American Love Poem was shortlisted in the 2014 Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Competition.
Golden Bowerbird was shortlisted in the 2014 Manning Clark House National Cultural Awards, Axel Clark Memorial Prize for Poetry.
Counter-pastoral at 140kph was shortlisted in the 2015 Newcastle Poetry Prize and published in Connective Tissue – Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2015.
Barnacle was shortlisted in The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize 2016, published in Tremble, The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize 2016 anthology and published in the 2017 Best Australian Poems.
Night Parrots was shortlisted in the 2017 Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Competition and was published by Penny Olsen in Night Parrot (CSIRO Publishing, 2018).
Skull Hole Winton was shortlisted in the 2017 Tom Collins Poetry Prize.
A Japanese Airman Forewarns His Wife was shortlisted in the 2018 Grieve
Writing Competition and was published in Grieve Volume 6.
Koko Mourns Her Manx Cat All Ball was shortlisted in the University of Canberra
Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize 2018 and published in Signs,
The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize 2018 anthology
In Account with The Public Curator won the 2018 October Hill Magazine Literary
Contest (USA) and was published in October Hill Magazine.
My Father on a Horse, Date Unknown won the Leon Shann Award in the 2018 Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Prize.
26th January – 6th February 1788 was commended in the 2018 Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Prize.
On the Death of Astronaut John Young was published in Westerly.
Killing One Hundred Wedge-Tailed Eagles was published in Southerly.
American Love Poem
My Father on a Horse, Date Unknown
In Account with The Public Curator
On the Death of Astronaut John Young
Koko Mourns Her Manx Cat All Ball
Killing One Hundred Wedge-Tailed Eagles
26th January – 6th February 1788
Skull Hole, Winton
A Japanese Airman Forewarns His Wife
Counter-pastoral at 140kph
American Love Poem
You saw your first cardinal, iconic American bird.
Maybe you’d just stepped out the front door of your
1930s depression era bungalow & its redness caught
your eye as you slammed the blue door shut & double
checked the lock, your fingers chirping from the cold.
A discordant winter colour, as if a laser sight ranged
over the dun landscape hunting for a kill & alighted on
that scarecrow’s bleak arm. In that instant, you were
Elizabeth, the pleasure of your breath’s intake loud
as a gunshot in a suburban street or a stuck water pipe
groaning from its heavy winter coat. I can picture her
pausing, stocking up on the bird’s palette, mixing oils
in her head to do the blushing passerine justice.
Coercing her colourists to shade its chromakey jizz
Just right. Dawn’s rosy crest as it wings over the horizon.
But that was not hers, but Audubon’s treat, capturing
a mated pair of cardinal grosbeaks in Birds of America.
You would have stood predator still, the house key
dangling from your fingers like a brown grasshopper
from a bill. It would have noticed you too, perhaps
marvelling at your own flaming nest of hair, a birder’s
Mexican stand-off, there would’ve been no retreat.
I know, it would have defaulted first, eager for breakfast
or to hop on with its job of establishing a seed fund
up & down your burnished Lawrence street. Or perhaps
you saw the female & so did Elizabeth; a much tougher
role in the wild – unseen heroines of species’ molecular
distribution. Maybe, you thought about how the past
is preened to make only some glow with satisfaction,
how males are usually displayed in primary positions,
perched at the top of their branches. You still would’ve
seen the red badges pinned to each shoulder of her wing,
as if true courage is facing down historical determinism.
You would’ve watched the cardinal’s departure flight;
noting her unique love affair with gravity’s weakness.
Perhaps, she gifted you standing there on the pavement
with a brief song, a few notes to take down with your
birder’s head. Your heart eventually would’ve glided
to a stop. After all, isn’t this what all lovers want?
To be checked off on somebody else’s life list.
My Father on a Horse, Date Unknown
sometimes the dead stop you from asking questions.
i came across this montage on my mother’s spare bed;
black & white photographs of some men in my family
loading wheat bags into a shed – my father on a horse,
date unknown. it is a long shot. he looks at the camera,
sleeves rolled up, bare feet in the stirrups, muscled arms.
up in the saddle, he splits a tree in the background in
half, so it appears that he’s sprouting wings of leaves
from his back; a horseman of the casual apocalypse.
on the left is a house, i don’t know whose & chickens
white as novae occupy the frozen hillside to the right.
it is the nineteen-fifties, age has given the sky above his
head an intense white corona as if a nuke has gone off.
is this coomera, my mother’s dairy? or dayboro where
his smile gloams out from beneath his grey felt hat?
my eyes, older than his ever saw, strain to see a ring,
as a pale shooting star slides down the horse’s nose.
