A Collection of Poems by
The Tranquil Trip
A Poet’s work
Visit me now!
The Warrigal Bitch
Fire In The Swamp
That There Hill
Theme on a Canvas
Trap-veil over Trap-hearth
Midnight at a Singles’ Bar
The Morning after on a Greek Beach
The Odd Artist
The Odd Photographer
Upon Homer’s Odysseus
Olive Grove Soil
Venus of the Streets
Anchor the Busy Shadows
And so, once again I see.
Flibbetigibets in the Ashes
What The Priest Saw
Brigitte In The Forest.
Brigitte In The Well.
Brigitte in my Glass.
Brigitte in my Bath.
How was I?
Have I a good figure?
Letter to a Friend
Our Ancient Boat
The Palm and the Cypress
Ode upon an Aged Man
Edwina’s Bush Home
The Soul of the Elm
Of my late professor, George Gellie.(1918–1988)
The Eucharist is in the tabernacle.
All is well
The service may begin.
This is a face that opens like an ecclesiastical
The eyes and mouth slowly phrase
Out the alchemy which turns behind the forehead’s
Fraternity of lines; and on this face is the
Tranquil wisdom – drawn gracefully with quills from
And with splendid colours supplied by a god
Whose dictum might well be:
Are actions, indeed; good words are good
Actions and vice versa!”
“Words are the wombs of actions and
Actions the graves of words.”
Words, indeed; all the words uttered,
All those written and all those that will be.
Dust now the precious marbles,
Unroll the frail papyrus and read,
He taught us what those Greeks – by the
Same splendid alchemy of words – managed to do.
Words, accents, breathing marks and iota
Subscripts. How easily the meaning changed
With the subtle twist and turn of an
Accent or a breathing mark – Why wars
Have been won and lost because of just
Such a subtlety!
And with that teaching the misty outline of a shore
Lined with marble took shape for us
Ahoy, me mates! Heave ho and sharpen your elbows at
The oar! I know this shore and
Just a mile deeper in the mist
There is a spire!
Ah, the spire!
This beautiful spire that inspired us all to spend some
In loftier company, slowly, socratically, taking
All the questions in, sipping at the Eucharist wine!
That lofty spire inspired us all!
What more may students ask of their
Anchors aweigh mates! Heave ho at the anxious oar!
Will they still come?
Will the marble shores still come
Will the men and women with the
Elegant minds still come?
How marvelously doth thou inspire!
What a competent and dire muse thou art!
It is to thee that Homer called
As he began the epic that most appalled
It is to thee that the English bard did turn
And so did all the other bards, new and old
And poets of songs
And of words that actors say
It is to thee, Death, they all stretch out
Their plaintive urn
Begging for help, beggars of words
That swell and rush about in their hearts
That make them move and laugh and ache
Who doth remove all men’s tentative breath
And have all men, brave and good
Bend their knee in fear and in awe of thee
From cot and crib to horse’s gallop
And to the battle’s bloody flow and flood
To thee, Death man doth turn
To ease unyielding pains
Of soul and body, of heart and head
How broad beneath our feet is thy awesome shire!
Plea for a Portrait
Paper and pen in one hand and a candle’s
Butt with its scuttling flame
In the other
I come to praise her again.
Drowning Time part! Like the waters of the
Let these waters stop their rushing course but
You, Stellar Muse, go on with
Your inspiring song; go back now and tell
Of the summer moon that rolled above our bodies
And of the fragrant myrtle domes that gathered our
Help me write this dead girl’s portrait!
It was her mother who daily spun the spindles of
Fates and of men into her mouth’s basin,
She it was, who drew
Brazen whispers in the summer air and made the
Villagers look sideways at my gait.
Some frowned and
Others tended to approbate my
Book-reading and my short pen’s flight but
A general agreement was balanced with
The summer light that
She and I should blend in pair for
We were both
Ripe and ready to be picked by Life’s exposed vitals.
Thus the summer moon and thus the shrubs of fragrant
Myrtle on the hill where we tore the petals of
Each other’s bloom.
Undulating her body, like this land’s crimson whims and the
Morning sky pampered her eyes for eons.
Primitive black mud coloured her hair and
The sounds that the amorous stars make as
They couple squirming in their nocturnal haunts
Are the visible harmony of her
Calls that used to come in lachrymal sonnets
Though from frolicking lips;
I, fixed by them again now,
Come to lift the heavy bands that
Death rolled above her eyelids;
For I’m in arrears again and my pen is mute
The story of
This love remains unfinished.
Nothing but the wind that gives soft tremble
To the leaves resembles her.
Everything is in a state of flux.
I have sunk my face in the quivering shadows of
Loosened all my joints -legs and arms and spine-
And I drove my mind out of its bony throne-
The stars still paint despair.
I have gathered the drops of blood,
Gathered them one upon one like the pilgrim
Gathers the splinters of the
Holy relic and
I’ve fed the elm’s roots with them.
Will this wind never stop?
Older women have told me that the song of the
Trembling leaves will stop soon;
And that the perfume of
The woods will soon lose its charm for her
Ho! There, look at the
New brides they bring me!
Tall, straight, unbending, against the wind,
Uncharmed by the scents of the woods,
Their nostrils seek the smells of the
Hearth, of the bed and of the furrowed fields
Their mouths smell of berries and figs
There’s beauty enough in those eyes -soft, black bows-
To wash all that despair from the breezy sky
Kissing enough in those lips to turn the heart
Into a pool of Dawn-lilies!
The older women ask me.
How short was her moment, her forest-scented moment!
How swift that moment’s feet
Time, like a grotesque gargoyle
Stands fast to her beauty’s horror.
All is in emotional flux!
Then your “poet” friend came
And, before he left, he
Spread his yellow silence
Over the burning logs of our fire
Like sickly pus in a heart
Like a snail crawling over a work of art.
Is no poet, that friend of yours, with the
Phlegm in his eyes,
With eyes where one dies of malnutrition.
Look at our fire place now!
See how that flame – that
Red flame that once kept us warm
And wise and whose din filled the whole house
And our eyes alive –
See how its once red heart is now
And see how the embers fade as they die?
No poet, that friend of yours!
A poet’s work is to turn the ashes into
Flame, to heal the jaundiced eye and let it
Thrive in new sights,
To show the snail how to admire
The work of light.
He is no poet,
That friend of yours.
Where did he get his diploma from?
On the flinty lips of my birth-river,
A spring-water river that runs passionately
Beneath Artemis’ lavish cliffs,
You loosened the swaddles of my unfledged
You picked the soft cloth slowly
With the tips of your grin
And unwound it
Turn after turn
Like the swift, graceful cadence
Of a swallow’s tail
The bandage ascended above me;
And beneath us the pebbles,
Some full-white, some flecked with red
As if sprayed with the blood
Of crushed cherries,
Smooth, round and made alive by the
Wild paws of Artemis’ hounds,
Crooned at each turn
Of our disordered twine
Tightened fast in the rushing turns
Two elks, then two tigers,
Two butterflies crazily searching
For their buds
Through the fine tapestry of the
Spray and the
And when my soul fledged
And the soft swaddles dispersed
Into the beating rush of the passionate river,
Your grin intensified
Like a signature on a graduate’s diploma,
You unwrapped your flesh from mine
And walked away
Following the banks,
Looking for another.
I gripped anxiously at the diploma.
“Ah, a diploma!”
They now say and look at me proudly.
Tempus may fugit
But my diploma stays!
Posterity’s evidence that my soul is
Yet my body,
Is still naked
And still unfledged.
Song on a Canvas
There’s no wind without movement,
No movement over this landscape
No temperament and
Wretched is the whistle of
This train and of this poor desert boy
Of the flowers
Above us and of
This starved stalk of corn.
Wretched the twang of the sinews as they are
Released by Hunger-driven death.
See the lute strings in the hand of the
And there’s no
Imagination after the
Love is drawn out of
Sophy, so wisdom is left simple
And harsh; and there’s
After the paint is torn away from the brush
By the hungry canvas, none
After the parents are pulled away from the child
By Court Decrees.
There’s no wind without movement and
There’s no movement more wretched than that of
Made ice-white and glacier-strong by having it
Stripped of imagination.
But the song is left
On the canvas my loves,
I played with the
Dazzling sunflakes that hopped about
By the young rivulet of a
Village whose dress in winter
Was like a bride’s and in summer
Like a groom’s
When I was but a fraction of
While the other children
Wore garlands of taut strings of wheat
Mingled with those little merigolds
With the scented sighs,
I chose the green, supple reeds
Of my rivulet,
Threaded the little fish
I had caught with my bare, childish cunning
And tied the reeded catch around my forehead.
The other children laughed
At the city snotty slick from
I was born in that village,
Under that ageless plane tree there;
The one with the calming disposition
That bends over the running water.
My child-mother had told her younger sister
To run for the mid-wife of the village
But the silly little girl
Stopped to play with the priest’s goats
On the way.
“You must have landed hard on your head
When I heaved the final push,”
My mother said, accounting for my
The children’s laughter reached the
Of the Universe
Of which I knew and even now know
Small knowledge that made my rivulet even smaller.
A sunspeck in this aging darkness
With the disturbing disposition
Of my nearly-whole number.
Mine are now like those open white
The buds are bent low under the weight of
Thin petal after thin
Petal each falls under the weight of
On my Colleague’s Departure
I shall feel a little hollow
From now on.
The man who sat at the desk
Next to mine is gone
Like an autumn oak-leaf that’s torn
By the breeze that runs just ahead
Scattering wisps of warnings of
Or like a great bear that turns despondently
For home when the season is over.
I shall prick my ear for his crisp autumn wit
From now on
And I shall feel trapped
Like a fawn is suddenly trapped
In a forest of
This great bear has gone
And with his parting also are gone
The mellow whispers about Homer and the
Tragedies of Greece and Rome
And discussions about
Symbolic instruments in
Books -ravens, doves and the like-
Will never produce the same
When I turn to speak to him from now on
I shall know that the oak-leaf
And the great bear are gone
And I shall feel abandoned to a
Pondering things in silence, alone
And I shall feel cavernous
From now on,
Now that my colleague’s gone.
I will loosen Sleep’s soft bands
For you tonight.
You’ll find that the jasmine is still
White; it hasn’t died from neglect.
On the contrary
It has completely taken over the pergola.
Though Salome’s dance was
My head is still intact.
Besides, I’m no Baptiser.
I will loosen Sleep’s soft bands for you
Immortal Aphrodite of the jewelful throne!
Cunning child of Zeus! I beg you, Goddess:
Don’t abandon me nor break my spirit with
But come to me, since always before
In such metters you’ve heard my distant cries
And, leaving your father’s golden chambers you’d
Yoked your chariot with the beautiful
Swift sparrows who, hurriedly beating the sky with
Their wings rushed
To suddenly touch upon this black earth;
Blessed Goddess, with a grin on your immortal
Face you’d ask me what heart’s woe had made me
Call for you this time.
What now did my frenzied soul want to happen?
“Whom must I now convince to be your lover?
Who, Sappho, is being unjust to you now?
If she shuns you now, she will soon be
If she doesn’t accept your offerings, soon she will
do the offering and
If she doesn’t love you now, soon she will -willingly
Come to me again!
Release me from this horrible concern!
Accomplish what my soul needs to accomplish And
Be my ally in this battle!
I took this evening’s shower
With a thought
That obeyed gravity –
rather than me –
Fell onto the slippery floor
Before it glided into the
A crimson, thought, I admit,
One that made the cactus
Bend soft degrees in shame
Damn the disobedient thoughts!
I shall lose some hours of sleep
The grass grew tall around your slipper
Which now knows the language of the worms
And of the birds.
They perform dances of magic
And croon enchanting spells around its entrance.
It lays there under my vine-covered pergola
As if spellbound
And I watch it being embroidered
Slowly and meticulously by the
Dawn’s and the sun’s
And the moon’s messages.
All our yesterdays and our
Tomorrows dance together within these
Flashes of light.
Tall, urgent waterfalls -these blades of grass
And light- rush through our story. Pulses of
Our time. Wizards and witches
Omens rattled in our night-breasts.
Yesterday our tomorrows were palpable dreams
And today our yesterdays are forsaken breaths.
