Category Archives: poertyissue5

Smothered – Anna Tewson

 

Smothered

 

The door rumbles

as voices ascend

Casting shadows

through the cracks

The sun tosses it open

flooding the waiting room.

A silhouette awaits

inviting me into

the sun bleached office.

 

Within the room

A framed image

A strangler

Fig

Roots binding

host within

Winding up the trunk

Thickening as it

strengthens

Stretching beyond

Soaking sunlight

Inside the chamber

the tree

rots

 

Below the image

the silhouette waits

‘Sit.’

 

The chair too big

My ever-shrinking frame

consumed by

sticky leather

Armrests

begin creeping,

latching on

Shallow breath

Pounding core

The roots

they weave

tightening

Swallowing my chest.

 

Sinking

Unable to control

Mind incoherent,

body entombed.

 

Evening Whispers

 

The ball of weight

finds its place

At the top of his head

pressing down

It moves his eyelids

The city lights flashing

on and off

 

Manipulated

A puppeteer

pulling strings

A little less serotonin here.

 

His limbs droop over

the aching deck chair

Like the branches out front

Lifeless until they are

woken

 

The branches stir

Their fingers twitching

Imitating movements

of a force,

invisible

 

The sticky summer afternoon

turns to a blustery eve

as hot air rises

Forming

impenetrable clouds

They rumble and

squawk.

 

A startling array

of nature’s fireworks

A flash,

shortly after,

a crack

The branches thrust

to life.

Lightning charges

The roots

A surge of energy

Throbbing through

Its core.

 

The ball of weight

morphs into a being

of lightness

It travels

down his neck

along his spine

Reaching his stomach

where warmth resides.

 

He stretches

the heaviness

evaporating

The sky clears

The smell of eucalyptus

cuts through the damp

the dank

He hangs over the balcony

His laughter penetrates

the city hum.

The Parable of the Sower – Jacob Tarasenko

 

The first few fell

and found hard ground

become a glaciated plane

there in arid wait to lay

exposed

their potential verdure

stemmed

and then

a sable swooping billow blew

up and upwards out of hell

bent on death and brought with it

a Screwtape cotérie composed

of shades and wraiths

and revenants

with ice-pick beaks

and sickle claws

to sickly gorge

and only ceased

when each

was gone

 

The next group

peppered pregnant dirt

fertile with a certain

simple

steppe-soil promise

of provision

‘we will house you’

crowed the loamy fecund bed

so hapless shoots were shot straight down

and sought their routes

through miniscule foramina

which proved too shallow

above a bedrock bulwark

that sat in tacit abrogation

complicit

warped and wilted

brought an Autumn

the tallest of them tried to thrive

above the husks

but died as well

then blew away

 

Some were scattered

where woody stalks stood

and weedy tendrils stretched already

sucking sun and feeding foreign

blooms from which our bees

do not object to borrow pollen

sprouted spritely

all about the other roots

to burgeon

even bloom

and grew until a thorny roof

made remonstrations

if only imperceptibly

constricted liquid breath

in xylem sheath

that stultifying vine noose met

their every fateful measure

with ever more pressure

élan vital purloined

slowly

slyly

replaced with rot

 

And yet there was another lot

the last

‘still other’ they would claim He named them

all it took was goodly earth

sun and water

nothing other

to produce a bounty

thirty or a hundred times

their worth was the reward

or so

at least

said He who sowed them

but even twice should prove enough

when three from four

succumb to being

stolen

starved

or scorched

 

Download a pdf of ‘The Parable Of The Sower’

Lilting – Kelly Rae Olander

 

Prior to an exploration of the subconscious

 

The apprehension

of ghoulish things

transpiring, burgeoning like dandelions

perennial like bamboo.

 

Kindred

 

Allow me to unravel

upon you – words eluding

the eel-sweeping snarl

the lily-reeds knot lined, not alone

the fine entanglements inside

the cadence of my heart’s disclosure, falter

My finger-tips oscillating like nine dancers in a field

attempting intricacy, intimacy

unfurling whirling, wispy distances, dancing

like thin gypsy thieves[i] under the stars

Allow me to unravel

you who may decipher

tussling lingual cryptography

you scavenger

tumbling through water

my words fragment, fracture

letters unite to capture!

Allow me to unravel amid the unconscious tides

wading through the drifters

inquiring after you

quick flickers flash

grant them gather,

long-limbed insect, agile escapee

you, jet-black

it’s you in that faint shadow? surely

Allow me

black peppercorns waltzing through the lines

ideal to tantalise a blooming self

but no longer desired

the milk-crate days retired

the vine-flowers dried

you who will decode me

a soul-mate

a counterpart

quixotic

narcotic

finite vacuities

no peppercorn trees, please

appeal the lily-reeds

unravelling between

you and me.