In Account with The Public Curator
The letter is dated a year & a day after your father’s death.
One of those officious envelopes with a viewing window
as though looking into a miniature aquarium at the strange
life undersea; shapes of long-lived marine giants captured
against their will as you are, when you draw out the thrice-
folded receipt from 1979. It is your father’s final statement
of account & distribution, a document from the Public
Curator – a title so Roman that you can hardly believe it
even exists at all. You stumbled across it looking for
something else. A report card from school your mother
said she’d found & put on the spare bed. She tells you
over breakfast that she & your eldest sister have been
going through her things; suitcases full of crumbling
correspondence, newspaper clippings she kept of you
playing rugby league. She says she was never much
of a letter writer. You have that in common. You tell her,
the only items of value you want are her letters & ask
her not to throw anything out. You’re not comforted by
the look in her watered-down blue eyes. Her Parkinson’s
disease gnaws wormholes in her brain space like moths
at her lace curtains, weakening the woven structure that
was once so durable, thread by thread. You see it when
she talks, the pattern of her words, a silken slurry that
spill over the dining room table & then harden into a
silent tight cocoon. She loses a pill from the Advent
calendar of drugs she opens every day like a perpetual
Christmas card she nurses in her lap. It is blue & under
her elbow. One of the twelve or so hosts she consumes
daily. She says that her doctor had to change her dosage;
she couldn’t sleep, just kept thrashing about, her dreams
so violent as she killed countless strangers, transforming
into a dangerous woman by night, a forties’ femme fatale.
So, after breakfast, you steal into the spare guestroom.
Single beds adorned with their dolphin bedspreads,
the bedside table drawers filled with your old Sunday
School parables –The Little Sleeping Beauty gifted to you
in 1970, that tells the story of Jesus resurrecting a dead
girl. In the book he is referred to as, ‘The Stranger’
& claims she is only sleeping. So, he tells her to wake up.
The family’s features are eastern, Jesus is depicted
as middle-class, white, perhaps a bit mid-western.
The girl has no name & just rises from her bed.
But this is only a childhood tale, a throwback.
You read the story out loud to your own children
as a joke & your visually impaired daughter poo-poos
the bit about Jesus curing a blind man; how bullshit
this is given the complexity of eye disorders & that
he wouldn’t have known what his problem was. One
miracle does not fit all she suggests. Scuppers The Sailor
Dog is safer territory; alone in his wrack & ruin,
tailored European. But you are alone in the room
when your fruitless search reveals a small envelope
of b/w photos; men hauling seed bags into a shed in
the fifties, your grandfather, the youngest you’ve ever
seen him before & your father smiling from a horse,
feeding the masses. There, beside the workingman’s
life series, you grab the opened letter, disgorging
its contents. Forty years after his death, you learn
how poor your family really were. How he died at
the Magistrates Court with two dollars in his pocket.
How his account with the National Bank of Australasia
Limited, yielded a meagre fifty dollars at his surrender.
You realize it’s a miracle this new evidence survived
at all, as you take a photo of your father’s final balance
sheet on your smartphone. Something he might’ve
equated with a spy’s tool kit, grief’s remuneration
being so futuristic as you slip this dumb revelation
back into its certified sheath, before your mother sees.
On the Death of Astronaut John Young
My family didn’t own a colour TV set until two years
after you’d flown the first shuttle mission; & then
only because mum remarried a sorghum farmer who
kept his little Hitachi set on top of the fridge beaming
like a lustreware vase or a magnetised beer opener.
So that’s why I was over at Thruppy’s grand place;
the first two-storied house I’d ever entered, huge
as a launchpad, walls as white as a spacecraft’s tiles.
Vertigo sucked me down as I passed the threshold.
The terrible awkwardness of our fringe friendship
set aside so I could watch my first launch in colour.
Millions of pounds of thrust that would shame day.
Flames in real orange. An original blue televised sky.