I pour out the ceremonial mead and sing to
The airy meanads from whose midsts you’ve emerged
But the waterfall is in too much of a hurry
And you’ll soon be lost in
The growing grass.
The grape vine that shades my pergola needs pruning.
“Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
“As You Like It” W. Shakespeare
The tram runs like the exposed
Philosophers run and
Like the priests with
Their acolytes and like the whores
And like the
Brain-blood of the
Wives and of the boss-
From the depots of oblivion
It receives, as the boudoir
Cistern receives, thoughts of all sorts
Intentions from all directions and
Uncouthly, chunders them out
Again, stop by stop
All the way to the Depot.
“Move along the tram, please,
Move along, please, there are
Others waiting to get on. Next stop
Cap askew and money bag glued to his
Belly this chirpy
Sideways up and down amongst
And the tram runs on.
Come, visit me now
Before Time’s next attack,
Before the mirror slides
Into pious rectitude and beyond my
It will become
Almighty then, not
In my own image but in its stubborn pursuit of
Come before my lies become more numerous
And more embarrassing to all
Come, before the present totally recedes and I become
A pitiful suppliant to my memory,
Ever-begging her to recycle some of
The old thrills she holds so covetously.
Will she betray me then?
She can be very sadistic when she wants to be.
She will say “yes” but she will serve me only the
Small garnishings that went with the main events;
Titbits that are excruciating to behold
Come, before quotidian
Time chops off my legs and arms, making me
Incapable of pulling my own at the nocturnal
Visit me now!
Let the Warrigal bitch sniff around
The dens of other warrigals,
Dear children, dear children.
Let the Warrigal bitch howl at the moon
And let out the pleasure-screams of insanity.
She’s mad, the bitch,
Thousands of embryos were simply pencilled off,
Ejected from the white-blank womb
Before Creation could take a good grip
Of their meaning.
Don’t hold me to my word, mother
Their meaning is
More slippery than a Luna Park mirror.
And don’t tell anyone of this immense
Believe me, these difficult words are still
Alive – or at least, floating in Elysium,
Somewhere at the back of my mind;
And I’m taking it easy with the alcohol
While I’m pregnant. Once
I used to stay up ’till late with
Love making and wine worshipping;
Now I stay up creating embryos,
Which I then promptly cross off from
One day I shall write a whole opera with
All these floating embryos at the back
Of my mind.
On our church’s high window,
Christ and His Mother,
Looked as if overwhelmed by
Apollo’s irreverent curiosity.
The New Testament and the
Old Myth fused in that church
Our Sunday teachers explained the Holy
Spirit -its ethereal properties,
Its role in the Holy Order and in the
Holy Trinity, its ability to reveal virtue humane
To the humans- while our
Daily school teachers explained how
Homer’s gods played
Using mortals from Greece and Troy;
And it wasn’t until I came to Australia that
I had read Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’.
Selections and rejections brought me
To this path and
She played her part: that of a woman
Maddened by her virginity.
She played her part and I took this
Lo! I, too, was maddened by her virginity.
Prometheus brought her to me that
I may see his capacity and my way out of
A thick swamp that I had managed to get myself into
Prometheus was wrong!
From the swamp I was driven to a field
Burning under a village sun and
I laboured hard cutting the yellow stalks
Of wheat under that metal sun
And my day’s triumph was crowned with
Rustic garlands weaved by the villagers
And with a young woman whose face opened my heart
Prometheus was wrong, just this once,
With his selection.
To be sincere, for a while
I enjoyed Pandora’s firy glow –
It lit my swamp and gave life to much that was
Encrusted by the weighty sludge of age
And I had thought at the time, that her rosy flesh was
Just what I needed;
But then, the girl opened
Her mouth and spoke
And that’s when I’d discovered that
Prometheus was wrong – just this once,
With his selection.
Byzantine airs discovered
Our midnight path and,
Like sudden chills, cut across it.
Religious mysteries… awesome maybes
And Time’s plangent tongues
Like lean, black-cloaked monks
With frenzy, web that path.
The monks shake their heads
Like tolling bells, ringing
Questions and answers in monotones,
Wails within some disturbing, raising,
They web the path and
Trap your name within
Their incensed neumes-
Neume! Neume! Neume!
And soon, too hurriedly soon,
Your icon is buried, like a holy relic
Beneath intoxicant, spicy clouds.
Chilly the binary word
Neume! Neume! Neume!
That severed our binary path
And scattered the airy wafers
Of our communion.
Chilly stopped the blood within
My binary heart-
Severed and seized.
Exquisite communion while it lasted.
We squirmed under the sheets
Like two worms in a rush
To higher ground
To avoid this season’s
Worms with arms and legs
In a rush to beat these floods
And one could easily mistake us for
Biting at each other’s flesh but never
Quite chewing nor satisfying this
Hunger that grips two people in lust.
Writhing in lust like two worms
Rushing to avoid the flood.
I hope you don’t smoke.
I hope you won’t light one of those filthy things
After the panting has subsided – if you haven’t by
Then driven me into a coma – and then say:
“Ahhh, I needed that!”
I never know whether it’s the cigarette or my…
God, I hope you don’t smoke!
That There Hill
There’s a disturbing anachronism in
That there hill;
And another thing:
It speaks to me
Like the legs of a woman standing
Time moved on a long time ago
Leaving behind the putrid smells
But that’s for me,
As for the hill, it grins with tidy
“The waves at my feet,” it says to me
“Will be my pilgrims for ever!”
Such were the legs that once walked
At ease with me and
Such was the smugness in her grin
At the waves of my heat.
Ho, ho! but my house has a new fragrance now!
Brush stroke hunted brush stroke
All day today
And I was behind the last one again
From bristle’s thirst to bristle’s
Arrogant burst, the paint and the brush
Brush after brush, the flesh and the paint and
The brush, rushed from pallet to canvas
Pressing pigment into pigment, piling pigment upon
Suddenly are mortared the sinews of the dream.
Hushed, still torches of ancient light and a
Vortex of flying fish
Trying to escape their element.
Cool sapphires humming to the beat
Of a warm day, this river humming,
This river, their element and mine and
There’s my renascence.
But the agile brush escapes my grip and
Here’s the foreground and the beat of
Here’s the painted theme, the one theme I’ve been
Trying, all day, to avoid.
Your shadow appeared first, carved and burned
Into fragments by the torches of the forest;
Then your body and your body’s flesh,
Bright, young, lithe, like the morning
Fawn, grazing alone; alone,
To you, the sunlight and the torches belong.
Naked body which I, alone saw that
Dawn and, seeing it, seeing the running blood, seeing it
Between the water and the splintered torches,
Like a child,
I began to cry.
Brush stroke has been chasing brush stroke
All day today,
Tide and Moon swell slowly
Slowly the spider’s feet
The sticky trap-veil which I’d
Managed to damage
Recently. I didn’t know at the time,
Of course but
Told us in swelling courts and bulging
Affidavits and gurgling
Telephones that it was my fault
These cackling Furies
Should know: They had lived in our pockets
But nevermind that now,
The spider’s feet are healthy again, I see,
And they’re nearly done.
The tear on the veil is invisible
And this gorgeous weave takes again
Its proper place
And the trap-hearth is set.
Clever feet these spiders have, full
Of insane creativity.
Tide and moon swell slowly
Darn the children’s socks.
I’m too intense in my old age,
Too tightly coiled, they tell me.
I grip too desperately
At life’s final trinkets.
Gone is the impact of the small words,
Like “love” and
“Heart” and “soul” and
“I” and “You”
Gone is the impact of the
Whispers in the ear;
The secret sounds of the day
The scrumptious sights of the night.
Whispers, less audible than thoughts
More compelling than a girl’s first
A barbarous death-wind
Makes me involuted
The whispers from the dryads in the woods,
From the nereids in the waters; from all
Those other sylphic beings of
The refined air
Can’t reach me now.
Sweet nothings are no longer
(Listen to the way I talk, for goodness sake!0)
Tastes no longer tantalise
I want far more.
I’m too intense, they say, and
Too abrasive and
Too gauche and
Full of bombastic flummery, too full of the obscure, of the nugatory,
Too much in need of
Subtlety that lasts,
My inner tongue wags
Too much against me, these days!
I’ve little time left
And none of grace.
“You’re incredibly gauche,”
A Peggy told me once; and
“You’re unbelievably impatient,
Why, we’ve only just met,”
Another Peggy said and
A Margaret told me once -I remember
Margaret for her peerless bottom-
“Relax, relax,” before she spun me into oblivion,
Then there was
An Anne who’d asked me:
“You’re too intense, why?”
I’m pouring out the sediment these days,
That’s all that’s left of life and love
And of all those other little words
That gorgeous heady dross has long been swept off
At the bacchanals and
The purity of things was drunk decorously
In charming, virgin restaurants,
Long ago -so little of it!
The sediment is all that’s left:
The soul’s little wounds.
That’s all that’s left,
How feeble was your friendship!
The Great Bomb had gone off before I was born
But the explosion has yet to enter the discarded
To enter and to calm the gurgling bowels of the snake skin.
You suspended the explosion and
All that destruction was but a gentle
Clap of a wave against the Titanic
And when your oxen-drawn cart rolls over
The cobbled stones of my village, you offer pardon
To the tongues
That slashed you out of my arms,
Severed your arms, Venus of Milo,
Sanity, Sanity, Sanity!
Shouts the wooden cross
Sanity, Sanity, Sanity!
They knew not what they were saying and
They spoke with virtuous mud in their mouths,
Made with scented rain and the sparse
Soil of their hand-farms, virtuous arms swung
To evil gestures for
They knew not what they were doing
When they yanked you out of my arms.
The snake skin is still
Waiting for the
Explosion, so hurry up,
And when he finally turned
Quadraginta quinque anni with witnesses
Sad all, sad all
His eyes turned away from
Like the hands of the clock from the hour.
Ah, bona Hora fugit!
Cara Hora fugit!
Goose to goose
Anser anserum at the mirror
Gilded though its frame and it is
Anser anserum with the photograph
Proud though the wretched camera of its precision
Anser anserum at the canvas though
The artist is famous.
This then will be the quinqennium of the goose
And the good,dear hour has perished
And no more the face and the flesh but
The goose and its feathers.
I looked for the erogenous
Zone like the Israelites looked for manna
In the wildernesss-
Searched for it everywhere:
At the upstairs bar
And on the dance floor,
Where the viscera of over 30’s quiver
In Death-Dawn’s aura.
A woman with exaggerated clown-face
Colours batters the atmosphere
This way and that,
her body mocking obesity.
Around the corner I looked,
Where the primrose wall is dripping with
Derelict lovers, more drunk by the
Fumes of the hunt than
By the enervated bar-spirits; And the
Unanswered mating calls brew in their faces
Before they rise to the ceiling
There, trembling, like upside-
Down hyacinth blossoms.
No, this place is bereft of erogenous
Tonight: no shelter for Eros
No place to geminate.
Another euryproctic woman makes a
Gesture which reveals that she too has
No style nor an erogenous
Should I go now and try again within
At least the waiters look happy.
But no, the noise-spinner introduces the
Hunt-song with a
Commentary which reveals that for too many
Midnights now he’s
Also been searching for an erogenous
Amidst these grey woods where hunt wounds fester;
And he is a professional hunter:
Fully equipped with all the latest
Electronic bird enticers and
With every simulated
O, solo mio!
O, solo, solo, mio!
Apollo is dancing
On our bodies, stinging
Clouding the brain –
Body and brain
Still saturated with last night’s
Like the black olives which you had
Marinated for a whole week in
And the cicadas are arguing
Again; like the tourists do over the price of
Plaster statuettes of the Minotaur.
The sea is of no help either:
Pinned as we are on the sand,
This blue, fragrant oil remains
Exotically out of our reach.
Spirits ascended too high
Curse you and your love for
Only paints single trees.
One tree, alone, at the
Of a desert-white canvas. There is
On this life-big canvas,
One tree, alone, dressed with a sense of decorum
Everyone says that this artist is
And if you look at this canvas
You can hear clearly,
The breezy sounds of a
Single flute, but then, closely follows
A storm of belligerant trumpets
In a relentless pursuit of the breezy sound
And though the blankness of
The world-big canvas
Pushes the tree further and further into the
Left Edge, it
Never quite disappears.
This happens without fail
With all of this artist’s paintings.
