaol
Swing low under breezes and birdies
I’ll take you for a walk in the wild with a puppy
Swing low by the rushing bubbly happy rain
All the little creatures sing your lullaby, sweet.
All the little creatures singing baby to sleep.
Go to the ocean now, go.

Campaign in Prose and Govern Poetry

This evening is painted by a terrible boor
And hanging in a café for two hundred bucks
It is filled with heckling birds and that gum smell –
It is more than I can reproduce with my crayons.

Start to that ending cadence it’s wanting
Perfect roar of the incoming surf to
Extinction of the sun with prejudice –
It is more painful not to write than to blot.

Go, billions of stars before and after urge
Be, none of your pages will warm bones
Act in the best interest by as much or as little
As the painter of the evening commands.

Purpose of Moths

Algorithmic flap into burning
Rush backward to egg
Beard on a heron
Whistle on a pigeon
Run by with your tongue hanging
But without your head.
Compulsion free for a change.
Lift your face to grey louring
And live in the pale
Pushing air out is all
Past your useful age
From purpose into meaning.
Watch ripe brittle without comment
Prepare being without management
Hope for platypus
Do with far away swallow
Stay by me
For two swings
And a chase.
I sob without recognition these days
Groan after nothing much – not even bones
So I accompany morning’s night with arse trumpet
Although I can very well help it.
Noon’s brief passage is alright
Evening’s better. Less frantic saturation
To formula. To getting somewhere.

Blue Bayou, by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson: why everyone should learn it

Roy feels so bad and got a worried mind. The opening to one of the most recognisable songs of the Twentieth Century, sung by a voice that seems so restrained and innocent by our standards, the musicians so cool while playing difficult runs on a simple progression, before the kind of key change Dylan would laud as making no sense. (Not that I’d know if this happened.) Listening to Linda Ronstadt belting it out for half again as long on free-to-bandwidth video makes me realise why I instinctively disapproved of her as a teenager. That of course is unkind, when Elvis Costello lists her version 9th on his greatest country songs, she was in the Mr Plough episode of the Simpsons, sang on Graceland, and has Parkinson’s. It’s just that the Orbison, if cheesy, is classy. Even his backing vocals are a Greek chorus of subtle urging to go, go, go[1]. Also, she left out many of the lyrics, most contentiously, to my mind, the early lines of the first chorus – but we’ll get to those.

Meanwhile Roy is so lonesome all the time. Not all of the time, again possibly a complaint about Linda, but to be lonesome all of the time could be, out of “all”, being lonesome just during time’s passing, yet not when time is not passing, for some of what’s passing is not time, quite a feat, and certainly not available to the waking me. If that’s a stretch I will also admit it’s possible time is unbearably segmented for Linda, and all of those are lonesome, in which case I’m a fool and that’s quite a poignant calculus, infinitely Zeno. Every nanosecond. Getting back to Roy, my point is: even being plainly non-mathematically lonesome all the time is enough of a confession. Especially when this, as it turns out, is an attempt at casting off the blues.

It is never clear why Roy left his baby behind. Possibly he went out to seek fame and fortune. Certainly it’s a place where he had some roots. (Roy and I learned the same song first: “You are my Sunshine.” I can still hear my mother singing it to me. From there he and I diverged.) Born in 36 was a child of the big D – on his official website his father is “a worker” and in biographies as an oil rigger. And of course the War. He was raised in the ten blocks of Wink, Texas, close to Kermit, which you would think was moist or at least green – however all of it was as far away from a bayou as a sensitive myopic child could imagine.

Roy’s longing now has a shape, even if baby never gets clearer: we know more about the bayou than about Roy’s baby. I mean, it might be that he has literally left his baby behind, not his lover, in which case his assurance that he’s coming back someday is, I reckon, a little less dependable than a return to his lover. Although with a baby, there might be some future relationship, whereas with a lover, well, a lover might not want you back, even if you are the Big O. You’re just some guy from the past with big glasses.