NASA was one giant acronym to a boy who’d spent
half of his life without a launch. Nothing in six years
since Apollo-Soyuz, the Americans investing in reusable
ships, powerless gliders that would touch down like any
Airforce fighter running on empty. Video cams zoomed
in on the giant black cathedral bell thrusters that vented
gas; booster pheromones attracting a televised audience
in the millions. Too many things were going on at once,
so computers muttered machine language to Columbia.
These powerful artefacts that I’d never get to touch for
another decade. I thought ‘software’ a new moniker for
underwear. Prayers & butterflies; all the clichés needed
to advise me of how dangerous it was. I didn’t even ask
if Thruppy was into space, or notice if he sat beside me
on his vinyl couch, (more luxury than I was accustomed
- to) or was outside on his BMX doing jumps. Trying to
get some air himself. Every time’s the first time if you’ve been
there or not. God speed John & Cripp his new set rattled off.
Emotionless countdowns hid fear of failure; what ifs?
threatened America’s main engine start after Vietnam’s
aborted mission. In the wide shot of the shuttle, with
twenty seconds to go, the Stars & Stripes appeared
faded as old graffiti on a bathroom wall. At t-minus
four seconds, the inverted magma spurt of rocket
fuel ignited Thruppy’s screen, followed by a titan’s
death rattle that gurgled from Cape Canaveral, shaking
the tinny internal speakers on their plastic mounts. I knew
that noise was the loudest we’d ever made as a species.
Talking back to god. Then, over the cumulus smokescreen
a voice, a son of Morrison urging, Come on baby! Go honey go!
Fly like an eagle! American thunder in the skies! You ascended
emptying a swimming pool of fuel per second John Young,
until some minutes later, Columbia morphed into the small
bright flare of a television set suddenly switched off.
after Sylvia Plath
Black as SS, their lightning bolt back legs
were jacked up as though nature had given
them a free rear lift, trying to imbue fibreglass
toughness in their small frames with a snazzy
kit their neighbours might become jealous of.
This could’ve been why, on our return from
the homemaker centre, a rogue gang attacked,
jetting in on their invisible runway, that sweet
strip of magnetism from bee-sized ley-lines that
drew them to the new brood’s golden reactor.
They were in it for the power. The hostile takeover
negotiated a three-dimensional space in our garden
from the fishbone fern right up to our pink guttering.
Ten thousand obsidian carapaces formed a muted
twister; their anger’s buzz well below our range.
A miniaturized catastrophe, small screen viewing
so our kids could study the business. My daughter
made a film. They revolved in this maelstrom like
the end of a ghost film where the evil entities are
sucked back up into a green thunderstorm after
their spiritual angst is reverse-engineered by god.
We had to admire their motor skills; even though
locked in mortal combat, mandible to mandible,
the pugilists never knocked into another duet,
or threw a team off their double-helix routine.
We even thrust our hands into the swarm as it
performed its fast forward do-si-do, each black
molecule in perfect orbit with its partner. Nothing
touched our skin like in those old ads for Aeroguard,
where mosquitoes dared not land on the fist, soaked
with repellant. This violent microcosm didn’t
concern us. As the death toll mounted, I called
Ed & Glenda to have an emergency bee meeting.
They arrived an hour later with a trap hive, which
added another level to the multi-story apartment.
A kind of insect filter to syphon off the attackers,
the slave house had a bit of brood, some rudimentary
resin structure, some hapless workers split off from
their home. It was deliberately weak, but the fighting
swarm’s revolutions had died down like a spin cycle.
Most bodies lay on the ground below the main
entrance’s balcony; the fierce bee guards had won,
obedient to the end. Spartan even. They’d lashed
one other’s antennae in hormonal perfume, combed
through like olive oil in human hair on battle’s eve.
A crotch of bees had pressed up against the hive’s
mouth. a messy scrum. They died with little sizzles,
a match’s extinguished head. Burnt hair to ward off
spirits. Such an acrid death. A quaver’s dot on sheet
music to finalise a symphony. Notes so tiny our ears
missed the brood’s funeral march. Next the hive
turned into a veteran’s hospital as orderlies evacuated
the mass casualties. There was honour in the sacrifice.
they didn’t throw the bodies straight off the balcony
as we’d expected, but carried them down gently to
the black volcanic stones, to lay their dead to rest
in a burial mound. So classic. Lastly, two drones flew
straight up in celebration of the new replacements.
