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My heart is a house with a chimney,

a door and a hand­ful of crooked windows.

I burn candles in those windows

for all those

I have loved.

 

Their flames fill my chest

with warmth and light,

even of Canberra’s

cold­est, darkest winter night.

 

But your candle lets off

 

thick

 

black

 

smoke.

My other candles begin to choke.

 

Fuck you.

 

I blow that candle out.

And wel­come back

my light.

Winter Solstice

As the Sum­mer sun sang out today, I thought joy­fully of all the energy and warmth com­ing our Sum­mer way. Here, in cel­eb­ra­tion of cold and com­ing warmth – a poem writ­ten for my first Can­berra Winter Sol­stice. A party with poems, new friends, pup­pets and pump­kin soup.

 


 

Icy wind blew blue-black trees
tickled ice out between birds wings – tak­ing flight
under full moon, half moon, no moon, new night -
and break­ing bit­ter twis­ted twig under cold,
for­aging foot – went search­ing for the frozen river
at the centre of the swirl­ing stub­born frost.

 

Icy wind – draw­ing dry blunt fin­gers which fumble
cold and clumsy, against tasks out­side; chop­ping wood
and inside; loosen­ing and doing but­tons on wool­len jump­ers
and open­ing jar lids of golden pears and con­serves,
cap­tur­ing summer’s sug­ars for firesides.

 

Icy wind find­ing fros­ted car bon­nets and cold noses.
Icy wind bring­ing in shivers from ancient ice.
Icy wind blow­ing, icy wind blow­ing,
icy wind blow­ing the winter in.

 

Icy wind get­ting lonely – watch­ing the water thaw­ing
and the grass get­ting green.
Icy wind get­ting lonely, watch­ing the com­ing of spring.

 

- Can­berra 2011

Sea-Sighed

Beside me.

Sea Dreaming

The waves lap and crash

around the hard car­case of the can­vas core.

The waves lap, they splash some more

of the old, worn down bone, salt and water spray.

 

I drift off, loosen the noose of the tough knot­ted rope

slip off, with the tug and thump of coarse plat­ted hope.

 

The waves, lap, lap, lap against the hull

the spine and the scull of this hol­low body keep­ing me afloat

they slap and thud at the briny-rough shell-belly of my boat.

 

Lulled, out of the har­bour towards a flat horizon,

surged by the urge of the waves out -

with back to brack­ish man­grove coast and

hardcast-harbour, passed the expelled swells

from the estu­ary, where the river leaves to meet the sea -

the boat’s body and bow curves but stays upright

sways and the sail is pulled tight.

 

Catch­ing cur­rent, draw­ing breath, inhal­ing in,

the wind fills my lungs and her sails as though they were wings.

 

and the waves, lap, lap, lap against the hull

the spine and the scull of this hol­low body keep­ing me afloat

they slap and thud at the briny-rough shell-belly of my boat.

The Bee Story

On Wed­nes­day I read at an event put on by the lovely folks from Scis­sors Paper Pen . I was impressed, (although not at all sur­prised) by the incred­ible qual­ity of cre­ation from the other per­formers: Canberra’s writers rock. The theme was wires crossed, and in writ­ing this, I got lost between auto­bi­o­graphy and poem.

It’s very much meant to be read aloud.

 


Like a rite of pas­sage, on my 10th birth­day I received a hive of bees.
Thou­sands of striped, brown bod­ies, in a box of wood and wax, sin­gu­lar, united, and mine.
A box of liv­ing breath­ing beings, sit­ting on the gar­age roof, above head height of those who might object.

Do bees dream of fly­ing? Do bees dream at all?
Com­pound eyes closed
Dreams of being
leav­ing the moist buzz­ing hon­ey­sister hive
Sun coaxed, sail­ing up above the street-crossed, car-crossed, cable-coal and wire-crossed city suburbs.

To tell of bees is to tell of flowers
sought out, sucked up belly­ful of nec­tar,
Then borne back on tiny wings to sis­ters, to smell, to dance, to tell the story of flowers.

