The Cold


There was war
and waste and
fire and
bright things

and people

There was the cold;
Thir­teen bil­lion years of cold,
An unlucky num­ber
And nobody
To count it.


Tartu is a city in Esto­nia; I was there a few weeks ago. I have an odd sort of rest­less­ness; when I’m at home, I want to travel, and it’s smells that set me off – air-conditioning reminds me of air­ports, palm tree oil on Pap­uans in the bus of the Pacific, the city after rain of Lon­don after­noons. When I’m over­seas, it doesn’t take long for me to long for home, for the smells and tex­tures of our small house, the noise of my girlfriend’s, the heady hope of uni in the morn­ings. And when I come back, it’ll take me only a month to start pick­ing up those other smells again, call­ing me away.


In the park
Where the birds
in black waves against
the cliffs of
long-abandoned houses
(plaster skins peel­ing in
wide shreds
In the park
sat a girl
who could no longer read
the stone words
of her stone book
with her soft stone eyes,
And the autumn-yellow excav­at­ors
picked the old church apart
in slow
nervous iron clutches.

You Are My Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Another slam poem – one I keep for­get­ting to put up. After writ­ing things like this I prob­ably shouldn’t be allowed to write any poetry, at all, ever ever.

You are my Fukushima Nuc­lear Plant.
When I saw you, my heart beat
Like an earth­quake. I wanted
To get to know you bet­ter. Because you’re beau­ti­ful.
I gave you a wave,
Just a wave, a little one,
All I wanted
Was to say ‘Hi!’
And there you go, explod­ing,
Our rela­tion­ship isn’t built on love any more.
It’s built on nuc­lear fusion.
And you can’t make a home from nuc­lear fusion.
You can’t raise kids with nuc­lear fusion.
They’d die. It’d be awful.
So you exploded, not even once,
You know, you made your point the first time,
You didn’t have to waste all that flam­mable gas
Just to tell me you hate me.
I can see you hate me.
I’m just try­ing to get to know you bet­ter.
And you know what?
I’m going to start cry­ing now,
And if my tears carry your nox­ious pol­lut­ing waste
All the way across Japan, killing thou­sands of home­less
Japan­ese people,
Well, that’s your fuck­ing fault, isn’t it?
I didn’t want for this hap­pen!
I didn’t want for any of it to hap­pen!
All I did was give you a little wave!

Yet Another Poem About Butterflies

I don’t do this on pur­pose, you know. I don’t just sit down with the express pur­pose of writ­ing poems about but­ter­flies, though as a job that would be really excel­lent. This one was inspired by a com­ment from my friend Alice that I am a Jew­ish but­ter­fly. I am neither Jew­ish nor a but­ter­fly, Alice. This is why:

It would be easy
To be Jew­ish
If I were a but­ter­fly;
But­ter­flies don’t eat pork
In the first place and
Their sperm ducts
Have no nerve end­ings
So cir­cum­cision wouldn’t
Be a prob­lem and
But­ter­flies die soon after mat­ing
So they’ll remain loyal
To the end but I have
Lots of nerve end­ings
And love bacon
And think girls are hot
So I wouldn’t be
A very good Jew.

A Suggestion Regarding Poets

Wrote this ten minutes ago. I’d let it sit and think about itself a little while longer, but uned­ited things are fun too!

It is a well-known fact that
Poets write more poetry
When it rains; the rain
Lub­ric­ates the ima­gin­a­tion
And sharpens the senses
And gives flut­tery form to words.

It is a well-known fact that
Poets write less poetry
When it’s hot; the sun
Dulls the mind and sweat
Smudges the ink and poets
For­get who they are.

But so much hap­pens
In the sun; unpo­etic creatures
Like snakes and flies and bogans
Clutch at the heat and bask
On long still noondays,
So much hap­pens
Like the hid­den wars of ants
And arche­ology and lem­on­ade
That doesn’t hap­pen in the rain
That poets miss out on.

I sug­gest we farm
Poets in rainy lands
On vast poetry farms
With paper for fer­til­iser
And wine for water,
With ink and tea
To help them grow
And books of words
To delight and inspire.

We should farm them so
And then export them
To cit­ies of end­less sun;
Plant them out­side
In large clay pots
And instruct them to write
While they still have rain
In their skin and eyes and
When they dry up,
We’ll mulch them up
And sprinkle them under
Lemon trees
Because poets make lemon trees grow.