So Roy is poor, never mind that in the early sixties things were a little better than when he was born and that this was not his first success. He’s saving nickels and dimes, presumably all he’s earning, on night shift at best. (For surely he’s not just working till the sun don’t shine then downing apron, his working might actually be causing the sun to dim, as do coal miners parasol makers.) So the happier times on Blue Bayou are in any case brighter for all the dark nights Roy is putting in. We know he’s strumming a guitar, but we also know he’s underground somewhere. He certainly can’t see well with those dark glasses, though of course we all know he’s not blind, not really. Anyway, we get it: it’s dark, dark, dark. He’s in black, just so we really do get it. This, we might think, is shouting, but if we compare him to The Cure, it’s so cheerfully innocent that the candy-coloured clown we call the Sandman tiptoeing into our bedroom every night isn’t naturally going to scare the shit out of us, as it might if the Human League were singing it over our crib. Once again, the innocence is all the more moving than the histrionics. In dreams, he walks with me, and in dreams he talks with me; never does he fuck, or pull out a huge cleaver and send me into the arms of Nick Cave. It’s kind of a thing we’d like to do together with Roy, even were we Cardinal Pell after a hard day’s papal fund management, releasing ourselves from the pornotropia we inhabit into lovelier longing.

And the times he’s looking forward to aren’t the end of times. That they are times plural implies there will be times afterward as well. (Echoes of the Linda’s soulful indeterminate periods – maybe she got them from him?) They might not be in Blue Bayou. I’m not at all sure Roy is going to stay there.

I mean, what does Roy expect to do for money on Blue Bayou if he sleeps all day? Then again, perhaps nobody works there: the catfish certainly aren’t, they’re playing – and the fishing boats aren’t really heading anywhere purposeful if their sails are afloat. I mean, really.

Anyway, to be fair, perhaps their sails aren’t afloat, since the dangly ambiguity of saying if he could only see…only see what? Oh, now we know it’s the familiar sunrise Roy’s wanting to see, but until that moment, the first time listening, boats with sails floating round instead of purposefully hauling the boats to a destination, like properly accountable funded and targeted research, seem rather dilly, to the point of being quite unfeasible, if you ask me, so it’s possible he’s having difficulty seeing or visualising the event. Has he been gone so long? Roy and his song-writing partner were both quite young at the time so not all that long but the Roy in the song may have been away longer. Here the sunrise boats – laudable if they’re returning from a session, not so flash if they’re just going out and it’s already light – are one place Roy isn’t going to be because he’s in bed. And perhaps that’s why he’s not working: he’s still down the umbrella mines, or on the oil rigs, even after he’s made it back to his baby. The bayou is blue because it holds the sky, as well as his pooled sadness. The bayou is a stop or a new workplace he’s going to get to come what may. In this case it isn’t a Mondegreen for Roy to be seeing himself on the fishing boats, not just, “Oh, those fishing boats.” Like, “Oh, those scenic mossy trees.” If he’s so determined, you’d think he was going to make a go of it this time. And get a job. It is of course possible he’s so determined he’s going to save so many nickels and dimes he’ll never have to work again.

(Just before we get to his arrival in the bayou, the catfish. You might already have gathered, I love that the catfish are playful, and it’s possible this is an allusion to the ontological disappointment of the fisho. Fishing people inhabit the great place of yearning and surrender to elemental caprice, the realism of sitting still waiting for luck to strike when you might be close to perishing of starvation and its frequent upshot of missing out, so the opposition of the playful catfish – Linda misses out on this nuance altogether – to the boats that are after them is one of the greatest pleasures to me in Roy’s steady rendition of such a remarkable reaching. It’s quite possible the boat’s sails are afloat in the wrong direction, the catfish are so playful. This isn’t projection: all fishos know the fish know what they’re up to.)

Well now Roy’s seeing his baby again and his O is an expression of joy, surely, not just of scenery, and perhaps more than joy, of pleasure. But he’s only with some of his friends. Is this acknowledgement that he’ll leave friends where he is now, working for nickels and dimes, so time has passed and where once all of his friends hung out, he’ll be drawn back to where he is now? Or is it acknowledgement that some of his friends will not be there when he gets to Blue Bayou, perhaps even died? Or is it that some of his friends won’t see him? I’m pretty sure that whatever made him leave the bayou would have either divided his friends, since surely whatever happened he could have stuck it out – at least that’s always somebody’s opinion. In any case, this is a sad line to me. Even in the blueness of the bayou, not fishing, not working, not doing targeted research, friendship is fragile.