Everyone says that these paintings are
My young, namesake cousin
Is a photographer who only
Takes depictions with texture,
Dimension with soul.
Even the inanimate victims of his
Stones and folds of buildings, sacred
Channels of ancient masks and urns, all have
Texture, Dimension and
So do all his animate victims, of course.
Not yet dogs or cats or budgerigars but
People: Smoothly convoluted dancers, tentative lovers,
Fathers, mothers, sisters, daughters (other people’s),
Cousins – first
Dimension and soul.
But they are all exposed
Black and white.
Seminal, because if you
Watch these photographs
They swell and
Tell of a cervical propensity towards
Animate and inanimate victims.
He took a series of well-measured
Well-bordered depictions of me recently
Now I, too, have texture,
Or, at least, my seminal portrait does.
What can a mortal poet do
But walk through the ever-burgeoning wood
And describe the fall of but a single leaf?
I must woo the haze-born Muse to
Help me describe the path of this
One leaf that’s fallen from a proud tree.
Too proud that tree
Too proud the leaf that whirled through the
Wrath of this young sphere’s waters.
Tell, Muse, of the moods of these waters and
Of this fallen leaf.
That man who kneaded his wit with that of
Many men and learned their city’s turns.
Tell, Muse, of the man with the much-turned brain –
Let him be the seed of your song.
After he defiled the sacred stones of Ilium’s
Lofty walls, Odysseus
Battered spleen and soul against
The Ocean’s murdering bones.
Thrashed did Odysseus all the sinews of his flesh
Against the curse-driven waves to save
His mates of war and of the pounding voyage maze;
But they, all, with wit-empty skulls slaughtered
The Sun-blessed calves and this hunger crazed wrong
Deprived them of their return home.
Tell the story of this fallen leaf, Odysseus, their
Captain-King, beginning with whichever word you want.
Zeus’ child, who knows the fate and the
Sentiments of all the leaves within the
With a graceful turbulence
You singed the pollen;
The fingertips of my dream
Anchored you -a bobbing mermaid-
In my waters for a while;
The petals fell-
Came the nourishment
In rolling spurts of knowledge –
Dig a little,
Little beneath the stony olive grove
And there you’ll find me-
My own fragments of clay amphorae
And other ancient vessels,
The wine still in my nostrils,
Still ardent, still yes-wanting,
Still looking for your grace and your ardour;
And my spirit?
Come to my aid! For
I know the pain you felt,
Chained on Tartarus’ icy splinters
An ancient, broad-winged black bird
Plunging its eager talons and its
Giant, shrieking beak
Into your entrails
By day, surgically
Wrenching them out
Inch by inch.
Plunging and wrenching
Plunging and wrenching
All day, every day.
How you begged
The brilliant charioteer
To fever his steeds,
At the quick of Dawn!
Lover of the wise light you were,
Hater of the day you became.
And the Moon goddess
To lengthen her visit,
At the quick of Dusk,
And to wipe the trmbling scorpions
Off your belly
And hold the flood
Of the putrid blood,
By night, every night.
A dire Titan you were
As assaulted suppliant you became.
I know it well.
Eagle’s talons for the Titan;
Butterfly’s sublime feet for the
Every day and
Middle twenties have transformed you into
A middle-aged dung beetle
Fluttering over revered
“Ruins,” you wrote
“Are just ruins” and quickly tightened your
Tourist money belt and bounced off
To land on an orchid implanted between a pair of
From Plato’s sun to
You thought that old Aegeas who worked
Poseidon’s wrath against the ancient mariner,
Would spruce himself up
For you; smooth out all his wrinkles, pinch a new
Blueness on his cheeks and clean up the mountains of
Dung that a million dung beetles like you
Drop into his soul every year.
And you thought that Pericles of the golden mouth
Would shake Pheidias of the sublime fingers
Out of his sleep, to get up and
Meticulously toothbrush and dentalfloss the
That all the wise would gather ’round you
And make you feel like the young Christ
In the temple of God.
Would you have stayed then?
Would you have stayed there among them –
Among the temple stones and the holy inventions-
Eager to learn, eager to spread the learning,
To become what you once were: a pollinising breeze?
Go back young coz and learn to
Feel the flaming chill that
I once had felt when my
Fingers read the chiselled words upon
The Pheidian rocks,
Carved with spiritual beauty.
Go back and learn to feel.
Go back and learn.
I’m tired of tidying up the
And if you ask for
My turn now.
But my garden faces the
The healing butterflies have long ago
Turned into light-scavenging
I’ve spent most of the time
Spinning in the sealed barrel of
Narcotised passions, a muse-forsaken
Seas, furrowed deep by weird moon-
Movements, kneaded me slowly
But certainly into an
Undecipherable life pattern;
And I haven’t touched a piece of
Marble all this time.
Through the crawling breaths of seasons
One night and
Tossed out of another.
This land is good for lovers of sleep,
Loving sleep and burning lovers in sleep’s
No, I’ve done nothing significant since
Your last letter of a long time ago and
The candle’s wax drips only by habit and
Oh, yes, I did plant two cherry trees
As you had asked once
And pruned hard the vine that knitted itself all
Through the pergola –
With a perfect air of
Goats once lowered their bearded
Jaws and dragged the penury
Out into the open air
But we knew then where we were.
We lived on a poor land,
Nourished only by thin blood
And airy myths -hardly the stuff to
Feed the hungry multitudes!
Everywhere we dug
Our fingers would come up
Chipped and scratched white by the
Which we then caressed and studied with
Once again, forgot our
There were only the thistles and these
Belonged to the donkeys and to the
My father now, hoe in hand, bows a little
And digs deep into my own, personal,
Vegetable garden and by High
Summer the salad will perfume my kitchen.
“There are no goats, no myths,
Nor any marbles here,” he says
As he scrubs hard at the black, horse-
Manured soil stuck deep into his fingernails.
Then, like a river whose
Path was suddenly torn by Jehovah
I plunged -arms and legs comically fluttering-
Into a skull-crushing void.
I take and
Am taken by
Women for remedial purposes only now
Which is to say for no purposes at all.
Cultivated nipples curl inside my chest
And move there like home-searching pink
Upwards against a torrent of hurled-away
Searching for their home
Perspectives, directions and body movements
No longer follow wisdom.
Some remedy this…
This sex business!
Some herbal tea,
Not like her colleagues’ eyes,
The bright eyes of this Calabrian
Perform with some sensitivity.
She’d make a bed warm for her husband
In winter and
Her scent would refresh the most
Crumbled sheets and weariest of husband-bones.
My triptych would have her
Bowing over swelling fields
Amidst Nature’s pure pleasantries:
Seeds, birds, brooks
Breezes that carry grateful peasant voices,
By the hearth, in the evening -I can see her
Reading a book to her husband who, with his eyes
Fixed on a fire-blade ponders tomorrow’s harvest;
And in the sacred conjugal bed at night,
Book-tired and soil-worn,
Obsequious sun-energy gone, asleep;
But this young woman is a teacher
And her fields are English and French.
Earthy perspicacity in the furrows
Of an urban school.
(Upon the death of a 15-year old girl)
Time rolls and Time crawls and
Time does as Time tolls for all the helots
Wrapped in the mouldy newspaper leaves,
In the menacing full-moon shadows, violet
Shadows of trees and
In the steel curves of bridges, deep in this city’s
Carcass where these moths are hungry for light bulbs
And these melancholy cicadas find no homes,
Find not one home.
O Venus, my ultra-virtuous, my crazy moth!
The Devil’s got your ash now and
My dreams have your soul
Your phrases parade drunk one by one on Sleep’s
Etiolated fairy floss cinema screen.
Raw sugar crystals, your phrases
Raw marble crystals, as precious as the
Lost arms of Venus De
Milo the goddess who the present and the future
Can only dream and scream about.
You screamed when your ultra-virtuous, crazy cicada
Turned to the turn of a scuttling
Scorpion in the desert and I,
In turn, screamed
When my ultra-virtuous, crazy moth turned
Into the drunken phrases parading in Sleep’s etiolated
Fairy-floss cinema screen.
Time sings her own songs, phrased
With unpredictable turns, ancient oracles
That baffled Calchas then and baffle me
Raw, raw crystals these phrases
Crackle and burn at the serpent’s discarded skin
Stuffed full with the chalky bones of the
Beggars and the buggers and the whores and the muggers
And Mammon’s euphoric priests and Machiavelli’s
See them all marching to the city, ready
For their chores!
Oh, I had dreams, all right!
Where, as if driven by Calpurnia’s premonition,
I stuck your wings back on again, back on again,
Back on again though all of Caesar’s augurs
Couldn’t find the bird’s heart and
Venus of the Streets, would always turn
-in this dream-
Into the grotesque
Statue of Liberty, the stony flame above her arrogant,
Gold-loving head showing the way to
And the raw, raw crystals are
Powder of white gold needling its way
Into the serpent’s discarded skin
Bulging it with percolating sweet mists of ecstasy
See how the sweet crystals dissolve
In the reptile’s eyes…see the hate…
They dissolve and as they do
They flipside all the buggers and the beggars
And Mammon’s euphoric priests into
And back again
And the putrid newspaper mattresses into black,
Sex-perfumed and flesh-wooing silk
And the madness into wild poetry full of
Enjambments and un-rhyming argot and therapy
And back again
And flipsiding also the good, healthy, ultra-virtuous
Men like me, into bad, sick, poisonous scorpions
Who ought to be fighting the ENEMY in the
Oily desert along with
The cicadas and the moths,
Triggering the smart bombs,
And the good, healthy, ultra-virtuous women
Like you into drunken phrases
That parade on Sleep’s etiolated fairy floss
Cinema screen… “come with me…kiss me…love me…
Take meeeee now!”
And back again.
Words have the power to turn people
Into savages or angels -take your pick, take
Your own pick
But the Numbers have won this game and so
You can’t take your pick, you can’t take
Your own pick.
With a ding and a dong,
Little minds are enchanted and enslaved by
Numbers and by Neatness and by the present;
Big minds are enchanted and enslaved by
Chaos and the Soul and by the eternal
And the Numbers have won this Party
Poll after Poll the percentages and
Poll after Poll the usury goes
Poll after Poll the bells toll
The reel spins on and in this darkness
The flipsiding goes on.
It went on while Jokasta
Was giving birth to her lover and it goes on still,
Goes on still -look at you and me!
The eleventh hour and all is well
Ding Dong! It’s the crier’s bell.
Ding dong! It’s the night crier’s bell.
It’s the Party’s man
Or woman and
Encyclicals keep coming, keep making it tough
For the little boys and girls that want to make
“Stop all that masturbation!”
The papal canon decrees and the
“Large Red Book of Bullies” in a Primary School
Frightens the little boys –
Frightens them all
So “all is well” the crier cries on.
“The Party’s on,
Come and get your own,
Ah yes, ah, yes!
Time’s bells peal with the joy
That we had felt in the moist fog that
Wraps our river, near, near where the river ends.
I had spat in Sleep’s eye and abandoned the bed
And I drove there that night,
There where the river ends
And you were there and
Time and fog had turned you
Into a song, humming through my strained cords,
Words that cooed and asked for love on the damp grass
Of our river’s banks…”come with me…kiss me…love me…
Take meeeee by the head
Andante e staccato, con tremolo… piu tremolo!
For God’s sake, piu tremolo!
“My body is my land, root it thoroughly and
Enjoy its fruit,”
You said but the Devil’s got your ash before
I got my chance
At Dawn, Ms Arrester, the young cop on the beat,
Spun the pea in her whistle and told us to move on
Mammon’s bells had begun to toll and the helots
Were marching to their spots:
“No corrupting the helots!”
Said the young cop -it wasn’t her fault,
She was only doing her own helot-chore,
So we put an end to the
Tugging of our own bell’s cords and we moved on,
We moved on.
We moved on and with the moving, you broke
The cord and were
Lost for eon-long nights and more,
More bells toll, toll, toll,
Toll the vacancy in my soul, your home, now a derelict
Mud-cavern, cracking in the wasted
Sun-rays, derelict clay dust on the floor
The winds found a hollow in that dust
They spin and billow the mouldy
Newspaper blankets off the backs of the bridge drunks.
See the headlines pillowing the drunks’ heads?
