cicada summer in the sunny south — Kit Kelen’s response to John Bennett’s ‘Acoustemology’


cicada summer in the sunny south


it is a wooded tinnitus

and cast eyes down


or grey

how do they see?


Black Prince

with tymbals

as to masque

or tournament


thinking’s all apocalyptic

you bucket it out like a miser


to float through the garden

like a veil of wing flung


just these few weeks

to joust and mate


so armoured for the fray

because a stutter flown


stim music


strafe the ear


and perched

and cling


grim for


must feed on sap

as royals do


all chorus

(that’s to say, refrain)


song of the Magicicada cassini

head banging?

no, techno


and this one who was never king

but good for burning, ravaging

on all flanks and utterly

so here’s much booty brought


in the Jurassic were mega-cicadas


shall we feed the birds this challenge of flight?


in a certain stillness struck

can you hear the alien whirr of we’re here


lion gorged with three parts argent


we serve the nymphs deep fried


this must be the seventh year

cicada summer in the sunny south — Kit Kelen’s response to John Bennett’s ‘Acoustemology’ Read More »


 S. K. Kelen is an Australian poet who enjoys hanging around the house philosophically and travelling. His works have been widely published in journals, ezines and newspapers, anthologies and in his books. Kelen’s oeuvre covers a diverse range of styles and subjects, and includes pastorals, satires, sonnets, odes, narratives, haiku, epics, idylls, horror stories, sci-fi, allegories, prophecies, politics, history, love poems, portraits, travel poems, memory, people and places, meditations and ecstasies. A volume of his new and selected poems was published in 2012. His most recent book of poems, A Happening in Hades, was published by Puncher & Wattmann in 2020.

S. K. Kelen’s Flying Islands’ pocket book is Yonder Blue Wild (travel and places 1972 – 2017)

Three poems from Yonder Blue Wild:

Kambah Pool

A bend in the river, water’s clouded by green mud
Deep, really deep, good for proper swimming.
These days only children see spirit life
Work and play, see a world invisible to adults
Clear and just, a solar system glows every grain
Of sand and kids crush evil in one hand,
Until growing up evil comes again.
The light dappling the water surface
Reveals some native spirits’ power
Derives from fireflies. Gumnut babies
Fuss and fight give a lesson how funny
Is the futility of conflict. Children see
That crazy old spirit Pan left his shadow
Hanging from a tree and reflection
Drinking at the river, the old goat’s galloped
Way up mountain, leaps cliff to cliff
Grazes on blackberries growing in the scrub
Gazes over his Murrumbidgee domain.
All glands and rankness, his shaggy coat
Putrid with the smell of ewes, wallabies,
Kangaroos, still a monster, he’ll take
A bird bath later. Dirty musk fills the air
Like a native allergy, tea trees blossom
As he passes, kangaroos lift their heads
Breathe deep his scent and there are dogs, too.
When the kids see Pan they go gulp
If dads could see him they’d beat him to pulp.
You might not see but the musk stench
Wafts on the breeze. Currawongs squawk
The inside-out salute, warble a tone of pity
For the brute. The immigrant god moves inland—
Raucous the cockatoo never shuts up.

Letting Go

The train pulled into Madurai station early

in the morning. She stepped onto the platform

rubbed her eyes dazzled by the sunlight turning

the world white like a clean cotton sheet

she breathed deeply the morning’s incense

and thought it’s true you can smell India all the time.

The morning grew hotter and the light whiter

and the railway platform led to a street

made of dust compacted by a thousand years’

wheels, hooves and feet, the pavement

exploded with ramshackle stalls selling snacks

and bits and pieces, the lime painted buildings,

every now and then a garlanded Shiva or Ganesha.

(Brahmin cows strolled where they damn well pleased).

Thousands of people flowed out of houses

to join the crowd in the street all laughter

and gossip; children ran up hawking

gaudy drinks in plastic bags and paper cones

filled with nuts while old men sold boiled eggs

shouting that their eggs were the best eggs

and some beautiful women in beautiful saris

made tea and offered a cup for fifty rupee.

And in the corner of an eye: the urchins.