Roy will only maybe be happy then, in Blue Bayou. This isn’t paradise he’s heading for, it’s a real place, eight days’ walk from Wink, Texas, to Arkansas, with a lower median income than the rest of Arkansas, but much lower poverty rate, smaller, cheaper housing, and only a small percentage of those involved in the category of “agricultural, forestry, or fishing” actually involved in fishing. So, you see.

I can’t tell you how sad this makes me. I mean, yes, one part of me rejoices that this is no simplistic, jingoistic celebration of rural America, it’s not a Christian heaven, despite its unrealistic fishing and problematic work ethic, it’s a place promising only a possibility of happiness. On the other hand, the admission reuniting with his baby and (some) friends might not make him happy –  that breaks my heart.

But: this last time Roy sings of the bayou he’s not just going back some day, now he’s gonna stay. Really gonna, this time. Not only that, he’s lost or is trying to lose the ambivalence about his so-called friends, the bastards. (Bastards unless of course they’re on the side of the girl he left, about whom the chorus has progressed from reminding him he’s her daddi da to just urging with an ohh.) People are fine. They really, truly are.

He wishes.

Now, not only does he swear he’s gonna stay, like they all do, he’s promising himself, and perhaps his dimbadee ay as well, the world. Now we know he’s not going to work, that he’s counting on enough nickels and dimes raining down in some sort of golden lottery shower so that vocal hiccoughing the word “world” as his will make it true. He’ll never be blue. Against all evidence. I mean: most teenagers aren’t even aware this is a phenomenon like weather: life is like this, they think, because part of being a teenager is not being able to see in the storm of the brain reconstructing its pathways, in the whirling reckless process of the coming redundancy of all those childish neuronal routes devoted to manipulating parents and not dying in infancy, that there’s got to be a morning after.

So this is peak bayou. Silver moon and evening tide which as we all know livens the beasties in the water luminous and vaster than empires with the power to strip the fisho’s bait in minutes while all you feel is the gentlest of tugs from thousands of teensy crabs dimbadeeing all over your pilchard. To me it seems like Roy’s assertion of its reality crumbles back though, like a dyke before tides of molten icecap. A moment ago the folks were fine and the world was Roy’s, but BANG the hurting inside is back once more between now and some sweet day. Who knows why? Perhaps his co-writer Joe Melson opposed the tempering realism here, for Roy’s voice is all heroic quivering sadness of the man who’ll never have a job, not even the oil rig roustabout let alone the fisherman or man of leisure with calico bags full of nickels and dimes –  in any case, we’re back to just stating in present tense his dreams come true on Blue Bayou, as if it were now some sort of theme park, instead of a dream itself, a shot-gunned sign instead of a sorrowful sound, a fading dimbadee ay dimbadee ay dimbadee ay, ooh.

Roy’s closing note could have risen into the clouds I am sure are pink above the bayou. It has in other songs. Here it did not. It took the most expected resolution for the two preceding notes: on Blue, Bay-you. Ra-Ta-Ta Cha-Cha-Cha. We fade away for the longest time. We are not comforted. We are justifiably sad. Not crying over anybody, emerging, rather, with bleak post-teen realism.

We are not heroes. Not even for one day.

And we don’t live on Blue Bayou. Cha-Cha-Cha.


[1]Yes, there’s in which Springsteen maintains they’re singing “bo bo bo dimbadee ay” – OK fair enough he was onstage with Roy and ought to know, but still.


dating to the nobbliest ancientest most civil liaison
ye emergent fresh from yung silver spaceships
ports delievers poerms stark buckety buck
)part from the glassy globe on theer heeds(

them gricks i bell eve wore only lief
covering iambic petroglyphs
hole meat ears long
write big pots them gricks

pro-claimed and wobbled
pro-claimed and did irony buckety buck
an folding shirts proust as peach no two ways
them wars the days – proust for goods raison

no fury guys off course
smooth men’s these was
smoother end before oar tame
noah puffy parade that they evolutionary stagedey

war soup eerier than the furry bruther iaian awe sister eon
apes eh?
that wear soup eerier is all part of the stragedy:
Just a drive. Like any other. To think.

so sang little potato arsed fatty
sang you youse bucky buck sang
yore truant than yo nose
a true who man bean

a port

ah salad ieaou so stained up!