A victory flyover for the queen, who was balled up
in anxiety, inside her wax house, her mausoleum.
I cut myself on a four hundred
year old barnacle. It was my fault.
I strayed into its seaside territory
by mistake. The ocean ambushed
me in the beach’s narrowed alley.
Cursed in a language before blue.
Its wine-dark, shoulder-charge
knocked me onto its cobblestoned
street; my hand parachuted open,
launching like a grappling hook, but
gravity hid behind my legs & pulled.
Its edge opened up my palm neat
as a pay envelope’s promise. It
was part of a razor gang after all,
its cutthroat mates flashed shivs too.
Hard to imagine their cave hideout,
a distant cousin to the Himalayas was
once a mass of lifeless sea creatures;
fishbones, bleached coral, mother
of pearl, shell, grit rasped into smooth
particles by the tide’s kinetic sawmill
& risen as mountainous tomb.
Darwin studied them. Rubbed his
stiff fingers over their stars, old as an
Elizabethan dirk. He knew an organism
that lived so long, must know something
about morphology, longevity. Measured
their jagged coastlines, counted bubbles
that escaped from their miniature craters.
He cut himself too, proffering his own
blood for science’s spell. His revelation.
The simplest live longest, the complex
die sooner from too many moving parts.
Anyhow, my hand opened its red smile,
& rebirthed its salt back into the mother
country’s briny womb. My blood oozed
in hot waves, as the flap of skin undulated
like a polyp helpless in a strong undersea
current. This stigmata; blessed ultramarine
pain as though light itself filleted my flesh,
each beam a butcher’s knife. That was then.
The scar is bone white as the string of dead
coral & cuttlefish backbone left by a high tide.
My children’s children’s children, will see it die.
For ‘Chook’ Crawford
When the male golden bowerbird finally alighted
On a lichened giant, one thousand metres above sea
Level; he was tricked. He’d responded instinctively,
As though protecting his two metre tall wicker bower
From rivals, was just a rapid eye blink of sexual angst.
‘Chook’ had called him in; bearded like Odin, he held
Loki’s device, an iPod that overflowed with birdsong
Like a chatty Mt Lewis spring. Rigged to the palm-sized
Aviary by its sinuous tongue was a magic amplifier that
Grated out its territorial challenge. When he accepted
The trial, it was if all the sun’s warmth had magnified
Into a single yellow beam that wove through the forest’s
Dark crown, to rest, feather light on the branch’s head.
They witnessed a star’s birth under the canopy of space.
Koko Mourns Her Manx Cat All Ball
Her room has souvenirs children worship,
soft toys, story books & a cubbyhouse bed.
The zoo furnishes it with steel-framed chairs
& cupboards that can withstand earthquakes.
After all, she weighs as much as a youngish
mountain ash & has fifteen times her trainer’s
strength. Penny can’t imagine the sheer force
of will needed to countermand gravity’s sucker
punch when Koko touches her cheek; the
pounds per square inch of pressure that could
shatter a human’s femur like kindling does
for firewood. The high windows are from an
airy apartment or a church & bathe her in light.
Her living space is somewhere between kindy
& share house, but lacks the scent of friends.
All her sprawled stuffed animals; the maned
lion with its plastic-eyed caricature, bunnies
trailing floppy ears, don’t cut it by nineteen
eighty -three. Koko’s dolls are less than ape
she realises & asks Penny for something real
to love, pointing to the diagram of a manx
kitten. cat gorilla have visit. What’s been taken
from the rescue cat, Koko gives back with
tales of power, uses her new ability to nick-
name this creature, after the gorilla watches
the kitten fall asleep on her altar-sized chest.
A silver buoy caught in the swell of Koko’s
breathy black ocean; a grey snowflake that
vibrates to the deep notes of her throat’s
tremulous funnel. The great ape’s chisel-
headed finger strokes the cat’s head as its
spine snakes into its own wagon-train circle.
all ball the lowland gorilla decides. put on head.
The kitten lasts six months. Fixated on the
enclosure door’s broken syntax, one day
the half-grown cat slips between the crack
& disappears into oncoming traffic. Penny
chooses not to show Koko all ball’s body,
but grief has its universal signs. frown cry-
frown sad-cry-have sorry-have sorry-koko love all ball.