 

Petals and blades

 

There are qualities

I’ve discovered, in the creeping weeds

coiling like smoke, winding

through natives monumentally beautiful

peeling as I move to reveal

a quiet wilderness

are fickle stringencies

that the glades reach relentlessly

that this is a convoluted terrain

where a weed is not a wicked thing

Moving from signpost to fleck

no ambit or sketch

through a web of antithesis, luminous

and blackened at once;

there are no designs

Still there are intrinsic divisions

in chaos

the absence of paltry analysis

the moral core

eyeballs

in glassy tear-drops of rain

gawking lucent;

monstrous oysters splaying silvery skies

life rearranging, paralysed

fangs flaying the backdrop

suspended in gum-string

hanging from vine-swinging yesterdays

where I have already been

Discovery though, lies in the fine points

countless eye-lids flutter

lashing the mire, but only some

in aqua pura, most recoiling

amaurotic or with some kind of malady

of the mind

Scattering seeds as I step

I notice them flourishing behind, tie-ing

my yesterdays, ribboning

along wiry trees

and gathering together that which is dark

and light

(a tear leaves a wound)

Removing battered combat-boots

I tread the wilderness bare-soled

one must realise the delicacy of weeds

to survive in this landscape.

 


[i]
L. Cohen. Famous Blue Raincoat

 

Download a pdf of ‘Lilting’

Feed – Grace Liley

 
The World

 

Blinking bachelorettes

in the Mama Mia sum up

of last night’s events

keep scrolling

Newsfeed

what other posts do you suggest I see?

Dan’s dad in speedos

snapping unsuspecting ex-athletes and selfies

in between laps

grinning at winter behind its back

and then white font

is shouting my name

in front of greyed limbs splayed out

behind a black head

her neck stretched through steel bars

inky crystal ball eyes

terrorised

another

Veganism is Future post

this one I can’t skip

I click to read more of the story

about a cow called Grace

it’s what I expect

seed after seed implanted

the flowers removed as soon as they bloom

shortcuts, suffering and death

I’m left

tight chested

wondering

what

my friends and their Colgate smiles in their sparkling party pics

Dan and his Dad

are thinking

they’re all

blistering

and boiling in my mind

no

no, I don’t hate them all

it’s that page

why do they post stuff like that

Unlike

 

Dairy free, egg free, gluten free pancakes

 

Activate Mexican magic seeds

by mixing with water

Set them aside to drink

 

Sift flour separately

powder volcano rising

over bowl’s polished turquoise rim

 

Examine seeds

Whirlpool unfurled

Suspended like frogspawn

Might taste of them too

 

Fed Aztec masses

today sprinkled on privileged porridge

this recipe’s chia egg

no chicken needed

 

Dig out volcano’s crater

Pour in opaque almond mostly-water-

fall

it’s all caving in

 

Tip chia egg on top

Scraping every last cent

the saviour

sticks it all together

ready for the pan

 

Bacon and egg sandwiches at netball

 

Final whistle rips

through the mist

Imogen tears her bib from her chest

swings it above her pig-tailed head

skipping up the sideline

 

Coach Lyn jigs

onto the court

pulled into the scrum

of squealing pink-nosed

under 9’s netballers

 

Coffees gone cold in hands

forgotten by cheering, chattering spectators

one mum offering frozen oranges

no one was bold enough to try

 

ramming through the chill

the smell of fundraiser barbeque

captivates even the runniest netballer nose

 

Mum’ll take the special du jour

forget leftover lasagne at home

it comes with whining

dinner or bin for that beast

there’s a new one they will eat

 

Imogen darts into salivating line

coins chinking

ogling every sandwich

passing between hands

yolk drips ignored

soaks into uniforms

 

a sickening crack

stick fingers in

and peel the halves back

from the goop they together protected

black grill

streaked pink and white

twitches, squeals and crackles

as fat that once wobbled

as she waddled

combusts

a fearsome queue grows

greasy tongs in volunteer hand

it’s time to flip her over

 

Finally!

Imogen sidles up to an expectant face

‘I’ll take two!’

‘oh, you little piglet you!’

head shakes at offer of wholegrain grown-up bread

Wonder White, egg, onto serviette

‘Magic word?’

‘Bacon!’

Shoots of Jim and the Night Sky – JW N Douglas

Most nights Jim finds it hard to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a stretch—he’s seventy. He’d bargain that slippery sleep’s an old man’s lot. Adding to tonight’s fun, arthritis wrings his neck. Also, Jim’s slippers have gone off by themselves to guard the gloom beneath a better man’s bed.