Progress of a Kind

Ghost cat stuck in a tree
Only living humans to rescue her.
Stuck in a tree crying softly
Nothing has an afterlife but her.
Crying softly contradictory
Should the living pity her?
Contradictory dead cat purr.
Living pity dying horribly:
Dead cat argument still astir,
Dying horribly not quite over.
Vets and clergy fight about her
Not quite over symbolically:
Is she more or is she fewer?
Over symbolically or anomaly?
I’ll fight for either, sir.
Anomaly, doesn’t want to be:
Her purr is pain – jumps, climbs air
Want to be no more, at last is free
Floating cloud-ward simply gossamer
Bound at last for who knows where,

Just Another WordPress Blog, by Patrick White*

Just what the fuss might be is beyond me. Beyond thin gods in charge of gates. So I have decided. For Goodreads complaints about boredom and mud distress not by personal offence. But idiocy. No wish to bore, quite the opposite. If looking for variety is a crime I am here to confess.

Mediocrity and guilt and anonymous death. Lonely and humiliated, wrong. Were I to admit such drizzle would that make me a better writer? Just a wet head. So I would gain the approving digital socialites but lose my soul. A short novel, an appealing character, a social situation unexplored before. And I would die, hatless. An honest admission would trap imagination like a mouse and a smear of peanut butter my reward. Yet I would make lovely sense.

Those confessions I confess lie beyond this poor fellow. Because light and life remain to me I will deny the admission short, declarative sentences declare. Active verbs. Page turning. Economy. So to silence. So to peace. To that good night.

Only the one confession for me.

*Should you take the time to actually read reviews of Patrick White on Goodreads you might find it hard to see why he has taken offence. (If that is what he has done. If it is White.) Yet quite a number of readers with whom I discuss his work have a low tolerance for it. Perhaps after all many Goodreads reviewers don’t say anything if they have nothing good to say. (And to tell the truth Patrick White never really reads Goodreads. Perhaps he stumbled across some writers’ self-help site and is confused, being dead.)

Something Hard to Do

Every time we were born you died
Sweet cream in pants
And we sighed
A golden dream a Columbina –
Way too thin to hide.

Ah David, you came back so often
We never thought you would go.

If we were from space all of us
Then none of us were.
If we all had perfect teeth
Then dentists drilled us for nothing.
(Just wait here I’ll give you the eye.)
If we all bared them like that man
For a while
Well who could blame us?
The blouse just tore itself out of anguish.
We were boys and girls – and horses – next door
Over and over.

Stardust, you fell down so nicely
We never thought you would mean it.

Machine noise isn’t noise at all
It’s consequence. A ricochet.
Only people make noise.
Hearts beating.
You were never inhuman quite
The opposite you were more
And we will never see the like if
We live another age in the sun
And sell the moon
We will never see the light of day.
We will never see the light of day.
Never see the alien light
If we tried.
And we tried.

O Jonsey, you came out so late
We never had you for long.

If you were ours when we were muttering low
You were ours on the floor as well
If you were high when we were making out
You were deep inside us as well
In the mines when we have faces of soot
We’ll still be dancing
We’ll still be dancing
We’re still dancing
In the night.

Makeshift Heart XVII: that awful time

frangersThat awful time
Before she wakes but
After the rest of the laggy planet
Has faded to its common but
Separate pursuits distracted
By that easy call to truth without
Sufficient reply, in truth,
Once more, dear friend, am I even now
Sailing into separate years.
(Like any others made up of days.)
Old mates, old children, well may we
Cling, for all the pity where,
Cruel vicinity our mistress
The rubbing group our truth,
You – and me – all we can say this was
Was a statement itself.
What we did or said however trivial
And forgotten and dull, or radiant
It’s all the same at this hour:
We show up to dance.


The sun shines in England even
Away above the clouds
A shaking head is grief or ageing
One smile makes it otherwise:
Can I stand to see it?
Can I do anything but witness?
And how is bystander anger
Going to help to sort it?
I have forgotten all my crimes
A lone cicada picks them out
I’d have thought too many
Would be beautiful but dumb.
So all my rationale is dropping
Exhausted from the climb
I walk with the ache of tender steps
I could not have bought with books.
And the raindrops refresh me.
For a day 1.

A Prayer

Tear up this pieceplane
The shape
The words
The time
Out of joint.
This is no thesis.
It is the usual ignorance.