When asked about where we go when we die
Koko squeezes out the words, comfortable hole-
goodbye. A weight greater than her own mass
takes her then for months, her window now
letting in too much of the sad human world.
Koko shuns visitors, signs for the curtains
to be shut as in war; hurry drapes, hurry drapes.
She understands sorrow is not something
to be worn visibly; not an eye hat or a nose fake
some mask a human being might falsely wear.
The ecologist’s hands seal firmly like an elevator’s doors
as he grips the night parrot in his fleshy clamp. His fingers,
twigs woven into a brown screen, a tight spinifex bunch
where the bird is insubstantial as trying to hold water.
Two of his digits form a tiny ox collar as they ring
the bird’s cotton ball head, another grips its belly
like a weight belt. For a hundred years the parrot has
drained out between extinction’s fist, an unstoppable
slow leak. He clutches it gingerly, a live grenade, or
how a fast bowler splits a cricket ball’s seam, the leather
of the bird’s claws resting lightly on his fingertips.
Sport for poachers, its location is another lost body
in the desert. He fixes a tracking device. For twenty-
one hours the signal chatters in night’s lone flock.
Killing One Hundred Wedge-Tailed Eagles
is what happens when you send your sons to ag college
in the eighties & now expect them to appreciate nature.
is a terrible feat of animal cruelty women wouldn’t commit;
murder being the top paddock set alight in a farmer’s head.
killing one hundred and ten wedge-tailed eagles
is not even very successful as juvenile eagles just move in
to claim new territory vacated by the executed creatures.
is a dog act by cowards who don’t understand that wedgies
rarely kill lambs outright, but mostly scavenge on the dead.
killing one hundred and twenty wedge-tailed eagles
is removing a niche garbage cleaner from a local ecosystem
thus leaving the carcasses of animals to rot & spread disease.
is something americans might frown upon with hindsight,
though they still poison their own national fauna emblem.
killing one hundred and thirty wedge-tailed eagles
is believing in outdated superstitions, like black cats are a
witch’s familiar & should be killed on sight by the diocese.
is why i am not a farmer & why it is so hard to generate
sympathy for country folk & their coal seam gas problem.
killing one hundred and forty wedge-tailed eagles
is being a complete dickhead who uses a baited rabbit trap
set up on a post to snap the dinosaur legs of giant raptors.
is not a very respectful position to adopt by people who
see themselves as ‘guardians of the land’, but do not share.
killing one hundred and fifty wedge-tailed eagles
is not valuing that, ‘our land abounds in nature’s gifts’, as they
clear more trees per year than south america, with their tractors.
is not a hard day’s work or even earning a decent living. it’s the
equivalent of trying to scare away ghosts by burning human hair.
killing one hundred and sixty wedge-tailed eagles
is a national disgrace, something from the nineteenth century;
paying a bounty on koala skins & killing six hundred thousand.
is a wowser move; language puts the dampeners on mongrel
colonial thinking like massacres are good for nation-building.
killing one hundred and seventy wedge-tailed eagles
is murdering someone’s sacred totem, but is understood by
them only if you feed the australian cricket team rat poison.
is a drop in the great southern ocean; feral cats kill millions
of birds each year & we let the japanese continue whaling.
killing one hundred and eighty wedge-tailed eagles
is a symptom of the anthropocene’s self-destructive behaviour.
as a france-sized pacific garbage heap reclaims the plastic sea.
is an ecological sinkhole created by tubbut’s misguided shepherd
syndicate, who only assist in the propagation of agricultural pests.
killing one hundred and ninety wedge-tailed eagles
is a jonestown moment for east gippsland. mix the pesticide
in with kool aid & batty religious beliefs & set all of them free.
is what arseholes do for fun. may eagles eat all their livers as
some keep memento skulls, puffing out their provincial chests.
26th January – 6th February 1788
We is off the stinkin ships. Marines swat
us across the buttocks with their muskets;
we has red welts the colour of them coats.
We is baptised new as we jump into water.
We clamber up the banks pulling ourselves
up by grass clumps, or each filthy bugger’s
net-long hair, thick as rigging rope. We can
see no bloody thing. We is kept in the dark.