Jim (as always) watched the six o’clock news this evening. ISIL is culling Kurdish rebels and decapitating Christians. Abbott wants Australian boots in Iraq. Jim’s boots aside, he’d prefer if the Prime Minister were to post Jim’s slippers in defence of Australian soil. Jim’s a poet. Slippers on the whole are a species meant to die at home in service of a poet’s feet.

Before bed he’d spent all day writing a poem, a piece about Morocco. The Barbary Coast was the first place Jim ever found himself without a lady friend. Lying in bed, residual verses play across his mental airspace. And above the poem, a woman from his past haunts his head. He feels as if a witch were scribing on his mind’s sky with the exhaust of a broom-stick.

Streetlight from Boxer’s Creek Road bleeds through the gauze of his bedroom window. A sound curdles behind the window pane. Jim stiffens. The noise dies in the distance that joins his thoughts to the road. His face flops to the pillow, and his mind sways to the woman again.

She had a thing for animals, a thing for Jim too. He remembers her touches in the kitchen, her ginger tomcat sizzling at him in the sun of the bay window. He recalls the sex. Her nipples—two kittens’ tongues lapping moonlight. He’s best to stop thinking of her.

The poem scrapes in his skull again. He strokes his brow and listens, succumbing to what he hopes is his head’s final poetry recital for the night:

Sand Shadows

The mustard of whiskey and beer have cut him to make the man he is today—

he’s not too keen on a cup of tea, but the camel-driver nods.

‘It is Moroccan tea,’ says Allam, ‘you will want it.’

Pouring from a jug, he throws a streamer the colour of chartreuse.

The ribbon unfurls with every timeline of palm-shade and delirium

flooding the travelling man’s tea glass with green and oasis.

The tourist snorts a fire fuming from the cup.

He drinks. The glass kisses him.

His lips spark.

His forehead rains.

Then, swivelling his wrist

he sucks the steam with his nose.

And bows his lips to lick again from the pool of peppermint

and brimstone.

‘You take another please, my friend.’

Allam watches the traveller’s pleasure and pours the Aussie another cup.

The tourist puts a piece of fruit in his mouth and squashes.

He slurps and his tongue swims—

mint and mandarin spear him between strokes.

From the skin of his teeth, time and sunlight surrender.

A parasol of fronds shiver.

An eddy of sand sugar-dusts the liquorice of his boots.

The sanity of sand, he thinks.

Sand is sensible.

In whichever sandpit I bury my skinny arse,

sand is sane.

And I am lost.

If a bloke in a fez glugs tea to a cup,

someone in sandals twirls fire at Terrigal,

or a riot of Cronullans smash some Lebs—

sand is the same.

I am not.

 

The night stills. Jim fastens his mind to the silence and wilts into sleep for a few hours.

He wakes and slips his fingertips down the cord of the bed-lamp to find the switch. Jim gives the bedroom light. There’s a black Bakelite job waving all three of its hands at him from the nightstand—five o’clock in the morning. The clock was a birthday gift from a woman called Suki.

Jim kicks the covers, stands and stumbles in the dishwater of the lamp’s light, following the florets on the wallpaper to the en suite toot. The bathroom tiles chill his bare feet and for what feels like five minutes, he leaks like a brumby. Too many cups of tea after dinner, he reckons.

On his way back to bed Jim stops at the bedroom door. The door’s shut. He likes to leave it a bit ajar of a night to create an air current with the window. Jim thinks a draft must have closed it while he was asleep. A shift of the air swings it open across the hall, and a hall-bench and a hatstand slant shadows down the walls of the hallway—if I were to walk down there now, I’d see the silhouettes of all the men I have been, Jim thinks. He shuts the door.

Back in bed, every other second, the flannelette sheet chews a chunk from his bum. Bed bugs like old buggers. He sighs, and supposes his bed bugs are an exercise in the literary-man’s prerogative for a whinge. He keeps his bed clean. But Jim hasn’t always washed his sheets of the fortnight. His lovers had trained him—hung him with their weather beside their bras and panties. He feels a tiny buck in pyjama pants, but his urge melts before he can touch it.

When he was young, Jim worked his way through a lolly jar of women. Most notably, there’d been Suki. Poor pretty pisshead. And Helen. A birthmark smudged Helen across her tummy. The splodge was the colour of fairy-floss and the shape of a Clydesdale’s hoof-print. After her fling with Jim, Helen married a circus Strong-man.

He comes back to Suki. Once she took him for a drive in her Mini to The Mulwaree River in Goulburn. Suki wanted Jim to listen to the water birds with her.

