Read The Best Australian Poems 2011 Online

Authors: John Tranter

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The Best Australian Poems 2011 (6 page)

BOOK: The Best Australian Poems 2011
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Warning
Johanna Featherstone

In the bay-window's corner,

a cobweb has come unstitched;

time dangles, is unturned at the

beginning of a cosmic fall;

 

after six months of mail we are

to meet. Face-to-face existence

promises miraculous guilt

for the experience. Proof

that what is natural is trouble.

Gli ultimi zombi
Liam Ferney

for Ezra

 

What it must be to be buried on an island

                            of the dead like a character

in some Uwe Boll zombie rave up.

 

The back alleys stuffed to the ceiling

                            with overpriced pepperoni pizzas

and the stench of fish soaking damp laundry.

 

On the Grand Canal the vaporetto lists

                            a city park drunk stumbling

at every oversubscribed port of call.

 

Like cattle at the famous Roma sales

                            the befuddled subjects adoringly

compliant servants to the tyranny of the viewfinder.

Fluff
Toby Fitch

Milling about the city's nightlife,

she threads through the quilted crowd

who rug themselves up, flattering

each other's leathers and wispy flair.

She stands on the fringe like a lost

strand of hair, listening to the needles,

the knit-knot words, the pinning-up of

phrases – cottoning on to their lingo.

She's ready to be brushed aside

when some guy's quip poufs her up

like a pillow, though she responds by

chewing a ball of fluff because, for

some fuzzy reason, she wants his hide,

sewing what's left of her heart to

her sleeve – a threadbare cliché that

his quiff-like puns pierce like

a pin-cushion. With conversation

wearing thin, his hand reaching for

her velvet, she remembers the lint

piling up in the corners of her

apartment; the frayed curtains she's

never closed on her view of the city.

She can see it now from her bedroom

window: the silhouetted skyline, a

tattered hem; the stars, little white

cross-stitches forming a sky of blind

eyes; and rolling over the buildings,

the moon, a silver ball of wool,

unravelling.

Long Weekend, 2
William Fox

The elephant is the comparative immaculateness

of the empty rooms at my parents' holiday house.

Arriving at any such place in breezy, bayside night

will present an identical scene; dull, dormant light

flickering alive the photo frames, fanned-out old magazines,

specially made beds with directions to extra linen,

remote controls with channel guides handwritten

in tentatively proud script, a fridge filled by bare essentials

& the fresh stuff you know yr mum snuck in the day before.

There is a poignancy in such presentation I can barely endure.

Ostensibly I just chuckle or say the minuteness makes me grin.

Within, what recurs inexplicably is the thing Thomas Jefferson

said about the art of life being the avoidance of pain. I know

my mum got catharsis from cleaning every corner of my grandfather's

joint when he passed away. I don't presage a speck

worth shifting when my parents move on. What will be left

down here except a stasis of lovingly arranged invitation?

Sometimes I envisage it being best if I were to never shed light

on such cordiality again, but just to let it decay behind

thick blinds matted with dust only airborne to opportunistic

burglars on the most sun-filled & silent weekdays.

The Suns Fall at Zero
Andrew Galan

The zebra measured shimmering lines to a yellow slippery dip, pacing service station skeleton awning –

I considered a sideboard where it lay in the street,

counted five long dashes as a girl reflected cool against gushed drainage,

pink fibre folds hid under happy green wrapping lying about her closed eyes.

Someone had abandoned a white, black-wheeled tractor; its blue bucket matched her bikini top.

‘Should we really be where these tents are in our blue and white swimwear?'

I read and ignored a drip from boned eave.

She lay out on the tarmac, a bikini sphinx, her swimmers eaten by movement over

the waiting slippery dip, against a purple galaxy, with the shadow of Ned Kelly's horse hiding out.

At her waist things had gone awry,

it was at this point you could note, if not distracted by riveted cement rampart,

blackened buildings which stood dilapidated; ink splatter encroaching to slick surfaces.