“Veritatis Splendor!” and
“Big Red Book of
Bullies Frightens Little Boys in Primary School!”
Say the Papal
and the little school
It baffled Calchas then and
Baffles me now how easily we commit hubris,
O, my Venus of the Streets.
I saw the boat slide through the fog
And you at the rails slide along
Away from where our river ends
To be lost in the moist fog of the vast ocean.
It baffled Calchas then and it
Baffles me now how deep that fog is
I’ve often asked the fog,
Why wouldn’t Agamemnon, leader of all
The armies of Greece, enough men to fill a thousand
Ships, give back Chryseis and why did his brother,
Menelaos of the fair locks, leader of the Spartan
Bring this great
There, so far, there,
On the swarthy shores of Ilium for the sake
Of a woman, made lunatic by her own beauty,
And why did Ulysses, king of the fairest isle,
Suffer a decade of war and a decade more on the
Swarthy water to get back to a wife now twenty years
Calchas was baffled then and I am baffled now
By the parading phrases.
Oh, I had dreams, all right!
All scattered by Dawn, all lifted by Dawn
As Dawn scatters her rays on her own
Horizon, as Dawn lifts her rays from her own
Horizon, all dreams, sweet and gratifying and bizarre
Years of them and more, such dreams had baffled Calchas
And baffle me more
Scattered all, scarring the soul, severing the arms from
Like the executioner’s axe severs
From the bone, scarring the soul
Like the sun’s swords scar the clay landscape
That lies, planet-wide between us.
Your words are now whispered deep into my ears by
The beggars and the muggers and shouted at me
By Mammon’s euphoric priests and
Machiavelli’s phlegm-spitting acolytes and
Turned into gurgling
Images by the needled eyes of the street-seraphims.
Electric shocks in the head tell me that you’re alive
And on your way back,
And the bells peal the joy of your return
Voices deep in my head,
A thousand hosts along your return’s way
A thousand torches like those watched
Earnestly by Kletaimestra’s servant
Night and day.
And on your way, sweet Venus,
You’ll go past them,
Past that spot in the desert where
Alexander, the great child, found a helmetful of
Water, a multitude of parched soldiers at his back
Weary with war and
Their souls, by now, accustomed to the hovering
Between worlds, between worlds, between
Worlds, and their throats more accustomed to thick wine
Than to thirst, like the diesel truck to the
And the melancholy cicada to a leafy home.
They saw him tip the helmet over and the water was sucked
Urgently by deep ravines of
Think of it, Venus, and feel my thirst, equal to
The thirst of that multitude of soldiers.
And don’t pay heed to the subterranean
Troglodytes who don’t speak the language of Homo-
Sapiens but that of mindless and heartless reptiles
And live, like the reptiles, in the wet
Caverns beneath the Earth, dark and cold and there,
Upon mouldy newspapers, under the steel curves of bridges,
Eat the carcasses of their own
But you, Venus of my Streets, continue on your way,
Cross the hard desert that waits upon the
Flowing procession of the winds and of
The hungry carrion birds
And soon you will come to Poseidon’s wet domain,
The greatest on this spinning planet.
Thalatta, thalatta! The sea, the sea, the great, oh
Read Xenophon’s Anabasis for a quick thrill
Don’t ignore the small statue of
Beethoven. It’s true he talked with
Death but then he went on to feed many orchestras
With Schiller’s divine words:
“And ’tis Joy that moves the pinion,
When the wheel of Time goes ’round.”
O, song of joy!
Think of it sweet Venus! Death and joy can live
Happily in the soul
Of one man, as you live in mine
But nevermind the man,
Hear the composer, and see how
The white sugar crystals still dissolve in his
Nor let Time make timid your intent but
Go on, go on, come on!
Pick up your own
Lyre and pluck your own
The song of
That told Xerxes of his own devastation -those Greeks
Could not be trusted even to stay dead!-
Think of that song,
Venus of the Streets, think of that
The greatest army against a handful of villagers came,
And this baffled Calchas then and gave
Think of that
And of that
Army’s thirst and think how I live in
This carcass now where
You and I were born, and torn,
Torn, our swaddles
And come, come now before the next stop!
“Move along, please!
Next stop, Lobotomy!
This is the age of the sirens and of the bells that
The burning siren and the chilling toll,
Venus of the Streets I love your eternal
(On Plato’s ‘Myth of Er’)
Anchor the busy shadows to the
Nether mud and
Turn the spindle once again
This time –
This time let
Choose my lot; and let
Read it in my own chest.
Fates within fates have lowered
The aged web of life’s flame and
Lowered too the pitch of their
Single note – see how smugly they sit
Upon their cup’s lips!
Cup within cup
Celestial ring within celestial
All turn within the spindle of
In the Under
World and the shadows rush for
And now flick the spindle once again but
This time –
This time let
Me choose my own lot.
Once again I see
The furry stalks of poppies bend.
Slender single; as feeble and crooked
As memory, as die-hard and humbling
Down and around, in tune with Earth’s
Every breath, with Spring’s
Every whim, they bend, they dance.
Delicious ears, soaked by
Hair that soaks the blood of Daylight;
Blood through which once
My hand chanced to travel.
Poppies that have seen the
Rainbow’s desire swell and rise
To mate with the drying sky.
Silent lips that have brought too many
Echos into the hollows of our irony.
These are the
Poppies that have gladly mattressed the
Beds of one-season lovers, of
Rushing, extravagant lovers, of
Spring-pricked, hope-stung lovers, of
Feeble and die-hard lovers and which
Cushioned the small, bare feet of children and
Drew the deep, grave prints of soldiers’ boots and
The elegant hooves of the obsequious oxen
Pampered the children and
Shrouded the soldiers red and
Fed the oxen and the mules –
This field of poppies is enamoured by the past
The future but
Paints indelibly the present:
No regret, no hope.
Smug eyes, these poppies,
Smug eyes that have known me whole –
From hair’s tip to
Soul’s every disassembling,
Discordant turn and twist –
(Here’s a dancer with two left feet!)
Known me whole during one whole season:
In my bed and in my muse’s field;
In ebbing sleep
In the stream of the day-rituals
Of pain and boredom and grief and of
The madness of regret.
(Does a brook dare regret its passage?)
There the flower.
There the poppy’s suspended, sublime fire.
There the daylight’s blood.
There the happy past and there,
There is no hope.
Poppies that have felt Dawn’s pure jewels
And adorned them
Felt them gone.
winter had come and gone
Never, thank heavens, to come and go again. It was
worse than all the other winters that have
Neared my home before, winters that have pinned me
close upon my hearth’s dear
I thought, this winter would have been, its icy
Oars smugly hitting the waves
adding to their anger’s
it seemed, until a woman’s voice,
Oh, a woman’s
will that winter shroud my hearth,
Never will I despair before its dead ashes!
Under her splendid wings this woman had
A different warmth,
A fire without ashes
And out of their deep myths she let out the
Elves and hobgoblins
that now whizz about. She
Opened the doors for
all the imps and sprites and leprechauns;
She replenished the air with all the
All erupting through the ashes!
Cry with a clear voice
Dapper little daffodil that you are
And here’s to you a blessing
From a grey-gold man afar:
Once there was wheat aplenty
And corn enough to make a
Winnow sing and once there were
Males aplenty, guiding the heavy
Ox-hooves to the threshing ring;
And there, among the obsequious
Oxen and the earth-lads I have seen-
Oh, I’ve seen what I’ve seen with
My young eyes I’ve seen!
Sprightly marble bodies once filled
My Grecian scene.
Dapper little daffodil, asphodel
That you are, stand you now dapper in
A dead bronze lantern among the
Of my mantel piece.
Getting up in the morning I’d say:
“Today I shall play among the straws of
The Earth and the Sun”
To my grandfather, and he’d suck me into his arms:
“Aye, that way to Heaven, go play in the sun,
Dapper little daffodil that you are!”
There goes Ikaros!
There flies Ikaros!
Hands deep in bees-wax, and
Feet deep in slimy sea-scum
Fallen down and
There goes Ikaros
Gored by the sun,
The master-mason’s son!
Trying, see him trying, with his right-angle
Staff, to measure (down to an ox-hoof) the
Awesome symmetry, the blissful symmetry of
My front yard,
My well-rounded day and all
The beats of my heart!
We’d sing this song all day!
Svelte sinews of wheat-gold, spinning
Sinews of even planets, calm sinews of
My river’s easy ripples, subtle sinews of
Marbles beneath the ancient soil and above.
These are the sinews of the blessing of that
Grey-gold old man afar.
Aplenty, aplenty, not so long ago
Aplenty, aplenty, the maidens and the
Gorgeous lads; aplenty the
Babies around me, aplenty the old folk
And only but a small pinch of decades
A click-clack of Time’s broad oars.
Aplenty then the water of this town’s well.
Glamorous Earth, glamorous men and women
Glamorous the aged and the not,
United with one blessing, one lust all.
Furrows dug deep in the worm-rich and scent-rich
Furrows above the brows of the lads
And the girls, and furrows deep in their groin –
Aplenty, aplenty the gods in their deep-furrowed
“Is this the way to Heaven, old man?”
“Aye, that way to Heaven – and here’s my
Blessing, the blessing of a grey-gold old man.
Not that of Ulysses, mind; shrewd bastard of the sea,
But that of a grey-gold old man, whose love is sky-Deep.”
Oh, grandfather, grandfather!
Aye, that way to Heaven my darling son’s son,
Remember my grandson, what a daffodil you are!
Thumb and third finger touching, raised
Through the raised window for the morning
Blessing, he made the sign of the cross in
The air above the whole village
I am that silly asphodel standing awkward in
A dead bronze lantern among the dead avant-garde.
Daffodil, Oh, Asphodel, Daffodil!
Deaf is the corn’s ear.
Deaf is the wheat’s ear.
Deaf is the mule’s ear,
And all the marbles are dug out.
Eased the rhythm of its harvest
Whenever my grandfather spread
His tremulous voice
All over the scented fields.
A good priest, bedridden with asthma.
Every Sun-peasant stopped, wiped the
Coarse trickles of earth-sweat and
Watched the summer birds swoop
Around the loudspeakers
Trying to get deep into its iron
The army had
Erected these new devices
After the War,
All over the fields
“For the purposes of peace-time
The colonel, an abreviated man,
Walked into my grandfather’s
Every noon, and –
Reverence curling his shoulders-
Asked the priest to “test the microphone.”
Neither he nor any of his soldiers
Was brave enough to test this new thing’s
My friends and I then, would take
An earthen jug of spring-water, some cheese
Made from the frothy milk of our four goats and some
Onions and ran up,
In my grandfather’s hayloft, or
By the banks of the childish river where
The air filled with his voice,
Transformed us into
Subtle men of the
Once a young corporal lifted me
Out from the hayloft’s window and
Took me to my grandfather’s bedroom
To blend my yet unbroken voice with that
Of the good priest.
My young friends crossed themselves in awe.
One thousand lions
Stirred gracefully in the old shaman’s
Grey, wispy silk as
He pulled me deep into his sun-flooded
He wore the cassock
Like royal regalia.
And my grandmother kissed me on the forehead
And whispered that she wished my parents were there
To hear me.
We sang Byzantine chants
That my parents later heard about
City of many new devices.
Blunt echoes the hips of over-
Garnished teenagers on the old
Rock ‘n Roll floor
And the stinging shouts of
Bosses and bureaucrat louts have
Returned -like all things return-
To their birth place;
And I like stewed fruit,
Slowly simmered for ever
With sugar and not-too-dear
In a billy,
Over a swaggie’s fire;
And silky cream
And strong black coffee for
Cool creeks, greened and scented by
Eucalypts vocalise my new
Birth and my ears search for the
Sounds of aboriginal myths and birds,
My eyes read the barks of old trunks and
My fingers -my heart’s tentacles-
Tease the earth looking for the plot with
The most sumptuous soil.
There are no Pheidian marbles nor ostraca here,
Dear parents, and
The photographs have
Lost their voices long ago.
With my dusk’s wine
The blunt echoes
Assemble the stars to draw some familiar
Just like that, they do it, easily,
Out of the dark blue,
Sharply but without the fury.
Above my skin float the curly talons.
A last gush of birth
Before Hell’s ravens get on with it.