They stood on the foreshore. The reeds whipped Jim’s legs and buzzed him with their bulrushes. The tide soaked his socks through the holes in his shoes.

When the wind lulled for a second, Suki asked, ‘Can you hear the sound of water gurgling in the ducks?’

Jim smiled at her and sniffed. He cupped his hand to his ear. ‘Not yet,’ he said, ‘but I’ll stick with you and try a bit harder, I guess.’ I can’t deal with this madness, he thought, and started to shiver.

‘You’re cold,’ Suki said, ‘I’ll take you home.’

Walking back to the car, Suki stopped. ‘Sweetheart. James,’ she said, ‘I’ve decided that I want to be a poet with you. We’ll take the journeys poets need. I think it’s good for poets to travel, and I’m going to share my money with you.’

‘Righto Suki,’ Jim said.

Jim cracks his neck and relaxes into the pillow. A memory of champagne tingles his palette. He recalls their suite in the Pavillon de la Reine, the slip of silk beneath the glint in their glasses. He proposed to her beside the mini-bar cabinet.

On the first day of their engagement, Suki wired five hundred thousand Francs to Jim’s bank account. ‘It’s your engagement gift,’ Suki said.

Jim’s eyes widened like a pair of dream catchers stretched across his knees.

‘We’ll be equal partners in this marriage, and I want to share the freedom I have to travel alone,’ Suki said. ‘There are times that we need to be selfish to do our work…And also I’d like you to buy me an engagement ring,’ she said, and smoothed a spray of his hair.

‘That’s nice of you,’ Jim said, and thought it might be good to hug her.

A week later they sat on a bench in the Parc de Bercy. Suki cooed, nursing a pigeon in the skirt-folds between her thighs. Feathers moulted and dangled from the bird’s skin. The pigeon’s breaths filled and emptied its breast, and the pores of its chest reminded Jim of his scrotum.

Suki kissed it. ‘Poor darling,’ she said.

Jim felt sick.

The bird gasped at her, and its breaths stopped. Suki stared down the funnel of its throat, ‘We’ll dig you a grave,’ she said to the void in the pigeon’s beak.

It’s half past five in the morning. Jim scratches his stomach and stares into the ceiling rosette above his bed. The flower seems to be wilting—it senses the sun, he thinks, wallflowers wilt without moonlight. Jim recalls a sunflower.

 

It was the night of the pigeon’s death.

They’d buried the bird beneath a plum tree.

Suki clutched a sunflower she’d bought from a vendor.

She’d laid the stem’s partner above the bird in the ground.

But for her betrothed she bobbled another bloom.

Jim stopped her inside the glow of a Gaslamp.

‘I want to end this with you,’ he said, and stroked his goatee.

‘I’ll give you back your money. It’s only right.’

She froze at him then lashed her shoulder with the blossom.

The flower fell from its stalk and Catherine-wheeled on cobblestones.

She followed its flight.

The acrobatics and the flagstones stayed her.

Some petals played on a moonlit step.

Then by the gutter she saw his reflection in the rain-sheen

and removed her mind.

‘Do you think that I’m crazy because I’m kind?’ she asked.

With the jewel of her engagement ring, she gave his chin a diamond.

‘Goodbye then, Jim. Pay me with poetry…

Write it to yourself you selfish prick,’ she said.

And spat at the stars and walked away.

 

Jim reckons he might be a bit of a fuckwit sometimes. He might as well get up. After a morning’s writing, he’ll give that stack of scribbly gum in the back shed a good seeing-too. He’s a Goulburn boy. Goulburn Men (even old fuckwits) chop wood for the winter. He leaves his bed. His back complains to Suki’s clock about the time.

Jim settles himself at the desk of his study and continues his ‘Moroccan poem’.

A frond shadow-puppets a sickle each to the men’s throats.

Across from the palm clump, a camel hunches beneath a woven shelter.

She stands in the sand, smiles and shimmies from the sunset.

Nudging her rider with her nose, she closes her eyes.

Allam strokes her eyelids, letting his fingers smudge the ink of her lashes.

‘We go home now, Chef my friend,’ he says to his prize,

‘Before the sand shreds us to strips.’

*

By late afternoon Jim has a bouncing baby poem and a few extra ideas in his notebook. Scanning the screen of his laptop, the poem’s sounds and images taste sweet in his mouth. The other day, a case of indigestion had gutted him for an hour or two. He’d Googled the anatomy of the stomach. Based on the research, his mind had settled on a metaphor for the body’s digestion of poetry. He reckons it’s good to suck on a poem for a while. The tongue can taste a word’s simple sugars in less than a second, but to be digested the starch in a collection of words needs to be swallowed and churned with the voices in a poet’s stomach.