Lady Beggar stretched out her hand

breathed slowly a mute scream

performed the first asana from the book

of starvation yoga. Her eyes implored

yet mocked, her lips begged and sneered

her curving right arm pointed

to her mouth then her baby’s mouth,

pointed at her belly then her baby’s belly

she unleashed hunger’s slow ballet,

muttered soft pleas that hypnotised

and tugged the strings a good heart

holds in abundance (there are

many roads to heavenly realms,

not all pleasant). ‘Madam,’ she sang,

‘please madam, just a few pennies

and I can live a while—and my baby’

then the suburban woman’s eyes widened

as she emptied her purse of annas and cents

the beggar yelled delight

suddenly in the air there was a fragrance

like palm wine spilled on a balmy night.

A wild haired man with birds and insects

nesting in his elephantine legs

pointed at the mynah chicks chirping there

shouted ‘Benares! Benares!’

He received her fresh Indian banknotes

with laughing gratitude—

the next fifteen poor souls she gave

all her American dollars & pounds sterling.

The crowd of beggars grew.

Because they were hungry they laughed like crows—

she opened her suitcase and gave away her clothes

signed off the travellers cheques one by one, each

with a teardrop, threw away her camera like a bouquet

and bought every ragged child an ice cream.

The dusty streets are hot with the story.

A young girl asks ‘Can I have your earrings, madam?’

and is given them. A boy runs off with her laptop.

Then it is all white light then out of the light steps

a ragged King Neptune trident in hand

steps lightly through the crowd, waves the beggars on.

‘You are very kind madam those wretches

will live on your money like gods for a day or two

Your hand please — she stared at him and saw

his eyes not only held special intelligence

they reached into her. She came to

and grappled for her master card — lucky.

Her wide eyes narrowed and saw

no matter what she gave away she wouldn’t save

the world, it was weird what she had just done.

The sadhu’s eyes burned like suttee pyres, his muscles

tightened like ropes beneath the dusty rags—in another life

he’d have been a star or a psychopath—

here, he was a strange man in a strange land

He bowed nobly and hailed a taxi.

Megalong Valley

The gods banned machines from ever

entering the last pure tract of Megalong.

Here, even bracken’s picturesque

& the whipbird, breathless

with the beauty of it all,

is silent, reverential.

There’s a waterfall

splashing a rainbow

you walk under

that’s always there and will be

until the earth or sun shifts

sandstone cliffs, a kookaburra

laughs from gorgeous gloom

up & down, up & down.

S.K.Kelen Read More »


JEAN KENT was born in Chinchilla, Qld, in 1951. She published her first poems in a literary magazine in 1970, while she was completing an Arts Degree (majoring in psychology) at the University of Qld; her first collection, Verandahs, appeared twenty years later, in 1970.  Since then, another eight books of her poetry have been published. The most recent are The Hour of Silvered Mullet (Pitt Street Poetry, 2015) and Paris in my Pocket (PSP, 2016). 

Awards Jean has won include the Anne Elder Prize and Dame Mary Gilmore Award (both for Verandahs), the Wesley Michel Wright Prize, the Josephine Ulrick Prize and Somerset Prize. She has been a runner-up for the Newcastle Poetry Prize and winner of its Local Section, and was a judge of the prize in 2013. She has received several writing grants from the Australia Council, including Overseas Residencies in Paris in 1994 and 2011.

As well as writing poetry, fiction and (occasional) nonfiction, Jean has worked as an educational psychologist, counsellor in TAFE colleges, lecturer in Creative Writing, mentor and facilitator of poetry workshops.

With Kit Kelen, Jean was co-editor of A Slow Combusting Hymn: Poetry from and about Newcastle and the Hunter Region (ASM/Cerberus Press, Flying Island Books, 2014).

Her Flying Island pocket book is The Language of Light (2013), a selection of her poems with Chinese translations by Iris Fan Xing.

In 2020, Kit Kelen invited her to converse with him by email for his blog spot, The Daily Kit. Their conversation over six months, covering a lot of topics, including poetry, but also COVID19, the deaths of their mothers, gardening … and some very recent drafts of poems, can be read here:


Jean lives at Lake Macquarie, NSW.  Her website is jeankent.net.au

Views from the desk, Kilaben Bay

Some Poems


On the verandah of my grandparents’ house,

the day falls asleep around me.