That it seems so bleak when you reach the edge
And none of it was real
That the reasoning had nothing to do with the body’s
Or even the heart’s
When all the in-filled mysteries empty or empty again
And your habits can’t adjust to know what matters
The wonder of evolution and islands of complexity
Insufficient glory
After such light and grace and meaning.
I mouth a struggle to comprehend how it must be
For the billions who needed the prism while
Turning pages over or passing from room to room
Or whatever, yet
Closing or exiting it doesn’t work
Something of you doesn’t work:
Are we all dragged from this
While our loved ones have to watch
Probably never leaving book or house?

It must get better.

From clouds to earth
We fall in fear or enlightened alight
Clouds in the shape of wondrous fish
Land in the forms of wormy dirt
Or fish becoming other as we watch
And aureoled crimson
Dirt a city of nematode and root and wombat
And crowning blooms.
At last I will admit I am just like you
Never know time to stop
Dig into why bells ring
Step through how suns pierce us with radiance
Stagger across replication and transformation
Spots and rings and tide flickerings:
I am a sea cucumber on a plate
Unknowing what blade what decision
What ink
Gives surcease.
I have patched my trousers with duct tape
Without knowing where they were threadbare
Covering my arse in the daily
Stupid-go-round of happiness
And can admit
At last
I have uttered
A prayer.
I have whispered a prayer
I say a little prayer for you
I have called on my ignorance –
Whatever it takes really for who cannot?
Bully for whomever can not.

So tear up my love song
Bound to inadequate pulse
Serving not nearly verbs
Bulked up with foolish sentiment
Muddled argument
Each time failing what I know.
Again. No more. Again.


Ex Libris

If all the books in my whole house I’ve never read
Out of tricky polymorphism re-expressed into
(Non-sexually of course)
Ones I would
And sat up hoping:
Some get better, some worse, and some stay just as they are.
Although the number about fish masses;
About novel and novelist, painter – but not a musician – declines;
And the ones unchanged present themselves perhaps more brazenly.
I have calculated tMissed the Blackbirdhe number of novels I might in my day
Assuming an average span of average ones –
Is it obvious the Canadian brother between 39 and 60 beats his heart
Three two hundredths slower than la femme canadienne? –
Novels I’ll actually consume will not allow much shilly-shally
Yet the space for authors unbidden, novels unbidden –
Sadly those cut short beat them –
And books I just have to waste my time on if I’m not to ascend to boredom
Leave a narrow shelf space running off into time for the ones I must, I shall, I dread but do:
Just enough to range and rearrange
Deck chairs.
So when you speak to me of brevity, I’m against it:
It isn’t art that is too short but the frequency of art things too much and short things make many
So I’m against it.
So when you speak to me of clarity, simplicity, communication, surely you don’t mean in the service
The service of what you mean by brevity.
They’re not out there making haiku but slogans
For commercial disruption not the real kind
Just where less makes more and more make less
So I’m against it.
Time anyhow prints me a book on the stoop in the shape of a person and how
Can you say no to puppy eyes?
One more drops off that shelf at your feet. Yes I will walk your damn book.
It will be my pleasure. The pleasure is all mine. Come on then.

So if you see a blackbird a-scratching in the dirt
If you see a blackbird a-scratching in the dirt
You could kindly tell him that he has got my shirt;
If you see a blackbird a-fleeing from a cat
If you see a blackbird a-fleeing from a cat
You should kindly tell him that he has got my hat;
And if you see a blackbird dance his manky dance
If you see a blackbird dance his manky dance
You must kindly tell him that he has got my pants;
Then if you see that blackbird a-dressed in all my feathers
If you spy that blackbird a-wearing all my feathers
You very well may sing to him what he is to me, me forever.

Two Haiku and a Senryu

Ran about 25 k today, something I haven’t done for a couple of months. Good on you legs: a marathon since Friday. At last I have ceased to think.

Here are three haiku composed not thinking:

bark crunch underfoot
willy wagtail notifier –
attack dog!

honeycomb by rock wall cleft
swarming angry now –
possum thief or what?

black sky waiting for the thunder
all l hear is aircon rumbling


Tiny Icarus

Dad started to slip
Words and pavement
His wife took holidays with sister Caitlin
Even pot wouldn’t arouse her
Flushed and sceptically sidelong
And the kids called
Money and trouble

So he ordered a wing kit
As seen in Hundred Days a Bird
Custom featured
Carefully researched
Swapped notes on boards
Followed leads to the good stuff
Practised in front of the Samsung
When she was working late
Began to dream of it
In meetings see himself
Outside the window
Blue miles over his gridlock
Everyone mousy below:

He stormy petrel
Skua calm black cockatoo
A gale in his tail
Loft in his pin feathers
Hot blood and fur on talons
Utterly over it
Little people.