He prints the poem and reads it once more before filing the sheets in a folio he keeps in the first drawer of his hardwood desk. Jim took about sixty years, but he’s learnt the importance of being an organised poet.

A poem grants parole only on completion of a poet’s first draft. He’s by the shed. He’d wanted to chop the pile in the morning before this evening’s chill, but redrafting his work had shackled him to his desk all day.

Jim feels free. He swings his blade through a chunk of wood and takes a chop of chest-pain. The blow radiates to his elbows. Just heartburn, he reckons. From the branches of blue gum, a butcherbird waits to peck the eyes of a dead man.

End.
Six months ago Suki felt an echo from her insides, her vital organs rehearsing the first notes of her swan song.

She’s always loved the Madeline books and because of these stories she likes French nuns. All her travels had reduced her inheritance to dregs. So she’d released the relics of her finances to a charity hospice in The 18TH District of Paris, a centre for the half-dead run by Catholic nuns. Upon Suki’s donation, the Matron admitted Suki immediately. The hospice is called The Grotto of Saint Julian the Hospitaller.

Suki is a lifelong poet. Poetry is her vocation. One of a poet’s gifts is the ability to transcribe everything prosaic to the meters of poetry. She guesses it’s with a similar sense to hers that a composer of music turns the clucks of a wooden wind chime into the chords of chorus.

Suki’s illness confines her mostly to bed. Her cot’s so old that she wouldn’t be surprised if the sisters nicked it from Joan of Arc when the saint was having confession. To take her mind for a walk, Suki sometimes lapses into a state of poetic rambling. She transcribes the prose of her hospital surroundings into poetry…though on the topic of my death, Suki thinks, I’ve hit a grey area. Does death need transcription? Will I write my death with a poem or will I use prose? Suki wonders. She supposes her genre will be a bastard, and a bit of both.

Whatever death is, Suki tries to let it let it blow over her without it ruffling her with any more of its meaning. She’ll have the pleasure of a visitor tomorrow, and Suki wants her friend to be free from any ruffles. Her companion gets scatty at times.

There’s a knock and a nurse enters with an enamel basin. Suki hears the swash of water.

The Sister is African and speaks into Suki’s eyes.

Be still, ma cherie, I do not wish to wrench your cannula

She swabs a warm splash to one of Suki’s breasts

Jolted by her jaundice, Suki gazes inside herself

To brighten her mind-space, she imagines her boobs

are a pair of plastic plates

her nipples are yellow jelly beans

And from the holes of Sister’s sponge spills coloured water

Suki stretches her head to the nurse’s digits—

The fingers spread from hand-shaped squirts of chocolate sauce

as if she were catering for a child’s birthday party

serving Suki’s death between courses of sweets,

cordial and Rainbow-cake

My darling, Sister Sissy says,

are you prepared for your dialysis in an hour?

No Sister, Suki says, but I will let it drink my blood one more time—

to buy myself tomorrow

Tomorrow is Tuesday. Clarice visits me Tuesdays

Ah, your guineapig amie, Sissy says

I have some raisins for her, Suki says

she is the only thing kind enough to smudge her face between my breasts

I feel as if she were listening

What do you suppose she hears inside me?

I’m thirsty. Can I have a little drink?

Suki could swoon in a swig of French chardonnay

Murder a drop of Alsace Riesling

I will need to check your Fluid Chart first, Suki, Sister says

Suki likes the way Sister Sissy says her name

Through the angles of the nun’s accent

Suki’s sound is two chimes of an orchestral triangle

Sissy snatches Suki’s Obs Chart from the cradle at the foot of her bed

gleams from it, returns it, and says, No, ma cherie

I can allow you only un petite spoonful of ice

Something to chill your tongue

but you mustn’t swallow. Spit

Sissy leaves Suki

There’s an ice-machine in the Nurse’s Station

She comes back with a polystyrene cup

Suki spits

 

Suki lets herself dream. She’s at home in Goulburn, she knows this by the bird trills in the sky. She stands on the roots of a blue gum. A butcherbird decorates the branches above its nest with someone’s eye and the diamond of Suki’s engagement ring.

 

She stirs from sleep. Five litres of herself swish beside her

The sound is as though she were driving

Window-wipers swiping rain from her windscreen

Suki sneezes and a tendril of hair wilts from her bun

She brushes the lost coil from her cheek and her ring tweaks her nose

Seeing into the diamond, the cut and precision of its memories

stare her down…

Jim hasn’t got the balls to hold an umbrella between my hair and red rain

but Clarice does