This is the roof of my childhood.

And this, the floor. Tin and wood:

silver-grey, sibling corrugations.

Like platforms for family legends

they wait, rehearsing allegories

as if it is always the end

of a sun-limp day, the lucerne cut,

wheat bagged and a needle in the hessian

beckoning its tail of string.
In the fragrant dusk, soil settles.

Crickets, ants and unseen lives

team over cracks in black earth’s surface – 

years are strung like tales of Min-Min lights

along this world of roof-creaks,

board-sighs, a home paddock barracking

for the far-off calls of dinner plates,

falling tablecloths, cutlery and relatives.
Time melts here. Ghosts with glasses of Scotch

catching the last day’s light in their hands,

bend their knees, ease back

into squatters’ chairs. I wake.

A cool breeze is balancing

beside the verandah rail, roping it

and ruffling off, up into wisteria leaves:

sitting tenants now, under the roof.

Time melts. On the ends of long wooden arms,

ice, moonlit, hugs the air.


 (From Verandahs, Hale & Iremonger, 1990; reprinted Picaro Press, 2009.

Also in The Language of Light, ASM/Flying Island Books, Macao, 2013.)

(The verandah of the old family home, Weeoomba, Qld)


After the tents of war, now the tents of Wallangarra:

one last quarantine before the unfamiliar family

can escape to what they hope will be a home.
Seven days—seven and six a day—

under the sheltering granite ranges, fires

heat drums, the coats of the women skim just high enough

to escape the frost, the men in their new civvie uniforms

stand stiff as saplings, not happily transplanted, yet.
On the bare ground by the railway,

they should be thankful prisoners.  So many huddles—

and in amongst them, this trio who will step away from here

into my family history: one man, his wife …
and a two year old girl, confronting this stranger, her father.
Just beyond the wahlenbergias, the shy native bluebells

at the camp’s edge, are the Pyramids of Girraween:

bald monoliths, made by volcanoes, not men.
Half a century later, I’ll try to climb one …

But it is too early for a returned soldier to brave

that skyline—better to bivouac here, picking bluebells,

waiting at dusk for a wallaroo in its shaggy greatcoat

to do a reconnaissance of this temporary invasion—

negotiate with it for peace.
After the certain attacks of war: now world deaths

from Spanish flu.  In this border camp, learning to speak

with the wary trust of the child, what can my grandparents do

but hope they have outrun the final assault?

In training for a domestic truce,
trust there will be a tomorrow soon, flinging over them

only a tent of sky—as wahlenbergias, those fallen-

sky flowers, cheer the edges of the last road home.


(Published in the Weekend Australian Review, 12th Sept 2020)


Weekends, Paris walks.  Something shifts

underground.  Like a Rubik's cube

slightly twisted

the lines of colours realign, the harmony of humans

gently shudders the city’s symmetrical grid.
Like the still spaces we enter when music

moves us, weekends separate us from the deafness

of habitual days.  More so than ever

here, on the other side

of our usual world —

here, where we live lit up

like cymbals always on the verge

of being struck.  In the Luxembourg Gardens

I am one small vibration in the shivering of the city

toward some Sunday song.  The babble of all the world

is being quietened here —
Poles and Italians, Australians and Africans,

small boys and motorised boats all blend into a buzz

swarming from under the acid-yellow horse-chestnut leaves

toward the end of summer’s silver

hived within the lake.
Weekends, Paris talks with less tension

accelerating its tongue.  Even the tourist buses —

clattering to halts like the abruptly dropped snakepods

of bauhinia trees —

release people who become, after a little time here,

as calm as seeds

waiting to be planted.  We almost believe

we could all belong — as we settle briefly

on these wrought-iron chairs with their ringletted arms

and verdigris-barred backs.  We subside
on seats tattooed all over with holes

spraying sunlight onto the crushed white gravel below.