The Brigitte Quartet
Like the eyes of a wolf that snarls
In a vampire’s forest
Two questions tighten my heart,
Will last night’s torment
Will last night’s torrential ecstasy
Like Vesuvius, brooding in Pompeii’s crimson
These eyes assemble my sins
The god who brings transcendental
Bliss in bed.
God, I need your imperatives:
“I want you to screw it, Mike,
“Love it, hate it, DO
Something with it,
“Make me come!”
“Don’t tell anyone at work!”
Let it be known:
I hate Kathy Acker for having taught me that
Creativity’s well is despair.
She’s wrong, and worse, she’s
A hypocrite, the squealing bitch-on-heat!
Despair is a dry well and
Creativity is drawn out of a bed and
You were in mine and I was creative then,
“Make me come!”
And other such commandments
Unspin me out of the night’s urgent
Whirlpool, like the voluptuous stench of a
Burning brothel and turn me into an ardent seed;
Thrashing frenzically to create.
“I would have come had you not touched
My lips with your fingers as we were screwing!”
“I would have come, had you not been
My eyes while we were screwing!”
“If you make me come I’ll do it,
And I’ll do more –
I’ll do all those things
You want me to do!”
To Brigitte, is
It’s a cold forest, Brigitte,
And desperate the snarl in the wolf’s belly.
You’re a tormenting miracle!
I won’t tell anyone at work.
My bed has become a well of dreams
And sometimes the hands of a benevolent wiseman
Guide me from behind
And sometimes the hands of a malevolent wizard
Force me from behind.
And sometimes, from behind,
Paganini gently stirs,
Gently stirs my fluids;
And sometimes Wagner
Ploughs them into icy clods,
As I approach this well.
And when I bend over its wide red-stone lips-
My right hand resting next to a truss of golden Marguerites,
Indolently animated, askew of Nature’s canons, and
My chin upon the index fingerprint of my left hand;
Sometimes I see the puzzle pieces of my own face
Superimposed over yours, or yours over mine,
And sometimes the pieces mingle
Upon the tranquil surface
And often the blobs are blood-red
And often the fine webs are jealousy-yellow
And often I want to jump into the well
Violently with the bloody blobs and with the
Jealousy webs and
Until my vocal cords become too taut
“Come back, Brigitte!”
I’ve managed to squeeze another glass
Out of this cask of unhelpful wine.
Red, fruity, Shiraz
That perculates my melancholy
And your consuming scents.
I remember the bright afternoon when
The sun parambulated lazily on the lips
Of our glasses.
That was a
Better wine, that;
Red, French and a little musky
That perculated my joy
At your promises of eternal company.
I drink in atavistic darkness
To facilitate the visits of
And to dismiss the light’s
Unhelpful forms and utterances.
I remember how difficult it was
To open that little oyster,
With my bare desire.
The ocean waters and smells filled
Me to the brim.
I had put the little bead in my mouth and
Threw the oyster and its home away.
I pay and pay for this mistake, Brigitte,
As I drink
I’ve developed a pain across
My left shoulder.
A tiger’s heavy paws
Rushing for the kill,
Her claws out,
Stomping all along from
The base of the neck to right inside the
Ball of sinews from where my arm begins.
Mysterious, diabolical, inexplicable
Penetrating and engaging,
Demanding much attention which I must
Ackowledge by rubbing angrily my fingertips
Into the bare skin.
Stupid old pain
Which others get in the chest-
The rubbing conventicle for the psyche and the body,
Which they must rub angrily with their fingertips.
Who have lived through a similar
Concantanation of night-desires,
Who lost themselves in the same rivulets of
An inguinal dream.
It’s like a thick, tight wire of steel
That suddenly springs into tautness
When the funumbulist
Ends her trick.
My eyes are frightened shut by an invasion of
Sparkling stars within an ever-
I fill my bath with myriads of virgin
With the aroma of musk
And therapeutic salts
Before I sink into it,
My left shoulder last,
But still the pain persists,
Calling back the anger.
I sleep badly these days
And it’s true:
The greyness and the wrinkles
And the bitter phlegm in my eyes
Become ever more prominent.
Still, must this stupid pain be so
Will it last?
How long will it last?
I hate women who have only one expertise:
To dexterously knit
Pullovers for their relatives
Whilst they are prodigiously making love.
Mothers of insouciance.
I hate love,
The most insidiously debilitating…
Your house is too far for me now;
Too far for my shattered knees
And for my less pertinacious will.
Oh, ho, but I make a plucky start
Full of bravado.
“Allegro!” once I’d command the swanky rhododendrons
Along your path
“Allegro, vivace! To my love’s abode!”
And quickly and with lusty violins
In the sweeping, Dionysiac breeze
They’d play the prelude
For a Pastorale Fantasia;
And in an instant I’d be there
My night’s discordant fantasies
Give me the morning bravado but,
I barely make it to
The rhododendrons now.
The young, welcoming breeze
Is now an old cantankerous chill
Attacking with the force of a dragon’s nostrils.
My spine becomes your quaver
To use at your capriccio’s need.
And the violins sound too ravenous.
So I turn back
Angry at my night.
All bravado but
To match your inconsonant cackle.
Limbochild before her arrival
I wondered in the cold hollow
Of blank, blank pages –
Particles of a demanding stillness.
Like ringing in one’s ears.
Virgin leaf after virgin leaf
I desterilised with thought potions
Veined by dictionary words
Which I chose as I choose the dead
Pricetags on the supermarket shalves.
Then I’d throw the leaves each and all
Over my head,
Angry at the Muse for rejecting my adjurations,
For leaving me alone with my tortuous passion,
For forbidding me to feel the pulse andthe
Purpose of my lung’s puff;
Or its cause.
I was imparadised suddenly. Sometime
Between mothrise and moondescent,
During the silky crackle of an opening cocoon-
A slowly opening crackle
Between one of her verses and another
As they emerged
From her bedfire.
I was crunbled,
Torn from my hollow,
Squeezed within the folds of this silky
Cocoon until the red light drained out
And then cast into her paradise;
Pinned amidst her fevered verse-sighs.
In bed she said:
“Look at me!” and:
“Don’t be so metaphysical!” and
“Don’t be so meta- so…quasi!
Look at ME!”
With wild elegance she paced around me
Kicking the crumbled thought-leaves
Here and there until,
Out of this airy chaos they came
To settle around her form,
Orderly around her form.
(The Woman Prophet)
Dare we anger the man-gods, sisters?
Their wrath will hurl the soul into oblivion,
Their punishment will tantalise Hades.
Now the tongues of once-solid Ilium are more
Incomprehensible than this woman’s tongue,
Who speaks with Apollo’s gift-punishment.
Svelte flames wrap their crimson heat
Around her cheeks,
Her ears, her hair; burning them,
Burning the meaning
Of the clamoring, coarse utterances
Of the women and of the children; the meaning
Of the men’s heroic death-sighs; the meaning
Of the lofty towers’ cries as they crash.
O, their tongues, good sisters, their tongues!
Once these women used their tongues to whisper
Medicinal words, to humble the chests of their man-gods.
Once, this woman dared to use her tongue
To say “no” to her lofty man-god;
Whom she served obediently and faithfully and
Kept his home-temple serviced and well-adorned with
Fine cloth of linen.
But his veins became turbulent when,
When but a child-virgin she dared.
The wooden steed, a death-belly of
Writhing men, a death-wound that
Billowed before it burst,
To spill the death-men out,
Is still looking proud, looking proud, down
Upon its vile accomplishment.
Still looking proud upon the hissing man-reptiles:
Once a proud king with fifty proud sons
And as many proud daughters;
And, down upon a tumbling city:
Troy that once was full of man-pride.
For each and everyone of us, sisters,
There’s an Apollo,
Master of the sky-flames and Lord of the
Whose wrath severs the tongue from the wit;
and a Locrian Ajax, whose own mortal wrath
Violates the body.
One man-god spawled into her mouth,
The other -a warrior- into her womb and,
Wit and tongue now, each alone, ramble.
Herbs, in a wrath-busy desert.
Violation is the affair of man-gods.
Dare we anger the man-gods, sisters?
Wives and mothers, sisters, next to the torn
Corpses, amidst the gashing flames
Tear the warning from their throats:
“Beware of the gifts of man-gods!”
Dare we say “no?”
Dare we say “yes” to the death-gods, sisters?
The proud man-victors reaped again
A plentiful woman-harvest.
Cauldrons within cauldrons
Spin in opposite directions
Our families have been friends for eons.
Their gates faced each other across a
Your father played a reedy instrument and
Mine, the three-stringed Pontian lyra; and you and I
And while, in the myrtle-scented air, you
Carried a sweaty urn on your shoulder – the urn’s
Edges softened by your thick silken plaits- I carried
Hay stacks to the stable.
Our mothers baked their bread in the clay-
Oven which your grandfather had built;
And behind your house stood fierce the tall
Mountain where Artemis roamed
With her hounds and from where the
Whines of the hungry wolves
Rushed to chill the bliss in our marrow.
Then, suddenly, like Spartan Helen,
They took you away-
“To the other end of the world, Australia,” the adults
Had told me
Like Spartan Menelaos,
I climbed aboard a ship
Dreams within dreams
Spin in opposite directions and
They’ve been spinning like this for
Over thirty years;
The muddy path still separates us.
Shy as the young shoots that
Move the showered dust
And leave the earthy womb
To climb the air’s silent mast
Stirred and showed
First file within my mind’s surprised
There they pressed and strained
And hovered silently,
Naked and yet unmade
And thus concerned the
Air within my lesson’s hour;
There! within that hour
The sun lifted the green shoot
Gave it swelling stem, flowered petals,
Swaying leaves and wholesome fruit that
Earth’s womb and Earth’s rife
Dust to dust and
Foetus to dust and in
The ever-ripening fruit whose colour
Apollo’s radiant tune.
Chalk dust to green shoot and
Clayed dust to humor and in
The thoughts that multiply
By fertility chants
Of lusty delights and
Of classroom unquiet rites.
I see that this year’s harvest
Is plentiful, thanks to the
Sun’s radiant grace.
The hollow reed ploughs,
Gently ploughs its gurgling song
Deep into the Earth’s
A black’s song, a black’s reed
A black’s conquered Earth.
Conquered, conquered but
Not vanquished -a soul is
Earth! Gutted by voracious fingers,
Expertly gutted, this sanguine Earth;
Churned and burned,
Dexterously “developed” by
The wisest and the most virtuous
Will mutate when the plundering
Is terrible enough. But
The hollow reed still sends
The soothing song, those
Ancient phrases of gratitude
To her who mothers no wrong,
Deep-sprung from empathetic entrails:
Heart and guts;
Crying lungs and a spleen full of wails.
Life-breathing spirits, not gods
Weave the song’s folds,
Weave dexterously and gently plough,
Sun-soil into soul-song;
Spirits that search
For that dream-born seed
With a black’s
And then, after you drew deeply into
That stupid substitute and let the
Smoke slowly creep out of your nostrils
To smudge your face,
“How was I?”
You were like the anxious express train
That leaves this city’s tube at 6.02 am
Commuters are always caught stranded by
Its anxiety and even before they shut the
Doors behind them they hear:
“All aboard!” and
Off you go!
Chugging through station after station
Non-stop and breathless:
The dining room
The front garden-
The back garden-
On the floor-
Halfway up the wall (your
Screams distracting the
Astronauts from their stellar duties)-
On the table -legs straddling the kitchen sink-
Outside, under the pergola (late into the night now)
Your fire attracting the moths-
Chug-a-lug, chug and
My grip on the strap of reality
Is slipping fast.
Chug before we finally reach the
Bed and I’m screaming with anxiety because
I’m still in the kitchen and
I think that I’ve missed the bus that takes me to
This city’s tube!
Chug-chug, chug-a-lug, chug!
Off you go!
That’s how you were –
I parked my imagination
One metre in front
Of your window and let it
Voyeurs drool over sights like these
I am no exception.
Beneath your whorish expression
Your breasts stay firm and
Defiant against gravity even
After you’ve removed your folded arms
From under them and
Yanks at my intestines.
The lustrous thunderbolt in your groin
Point to primal oceanic dawns
The misty origins of life
Make a wind-up toy of
You turn slowly,
Your arms, like a floral halo,
Surround your face;
Like a Henry Miller whore you sway
A pale yet exuberant pear
Complete with a minute stalk from
My mouth opens to reveal
Extending canines dripping with
You ask -silly fool!