We wants to get to land first. We use elbows,
smash faces. We fall onto the foreshore likes
we is shot. Heads spinning, we is drunk with
sea legs. We is salt burnt. We suck in raw air.
We scratch our sores, rub our itchy backs on
spiky tussocks as mongrels do. We is bad cur,
warlock, village bedlam. We stinks as opened
bowels, leave our soiled scent. We is not dead.
We is not all erin’s sons neither. We is italian.
We is lunaticks. We is spanish. We is ideots.
We is polish. We is children. We is sri lankan.
We is dyin. We is west indian. We is mad felon.
We has no woman for years. We knows them
officers, them navy ways. We hides in shallows.
We scales slippery trees. We sees the strange sky
lighten, pale with night’s death. We waits eleven
days for the warm girls to wash ashore. We grab
shovels, deadwood clubs. We look at what them
other pricks leers at. Them marines hit us hard,
but we is wild colonial boys now. We range this
port jackson bush. We glows in dawn’s red hole.
Skull Hole, Winton
Nature removes all signs of massacre
like a crime scene cleaner on their hands
& knees scrubbing endlessly, seasonally.
This drop off at the jump up, an oasis
of river red gums & ghost gums struck
like cemetery crosses into the gorge’s floor
& just as white. A descent from the red sand
plain lands where signs warn you about walking
too close to the cliff edge, how the cap rock
is loosened like memory; how the baking
summer sun & torrential rain hammer
the sandstone over their eroded rounds.
The joints in the rock, fault lines, black
as the hands of an analogue clock that has
stopped at the moment the bomb fell.
These cracks; the minute & endless repetition
of invisible forces that whittle away the strength
of bedrock, dilating space between chimneys
where orange stone crowns into the waterhole’s
theatre; skull-sized blocks that fall, beheaded by
entropy, by cycles, by time’s unnameable axe.
Flagstones that are worn down by the wind’s
panicked flight, a thunderstorm’s cleansing tongue,
dissolving sediments into brown sand, forming
a dry funnel; an antlion’s hidden coffin, but man-
size. Grey-silt, the dull vinyl of a body-bag sealing
the stolen dignity of the dead. Perhaps they
huddled here; the wet sand manacling their
ankles as they sank & burrowed as bodies
fought over the dwindling safe resource, or
perhaps some squeezed their children into
the small cave, waterfall-carved from the rainy
season’s tears that drowned the wind as it roared
up the gorge like smoke following a flue up into
a roof; a reverse waterfall with black lichened teeth
the drops falling upwards as men & women
collapsed like clods of soil into the drinking
pool, hiding under the brown water until
their lungs could take it no longer &
the sweet intake of fresh breath, the chest’s
balloon expansion met with searing pain
like looking straight at the sun; an instant
blindness of not-being, death just a moment
away, deflated souls stripped of their bodies,
now naked, the pain infused into the rocky
cliffs like red ochre, like tracing around
the hand of hate. A bullet’s carving, antithesis
to life’s nest, lead eggs poisoning the landscape
& those who weaponised history with revenge plots,
acres of overkill, brutal frontier justice, oxymorons
of wild west retaliation, brothers forced to track
brothers, gliding through spinifex grass, taking
pigeons as snacks for after, brushing past lancewood
whose thin leaves stood to attention like troopers,
like the condemned before execution. Screams
of short-billed corellas rising from the valley floor,
a white puff of smoke, a flock of pellets that
synchronised their flight. Yellowbelly fingerlings
& catfish suffocating as waterholes evaporate.
The flop of bodies fossilised by a silt death.
A Japanese Airman Forewarns His Wife
for Tetsuo & Asako Tanifuji
Do you desire earnestly/wish/do not wish
to be involved in kamikaze attacks?
We are the last divine wind exhaled
from the Emperor’s bleeding mouth.
Human instrumentality; my wife perches
behind me in the cockpit, her hair in a bun.
The engine whines like a dog that’s missed
its master for some months, lost then found.
Aluminium coffined; we are together again.
I bring my mother no joy; we married young.
The clubs are finished bruising my face. I
have my fighting spirit, Asako has my back.
There are ten of the squadron left; we took
an oath under orders that there will be none.
Asako’s voice gibbers like a ghost, she is scared.
I tell her how proud she makes her husband, 22.