The Morning Girl

Let me tell you. Let me tell you about the morn­ing girl. The morn­ing girl is a per­son who has been in my head for about a year now. She has been sit­ting there quietly, in the dark recesses of my brain, drink­ing a cup of tea and weav­ing birds into the mist, or weav­ing mist into birds, or some­thing – and not com­ing out. Every so often, I sit down to write some poetry, write a few lines about the blas­ted morn­ing girl, and sink back into a quag­mire of writers block so subtle it irrit­ates the fin­ger­nails off me. This beau­ti­ful girl, about whom I have so many things to say, is either bey­ond me or simply gig­gling into her tea, enjoy­ing my des­pair. Heart­less lassie.
So tonight I decided to be done with the morn­ing girl once and for all, and finally man­aged to write a poem about her I am even slightly happy with. How­ever, this poem is not fin­ished. That means that I am going to wake up tomor­row morn­ing, look at it, and say ‘why did I upload this garbage where not only I can read it again, but so too can every­body on the Inter­net?’ Trust me. Of course, this means that I will have to try and write some­thing more about the morn­ing girl, a pro­spect I am look­ing for­ward to in much the same way that Ber­told, the ter­min­ally unskilled hunter, looked for­ward to the yearly fox­hunt – he’d cer­tainly go hunt­ing and see some foxes, but would he man­age to shoot any of them? No. Sod­ding morn­ing girl.

I found the morn­ing girl
Perched on my garden wall
Her thin body wrapped
In fog and feath­ers.
You’re shiv­er­ing,
I said,
Have you been here long?
Since the begin­ning,
She said,
Since the time
the Earth first turned
in a young dark sky
when there were less stars
and nobody but me,
since then.
We were silent then
And watched the old light
Turn the trees
To stories.

The Year I Believed in Escalators

I wanted to get this one out of my head for a long while, and it finally happened at two in the morn­ing, as these things invari­ably do. This poem doesn’t blur the lines between fic­tional and non-fictional so much as for­gets they ever existed.

the year I believed in
escal­at­ors ended on a Sunday -
fol­low­ing the bil­low of my mother in shop­ping flight I
saw my escal­ator disem–
bowled; its soft dark guts scattered
in between wrenches and
ther­mos flasks and men;
it was hal­ted in mid­breath with the roll of its steps
rifled through, trifled with; it no longer sung its
ei-ii, ei-ii song, it was dead and
silent; they called it repaired but that was the year
I no longer believed in escalators.

The Butterfly Poem

This is a poem about how we all get it wrong some­times. I per­formed it at the poetry slam; first people didn’t like it but then they clapped.

I woke one morn­ing and found
That my girl­friend was a
Her amber autumn wings were
Crumpled against the
Guest futon
And she opened one scin­til­lat­ing
Onyx eye and looked at the watch
And said ‘That’s the time? I must be a
But­te­fly’ and brushed the sleep
From her abdo­men
With our doona.
I made tea.

She took longer in the shower
Than your aver­age but­ter­fly
And used up all the hot water.
I drank the tea.
She devoured the gardenias
And my favour­ite rose.
‘So that’s it, then?’ I asked,
As she got out of my
Old grey t-shirt, which she had made
Soft by being a but­ter­fly,
‘So that’s it – you’re dump­ing me?’
‘Yes’, she said, and it was rain­ing
So hard out­side it soun­ded like

She took a long time get­ting
Out the win­dow because her legs
Were like spindly razors and
I cried into my tea and drank my tea and
And didn’t help.
And then she was gone,
And it was like the house
Had never had a but­ter­fly
In it.

Next time I saw her, she was
On the back of a motor­cycle,
Wings thrust­ing
Through the gale, scream­ing like a
But­ter­fly and clutch­ing one of those
With two heads and no brain.

Then she lost a wing in a
Mortein dis­aster and the doc­tors said
She’d never fly again, so I came to visit
With my neighbour’s favour­ite rose.
I said how are you? and she
Shrugged and I knew she hadn’t always
Been a but­ter­fly so I said
Were you a cater­pil­lar
Once and she said
Yes, once, she said
When I was dat­ing you and I said
Was it bad and she said
You don’t know any bet­ter
When you’re a cater­pil­lar and closed
The jet dis­co­balls of her lumin­ous

A month later I got with a
Cicada and I hear it takes years
Till they leave the lar­val stage so per­haps
We’ll buy a house in Gunghalin
And raise some kids
Before she goes.