“Do I have a good figure?”
Wanna do that again?
Christ’s thorn-crown spinned
Inside the captain’s belly when
I brought out a photograph of
He said, and his trembling finger
Pointed somewhere beyond the foreign sunbathers
And the seagulls.
Then, as if in front of an
Icon and if in need of penitence, he took off
His black captain’s hat -heavy regalia!- and sat next
“That’s where I used to live. If you look closely…”
He stopped there.
If you look closely!
A half-dissolved soul with a
Turbit view of Nature’s laws; of the
Fate that had brought him to these lotusful shores.
“I can still smell the sweet scent of jasmine,”
He said after a while.
“Would you believe,
I can still smell the jasmine on my mother’s grave.”
Send me some seeds
From the apple tree in your
Back yard and, tell me
Do the sparrows still visit your
Stretched open palm?
See if you can get in touch
With the old gypsy who had left his
Rolling occult clan and
Settled down at my old street.
Tell him about me and ask him
To send me some of his wine-music.
Any song will do. Tell him also that I hear
His violin often.
God, is he dead?
God, I wish we could visit the past just
Charged by mist-hidden Fates
Standing argus-eyed on planks firmed
Upon a hull that bulged
Above the sea’s head plumes
Like a man’s chest-muscles raised to a pose.
Jason’s prize, the golden fleece, at her feet.
Long she had travelled
Dividing the sun from the sea
The star from the dream, the
Tide-in from the tide-out;
Between Aiolus’ bright moods and bleak
Upon that air-cutting deck
The hull beneath her slicing the everdeep
With the urgent force of home-bound rowers
Like a screeching vulture slices the marrow
Like an escape-fury the reason
Like a plough the earth-flesh.
All this, to escape the savage whitchery
Of her frosty home:
The magic of a golden fleece and a father,
Lord of dragon-teeth and of fleshless warriors.
All this to escape.
She travelled long in a man’s vessel until
The feathers of the birds
And the faces of the rowers changed.
The Man then moored the ship’s stern and made firm its bow
And then, raising proudly on one shoulder the fleece and on
His other shoulder this woman-
Sun-gathering prizes both-
Took them both past the squacking seagulls and into
Demetre’s domain of earth harvests,
Of soil smells, of pig litters;
And of the inconstancy of men.
But when her breasts sagged by marriage
Jason dropped her from his shoulders and
Left her for a brightly tressed princess.
The frost inside Medea snapped again
And she prayed to the mist-hidden Fates
Jason’s glance made many turns:
Now manly covetous, now manly benevolent,
Now manly feeble until
It finally rested firmly upon his naive princess.
So, perdurable Medea
Brought out from her long-shut chest
Long-dormant savage skills and with them
Clashed against Demetre.
Then, with a savage storm of hate
This ever-migrant sailed off again
The blood of her children still clotting
Around her knife
Jason’s immense grief cutting his body into
What is a wife, then, if not a torturer’s tool?
What is a mother, if not a suckling’s tomb?
What is a woman, if not a man’s begemmed snare?
What is a man, if not the maker of the tool and of
The tomb and -all at once- of his own snare?
Matador’s eyes scorch the turbulent
agate dust in the ring’s air and, like a serpent’s
rasp, the sacrificial beast
yanks at the earth under its belly.
Matador and bull with serrated will
exact each other’s
intent for just a little while before the
loud lamb’s untimely, unexalted
Sirens sing no more your artful song
Odysseus has endured you and gone
Gone to endure some more of Polyphemus’
Throat and lyre strung in tune, two snares
In harmony to make the seas’ farer swoon before the
Whims of Aeolus spread the strength of their
Lure upon lure the throat and the lyre
Cast golden and silver breezes and
Tied firmly to my ship’s tall mast, pressed hard
Against the ropes that my children cast
To see me through
Your artificial ruse.
Gone is Odysseus, sirens who tear the sailors’ flesh;
He’s known you
And known the clouds and thunder that broad-voiced Zeus
Had rolled the one within the other;
Circe’s webs and her wizard’s wand; known
The heaving purple waves and winds that
Shrilled and hurled their ever-frothing fear
Across the hollow black ship’s
Burnished bow, smashing the oars of
Unburied now and without their oars,
Nor proper rites as Fates decreed,
Their bones will, by the ever-folding waves,
Be ever made to roll
The one upon the other.
Their spirits will wander through Hades’ groaning halls
Cleansed, stripped and purged of
All their sin-steeped flayed flesh,
Foolish leather sacks, one and all,
True mates and fools, both each in turn.
A worldful of thoughts and deeds.
Relentless demons, fiery chills;
Noises and voices of people and their cities that
I’ve known; some lofty and firm, some low,
All in turn, after the tallest citadel of all:
Stony Ilium, Zeus-nurtured, Priam’s splendid home
Where I slaughtered maddened bulls, a hekatomb of
Fattened rams with curvy horns
And ewes and scrumptious lambs;
Burned their thick thigh-pieces to appease the
Ever-angry gods, and
Until the wide flames burned the flesh and bones
Of all of Priam’s men.
Noises and voices that beguile and kill,
Meek and murderous like Klytaimestra’s
Murderous skill and her welcome smiles
And like Helen’s ghostly wiles –
So many voices did she craft beneath the
Silent woodcarved art; and I denied them all;
I have denied and have endured them all.
Then I slaughtered the haughty suitors all
With my artful bow and killed all their sluts
And cleansed my halls and purged Penelope’s
Sagacious mind of all its doubt-sent ghosts.
Cleansed and purged like my comrades’ bones
All proper and as the Fates decreed.
I’ve known you, sirens and now I’m gone.
At home I stand and through its columns I gaze
As I gazed before
Upon Calypso’s full-wooded yearning-shore,
Forlorn, forlorn and comradeless, without their
Precious, precious noises and voices!
Ever-tortuous dreams, that roll and roll
The one into the other,
More tortuous now then ever before.
I am ever gone.
Climates sped past
Since that first pulse
Rippled through my umbilical cord
Since that first pulse
Women fertilised my soul.
And of them all
None did so fastidiously draw the earthy
Nerves upon its soil. None
Dug, tilled and aired with such a gentle hoe, so
Elegantly and in such exquisite
Symmetry as did
My recent acquaintance, who, yet with an
Injured wrist did lovingly
Enter my flinty Greek field with a
Restorative wit and lusty humus.
A mixture of Irish and…
And something else.
Mysterious concoction of spirits.
Then we hurriedly kissed
our loved ones
and stepped aboard the floating city
that bore the name of a queen (some said she was half crazed).
Then we looked down from her balustrades,
by oceanic climates,
into the crowd whose ankles were pinned
aground like those of young Oedipus,
lest they escaped their own fate.
And while my sister and I chirped at each
other, my mother undid the kerchief
from her flowing hair
and turning back her head,
waved. Her children tugged eagerly at her skirt
but this wasn’t Sodom and
Gomorrah and she wasn’t afraid of
turning into a pillar of salt.
Our father was waiting.
Then the engines cranked beneath our feet,
the diesel clotted in the winter air
and we left the solid
soil of Greece to plunge into Poseidon’s moody water.
And we heard the laughter other gods, too.
From that moment on, we became their toys.
Poseidon Apollo and Aiolos, each
in turn, had his cruel fun with us
-migratory birds with their wings
glued together by village children:
Whimsical Aiolos spinned gentle breezes into
murderous pasture, its wild-life swelling the waves.
Then he would make tall, weighty
folds with the waters and let loose the
snake-headed gorgons upon us.
Will he never forget Odysseus’ sin?
And Apollo, who’d play childish games of hide-
and-seek with his chariot,
turning the sky into a vast opal
stone one moment and a slab of black
granite of woe the next;
and we all had witnessed the handiwork of
many other gods as we passed through their meridian precincts.
And the nights!
These moons didn’t
attract the distant wolf-
cries or the creeking doors or the
moans of branches bending by the
determined night storms.
Neither village nor city sounds approached us.
Only the salty claws tearing at the ship’s
flesh and at our own strength.
Will we pass the gods’ endurance test?
How long before our own ways will be vanquished?
And will we, like Odysseus’ men, kill
Apollo’s sacred cows?
The adults shed tears as our ship travelled
reverently over Ageas’ green tomb
and they pointed soft fingers at the whitewashed
rocks above it.
We had left behind the music of the Greek stars,
passed through the narrow canal that
separated the giant continents, slowly,
lest we disturb the quiet of the sands over which
History slammed tight her doors.
Green land became yellow
and our hull hurried through
Buheirat Murrat et-Kubra,
the Bitter Lake and entered the waters of the
On our right, Ethiopia where
Poseidon came in the days
when this land was splendid, to receive a
hekatomb of fattened bulls
and lambs and the other Olympians
had worked in his absence to save Odysseus.
Many the soils
and stones of earth
but girdled are they all with
Our charts guided us to harbours
where glistening blacks neared our ship
and with comic gestures and sad
words, sold us their trinkets.
we were sent and from these ports
we gathered small samples of wares,
ate the food there,
compared the water,
listened to the strange speech,
made our nostrils aware of the air,
learned and mocked these people’s
ways and postures, gave alms to
putrid mendicants and replenished the
cellars and pantries of the ship-queen and all her workshops.
Once a kind steward aboard, who
played sweetly at the mouth-organ told us that this ship had an ill destiny.
That this was her last voyage
and the first she ever made to Australia.
That the captain wasn’t familiar with the
starweb of the southern
night skies and after we’d reach our
own end this ship would head for the
watery graves of America.
But another steward caught sight of our
and of the swing of his glassy eyeballs
and broke the black magic of the song:
“Have no fear,” this second steward said.
“Our captain is wise and well-learned
in the ways of all the waters.
He’s a Greek after all and as captains go,
the whole world knows there are no better!”
We had a ceremony as we passed over the
equatorial waters and
priests of many religions blessed the
vastness of the sea’s surface and
pagan rituals were also performed and
petitions were made to the sea spirits for calm.
And Poseidon heard and nodded his broad face.
A few days later we had celebrated Christmas.
We called the hierophants again and they,
in their glittering regalia, gave glorious
witness to Christ’s birth.
Then, one still night,
after the days had rolled the one
into the lap of another many times,
when the stars had changed
their formation again and again,
when all the climates reversed their
garments and when all the
ports and their people looked the same,
when we had tempered with all the
temples and altars and shrines,
someone called out across the whole length of the deck:
We all rushed immediately to the bow
and looked earnestly into the night’s horizon.
Our knees bent at the sight of this land’s
lights and an immense sigh rose from us.
Two thousand people or so, strained
their imagination’s bow to hit at omens.
We stopped there all night and greeted Australia’s Dawn.
O, ho! Dawn, mother!
Look, Australia’s Dawn!
Look how brazen she looks and she
clothed with the finest raiment:
Penelope’s silken threads, Laertes’ dazzling shroud.
O, ho, mother, look!
Look, behind that splendid tapestry
is our father, waiting with a dream,
in a land that is reluctant to leave
the dream’s fabulous realm.
We harboured the next morning and
we wandered dazed through the streets
of her first port.
At Freemantle we bought sandwiches
for the first time, and milkshakes
from milk bars that were owned by Greeks,
waited in queues at souvenir shops to buy
more trinkets from
Saxons with business smiles.
Our eyes and ears worked well with the
We rolled new sounds in our mouth
and studied the architecture
for the next four hours.
We walked the asphalt roads back
and forth and proved the textbooks
and the glossy brochures
wrong for we saw
no blacks or gold-paved streets.
At midday the engines rolled true again
and we looked with brazen arrogance at
With prideful chests we boasted,
rolled our souls deeper
and deeper into the mire of hubris:
Are we not stronger than him?
Have we not beaten him at his own game?
Do we not know the seas better than him?
Ha! Is not our captain Greek?
How stupid mortals are!
How worthy of their Punishment!
How little they do learn from their mistakes!
Had not Odysseus made the same mistake?
And someone had called out:
“These are Australian waters,
fools! Olympian gods, all other gods, must
surrender here their authority to the
gods of the Antipodes and
terrible often is the clash before the surrender!