In the event of poor weather conditions when
you cannot locate the target, or under other adverse
circumstances, you may decide to return to base.
Don’t be discouraged. Do not waste your life lightly.
The T-34s are factory fresh & glint in
the bloodshot light. They stretch for eons.
Our pledge is stronger than a star’s gravity,
just one piece would fall through the centre
of the earth. It is time to dive. The sun &
my wife urge me on. We all bank as one.
We lived by a few days to see the atomic dawn.
Nothing we do is futile, everything has an end.
Our plane is obsolete. The tank rises like a steel glove.
Asako’s chin rests on my neck, as we burn with love.
Counter-pastoral at 140kph
The Nankeen kestrel’s wings fold upwards like a
space-conscious clothesline, or a russet umbrella
that surrenders to the westerlies, as it falls onto
the marsupial mouse’s light-weight chassis. The
raptor’s talons blur like a highway mirage & sink
into the paddock’s earth, rending flesh & dirt; an
excavator’s claw that overcorrects on a worksite.
White wheat stubble could be a field of low mist,
but there’s no moisture in a drought-blonde winter.
The Brigalow says The Lord is Near in stencilled letters.
The burnt wreck of a commodore is nearer, at a rest
area just short of Moree. Meteorite-coloured, a legend
would have the bird of prey brush its rusting hulk.
Fire-unique; this oxygen-rich planet is out to kill.
The young white rhino tests its Pliocene
strength against the slope of its mother’s
granite-boulder neck. They are grey lichen
on the evolutionary spur. Long in the horn,
somehow the large beasts survived our Rift
Valley outpouring, the rivulets of flesh-lava
which burnt jungle into blocks of savannah.
Now, the silver-flecked Venetian masks of
Apostlebirds, chatter underfoot, as they sift
through the African mammals’ straw; they
are rock solid. Theirs is the larger test. The
long, species ice-age melts in a poacher’s
microscopic breath. Colour of moon regolith,
the struggle ends in one animal’s dusty retreat.
The broken cliffs bare their fossilised teeth.
An ancient ocean bed dried out, time’s rehab.
Sand particles caught in a molecule snapshot
fused into something stronger with the texture
of a raptor’s bone-encrusted scat. Seashells,
brachiopods, the shallow sea denizens stick out
of the sandstone butte, rows of canines where
locals cut themselves. Way too much fun in Waikerie.
The enduro drivers party until 2am on the bitumen
carpark’s floor. Shirts off, they confront the danger
as one school. Their violence won’t be remembered,
only their form. Beer cartons lopsided as a continental
fault line & wine glass fragmented as mussel shell.
The sound of tyres on wet sand like breakers crashing.
The wild hops will live out their natural lives.
The hoarhound waits patiently for its next bender.
Nightshade misses the pupil’s full moon dilation.
Obsolescent belladonna slips into a vegetative
fossil state; history is foretold by the weeds left
behind. Salvation Jane is someone’s Patterson’s Curse.
Little men brought these seeds to the saltbush plains,
chasing the silver lodestar that pierced the ridge’s
thumb like a splinter. When the veins ran dry
they drowned in their own blood sitting upright;
they were stone age those Cornish, myah myahs
were pre-fab burial mounds with wattle & daub lids.
We only ever get to see ten percent of the mind’s
workings; the earth remembers every ounce.
It took two years for the world’s largest crude
oil tractor to shunt its way into the Mallee scrub,
moving at lava’s cooling black pace; its wheels
shod with broad iron snowshoes so it wouldn’t
sink under its own dinosaur weight. Forty football
fields a day were scythed down for the soldier
settlements around Red Cliffs, by four steel cables
thick as a man’s wrist that bled out from the machine’s
head like the lacquered plaits of a giantess. Hooks
grappled stumps as the metal wire shaved Malleefowls’
heaped mounds neatly, like cream skimmed off raw
milk by hand. ‘Big Lizzie’ was gutted too; her engine
bastardised into a rock crusher’s belly when she
outlived her destructiveness. The birds just withdrew.
The stone hamlet hangs by a celluloid thread.
Thirty-five monochrome ghosts are all that are left
of Silverton’s rush; commons bound to their land,
the ethereal tape of local government has frayed
like old wedding lace under the sun. The freemasons
are gone; their superhero costumes adorn frozen
manikins, their powers restrained behind a glass
force-field. There are deeper powers at work here.
