Gague

To scratch my skin
stum­bling home alone along night long
paths worn thin by shadows.

 

To beat my fore­arms backward

agaist yellow-paint brick-walled
houses in the morrow.

 

Graze, gaze, regague.

 

To look for lice and rats
along the coal-dusted-hyperdermic train tracks
under drizzled skies.

 

To stare out beside
con­crete switch ties, jumped fences
and tired eyes.

 

To stub toes in junk water drains
search­ing for the sky and boys and
tadpoles.

 

Re-engage.

 

To look up
days or maybe only minutes later
to blue skies of the soul.

 

- New­castle 2010

Notice

broken bones and tele­phones
alley-ways and party haze.

 

Men who put their energy into flower­ing early
burst­ing thoroughly.

 

- Can­berra 2011

Nebula

It seems through the one mind
we live so many dif­fer­ent lives.
Each thought drawn newly, prom­isingly
upon the shad­ows
of its predecessors’.

 

Hot fur­nace star-thoughts
press mil­len­nia together
pen drags neb­ula across
paper faced nebula.

 

Self explodes into each
other.
  another.

- Can­berra 2011

Nightfall Carpark

Talk in tak­ing time.
from car sides and street curbs.

 

So now forever frozen that
one day moment
that for­gets.
Tar thick thoughts
drag the heart through beat­ing
crushed to dust
of nothingness.

 

That heals the hurt
and fades the blaze
and for­gets the rest.

All time ticks through
mouths, both empty
of muscle
and full of gums.
Drib­bling side­ways
down cracked-lipped
alley­ways.
Out of hands
once blessed.

 

- Can­berra 2011

2am Again

2 am again
Then again.
Soon to be get­ting head again.

 

- Can­berra 2011

Seek

We drive to the mountains -

who slum­ber silently beside our back yard

sub­ur­bia – to sit and watch

this sun­set wash over us.

 

 

We climb passed tree roots

worn smooth

by the tread of other trav­el­ers’ shoes.

kick­ing stones and dry dirt

cracked tree bones.

 

 

We stop

to sit atop the ancient encircled slopes

and stare

down at our elec­tric steel-street-light-staples

sym­bols stand­ing to signify

some­thing.

Per­haps, scraps of certainty

as a security

against the abstract outside.

 

 

The bright-burning body descends

 

 

over the moun­tains’ edge

these street lights catch

our eyes as they match

the Sunset’s orange scent.

And the Stars, who they imitate,

start to sing above us

until the choir is a chorus

enchant­ing the now cold

Autumn Earth into dusk.

 

 

All the time, with my eyes half on the

enamel beetle cars who crawl not so far

along lanes littered with lights,

and the other half, my eyes on the horizon,

 

 

and I sigh: The sky line is not a straight line.

 

 

Why, I say to my sister,

must we as a soci­ety sleep through this?

Why can’t we see the truth of it?

So beau­ti­ful that we can­not speak,

what else could this city seek?

 

 

The hills spill secrets when the cool wind

brings whis­pers with it,

they come,

crawl­ing down trees and

wrig­gling out of the ground

life is not a dia­lect­ical arrangement

between work, recre­ation, wife

between money, edu­ca­tion, life

it’s a seething,

spec­tacle that we’re born into engage­ment with.

 

 

How can we sleep through this?

Why can’t we see the truth of it?

So beau­ti­ful that we can­not speak,

what else could this city seek?

 

 

- Can­berra 2012

Word

Word

Play with your page. While you eat. Don’t stay on the stage too long. Or they’ll leave their seats.

Takes

Tick­ets and breath away. Doesn’t really mat­ter if we’ve all got -

Time

To burn. Then again, not really with our sped up cars and pre-sliced meals. More time just to sit still and chill. Recov­er­ing brain cells in order to burn them again in front of screens tomor­row. We don’t have enough down time to even stop and think.

Real­ise this. Work and Play takes time to Realise.

 

- Can­berra 2012

Read What You Will

Into words that oth­ers spill
side-ways out of mouths
pro­cessing vow­els, non-blinking like night owls.

 

Read what you will into our tangled
web of wiry words
spread on coun­ters, dashed out on curbs.

 

Read what you will into our pages
of ink-spat scribbles
record­ing for pos­ter­ity our mind dribbles -
moth eaten threads, dead-ends and scrawled bends
built up from night-trogen dens and late night dives.