And even before Apollo could
warn us, by hiding his chariot, say, or
by sending some bird to fly in a way
that knowledgeable seafarers
or by some such sign which he often sends
to humans when Poseidon’s wrath is imminent;
even before that, a cyclone,
born out of Summer’s centre but with Winter’s will,
rose mountains of sea spume
above us and hollowed deep caverns below us.
And this cyclone whirled his liquid
coil with wild speed and
our ship spinned like a lost sparrow
before Poseidon’s thundering
mouth and our bodies were flung
savagely against moaning timbers
and the rusting steel of the crazed queen.
Our captain became busy then,
signals which were lost in the white spays.
The loud speakers called for
calm in many languages and the
stewards rushed about double-tide strapping life-
jackets on people’s shoulders and mopping the
The hierophants rolled their hands,
prayers and eyeballs at the heavens and,
all the while,
the wailing rose higher and
choked pitifully, for the gorgons
emerged from their dark caves in ever-
great numbers and their intent looked
calamitous and they fastened panic
hard into our hearts.
The snakes sprung out from the gorgons’
heads and lashed and flogged the
migrants furiously and played with the cyclone
with chimeras and ghosts and spectres
all in death’s red cauldron for
four days and nights until someone
yelled for all the elements to hear:
“These are truly Australian waters!”
and so the Antipodean gods finally prevailed.
The Great Australian Bight was then
released from horror’s grip and our own beaten
gods rushed back to Olympus.
Then the currents dragged us and the
weary queen slowly towards the end of our voyage,
into Melbourne’s night.
Only we, the children and the steward
with the mouth organ are on deck.
He played and this city’s lights began to
mingle and dance with the stars.
“Look how Australians dance and make love,”
he said and we could see that this wasn’t a
Greek village wedding.
For a second, the music of the Greek stars
echoed in our ears, then faded again
and we searched the concert of this
strange heaven for the new music.
We looked at the map once again.
Only one tomorrow left on this floating city.
Our father was waiting.
I’ve trimmed off the mould from the
The Swiss cheese then wrapped it up with the
Fresh cheese cloth.
The persimons are ready, finally, and they
Will go well with the cheese and a glass
Of cool water.
I’m off for my morning constitutional
And if I’m not back by
Eleven at the latest, call the under-
Tell him I’m lying somewhere along the footpath,
On the road
Between here and
I can hear you saying
“Silly old goat!” as you’re reading this
I can see the “ts, ts!” on the edges of
I love all that!
He died upon the cross,
Like a true Lib. boy
Upon this election’s cross,
Oh boy, oh boy!
Live on, our lad
Live on our boy and
Point your cheeky pen at
Look at them all,
And no one to keep them honest!
Draw on, our brave lad,
Cry on, our melancholy boy,
Oar on, guide our ancient boat of Democracy
Through the tears,
Through the parliamentary blood
Of the Libs who’ve forgotten that
Liberty’s not a Torry toy!
Our own little bloody
Stone for hours
He, beneath the Palm and
She, beneath the Cypress
The ancient allegories
Rose and fell -breaths and sighs
Of a crimson evening-
Was too far to frighten them.
“Tell me a story,” he said -not in as
She began with
The death of a great English
City, the first for the Anglo Saxons.
(The Cypress giggled
And some of the Palm’s leaves fell
As its king crumbled.)
They drank of Tristan and Isolde’s wine
-which was no wine at all, as it
happened, but a benevolent aphrodisiac-
And the night moved closer with feline
“Tell me a story,” she said -not in as
He began with
The wedding of Achilles’ parents.
Then, the breaths took them all the way to Troy
And all the way back again
Right up to
The death of Klytaimestra, the queen who had
Murdered her husband who had
Murdered their daughter.
Ah, the stories!
Her stories flowed like indolent
Honey from a forgotten beehive whilst
His scalloped their backs up
Against the shimmering
Chestnuts of her eyes, wanting to get in-
to her indolent foams.
The crimson dissolved
Stone for hours
Gargoyle was still
Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
(With thanks to Keats, Shakespeare and Homer.
and apologies to Yevtushenko and Longfellow for
having made no use of them. )
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, o mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou this heartsome bull?
O Aussie shape! O fair gait without the fairly well-
Lavished Aussie belly!
Thou were truly bred with this
Parched land’s frothy beer and well-trodden jam do-nuts
And canteen apple pies.
Bred were thou to breed and make many
Passionate maidens overwrought,
Yet thou art still sluttish Time’s unravished groom.
Thou foster child of trivial Age and slow Pulse.
Silvery man, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than all the stars’
Enchanting harmony. What leaf-fringed legend
Haunts about thy shape? What men, or women, or gods are
These that bear you high to that altar?
What maidens see I pursue your sluggish, stolid gait?
Alas, these are no maidens true,
But mark-anxious female scholars!
And God help thee if darest thou to plant
The number forty nine
Upon their much-caressed CATs! The giggling fools!
Curses to Socrates and all his peripatetic schools!
And what pursuit is this I see?
Oh, ho! How maddened the struggle to
Escape the age of forty nine!
O, Forty Nine! Betwixt fairest Venus’ Sixty Nine
Charms and thee, thou art the fairer of the two
For thou art the most desired!
O, fair un-youth, o un-young Forty Nine!
O Edwin! Fairest, hairfulest youth that
Once thou were -and art still but by just
One unjust year!
But just one year! What is one year?
‘t is not an eon, nor an epoch, nor an era by which to
Measure the paths of steadfast glasiers.
Huff, puff my man!
One year, one day, one hour, one moment,
All this is but one fractured whiff of Time’s
Most fragrant, endless garden!
O kind, generous, loving, sugar-packed Edwin! O true
Blue mate! Thy voice doth, indeed, teach the
Universe to sing as Shakespeare’s Juliet did teach the
Torches to burn bright that night when his star-crossed
Lovers first came to make their illicit meeting.
Such is thy voice
And so, I go on more upon thy graces.
Thy heart is a psychologist’s spinning nightmare
And purse-delight; a small pouch which money shuns
But people coagulate within it.
Thy mind is mine own cross and crossed bemusement and
Amusement and, though thou art a true sage, thou art
Wrong, wrong, so manifestly wrong, Edwin,
When thou doth debit thyself with all-consuming age –
For thou art not consumed, least of least, not of age
But of thine own gentle heart and inability to say “no”
To people and to do-nuts.
So thou art wrong and oft’ did I so debit thee!
These Fifty Years form no altar but a number.
One number as is one note in the infinite firmament’s,
Sublime music. Alter the note and this music is but a
Piper’s meagre, airy tune –
Small sighs for peasant child-lovers.
Ah, happy, happy branches of Life’s forest! that cannot
Shed your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
Forever warm and still to be enjoyed,
Forever panting, and forever a slow-pulsed youth;
Love to thee from thy friends, our friend, Edwin,
Is all the same, whether we say -each to all-
Good morrow or good night!
And so, remember, aged mate that
When Old Age shall this generation of well-girdled
Men and maidens waste,
Thou shalt remain, one friend to one man,
And I’ve been spitting faeces
Of the rebelious Aussie bulls
For over fifty, asinine verses!
Morning follows this two-year-old
Dew covers her little forehead
As she crawls from kitchen to
Dragging her plaster shackles behind.
Legs and waist
In plaster that weighs but does not arrest this
From the book to the puzzle to the
“You ready now? One, two,
Free!” and the V.W. screeches to a
Halt way down at the other end of the lounge hall.
“Now, ‘Dwina’ll get it,” she says and the
Plaster tries to hold her back like a
Brake that’s stuck at the wheel.
“You ready now?” And the fresh life within her
Moistens the wisps of corn-silk above her eyes.
From book to puzzle to toy and then-
Plaster worn at the knees-
Outside she goes, where Earth’s first dawn firmed well its
Around this girl’s bush home,
A home that’s as determined to hold back the
City-speculator’s asphalt rush, as she is to run.
With operatic calls she defies Sunset and Night and
The cot and –
It’s morning all day here, around
Edwina’s home, around Dawn’s bush palace,
Hear the soul of the elm simmer,
The brook’s froth curls in our direction;
Hear the woman’s marble shoulders
Divide that brook’s gentle path.
Hear the birds ascending and descending
Amid the ribbons of the slow wind.
So much past has passed
Through that elm’s leaves
Through the blood petals of
Through Van Gough’s cypresses-
Yellow flames that make the
Elm’s soul simmer!
Women come and go
One by one
Baring their marble shoulders,
Their poppy-lips move gently and
Promise not to divide
My brook’s path
And conjure up the ribbons
Amid which the birds will float again.
Women come and go
But I refuse to travel anywhere
Except to the sun above the
Music In The Shadows
My Art Teacher
Today’s Art Lesson
Breakfast at Laura’s
Fifty Springs and Summers
Outside the Dingo’s Den
Spring to Spring
Tout est Calme
The Tragedy of the Mask
When the Salmon Women Left
Age O, Age!
You are abominable.
I’m now squirming like a worm chased by a
I above the earth and
You below it.
You, Age chase and I, the poor worm
This is the age that makes the quill’s tracings
faint though the pressure upon it reddens the fist,
though the determination to leave a trace
This is the age that boiled dread in Methuselah’s heart
and this is the age when Mammon’s maggots gather round
to suck what little life remains in your eyes
what little blood remains in your fist
I have sunk my nostrils deep into a
handful of soil and smelled the beauty of resting rot.
Tranquil rot is there in that handful of soil
and beauty in that rot.
No, rot is not odious,
I’m not afraid to rot,
joining the leaves and bones that still push
the quill with reddened fist, that try hard to leave a trace
of their soul.
I’m truly afraid of Mammon’s maggots
that come before the beautiful rot, that come with
I am afraid of the maggots that you,
have sent to eat at me:
Money bag carriers, interest rate watchers,
Dealers in other people’s properties,
in other people’s lives.
“Now trim the lines and
lace them with shadows –
very important the shadows!
Mozart’s adagiettos and all of
his despair wait there,
there, beneath the web of those charcoal
shadows,” sang her fingers.
my charcoal digs, jabs and pummels at
the white breeze on the canvas
and there now are my shadows,
the shadows my art teacher is looking for.
There, are Mozart’s adagios,
there, the damned violins that always
make my heart cave in
and there, there, in the same shadows is
the reason for asking
this art teacher
to teach me
“Very, very important the shadows!
Tomorrow we’ll be working with
the oil-dipped bristles.
Tomorrow the pagan plumes will fly and
the shadows will not be shadows but
Wait for it,” her fingers sang
again, at the end of the lesson.
I can see their song in those shadows:
I must be learning!
I always listen to my Art teacher
and do as she says.
She can tell the difference between an ugly
and a beautiful worm
and between that of the living
and the dead sperm
simply by placing the thumb of a stretched arm
up against a brush and looking past it.
I listen to my Art teacher
and do as she says.
Oils or water today?
Today I’ve succumbed to my
Art teacher’s behest and looked at
a bowl of fruit she placed
at the edge of my cluttered
Today she has taught me that only
swaddled Lazarus would consider
apples to be spheres –
living zoographers know that apples
cubes, damn it!
And that the charcoal’s sinews on the canvas
configure them as such: cubes, cubes, cubes,
Today she placed a brush at the
peak of an apple, swung it this way
and I’ve discovered
the hidden lines
“Slow the thinking down
and rush the charcoal stick; look,
look at the total bowl and not at the single fruit,
the fruit is not an island,”
oh, God, save me!
“Don’t use your own eyes but that of the fruit, look,
look, look at that apple! What is its view of the pear? Hah?”
Look with the eyes of that apple!
“Art,” said Degas, “is not
a matter of what you can see but what
you can make other people see.”
I told my art teacher that.
I said to her that Degas said that it’s
what other people see, not
can see and she said that
Degas was a narrow-minded, blinkered twit
who was dead.
So I squinted and bent in front of the apple.
It was green.
We dug our feet in the cool mud of the water
melon patch, at the edge of our village
played with words and heart beats, mixing the two
like oil and vinegar while the other peasants teased
the earth’s belly and gathered the sunflower
But then the heads of the flowers fell and the shepherd’s
we were chased by the wind
each to our own sealed house.
Oh, hot song of the fire place!
See the elm tree dancing in the fire? You gave birth to it!