Compared to Lycra Lamborghini
Solid gold jet ski coast view kitchen
Single origin Paleo breast implants
New Orleans pinger brothel princess tats
We have purity
A day of arrival
Simply opened
Simply donned
Everyone should do it
Shame it cost a town-house.

And opening
And rising
And startled yes at first
It isn’t some more grand flight
Isn’t crane
Buzzard romance
Dark or light
A myna
Quarrelling air row torpedo
Still it is flight
It is height
Opposite of weight
Forgotten hate
Known late
Beats never knowing at all.

There has to be a nature you can’t fight
The Indian myna is his truth
A hop and be still in the air
Light though fat high though hopeless
Sure of yourself the way a bigger bird cannot
Is not.

And rising from the glade carefully selected
Near enough the coast and close enough to find home again
Afterward because it’s his first and he may not disappear until a fourth or even tenth
Though not to say goodbye but to refine his aims
While a person can still make aims to give a bird
To make the best departure he can
He pauses.

Gliding past the gloating moment
He knows about hubris
Still something rises to his new throat
Something about walking
A memory of whole body happiness
A snapshot of the myna walking
The rolling clown he has become
Only able to fly
Heart stops
Beak snaps
At nothing.

A bird
Something remarkable
A bird falls dead from the sky
Smacks the gravel verge
Motorists turn from it
And already forgetting
Drive calmly on.

Only the thud in their memories.

Makeshift Heart XVI: Widow Wildlife






See her out with her husband in cool early scrub
A couple easily composed, inconceivable man on foot
Two legs four legs six legs eight
Don’t speed up don’t hesitate.

See him with his little brother standing as they do
Wind rushing without a ruffle
Purposeless society breeding when it has to
They are the same as us from far enough.

Our busy thoughts steer us from the fact
As from more family now dead everywhere
As from our compulsive clasp
As from animality.

I want what I want and so cannot decide
What’s best for me in this cloud of me-ness
To want what you want is just as decisionless
It’s a form of automation long ago perfect

Where navigation’s as irrelevant as vital.

So hurtling along it’s a brother I once saw grazing
Pumping benzine it’s onto widow wildlife
Opening my fridge I don’t feel bees hold it shut
Radicals travel barefoot, genius sings in a tree.

Explain to the widow how we are free we are free we are free
To choose is to want except to choose not to choose
From the pile in front of me is reward free
Only uncertain uncertainty: a pain and unknown good.

He and I spring from joint stock, complain the same fart, burn joules
She and I live in our burrows compelled to what pleases us, mostly
Satisfied to perform routines going back to a tube with a hole each end
Joyfully singing simple ritual completing each other because we must

And yet I am careless of it. What I prize is penumbra of a lisp of a wiggle
Giving time to the flickering modern and sophistical beard clips
Giving the day I could change everything away out of petulance
Giving what I really want to the boring person who got up daily and did it.

The gun is in his hand, lost child.

An angel lost his life today because I measured the easy get,
A treat cost me my conscience. Were I kinder I’d leave
Were I right I would merely do right, but the truth is I am happy
Cannot stay miserable for long. The solution is a distraction

Shame it can’t believe in me.

Makeshift Heart XV: August 2015

Winter teaches me to breathe, the moon to see:
The Madman laughs at the Angel; he knows they are not bitey or real
A bad day is just another way of saying August blossom
A man who reaches for a magpie and then does not give it food.
Accidentally spill a lyric on facebook for joy matches kind silence or a kitten
I have returned to health after tapping my foot in bed
All the while working hours that tell me how little they mean
There is a bucket in my bucket list for the idle reward of my retirement is upon me
And if I make sense it will be too soon.
(I am as literal as they come and then some.)

Winter teaches the fool who notices it.

Makeshift Heart XIV: Surprised by Joy

for Joni Mitchell

How like breathing are the clouds
How like blood like speaking like a chest if fire
How like meat like pudding like a breast if truth
How like a northerly is my heart.

