(oh lord, hercules is drunk again, face down in the water, trying to swallow the sea)

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water always finds a
level. squid will always
rise to a flourescent light
at night. you can hook
them easy then. tangle
their little legs on steel.
at night the fishing boats
untangle themselves
from the dock. press
out into the waiting black.
drop their silver garland lines
and wait. some nights
I am so afraid to sleep.
some nights – a waiting sea.
most days we remind
ourselves of the world.
one day
we don’t wake up.

Slow growth

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O PAINTING

It will have been months since you’ve written
anything that matters, on a day you’ll think yourself
to be a fat and slowing story, or another sinking stone.
You’ll wake and read someone else’s poem
about angels and bombs and how, on detonation,
a thing will weigh precisely nothing. You’ll think
of how a flame, viewed correctly, can appear
to be a flower birthed from air. And you, your hands
all full of mud, will think your bones have turned
to hardwood, will think of white ants in your blood,
will think your joints could crack and bleed out sap –
all this until your daughter, who woke an hour before you,
holds a flower out to you and says she wants to dance.
And as you haul your dogwood bones up off the floor
you’ll wonder if you’ve somehow caught alight,
if you’re both a kind of slow explosion,
as you and she, both dancing now,
don’t seem to weigh a thing.

Asahi Draught

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What a strange inversion
of your plans –
to have come so far
in search of language
and to find so little speech

But to find instead an ocean
opened up inside you –
to call that ocean love
and feel a loneliness
to part the sea

To feel this otherness
only as an ache
for the holy
of the returning flight

And you, self-referential to the end,
no urge to shed a van Gogh ear,
no need to force a poem,
resolve to sit,
to nurse a beer in Takayama
and convince your heart
of something small

That this loneliness might yet be
a song pecking out the shell of you –
that this slow returning urge to write
might be held, and fanned to flame

The way a home might be a vessel
cradling, giving voice to quiet

Gate 7

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for m & o

How all this paranoid velocity
requires such a weight of waiting,
stacks seven stones in the throat,
finds seven ways of waving goodbye,
seven ways of saying perhaps I’ll stay,
seven ways of turning and going
and stacks so much glass
between there
and there
and there

A mathematics of language
would be needed now
to render how a body,
caught between two planes,
finds itself to be nowhere,
and how nowhere might be anywhere or everywhere
where revelation winks
in the holy of the list,
the blinking of an LCD screen

now departing,
now departing,
now departing,
                          
how I wish that you were here
to still this winking heart’s delay

Sonnet for ghosts

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I mentioned recently that I’ve started working on a series of poems set in Australia’s convict era history. Thought I’d share one of the pieces taking shape out of that. Feedback is always welcome.

Sonnet for ghosts

Daddy woke every Sunday early,
dressed me in my finest and hauled me to a church
he never set a foot or raised a voice within.
Crouched low as he – or a ghost within him – said that he
– and perhaps his boy – so full of sin, would burst to sparks
if he ever passed through the gate into the hall.
Said the priest would nail him to a cross if he knew
the thoughts sprouting thorns inside his head.

And so I stood, waiting at the gates for years,
daddy folding into paper, swallowed like communion,
until in time a tumour took him by the throat and buried him
and left me there – standing always at the gates and looking in
but never knowing how to raise a voice or foot to enter,
knowing this – no doubt – will be the way it goes with death.

When the writer you becomes a ghost

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So it has been a while hasn’t it. Projects starting to come together, then stalling, then getting moving again. It’s a funny feeling to have projects coming together at the same time as new ones are forming. Does anything ever really get finished. Anyways, here’s a little experimental piece from a new project starting to seed in my mind. A kind of poetical reflection on the first convict arrivals in Australia. More oceans. Some history. Something full of bones.

Capture

With the cape of good hope now a ghost behind us

Another one dropped dead this morning,
a boy, scarce 20, done for theft of petticoats,
fever gripped and full of rotten blood

they mustered a detail to haul the body to the deck
rolled him in a strip of torn and flapping sail
lashed it with a rope and threw him over

I watched him bob a while then fall away
                     (nothing falls away entirely)
                                  (nothing falls away)

we are haunted now
        by all this water
the bones we hurl to sea

and a shape now full of ash
and teeth is trailing us
something dark and haunting in our wake

they will come in time to call this history
which is just another way
to speak of blood

the way that home
can be another word for grief

                          or the tying of a noose

Arc light

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When they come to tell the story
they will say that they could still smell ozone in the air,
could still hear thunder drumming all around
when the captain asked your name,
held the raw of your hands in his
and said make two fists,
then breathe out slow
and let go.

They’ll tell it that they found you smoking,
arms outstretched and rigour locked,
feet bootless on the deck,
eyes pinned to a sky still sparking
blue against the black, the mast above you
split and splintered black, smouldering
and weeping smoke into the night.

They’ll say the storm had risen in the east,
its belly growing fat then full of drums and fire
as it folded in towards the ship, and speak of how,
at the storm-sail call, you made it halfway
up the mast to unknot a stuck and twisting line
before the sky lit up in fire.

They’ll talk of how the sky pressed its face to yours
and threw you down,
left you baptised in electrons,
burnt the shadow of a crucifix into your chest
and left a tuft of hair still smouldering.

They’ll cross themselves, then pour another shot
and speak of revelation as they recall your mouth,
yawning like the earth, singing up the dead,
a pale blue flame wicked up on your tongue,
translating the binary of lightning,
some message from the sky.

We are the song of sparrows
hurling themselves through glass.
We are the sound of axes
swung at something brass.