How many faces

have fallen here —

waiting for Paris light to persuade them

to float back up, to lift

towards it their first foreign shoots?
Weekends, Paris walks.  It stalks us — as gently

as the grandparents we never knew, those ghosts

who passed through a war here

eighty years ago.

Like the nano-shifting of volcanic plates now,

something in us shifts.  Whatever homes we thought

we had brought with us

settle like hidden pockets

in our winter coats — and we join the long lines

of stilled people in black swivelling towards
the slightest caress of sun.  The light,

as it negotiates peace settlements

within this temporary country

of cold shoulders,

is speaking everyone’s ancestral tongue.


(From Travelling with the Wrong Phrasebooks, Pitt Street Poetry, 2012;

also published in The Language of Light, ASM/Flying Island Books, Macao, 2013.)


Kit Kelen

Christopher (Kit) Kelen is a poet and painter, resident in the Myall Lakes of NSW. Published widely since the seventies, he has a dozen full length collections in English as well as translated books of poetry in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Indonesian, Swedish, Norwegian and Filipino. His latest volume of poetry in English is Poor Man’s Coat – Hardanger Poems, published by UWAP in 2018. In 2017, Kit was shortlisted twice for the Montreal Poetry Prize and won the Local Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize. In 2019 and 2020 Kit won the Hunter Writers’ Centre award in the NPP. He was also shortlisted for the ACU prize in 2020. Kit’s Book of Mother is forthcoming from Puncher & Wattmann in 2021. Emeritus Professor at the University of Macau, where he taught for many years, Kit Kelen is also a Conjoint Professor at the University of Newcastle. In 2017, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Malmo, in Sweden. Literary editor for Postcolonial Text and Series Editor for Flying Islands Pocket Poets Series, Kit has mentored many poets and translators from various parts of the world, and run a number of on-line communities of practice in poetry (most notably Project 366 [from 2016-2020]). Kit is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW. You can follow Kit’s work-in-progress a the Daily Kit. Kit is the Co-ordinator of the THESE FLYING ISLANDS community blog.

Here is a little selection of poems from Kit’s book a pocket Kit 2, interspersed with some paintings and drawings:

let everything grow wild today

embrace the poem
squander the soul

sleep to dream and wake to play

let everything go wild today
let the spirits call our names

let us requite
only the words
to bear
from my door

nowhere but the way
everything green is reaching for heaven
for light and for love
squander the paint

set afloat in a poem
only words
to be borne

to bear on
let everything go wild today

wake to play and sleeping dream
so we may work the miracle

set God and godly things

all free

let everything grow wild

A Sociology of Paradise

First I came through a hoop of flesh.

I didn’t jump, I swam. There was an endless

mud plain and another storm coming.

Rain beat the rice shoots green from the soil.

Millions were huddled round the still ether.
The century dragged on. I missed the boat

swam out to the island. And the air was still

in the sun’s quarter and the half a sky where

waves could have been. The moon washed

up where the tide rusted into the sand.
Cars came out of the twentieth century.

Coca Cola came ashore, lapped on

the hard live shell of paradise. A coconut

fell out of nowhere onto my child’s head.

I didn’t stumble. There were stars and bars

everywhere. I could hear the West

crackling through looming shadows of bliss.
Back country, hills were dense with trees,

Dissidence, notches for climbing up.

And curled into a noose of straw

the disappeared hung, swaying – invisible

burden of paradise. I jumped through a hoop

of gold. I had the ring of confidence then

and a flag colour of mud.
Helicopters filled up the sky. When the noise

came, birds shifted in a line, black, palm to palm,

fifty metres. Then when they came back

there was nothing the wind could move. 

Trees clung to a rock in the sea.
On dry land a had a good steady job 

in the fly-spray factory. They paid me in cigarettes

so naturally I took up smoking. The mist

from the nozzle formed up a halo to martyr

the very air. You couldn’t call it a leak.

It was more like missile testing.
Each day here proud of the fallen, brainless

slaughters to glory in. The earth makes up

a place for each. The new rice sings from the earth.