Oil, vinegar and elm, flute songs and heart beats,
are wished into love
because of you
in that ash womb with that hot song of fire!
How you made solid the clay around my feet!
Shall we imagine that we’re dancing to that elm tree’s tune again?
How long before summer comes again, I wonder.
Let the breakfast be spread!
Let the homemade preserves and the
Marmalades and the toasting bread
Unlock and each to each marry their hearth-sighs!
Let the essence of blueberry and
Wheat fill our air.
Each to each, the cheese and the sweet melon
The grapes and the butter,
Let them all declare their love for each other
Here, at Laura’s morning table!
Each to each,
Our own autumns weave their mellow colours here,
At Laura’s sunrise garland.
This sumptuous marriage of sight and taste,
This glorious and prodigious gathering
Of earthly declarations of love marks the very moment of
The blossoming of May’s autumnal bud.
See here, the nectar beckon at the bee, and there,
The berry’s petal turning to the Sun’s eye!
Hear now the symphony of stout, male fingers kneading the dough,
The big breasted women at the stone-oven’s fiery jaw, singing
The happy songs of a plentiful harvest!
This is no woman kept in a velvet-and-glass
Case to be taken out only for Sunday shows
To gather prize ribbons and trophies for her keeper.
This is no such woman at all!
This is a woman whose mind and heart do split frivolities
And go to the core of the matter –
Who knows Nature’s ebb and flow –
Able to give one a breakfast
Crammed full of Nature’s virtues.
Each to each then, you and I
Let’s drink tea from the wild mountainside
And let’s toast to the merry Fates who brought our autumns
Here, at your table.
Lazarus had an easier task, I think, raising from the dead
Than I will have, raising from this table!
Let that dingo howl and let it
rave, let it snarl at the full moon all night,
every night from now on.
the hand that fed it
for many years.
Fed it well;
fed its sloth and fed all its craving,
made it fat despite all its wailing
and all its whining
for many years.
let it roam all the territory wild
let its teeth foam fear and bile
into other animals;
let it sniff around the dens of all the
let him sniff them clean of all sympathy
for all I care now – I cared enough
for many years.
It’s mad, the bastard, it’s
bloody mad and I,
I’ll not be his
warrigal bitch for
one moment longer!
If I were there
That moment when the jasmine first turned white,
That moment when the white dove
Lifted its wings for its first flight,
If I were there that moment when the poppy first put on its flaming garb,
When the bursting cherry first offered its luscious flesh –
Moments which, beholding them would make all other moments marred
Could forfeit them all still,
For that moment when our own flesh first obeyed
Our bursting heart’s decree
And shed garb after garb
To make our bed the nest of
Our love’s boundless greed.
Let the fingers stop their endless dancing:
their high kicks and low kicks and whirls upon the key board!
Let the net be gathered and the words be weighed:
toss them back if they’re far too light,
send them off if they’re plump and juicy enough
for a nourishing meal!
Come, press “send” now!
(To my sister A.)
Fifty Springs and Summers have weaved their charm
Upon her face and let
Flow gently through her every vein their scents and
Gurgling disposition –
Heating her heart against the icy ravages of
Fifty Autumns and Winters.
Sublime blossoms and full-flavoured
Crops have been
Gathered from her because of these
Fifty Springs and Summers.
Spring rolled upon Spring and
Summer upon Summer,
Each Spring and Summer conquering
The Autumns and the Winters that rolled between them.
See? There’s no Winter’s hurt evident upon her face,
Nor any sign of Autumn’s sullen spirits
Anywhere about her compass!
Son after son after son yet again, have eaten of her
Spritely fruit, have received the arms of her love,
Have grown tall because of her heart
Because of her well-lit hearth,
Because of the Fifty Springs and Summers
That have settled well into her soul.
Husband and sons, brother, nephews, nieces,
Parents, uncles, aunts, in-laws, outlaws and friends,
All felt this woman’s Fifty Springs and Summers
And with her felt the power to vanquish
All their own Autumns and Winters.
Let me, her brother, tell you,
This woman, named to honour an ancient Goddess for her
Wise effect upon her subjects, has truly grown, yet grown not old.
This woman, is but
Beautiful woman, both,
Aspect and in soul,
In all things visible and not.
Let that orchid leave
Let it fall
wherever its fat belly may bend
or wherever its bells may toll
for it stands tall for one
the immortal earth,
giver of all birth,
will charm and enchant and live on,
to enjoy the bulbs and seeds of other
You’ll live on,
Let your eyes come out of that dark hole,
The dingo’s dirty stall, the
where the sun’s nourishing eyes are
stopped dead at its entrance.
This is the crypt where the frenzied fates crawl
scrape at the damp soil looking at the dark
instead of the future.
Frenzied the fates, because they find scavenging fleas
instead of Time’s seeds.
Dark enough the past, dark enough the crypt
to snuff out the whiteness of
Jasmine and the sighs of frangipani –
Too far this place from where you were born.
Let your eyes answer the call of the Sun now
let them come out to where His warm rays
bloat the cherries and the persimons
in people’s gardens –
I can see them in mine! –
Cherries and persimons and plums, bloated
red, bursting with rich
blood and flesh,
and they inhale life, not death,
Leave now the dingo’s dirty manger
where sloth and heavy slumber
sit broadly on the eyelids and on the soul
and where stomach and throat are bloated with
growls and wails and
the mouth is full of the foam of hate and anger.
Let your eyes come out and see
Life’s whirling theatre under the
Let them roll out crystals of joy
into the arms of this heart-cleansing
Let your eyes come out,
come out and
I am no Aeolos,
gatherer of all the winds, the god who once helped Odysseus,
the Great ancient seafarer;
Nor am I Prometheus the Titan,
gatherer of hopes and horrors
who gave a wedding present to his sister-in-law.
Pandora the first woman.
But I am a gatherer of dreams.
I have gathered all the evil dreams and locked them away
in heavily-shackled chests.
Chests of the evil.
Gathered, too, of all the nightmares that
crowd and screech
with anger at sleep’s door
all of horror’s shadows that dig their claws at the
edges of innocent night-rooms.
Night-rooms of the innocent.
drop by drop, I have gathered, too, the cold drops of fear
and of melancholy that gather
around the wounded brow and moisten the night-pillow
Night-pillow of the wounded.
All these things are free no more.
Free, I have left only the cheerful dreams that fly
within the breaths and sighs of gentle slumber.
Left free, too, such thoughts that fuse
the bee’s sacred nectar with
the lover’s smiles
the scents of mellow wines to mingle with
the spirit of your wiles.
They will be the only visitors who’ll come to your bed
I have gathered all the bell ringers from all the belfries
in the world
bid them cover their bells with velvet when they call their morning roll.
I have gathered all the stars and
bid them soften their gaudy dance above your house tonight.
Noble Dawn and brilliant Sun I have urged to make their feet less quick in the morning,
and to spread their fingers open across the sky even more gently.
So, leave loose the latch of your sleep’s door
Rest easy and Dream.
Let only me, the gatherer of dreams, come in
Stop now the flying steeds that roll Sun’s
Through its Winter Path;
Stop, too, the fork-tailed swallows from circling our chimney’s
Stack, looking for hints of Winter.
I’ll have no more of this season,
No more of Winter!
Let not the pine cones fall
The forest leaves lose their illustrious youth and
Go now to
Tell the chilling Boreas to stay North a while longer
Lock well in heavy-chained chests all of
Winter’s icy garments.
Let not Winter come!
Let stand the men’s axes by the wood shed and
Hold them from building their rude pile of fire-wood
I want to see
The sparrow’s beak dig yet into a warm, summer soil.
Hold back all clouds and all their ever-blustering
Thunders and lightning.
I’ll have no more of this season
No more of Winter!
Let me see the night sky smile her usual million
Summer smiles still.
Don’t ask me where last Autumn or Winter went – I felt none of them
This past year
Having spent it all -from Spring to Spring
Near Spring’s most bright and most dear blossom.
Let not Autumn or Winter come.
Not by Nature’s design
Nor by Divine will
Oh, let next year and all years to come be just like the last:
Love, born in Spring and Spring continuing still.
The village vespers ended abruptly.
The grass turned into cold ash and the
And we began the anxious search.
Behind every mocking star, behind the
we searched for the dove which your
graceful palms had sent
off to promenade
amidst the summer night breezes.
And the summer grass!
Oh, the summer grass!
We had searched all night for that dove,
Spinning the cold ash into flying havoc
with our naked bodies.
Sometimes I look up at the night-sky,
This, southern, night-sky, thousands of miles
away and too many decades later
and I still search the stars and the moon tips
from whose company that dove was rent
And always my search ends at that
deep, hollow, grey horizon beneath which
we embraced for the first and last time
that had sprung up from
that summer grass
And so the gatherer has gone to sleep
Next to his lover
Within his lover’s dream
All the nightmares are fully shackled inside a heavy chest
Well away from Laura’s bed.
The stars have lowered the noise of their gaudy dance
The bells will soften their morning peel
The bees will fly more gently back to their queen
In the morning
To lengthen this night’s loveful sleep
So sleeps the gatherer of Dreams
A lover within a lover’s dream
A hoper within a hope’s
Next to his lover
Contented within Laura’s
Feast of lover’s dreams.
God, I hope I don’t snore!
“All is well!”
sonne la cloche
Aujourd`hui et demain
Toujours, tous les jours.
“All is well!”
Will ring the bell
Pour notre éternité
Just for us!
“Oyez, oyez, bonnes gens!”
The town crier will call
“Tout est calme!”
He’ll sing tonight.
“All is well,
Tout est calme!”
Take my arm
Pour aujourd`hui et pour demain
Pour tous les jours
Tous notre jours.
Can you hear the dingo’s whine any more
“Nor can I!”
Sonne l’ homme avec la cloche.
“Tout est calme!”
All will be
For us, for ever!
I have seen the veils of many women,
watched them fall like
the petals of a
falling from a smiling balcony.
I have danced with them the immortal
spinning dance of
danced with them soul to
I have sighed with them all, shoulder to
shoulder as they spat out their despair and
pursued their hope
and the melancholy thing I’ve discovered
is that the
Tragedy of Man
lies not in his birth or in his
death -untimely or not-
or in his life’s fully fettered
but in the fact that
every woman, of woman
wears a smile and every smile wears a
and every mask wears a
though the silk veil from
the veil from
no man of woman born
can ever hope to make that mask-veil
Not the veil,
nor the mask will fall!
I have danced with them soul to
lifted skirt and scent and spirit and watched their
body-veils fall as
like the petals of a
falling from a smiling balcony
the veil above the mask, your mask, above the smile,
is still there!
Body-veil and mask-veil!
The one makes the instincts dance,
sends them to oblivion.
It is true:
wear masks. They wear masks,
they wear masks,
they wear masks above their smiles and above their
sniggers and schemes and brutal conspiracies
and above their hate-concocting minds;
But men will
I sat high on my donkey’s back –
Sleepy donkey, sleepy me, sleepy the fields
Below us. Suddenly
My grandfather touched my hand and with his own
He covered the horizon.
“Look there, my son’s son, take a deep breath and
And so, I have seen the baby sun rays
Kiss the peaches at that very moment when
Their cheeks reveal their freshest blush
So, I have smelled the pristine air of that village sunrise
Fully scented, fully gorgeous, fully enchanting,
So, I saw its crimson hand stretching out a clear welcome.
“Eat,” the old man said and I dug my eager
Teeth into a chunk of goat’s-milk cheese
And watermelon at the sun’s peak.
“Oh, ho,” he said after his own first bite.
“The honey-making bees were very busy this year!”
That evening his hand swept the great sky
High above the fields
Of whispering poppies and wheat and
Thus, I saw the full moon
Giggle inside the fiery garland of stars.
“What else is there,” my grandfather sighed,
“That may describe the
Need to be alive,
To love and to be loved,
More accurately and more fully?”
“To live, to love, is everything!” he said.
I wondered for years what they were after,
These salmon women whose
Cultivated nipples searched my chest.
Whatever it was they hadn’t found it and so they
Left to look for it elsewhere –
Deeper chests, perhaps, or
Feeble fish, these women.
Intense yet frivolous.
In love yet
Out of love
Sensitive and yet insensitive
Full of care as well as insouciant –
I was glad they had gone
And left me all alone.