You could say I was born into a dyn­asty of bee­keep­ing
my father’s fam­ily are the bee­keep­ers, he showed me the tricks, taught me the lore,
passed down over gen­er­a­tions, here are
the broad wooden boxes, frames to build honey on.
Glor­i­ously Vic­torian con­trap­tions – this one puffs smoke from a fire in a tin can­is­ter,
this one takes in honey comb, wind­ing handle, grind­ing cogs,
then flow­ing honey, clear and vis­cose, as we know it in jars.

And here I am, covered in wax and bee debris, with a pile of old wooden frames
string­ing them with wire, like a rudi­ment­ary instru­ment, across the frame’s length,
wires cross the wooden rect­angle, once, twice, three, four times, then I wind it fast around a nail, pluck the wire, listen to the tension.

Across these wires will soon be wax, impos­ing order, hold­ing the hive together. The comb that will hold honey, or small bees, or both.
Each frame slots onto a box with nine oth­ers like it – like books in a boxed set, except with room for the bees to crawl in between.
The slot­ted boxes of beeswax frames can stack on top of each other, mak­ing the hive extend­able, indef­in­itely upwards, like a lib­rary, or an office block.
At the centre of each of my hives is a net­work of wire, mak­ing the bees build, not any which way, as is their want, but accord­ing to my rules – so I can inter­vene and intrude.

Half way between agri­cul­ture and cult, to keep bees is to step into super­sti­tion itself.
Only wear white to a bee­hive.
Only visit on clear, still days, but never let your shadow fall on the hive.
Bring some smoke as an offer­ing, puff it into their home to pacify, but only smoke from pine needles will do.
Eat­ing pol­len will cure hay­fever, put wax on cracked lips, honey on wounds, and pro­polis – a bee ver­sion of gap filler – is good for everything, from toothache to tiredness.

Thought I’d call to tell you about bees
about sex and death and drones and the flight of queens
the drones are big and slow, and the queen she says
‘don’t stop chas­ing me
but if you catch me, you won’t win’

they meet, they mate in the middle of the air,
he flies right into her
right into her proffered sting
and he breaks apart, breaks and falls away
and she to her daugh­ters,
to lay alone.

Which is why I don’t take romantic advice from bees.

So this hive of mine has been here for more than ten years
on a roof in O’Connor, through storms and fire, flood and drought.
The wood of the old­est, bot­tom­most box is col­lapsing,
helped by per­sist­ent bee mouths munch­ing out new doors and secret entranceways.

My father and I are excav­at­ing down to the dam­aged bit, tak­ing apart the towerb­lock of hive,
to see that the order of wire and frame has been lost.
The bees have blurred the bound­ar­ies, built comb over comb like some golden slum for six-legged beings.
The sun is set­ting, and a breeze has picked up, but it’s taken quite a lot of effort and cajolery, not to men­tion heavy lift­ing, to get to this point. And unwisely, against sci­ence and super­sti­tion, we per­sist,
reas­sembling the over­grown comb in a new box, encour­aging the apine archi­tects to mend their mean­der­ing ways.
The bees them­selves, usu­ally so calm and com­pli­ant about this sort of inter­ven­tion, begin to get kind of narky – like a kid up past their bed­time – they buzz at gloves and veils.
It’s ok, we’re exper­i­enced at this, effi­cient – soon we’ll fin­ish the task and put the lid on all the buzz­ing, snug for the night.

Frames full of hon­ey­comb are sticky and unwieldy with bees crawl­ing all over them, won­der­ing why it’s sud­denly so cold and bright.
Give them a bit more smoke, puffed at the horde to make them light­headed, and for­get their misgivings.

A box full of bees and wax and brood and honey is even more tricky to man­oeuvre, but all we have to do is put one on top of the other, stack them back into their office block shape.
A box full of bees is heavy, and com­plain­ing, and if your tim­ing is wrong, if there’s dis­sent and con­fu­sion among the hive, every­where you touch with your gloved hand is likely to be bees.
But, there is one thing that you should never, never do.
Even if the box is heavy and your hands are slip­ping, and there is an unwel­come buzz­ing at your ear.