The colour of the mud in our veins is a flag

billowing over a hoop of bright gunmetal:

the welcome mat. I didn’t jump, I swam.

the priming of a painter’s canvas

like night come

colour no matter
skins are under skin

and skies too
shade patches, dapples take the tune

soaks pigment where the eye was caught
canvas is linen really

like a tent clouds abide in
there are rats have your pants

vultures all sorts
one lies down in it all

till the rags make ladders
next beanstalk’s got your name on it

next stop is the stars

Views from Pinchgut

Picture a track, not one of ours

but lower, maybe inches only off the scrub

and winding from that height

into a tangle water fits to a gully.

The mind's untroubled there.

It's all green. It works, birds feed

off it. Trees stand up for themselves.

Even the sky's got a look in.
Roll that gaze out onto a coin

poisoned with flour and blankets.

(The sun smiles over my gumboots and I

driven on by greed and luck. For the sake

of a good feed we murder our way across borders

unseen.) It's dirt cheap so we buy a big block,

sea on three sides, sit in a corner

count up the tides. Flog some sense

into the trees and ringbarking’s a miracle

of endurance but we go at it like there's

no tomorrow. Thumbs hammered flat chat

to the milking pastures. Wattle

and daub, brickwork entangles me.

Rains come and go, mares eat oats

where the dam rots down and does eat oats.

Water loafs around all day and little lambs

eat ivy. Prosecute those who trespass against us

as we forget our great wronging of them.

Why bother crops out of the ground

when the hill sits still against geology's

dull blade? That's how we live now

– frontier alchemists making money

of the dirt. It's lonely here so we stretch

a thin wire out over the desert, build

a million miles of rabbity fence.

Out of nowhere the radio speaks to us

and the air vibrates into atoms.
Let's tote all up. Boundless pasture,

our coal will burn for a thousand years,

this sun blots reason out. A nation now,

we speak with one forked tongue.

Three anthems but no lyrics we remember.

No flag but hoist the washing. Nostalgia

overwhelms me. Transport me over a farcical sea.

Feed me salt biscuits, flat booze that gets me drunk.

Chain me in old fetishes, punish me

with ocean views. I'll re-enact the lot.

I'll be a stripling on a small and weedy beast.

I'll send the flintstones flying. I'll go on

quiz shows in black and white. No test pattern

now to stump the wits. It's a one-day invasion.

The pitch shrinks. The flesh is stupid, the mind obeys

and crimes committed drunkenly dementia

soon forgets. Let's take a cake knife

at this hill, make out a white man's house.

Can't say fairer than that. So robber kings

cheer on, their harbour full of hobby canvas.
Give us each day our dusty cup,

temptation delivers from boredom.

Give us the hundred tracks to go down,

a freeway looming behind. The sun

built out, we vote for the greenhouse.

Time slips its old noose over our necks.

Stars and stripes wave above. Just

show us the way to the next little dollar.

Oh don't ask why. Everybody's happy.

A kid'll eat ivy too, wouldn't

you bet your life we are.

my flag

is a beach towel, heavy with sand

whole tribes tangled in it
involuntary sky – heart’s refuge

in the true of dark

mind’s refuge in the heart
 the flag

must be all things to all

a mirror aloft, reflection unfurling

that should make everyone happy
in a room with queen you’d see the queen

and she’d see you, her subject

one among the many flags
in the bush would be magpies to fly in and tangle

catch them like that when they get territorial
on the front of the big boss’s car

more of chrome, dark tarmac
in the night you’d choose the stars

bright pinpricks from another sky

in which the true flag must fly

be windblown, limp

from the accustomed pole
a square cut of heaven

and so strings attached

a calling

the same words

summon me often

because –  to put it simply –

they know what I mean

the bush


which is the wild out-of-order

snakes hunting under tin left lie
garden too thick for weeds this un-naming

it chorus birds commonly bright

minds its business we make ours

yields to spirit its sustaining

best model from democracy

dark wordless turn, self tending, ruthless

              absent of law it breathes to burn

this one tree left cut down to size

so when it’s mine it is no longer
flimsy instinct joins logic to one wish

the guiltless having of all this

another sun spun, a next dicey sky

of maverick opinion, told you

    inscrutable polysemy
song between the cityfolds

come clumsy in its own confiding

all unfinished business

all neighbouring and all horizon
the bush is a trap sets camouflage

falls in and all it catches        bush

blade hailing the forest     legend made failing

memorabilia: smug of stockwhip, blanket
gathers as a blowfly to what was once meat
takes no convincing – its job to go nowhere
team of madmen tied to one tune

