Poems

What the river told me by Jane Skelton

broomstick orchestra by Jane Skelton

along the lake’s edge   
our burnt limbs scratch at the sky   
rapping in the wind −   
gentle ratapan, a screek   
a soft scrunching of paper
as it passed through us   
we could only receive it −   
dreaming of water   
arms upraised in frozen dance   
amid the whirlwind of fire
our spectral voices   
sing the conflagration   
mimic the crackling   
as the wind brings the burnt reek   
the acrid recall of pain  
waves unburied our song   
our creaking cacophony   
roots deep in midden   
sand falls from shell, bone, graveyards   
old feasts uncovered, old fires
fishing boats glide past   
seabirds, on indifferent trails   
we cry from the dunes   
our terrible scribble is  
crazing the ruffled water 
the wash slaps our dune   
our every wounding, a sound   
the lake whispers back   
its silky repetition   
new growth creeps forward   
our song is nearly over   
twine us in green strength

Yao Feng #15

Xing Hua Temple

why is it the Buddha –
far from the madding crowd on the hill –
sits lounges an air of serenity, over a lotus throne
while Jesus has his blood shed
on a Good Friday cross?
I'll go upstairs with you
and we'll see the gilt-decked Buddha
projecting dazzling gold
in a world of fireworks
you served the Buddha
with incense and prayer
I didn't stoop
to words of long life or good luck
one always ends up hitting the wall
Bodishattvas climb down at last
the rail on which she leans overlooks
inequalities among the world's mountains

(translated by Kit Kelen)

《大兴华寺》
为什么菩萨
都供奉在远离尘嚣的山上
端坐于莲花宝座,神态安详
而不像耶稣,表情痉挛
在十字架上流血受难
我陪你拾阶而上
终于看到菩萨身披黄金
在俗世的烟火中
射出耀眼的金光
你向菩萨奉香祈愿
我却没有俯身
也没有念念有词
祈望长寿与吉祥
我只想走进围栏
把菩萨请下宝座
与她一起凭栏远眺
这人间不平的群山

Magdalena Ball – Precarious Inscruitable

When the sea rises to eye level
tears become redundant
every day a baker’s dozen
or more
the red list has 20,000 names
20,000 is a random number
unbounded, like e or Pi
though more finite
0 is usually taken for granted
understandably
like the sound of nomatic flocks
passenger pigeons aggregating
flapping, filling the sky in thickened clouds
warbling, dropping, disappearing
leaving a silence so profound
it hurt the ears
until we got used to it
our ear drums morphed
attuned to the sound of the engine
the clack of a keypad
we filled the gap with
gun shot, cash registers
the slide of plastic, the squeal of
pigs heading for slaughter
lathes, hammerings
efficient death is noisy business
a noise we cling to
in order to hide the increasing
silence of
billions of missing
mammalsbirdsreptilesamphibians
the cardinality             of the empty set

from Richard Tipping’s “Instant History”

Imagine Silence

Imagine silence and 
solitude firm as bread.
Imagine hunger cutting 
first slice, first breath.
Imagine silence answering
each syllable back.
Imagine, alone, around,
yourself the only sound.

from “Riversalt” by Lou Smith

An Evening Swim at Kilaben Bay

Between the wooden slats
of the boardwalk
distant lights of houses
blur in a diffraction of amber
like Venus through drizzle
or in the curve of waves
fanning from shore

from Dan Disney’s “Mannequins Guide to Utopias”

Monologue inside Breughel’s first Tower of Babel

the colonists always pack old spectres 
and memory, mad apparition, peers through cracks in day 
we scatter into, our words
ascending across air… and once that’s out, silence
fllas like love, but permanent, empires lying dormant (unstuffed
toys) we’ll kiss the photographs flat when gone 
while wrong-headed statues promise nothing yet to the gods 
new foregrounds arrive, unrecognizable 
What the river told me by Jane Skelton

from “What the river told me” by Jane Skelton

Ben Boyd’s tower

The bay’s silk curtain is  
blue milk, draped from the opposite shore  
	the sea pricked out in boats  
their white sails dancing upon its pleats  
	through the spyglass he scanned  
the coves, the inlets, their crescent smiles  
	and across to Eden   
a Stink, the whale bones lying about   
	covered by feeding crows  
Framed in a high window   
he might look like a wandering ghost   
	his skin freckled, weathered   
his eyes pink-rimmed, lips dry, salt-glistered   
	a struggle climbing up   
seabirds caterwauling round his head   
	he grasped his broad-leafed hat   
lest the wind snatch it for the ocean   
	and show his thinning pate 
Toward the spindrift-blurred   
horizon, something in him yearning   
	always had, since boyhood   
he’d built a port, a place with his rules    	
	and his own currency  
though all was against him − the weather!  
	lack of labour, the laws!  
Not his fault his ventures have collapsed  
	suddenly, he was bored  
Sea eagles were circling   
an aeronaut, he might fly away
	but could only climb down
a servant came forth with his carriage  
	helped him up, awkwardly   
he glanced at himself in his mirror
   	slicked down his balding crown   
he, who felt himself a personage
	was he still comme il faut?
Along the ship-wrecked coast   
hidden vessels drift beneath the waves   
	octopuses’ gardens   
huddle in the weed-furred rotting hulls   
	in deep green whale-strong swells   
he made for the Pacific Islands   
	dragging his submerged selves   
plotting a republic, a land grab        
	sailed to his secret death   
The scorched tower still stands   
its headland now fire-razed, scalped of scrub  
	tourists potter about   
pause before the signage − warped, melted   
	and will it be replaced?   
the tower’s cordoned off − they ignore   
	pose, in its emptiness 
watch the waves slam vermilion rock   
	below treacherous cliffs  
Wind mouths the lone tower   
tourists speculate − these sandstone blocks  
   carried miles, from Sydney  
by bullock train, at enormous cost  
   who was Benjamin Boyd?  
a colonial Christopher Skase?  
   but more, a blackbirder  
wrought death, disease on his captured men  
   indifferent to their fate 
 Matting the headland now  
green and juicy growth − wattle, myrtles  
   spring out of charcoal ground  
fire has revealed the middens, the shells 
   crumbling to ashy earth  
signs of those whose place it was, and is  
   the romance is fading  
listen − other voices are speaking  
   a new naming begins

from Geoff Page’s “Codicil”

Adulterers

After that first urgent 
kissing at the door 
and all the prearrangements 
whispered down the phone 
and all that splendid 
disarray of clothes,
the interplay of skins and liquids,
that short delirium of smells
and all such pure
antiphonal delights
the cigarettes are lit at last …
and sprawled there in a 
twist of sweat
a conversation comes to life:
obsessions of the absent husband,
shortfalls of the absent wife. 
Short burst of eternity

from Daniel Ionita’s “Short Bursts of Eternity”

pro-Patria

I have died once or twice before, 
I believe, 
for the motherland and the nation.
Or so I thought, initially,
giving up my ghost
ravaged by a youthful imbecility, 
bordering on an ecstasy,
akin to that of the nincompoop
and anorexic saints, 
painted willy-nilly on church walls.
These deaths were as senseless
as their so-called 
intercessions for me.