How like neural paths are constellations
How like cheeky points like logic’s play if falling
How like penetrating sight if bright hard joy
How like Jupiter is my gut.

How like meiosis is the ocean
How like pollen like a mushroom like a hand if waving
How like swaying arse like swagger if funning
How like yearning are my balls.

How like weeping are the trees
How like dripping eyes like shaking if bent desire
How like drainage like squalling like ecstasy if sudden
How like a Mallee is my soul.

How unlike a poem are these elements
How like them like unto surprise am I if naked
How like gloves like a coat like a helmet if on the pedal
How like nothing at all is me.

Old: solstice 2015

I haven’t been publishing poetry on first, because of course that constitutes publishing, and I thought I’d have a crack at sending poems off to magazines. Never done that before. Decided it was fun. That of course means a delay and right now I’m not prolific. I’m thinking.

I was writing this for the solstice and on impulse popped it onto Jane Yolen’s comment field on FB, in response to a beautiful post about taking a breath, The Importance of Gathering Days. Reconnecting. I just so happened to have had a similar thought.

Dawn red clouds are old I am reliably informed
A blessing on both our houses in the sky
Or code for something other I cannot argue
Too bland for meaningful sharing and too certain
Of repetition to bother to describe.

Most important matters are plain and most futures are not
Yet, except for the regular blinking passage through Infinity
That makes me suspect I ought to see more when
In truth I have no more of my past than a stranger,

Red dawn is old I say though to see it who would know
A tasty bite a trillion times is not a snack but a Hallow.

Samba Canadia!

Justin Bieber is a wanted fella
In Argentina (step and kick)
Justin Bieber failed to appear
After his subpoena (step step swoop)
Oh what a naughty he gonna get caughty bad Canadiol boy! (big split)

Makeshift Animal Heart

My animal is dumb
Arse a shelf
Arms a-dangle
Gut the buddy boy I carry round
Mouth a window on my diet
Everybody part unsound
Everything a sightimage
I’ve forgotten who I might be
At market in a meeting permanently
Know the shape of situation
Cannot say the pain.

My animal is lupine
Ears a-twitch
Eyes on angle
Thumbs for the taking steal
Legs much quicker than your gaol
Every bodypart a meal
Every thing a sale
Shit grin matters politically
All content raced that way
Know the situation score
I cannot help but whore.

My animal is fun
Teeth for kill
Feet for dodging
Elbow not winging gripped by weenis
Tongue for puncturing the quiet
Every fart as funny as a penis
Everything a riot
I won’t sit down for standing up
Rather fist and finger tup
Get the situation backwards fine
Just have to drink the punch line.

My animal is sapient too
Digits hooked to brains
Akimbo risk superior
Acronyms for eyes
Hand crafting my own algorithm
Every tweak I ironise
Every interest group a schism
So eloquent I’m in love with me
So fabulous am I I never see
Too bright for the situation
Arch monster’s monologue condition.

Awful angel animal
Getting hopelessly foxed with straps
Laces creams and wearing caps
Rushing carelessly through the year
Our century and friends
Admitting that I’m queer
A hillbilly fucking angel
A total dear.

Of course animal is animal animal
Leopard offspring of a camel
And bred and fed and raised
At ease
Trained to train me thermogenically
Flash incomprehensibly
When questioned via radio
By shrunken pickled lobes of long ago
Smart peg round or biscuit pedal?
My maze I made myself and it runs me
Eternally trapped for funsies
My animal favours many arms
Arms with each a thought
And thoughts with each a meditation
A dolce vita and a crank
Skin of colours vegetable
Blood a vegan gun blue metal
Scuds across a half-forgotten sea
Half way round the Galaxy
At peace.

Other Solstice 2014: Makeshift Heart XII

IMG_0392This is the wrong end of the FY
Confidence at a low I see
The yard that was home to car seat
Urine soaked teddy kikuyu and Maccas shit
Now mown angular and even green
(Thanks to Carbon Tax eradication)
Flashing festive Chinese blowup logoi
Of shiny Advent metonymy and/or joy
And moved to tears I thank my waged
Lucky stars I am a male middle-aged
Victorian Public Servant with bitter liver
And soft head. Above all that hoo-hah
And flim flam and winter cheer Midsummer
At the height of my illustrious career.