    a tidemark shows where we retreat

midst of limits, most natural of histories

gospel uncut in the wood
a waste of pages cash scrawls down

the bush beside my means as such

pack up but where you come from’s

as gone as what was here

so we among all animals are party to
take down each sky made out in ribs

     a cross hangs bright above

one species relieving the others of hope
barks at the edge of night a dog burning

the hinge of sentience it mourns
much admired the passage of rites

because once you were my besotted

a frightened face to rouse such love
leaves tracks to run a course paws take

this shallowest of burials
the bush is an animal gathering home

and our great Ark unmeaning


Blokes are always coming over, in their droves

or in their ones. Wear thongs in summer, boots

for weather. No one says mind my clean floor love.
Arriving in their utes and vans, they’re always

round here, day and night, courting our Penelope.

They know what’s next, what’s what, when, why.

Blokes know what to do and what you need

and even if you can’t decide. Blokes’ll sort your

trouble out. If it aint broke it’s easy fixed. Take

care but not responsible. They’re always late

and rude and wet. Blokes like to be outside

the best. They dare the ozone at their backs.

Sleep with someone else. They say things you

wouldn’t. Feel less, do more. You’ve got to love

them though. Hide in their frothy beards to weep.

You feel for them, the camera shies. They won’t

be tied, won’t be predicted. But cuddle them

and know they’re bad. Take them all for granted.
Blokes won’t take hints. Needn’t tell them.

They slink away to shed when glum. Grow darker

in the moody scrub and shed their lacks among

the fauna. They won’t be caught, they get away.

Get down to pub and dob and dob, until they’re

almost in the clink. They tell their temporary

comrades. Blokes tell the truth and when they

don’t they’ve got the story all worked out.
They know the pecking order. How to fit, not rock

the boat. Blokes make a play for the affections.

Trust the passing moment, loathe permanence

of plans. Blokes are slaves of circumstance. They

can’t help being rough with stuff, have to give it

all a test. See if it’s well made or not. It’s not

their fault the way they are, was done

to them as blokelings.
Blokes are mates or so they say. Won’t let

a bastard down. The blokiest are your best mates.

Your mates are blokes if you’re a bloke. Women

can be mates or ladies. Can’t be blokes. Mate

with them to make new playmates. Blokes or no.

If you’re a bloke you mustn’t mate with other

blokes. It doesn’t work. Dreadful thing.

Unblokemanlike. Besides, how could

you tell your mates?
Some things are better left unsaid. And out of

earshot of the nagging blokes won’t need

your looking after. Dinners tabled, washing done.

Blokes go lean in filth and glue their rotting jeans

together. They know it’s bad luck to speak

when gesturing would do the trick.
As insects lead the faster life, they’ve lost a leg

before you’ve finished telling the precautions.

They’re enemies of labour saving, scoff at

ingenuity. Do a thing the hardest way. Clog noses

and their ears fall off, eyes are full of filings.

Drown in beer to build a gut. It shows what

blokey blokes they are. They suffer beef to have

the dripping. Sneak from the ward at last

for fags, and curse their curtailed freedom.

That’s with a final breath.
Bloody this and bloody that is what your bloke

ghost says at last. And when the dirt’s all spread,

well sifted – where are those blokey souls all fled?

They’ve gone to blokeland – hellish spot. The

Shed Celestial. Dim or Bright to their deservings.
Still, there’s more. Never was a drought of blokes.

Not since the war. No – blokelings grow to

blokehood’s full bloom. Bloke’s abound and pull

their weight. Show some leg, offer beer.

Call for blokes – they will appear.

When all else fails no need to fear.

Just stir him up. Your bloke is here.
cover of a well worn copy of  a pocket kit 2

Kit Kelen Read More »