 

Read what you will
through theses gaps and holes,
we try to speak through the pages in the spaces
between the red wine, the black and white lines.
Fill it with our trans­lated vis­ions of places
Read what you will
It’s here for your mind to fill.

 

- Can­berra 2012

The Oracle of Cities

I’m in Sydney to see Under Milk Wood tomor­row. I’m very excited! As Zoe said, there’s never going to be a time when we cease to be amazed by Dylan Thomas. Here’s a little thing inspired by snatches of many things (all of which are duti­fully ref­er­enced in the thing). I wrote it in a pub in The Rocks. Sydney­siders, for­give me my hap­less roman­ti­cising of your city, it’s so awfully pretty.

 


 

The Oracle of Cities

 

When I come to Sydney, I go to the Oracle of Cit­ies, who has a res­id­ence in all places where boats once came and streets were built and people drank and lived and died – she is old, the Oracle of Cit­ies, old as churches, old as sew­ers, and speaks only the truth, which churches and sew­ers do not.

The Oracle of Cit­ies leads me into a room made of archi­tec­ture and vel­vet. The seat where I sit down is worn – all who have come to a city have sat in this seat, and all have been told their for­tune, though of course, not all fol­lowed it.

She asks for my hand, but looks at it only fleet­ingly. The streets in her eyes unfold and fill with light.

For you,” she says, her voice a whis­per and a din, “I have four fortunes.”

Is three not a more reg­u­lar num­ber of for­tunes?” I ask, petu­lantly. I will not lie – I have been to fortune-tellers before, and I am well versed in their methods.

Yes,” she snaps. “So it’s your fault you get four. Look.”

She pulls a deck of cards from inside her shawls. There are many decks inside those shawls, just as there are many other shawls, which con­tain other decks, and so on, forever. Some say that the other shawls con­tain other Oracles – of other Cit­ies, per­haps, or of other things entirely. I have never tried to ask.

With a ringed and wrinkled hand, the Oracle of Cit­ies prof­fers me my first card.

The Des­cent into the Under­ground,” she says. A man swal­lowed by a creature which is half train, half sewer, some strange pipework-and-wheels thing. Or is the man part of the whole, already long sub­sumed? Third man, third train, third sewer, per­haps; the pic­ture is unclear, as are all such pictures.

The smell of dark­ness and tun­nels and false air,” the Oracle of Cit­ies con­tin­ues. “The nam­ing of places, fast travel, brief glimpses – if you are lucky, and none who go to for­tune tell­ers are lucky – of other worlds. Machinery and the night­mares of engin­eers, those things which have no names and are expressed only in angles. Strangers, trav­el­lers, war­ri­ors. The Des­cent into the Under­ground prom­ises an ascent, how­ever, espe­cially in cities.”

Is this a good for­tune?” I ask, fin­ger­ing the card.

No,” she says, start­ling me, “it is a for­tune of trav­el­lers, which only provides fur­ther pas­sage, and in your case, it provides the tracks and wheels to…” she pauses for effect, as all for­tune tell­ers do, even when they them­selves know it is gim­mickry, “the Read­ing of Sac­red Texts.”

This one I know myself,” I reply, quick to impress her. “Those who write not of cit­ies, not for cit­ies, but those who simply write cit­ies – the cre­at­ors, the shad­ows in a greater dark­ness, the prom­ises of some­thing lar­ger than the mere world provides.”

Yes,” says the Oracle of Cit­ies, nonplussed.

China Mieville,” I con­tinue, “Neil Gai­man, Cath­erynne M. Valente. These are my saints.”

You pick wisely,” says the Oracle, “but your for­tune leads you onwards, to the Dis­cov­ery of Rel­ics in Places You Have Been Before.”

Which places?” I ask.

In your case, cer­tain sub­urbs,” she says, point­ing a fin­ger like a street­lamp at the map on the card, ever-shifting, ever-changing, “New­town, per­haps, where you will search for The Per­fect Note­pad In Which Ideas Exist Already Formed, or the Com­fort­able Shoulder Bag For Car­ry­ing A Uni­verse And Pens; or per­haps The Rocks, where in time you will cer­tainly dis­cover The Per­fect Gift For Those Left At Home, or a Map Of a City Exist­ing Only in the Ima­gin­a­tion of a Drunk­ard Across the Street; or per­haps, and not per­haps, but cer­tainly and lastly, the Botanic Gar­dens, home to A Pefect Spot of Sun­shine Which Per­sists Even When All Other Spots of Sun­shine Van­ish, and rarely, A Jabiru Who Knows Your First Name and Can Help With Chal­len­ging Metaphors.”