O the humanity I the humanity F
A love General Private Corporeal Supreme
Negotiated perhaps for a polity of two, Jefe
But not a neighbourhood a carload
A fastfood chain with gas load
Lost someplace between university and a dream.

My snobbery is where I left it, son
Wedged between Heyer and Györg Lukács:
If dogs are socially constructed then fleas lie down with us
Just as feverish people dream travel
Although ice and ecstasy change them unequal
Our children still find their action figure character
In the packet of Wheeties we open we dole her
Up. And will rise as reality attacks her
Civil and social and full of the joi de Vivian and vegan pizza
You find inexhaustible in the sun.

So sip on your Crown Golden Ale in a stubby holder
Sop to the décor of children sir
Slap a campaign that puts a head bucket on your brother
On your brother
Praise him for being tubby, older.

& npbs gr8 chrimbo 2 1 & awe
Massive seasonal kudos!

Song: on the relationship between manual labour, obsessive counting, and repetitive verbal motifs that may or may not constitute tics

for Tim

Causation of wood and stone
Formal proof of tree and bone
Consciousness won’t let alone
Or at least the karmic.

Think the world and think it flat
Think it round and that is that
Think of time persuade a cat
A new idea of logic.

A state of mind
A slate of mind
Work a rusty gate of mind
A moment here
A moment there
Magnetism is everywhere!

Electron pump a metaphor
Eigenvalues zut alors!
Hit prayer town when the plane comes down
It’s just fucking tragic.

Count a lot
Lose your spot
The crumpets start to rise
Under ling
Over lizard
The song popping up is still a big surprise!

Art and Science meet for lunch
Light and paint and treacle crunch
Reality is but a hunch
A thimbleful is magic –
Honey I don’t mean it’s sacred –
But it’s maaaagic all the way!


Equinox 2014

for Oscar, on seven years at the department

Blood magnolia in the shade of one cold;
Warmer blue bay tipping into ocean now –
So knob-head grumpy-jaw pinkies flood the fold;
Declaring he doesn’t like gold anyhow –
Filigree pearl tiger snake teenage uncoils;
Yes, I too miss the grey more than I allow
And curse your early brown fly as he toils,
Try not to colour their over-vivid air,
Cleave to my trauma-green foliage as it spoils:
The hell of a summer that favours the fair
Still yields to the pasty ones alloy ciphers
Whose sadder eyes full of rainbows tip the chair.
Your sepia memories are for lifers
You bellow prism bright down the office.

You Had to Walk into Mine

Of all the minutes in a long afternoon
Of all the motes in the light in this room
The cool shade leaves shaking under this tree
Child sand designs on the shore of this sea

All the cloud shapes you could make in one sight
The constellations you could tell in one night
City point glow you can count from Earth orbit
Friends and relations in the life of a rabbit

Of grasses and flowers and seed pods and honeybees
Of all of these polyps and sardines and stingarees
Puddles, raindrops, snowflakes, and mist swirls
Giggles and tears on cheeks of small boys and girls

Dear, so many no one could count them and stay sane
To know the luck of any two meeting I’d count them again.

Right Honourable Tongue

The Honourable Tongue hangs fat from its gob
The Honourable Tongue loves doing its job
The Honourable Tongue swings in the wind
The Honourable Tongue wouldn’t know if it sinned
The Honourable Tongue doesn’t know how to fib
The Honourable Tongue slips rosy and glib
The Honourable Tongue is fit and it’s fast
The Honourable Tongue has no future or past
The Honourable Tongue draws distinctions so fine
The Honourable Tongue never crosses the line
The Honourable Tongue now and then must lick rectum
The Honourable Tongue gives the lie to elect him
The Honourable Tongue clucks like a prude
The Honourable Tongue pokes out to be rude
The Honourable Tongue has no brain and no ears
The Honourable Tongue is nervous round queers
The Honourable Tongue traded taste for a joke
The Honourable Tongue talks like ordinary folk
The Honourable Tongue works hard to stay clean
The Honourable Tongue belongs to the Queen
The Honourable Tongue does what needs must in a tussle
The Honourable Tongue is History’s muscle
The Honourable Tongue must speak for us all
And The Honourable Tongue never fails – to appal.









Chapman Hill

Strong bones of tree
Brains of red rock
Feathered clear blue eye beyond,
Silvereyes’ nerve
Pulsing bees’ bole
Far cry from undead commercial sand.image