Don’t drop the box.
Because instantly, every­body who was in a crawl­ing con­fu­sion on those combs will become air­borne, and unhappy.

A bee suit is almost like battle armour, you look a bit like an astro­naut and a bit like a really para­noid bush­walker.
Between my face and the bees is a criss-crossing wire mesh veil, sturdy, proven to be bee-tight.
It shouldn’t have to come to this, many api­ar­ists work without suits, trust­ing in intu­ition and care­ful hand­ling not to upset things, to main­tain peace, order and har­mony.
And that’s lovely, but, as that box of bees came crash­ing down, I was very, very glad to be dressed as a bee-astronaut.

But, they’d found my gloves. Old, tight white lady’s gloves, I’d picked them up at an op-shop, assum­ing that bee stings wouldn’t get through leather.
But, where bees are involved, you should never assume.
That after­noon, I found out that bee stings do go through soft leather gloves just fine.
I found out, around twenty times over.

So I left with swollen hands, to carry their poison inside me awhile.
But by the hive, twenty brave sol­dier bees oozed into death, twenty stings ripped from twenty abdo­mens by old, soft calfskin.

Later I went back, made my peace, car­ried on
you may well ask why I still do it? Don the veil, anoint with smoke, lift the lid of the hive to hear the buzzing.

Yes, I can for­give them, because it’s their nature,
in cer­tain situ­ations, bees are just wired to get cross.

Canberra Planned

It seems like – we can’t for­get those who planned this city. Craf­ted and draf­ted it with eyes and hands focused and reach­ing out with anti­cip­a­tion for this very moment now. Where we’ve fledged and flown from the first dry blue prints, ink­ing trans­la­tion from script into built real­ity like bleed­ing stones to build each plot­ted pre­co­cious home. Ahead of time, along the the high­way, straight sky­way point­ing spine of the road-planner’s organ­ism. The Cartographer’s con­cepts con­densed and con­struc­ted – finally – now we are in the imagineer’s euto­pia. Roads slightly wider, less wilder, tress pleas­ingly planted and parks. So there’s less chaos per­haps. More sat­is­fac­tion of geo­met­ric, angles and frac­tions. No nervous tick. For those who like symetry and paths without tricks.

In other towns. Some­times there are aspects. of this. An half a sub­urb, crawled and curbed by vis­ion and hands cur­taled and cour­ted by plans. Streets, lit by meas­ured widths of street lights flick­ing out against stary nights. Some­times the feel that the streets have been re-ruled, a new vis­ion as the city is tailored to the eye of its new heir. Build­ings estab­lished with pride and care, to stand proudly as a pilar of fresh thought­ful indus­tri­ous air.

As you head north, along the coast, some­times the feel that these arms of the sub­urban animal lurch and wheele. Nights become milder, the plans wilder.

Stranger Poem

A slam piece, came into my mind in monday­after­noon sun­shine
for your enjoyment


One Winter after­noon, fresh and clear and toasted sun warm, I was approached by a stranger
she of a coat green blue like smoke, asked me if this city was magic
pen poised rustle listen­ing paper in the springs­melling breeze,
her voice was like new leaves and paper­cuts across me
 

Yes I know about the kel­pie in the O’Connor wet­lands,
a most admir­able pro­ject to man­age ducks and the like
bad luck about that lab­rador,
I nearly lost my bike when I went to see it.
What else?”
“Yes I know about the con­struc­tion work­ers keep­ing a minotaur as a pet,
It’s hardly a secret
Build­ing site mazes a pop­ping up left and right around the centre
Pub­lic ser­vants and uni stu­dents now bring a ball of string with them to find their way
But that is beside the point
Can­berra! Magic! What else?”
(a mut­ter from me)
“Yes, I know that the Norse All­father is mani­fest­ing in Woden.
That will hap­pen when you name a val­ley after Him, you know.
Over there where the wind always blows
Whenever I go I’m fol­lowed by a one-eyed dog and a murder of crows
You’re just for­tu­nate that you didn’t name a town centre after Thor, or Loki, then you’d be in trouble.”