I nod. “This is a good for­tune, then.”

Don’t be so hasty to judge. Con­sider the other rel­ics, not false but cer­tainly not meant for you, which you may find on your jour­ney: the Over­priced Train Fare Which it is Unavoid­able to Pay, the Shop Which Is Closed Due to Lack of Busi­ness, the Long Walk Over Rough Cobbles with No Sur­cease of Suf­fer­ing, the Mad Man Who Fol­lows You Down the Block Shout­ing Obscen­it­ies. These you must meet and defeat before you find the rel­ics meant for you, and you alone.”

I under­stand,” I say, “and I will, I promise.”

Don’t bother prom­ising me any­thing,” she replies primly. “But see – there is only one for­tune left.”

She draws the last card from her shawls – from a dif­fer­ent shawl, I notice, and a dif­fer­ent deck, and just maybe, a dif­fer­ent Oracle.

The Depar­ture from the City at Sun­set awaits you,” she says, and the archi­tec­ture of her room sighs and droops, whether for the words of the for­tune, or simply because it knows the for­tune is complete.

I am not to stay in the City?” I ask.

No,” she replies, “the last for­tune, like the first, is irre­vers­ible. You will travel back to whence you came, exist­ing in the City only as a vis­itor, a tran­si­ent thing, much like a for­tune teller’s word.”

So I can­not keep quest­ing for Rel­ics?” I ask. “There are so many sub­urbs I am yet to see!”

Every quest must come to an end,” the Oracle explains, not unkindly, but matter-of-factly, “and you can­not expect to con­tinue in your search until the City itself loses its gables and gut­ters to the North Wind, can you?”

I sup­pose not,” I say, look­ing at the baroque move­ments of the final card on the table, the golden dust of the sun­set, the dim and tall and dis­tant build­ings bid­ding the trav­el­ler farewell. “But shall I ever see the City again?”

The Oracle of Cit­ies shifts in her seat, and the room tenses once more.

Well,” she says at last, “you’ve received four for­tunes already, so I sup­pose another won’t hurt, but know-” and she grabs my wrist with a grid­lock grip – “that fifth for­tunes, like sev­enth sons, are strange things and immut­able, and may not be meant for their asker at all.”

She reaches into her shawls a fifth time, and this time I am sure it is not her hand which pulls out the final card – not a card, even, but a small brass token, engraved with the chi­meral head of a traffic light crossed with a gar­goyle, a chi­mera in its own right, and such is the nature of cit­ies – faces inside faces, a pal­impsest, an end­less overwriting.

I turn over the token.

A Return to the City,’ it says on the other side, in let­ters like streets, swal­lowed over with the same green pat­ina five mil­lion lives leave on the world when they are com­pressed into tene­ments and towers, tun­nels and bridges and parks.

Ah,” smiles the Oracle. “My fee.” She sweeps the token into the maze of her­self, and stands up, the room fold­ing up into the palm of her hand, where the life-line throbs with the even­ing com­mute and the death-line flashes blue and red. She van­ishes, slowly, as if reced­ing, and lifts a bony hand.

Until we meet again, per­haps, Trav­el­ler of Cities.”

Sunday Morning Comes

The last wee while, I’ve been using poetry to record the moment of a feel­ing, rather than for stor­ies or such. Prob­ably quite bor­ing for most of you! This is one of them.


Sunday morn­ing comes
Many­faced, Janus,
Watch­ing both ways
From the round door of day,
A court jester
In mot­ley and bells
With tricks up the long sleeves
Of his sunbeams.

 

Sunday morn­ing brews the day for us
Like a bar­rista, pours the
Sky in our eyes from a blue jug,
Clouds of cap­pu­cinno foam
And birds like sugar lumps
Two– no! – four! –no, eight­een in
The sweet sky.

 

Sunday morn­ing comes as a street cleaner,
Shuff­ling quiet on autumn feet,
Empty­ing into the grey bins of dawn
The whole of the vast last night city,
Bad choices, memor­ies, hangovers
Crumpled into gut­ters and chip pack­ets
He washes the side­walks with even sun­light strokes
And vanishes.

 

Sunday morn­ing comes in your face,
Full of watch­ing and love­li­ness,
Like the world’s wound your heart up
And your dark eyes are love,

 

Sunday morn­ing comes in many faces,
Dan­cing drunk and bleary and new,
Lastly as itself,
But this Sunday I choose yours,
And every day,
I choose yours.