The Bicycle Poem

Last night I per­formed this at a poetry slam. It made people laugh, I like it when I can make people laugh.

Why must you tie me to this bicycle of loneli­ness?
Every day you bind my hands to the handle­bars and my feet to the peddles and push me out the gate.
you say: don’t come back until din­ner time.
I say: but why must you push me away like this, I’ll do as you ask me, please?
But usu­ally by this time I’m going quite fast, as our street is on a hill,
and you can’t hear me any­more,
and I must con­cen­trate on not hit­ting parked cars and children.


I have no choice but to ride the cycle paths of Can­berra
never stop­ping, never paus­ing.
I can­not take my hands from the frame to wave at other cyc­lists because you have bound them there.
I can­not stop to help the pretty girl with the flat tyre because you have fixed my feet to the peddles.
I can­not pause for long enough to talk to any­one, because if I slow I will loose my bal­ance and fall.


You say that love is about sac­ri­fices, and about being con­tent with what you have.
I do not even have you most of the time.
All I have is a bicycle
All that I can do is ride and ride until I know it is time,
and you will be wait­ing there for me by the open gate as I wobble up the drive
and you catch me and unbind me just before I come to a fatal, wobbly, stop.




This poem is not a meta­phor, it is a bicycle.

The Night They Set Canberra On Fire

My latest poem! This one won the best and only (read: one of two) Can­berra poetry slam, Bad!Slam!No!Biscuit!. Are you in Can­berra? Go there. Third Wed­nes­day of every month at the Phoenix. This was the fun­nest poem to write.

The night they set Can­berra on fire
We didn’t notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.
The night they set Can­berra on fire
And hungry wolves loped through Garema Place
And the mod­ern street art took to the skies
Like a flock of tarantu­las
Wheel­ing into each other
With wild, tangled aban­don,
We didn’t notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.

The night the Goon Bag rose on its haunches
Shed­ding the home­less like clumps of fur
And soun­ded a heav­ing bel­low,
The night the iron sheep out­side Sub­way
Sod­om­ised a hun­dred bogans and the iron birds
Out­side Sub­way van­dal­ised the merry go round
And all the dresses of all the shops
Ran like chil­dren through the empty glass hall­ways,
The night Can­berra burnt with scream­ing flames,
We didn’t notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.

The night that Impact Com­ics and Land­speed Records
Rolled around in the square, pant­ing with breath­less
Brick anti­cip­a­tion, tear­ing off each oth­ers’ shop­fronts
In wild sexual aban­don and the night that
The flames, the ter­rible flames burnt every­one,
Man and woman and child and law­yer,
The night two dozen pub­lic ser­vants star­ted a uto­pian soci­ety
In the Alinga Street over­pass and
Glebe Park grew into a silent forest
And the War Memorial made a secret pact
With Old Par­lia­ment House and witches gathered
On Com­mon­wealth Hill and dark flags fluttered
From every aban­doned flag­pole and a ter­rible fire licked
At the bones of the dead,
We didn’t notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.

The night eight Action buses
Came to the con­flag­ra­tion sim­ul­tan­eously late
And dis­gorged a stricken mul­ti­tude who
Burst onto the blistered pave­ment without
Tag­ging off their MyWay cards
And were required to pay the full fare before dying of
Sick­en­ing radi­ation pois­on­ing and wasps,
The night that Canberra’s seedy under­belly
Sprouted flowers and hung out with the
Ghosts of every Flori­ade that had been,
The night Tug­ger­an­ong and Bel­connen joined forces
Against the Quean­beyan horde, the night
All of my ex-girlfriends, includ­ing Sam­antha
Who said we never dated but we did, dam­mit, I saw her boobs,
Were con­sumed whole by the rising waters of
Lake Bur­ley Griffin, which smelt like peat bogs and
Lic­quorice, and none were saved,
We did not notice because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.

And when the last walls col­lapsed
Into the ash and the quiet des­cen­ded,
And the screams had stopped at long last,
We were not dead because we were
In the Phoenix, read­ing poetry.