 

Yes, I know there have been reports of Baba Yaga in the Inner North,
and while that witch is magical, I wouldn’t say that she really con­trib­utes to the over­all magic of the place,
would you?”
“So tell me, of this city and magic”
Roused into speech, inter­rupt­ing abruptly I espoused at length about planned parks and pre­cincts, people flows and pop­u­la­tion dens­ity
par­lia­ment­ary tri­angles, pur­view for par­lance and for pen-pushing
pristine points of interest, ports of paper and pic­tures painted by plant­ing pines trees and prunus plums,
purple in per­petu­ity, pink in the spring
the pres­ci­ence of its pre­ten­tious monu­ments, oblique and per­pen­dic­u­lar, point­ing up up up to the amne­siac blue.
I looked at her, to see what she made of this more meas­ured mode of magic,
but she’d gone,
I was speak­ing to Can­berra and Can­berra alone.

Night Dance

And the wooden table

Breathed all over me.
And I leant for­ward
to lick your let­ters.
Which tasted sharp
and magnetic.

 

But I’m no compass.

 

I’m just a deciphered
cod fish
laid open inside a
lead bot­tomed bottle.

 

And the wires we
sing through
eat teeth and scales
with every heart broken
res­on­ance they make.

 

The del­ic­ate jew­ellery
of liquid
undresses the words
in your throat
And we begin to dance
all night
around weav­ing our memor­ies
by broken light.

 

Dizzy dizzy dizzy
we spin to a stop
to won­der if it’s the spin­ning
or the stop­ping we’re wait­ing for.

 

To know other people’s
words
in a world like this, right now
seems impossible. In the most
won­der­ful sense.

 

It must be the heightened
sense of sea
that we’re look­ing for.
Con­stantly swim­ming back
to the swirl that we came from.

 

For­get­ting why we
so des­per­ately grew legs
and lungs
in order to leave.

 

- New­castle 2010

Footnote to Howl — A Newcastle Chorus Reply

Holy the grey­ing pet­rol sea
Holy the relo­cated grave­yards and young his­tor­ies
Holy drink­ing and fri­day nights and broken win­dows and
unwel­comed gate crash­ers
Holy bottles and holy foot paths
holy key­boards and holy windows.

 

Every thought is holy, every moment is holy
all the dilat­ing eye­balls and cel­eb­ra­tions of this world,
and the dis­tor­ted clocks and children’s minds
who think faster and for­get their age and time.

 

Holy books and writ­ing, holy read­ing.
Holy milk car­tons and train lines
holy lon­ley ram­blings and fogged over ears.

 

Hedonism’s holy vis­ions of the extactic and irre­livant jour­neys of time.

Espe­cially all, is this holy.

Masochism’s holy in it’s raw of broken noise for all is pain of truth.

Every­where, is this holy.

 

Holy chim­neys and holy tooth­paste.
Every action and every moment of expres­sion,
an orgasm of existance.

 

Holy women and holy cinemas
holy chil­dren and holy sand and beaches
holy men and radios
holy people.

 

Holy broken dogs and broken chair legs
holy wood from trees and
holy books and speak­ers
holy sound and touch.

 

Holy win­ded moments and dead con­crete real­isa­tions,
holy quiet moments and holy rejec­tion.
Holy lies and fires, and posters and wank­ers
holy adults with no directions.

 

Holy be the aim­less
and the drunken.
Holy be the driven and
the delivered.
Holy be the middle­class,
the self approv­ing,
And the wounded.
Holy are all ages, and
holy are all perspectives.

 

Holy in their existance
and holy in their attitidues.
Holy is all in essence.

 

–New­castle 2010

Frankie (Says To Me)

FRANKIE:

 

I sit here pretty
and ready to preen.

 

Little vic­tor­ies
for wound up personalities.

 

I am only breath­ing
to be seen.

 

Revert to the per­vert
con­cepts of the 19fifties.”

 

- New­castle 2010