Horses share the bar with people, the Greek myths
are close to the surface like an ore-rich lode. The
Mad Max kitsch is rusting. The Feral Kid is a jeweller
in Sydney. The village is a touched up photo – one
of Stalin’s best. Buildings & citizens have been edited
out of the present. Low entropy is sterile as a film lab.
The speed of colour is a new parrot species
spied for two seconds out the car window,
but then diminishes like an escaped balloon
from a child’s hand. Without a good look at
its jizz, the little nuances in beak & cere, it goes
unchecked on the life list. Or a grey grasswren
that blurs across the sedan’s bonnet, escaping
death like a stalled vehicle’s engine that sparks
into riotous life on a level crossing. Or the tan
checkerboard of a square-tailed kite’s breast,
lost in the overexposure of its bullish cousins.
Or the strange pied bird that doesn’t fly in dips
like a black honeyeater, but Stuka plummets into
the saltbush & belah; the desert’s pace is red.
The earth is crowned with a space-junk diadem.
Every so often, a pearl-bright satellite breaks
from the cluster & falls, shining like a seam
of silver ore in night’s mine. The atmosphere’s
a forge that heats up the super-adventurous alloy.
The planet raises an eyebrow as gravity grabs
the pliable body by its throat. Meteorites
curve downward like a cocktail dress that slips
to the bedroom floor. A sonic boom is speed’s
audible orgasm as pressure waves build then collapse.
Everyone watches the video that night, as dishes
mushroom in the dark farm of the trailer park.
No celestial union is secret anymore, no husbandry
is safe, as the town bathes in this fiery afterglow.
Ravens judge the distance between oncoming
traffic & road kill with advanced avian math.
Wing & beak calculate lift as the corvids hopscotch
out of death’s way with a child’s grace. The mulga
bears shoe-fruit, every eviscerated roo is UFO evidence;
a hills hoist in the middle of nowhere is a jerry-rigged
emergency beacon. Feral goats are the only witnesses
to close encounters. Bible-old, they instinctively move
to higher ground when objects threaten to pull over.
In Wilcannia everything is locked down, bar children
who play chicken with Winnebagos on the A32,
cutting the national artery’s living tissue. They catch
rides on a campervan’s spare wheel; scooters political.
Horns scatter sparrows; not kids of the third kind.
The fish traps make Jericho’s pale walls seem
freshly rendered. Two thousand generations
of hands have whispered the stones into river
crop circles. Aliens marvel on the Darling’s banks
at the persistence of mythical endeavour. Sisyphus’s
labour personified in the rock pools sunken at odd
levels to catch flood-prone yellow belly, whatever
the river’s mood. Children crouch & play imaginary
games on the oldest human invention. White-necked
herons patrol the weir’s battlement. The blocked off
Barwon is a springe, as pelicans scoop up fingerlings
in their bills’ pink windsocks. Brewarrina’s shops are
dammed with plywood. Time keeps a tight budget.
Fish were a currency once, scales glinting like coins.
It’s an impasse. A cultural stalemate.
The highway’s gutters littered with empties;
an artillery barrage’s spent shell cases or
a no man’s land where glassy-eyed bodies
lie tossed by death’s drunken rage. Liquid
pride is a distant mirage that dries before
you can ever reach it; some Min Min light
that keeps exact pace with your car. Shire
Councils too poor, too bothered by water
politics. A seventy-five kilometre roadside
installation, authentic outback experience.
It’s all your perspective. Not rubbish, but
in a hundred years, part of an antique bottle
display in an octogenarian’s dim fibro-cave.
There’s an invisible margin between a mine
& a tomb. They drill into the earth’s giant
bone to extract bluish-green & blood-red
marrow, existence’s wet & succulent sheen.
Chalk-white middens dot a moon landscape.
There is terraforming; notes from the underground
as jackhammers vibrate with a tuning fork’s rage.
They carve out oubliettes to imprison dreams.
Practice for a lunar existence; first they live in
the ships that brought them here from distant
worlds, then they return to Cro-Magnon fears,
living in craters to keep warm. They follow
ossified water that eons ago took on a new form.
When the seam runs out, the habit stays strong.