She lay, legs an easy knee calf-high cross – out, owning the rigid grip of gutter

below she mirrored still,

under fallen arm white dashed tar trembled the plastic curl of the slippery dip,

flames boiled from where the people had been,

I saw charcoal smear constellations; one green pylon blurred aqua where it met the rip,

written armed line, hip under string, cappuccino skin,

bellicose consumption, between bitumen and shoulder and neck, a small echo of the coming storm.

Her swimsuit cup matched the tractor's bucket: it was an unusual coincidence.

‘Should we really be where these tents are in our blue and white swimwear?'

The words slowly dissolved as stars jammed from the other side of the wall,

only where the cleaner worked had anything come through.

The far right corner saw the slim frames of the city bombed out of the wilderness.

Plants still lived in the drain,

heavy lines of crossing fled from her hand into froth where she threw up the familiar pool.

Forefront steel points loomed away gold flares sank,

I wondered why someone left the dining room cabinet in the middle of it all, let it be graffitied,

and I realised that the building was just bones, I could see the storm.

A few more suns fell ‘Why was she the only one running?' A few rusty bloody, hung on.

The Sum and its Parts
Angela Gardner

Not a rerun of
Star Trek:

The Next Generation
or a reload of
I

Love Lucy
but the day in my head replayed

and the nervous system closed up

 

– when I got to the burial ground

summer had already come looking in

to the light-filled hole

the child on his rocking horse, distinct

in his world, horn and ears alert.

 

Did I say this was a love story?

The pressure of new sap faced with love

embodied: vapour-clouded, breathless.

 

When Actaeon went into the forest

it was full summer, all that tells of the season

said differently through sunshine.

 

So late in the year. We step through this

curtain, to crouch, where last night's windfall

lies bruised upon the grass

 

the upturned forest in sad decline, the pity of it,

so meekly arriving, dog-helmeted as you

and I console ourselves.

 

The problem is not flesh and bone but viscera,

the shining consciousness it maintains

as beauty, hard above the poisoned blood.

Absurdity Rules
Carolyn Gerrish

sometimes    being cheerful isn't easy

that ability to smile at someone else's child

throwing a public tantrum  & having the discipline

not to abuse the bus driver   when he's

forty minutes late   & trying not to flinch

when someone says of a recently deceased relative

– I wonder what wonderful adventures she's having –

no   your default position is a
sweet dour pessimism

where the soundtrack of your days   is a Brahms

string sextet   but you can bring out the hilarity

in bleakness   like the Hanged Man   turn everything

on its head   so even the worst calamity can be

laughed at

              
my way of laughing

                     is to tell the truth

 

so the only real catastrophe occurs   when your pen

runs out    while trying to record a
Chaser
Moment

&  those belle epoque Rupert Bunny women   clutching

fans & roses & staring existentially into the night

could they be waiting for a take-away pizza?   then

while the lights are off   an auteur projects a

fictional film of your life-in-progress   but

the plot is vertiginous   the colour palette

confusing (even rainbows have doppelgangers)   the

protagonist is unlikeable & it's no joke   when

she misplaces her sanity   then discovers her soulmate

is a pedophile serial killer

                            
comedy is a tragedy

                                   with a happy ending

Leftovers from a pirate party
Jane Gibian

OFFER: very small

dog coat Lewisham

4 used netballs

Old goth/punk clothes,

size 12–14

WANTED: Heat mat

(for hermit crab aquarium)

Inflatable Santa – giveaway or loan

OFFER: Three-arm chandelier

with frosted glass –

needs rewiring

LEFTOVERS FROM

A PIRATE PARTY

Jade plant from Mascot

gone already!

RE-OFFER: Disposable diapers

for small cat/dog

3 vacuum cleaners,

no wands

WANTED: 7 fence palings

LARGE CONTAINERS

FOR HOME BREW

To the Lady who I gave

Sony Trinitron TV to in Feb!

OFFER: Yabby family

of five in Glebe

Mixed Things From

My Pantry: Riverwood

Two shopping bags

full of stuffed bears etc

An Uncertain Future
Geoff Goodfellow

I was sitting in my car opposite

the Adelaide Magistrates Court

              waiting on a change of lights

when i first saw her

 

she was in her early twenties

              had on a black sleeveless top

& a denim mini skirt

              her arms & legs were heavily

tanned & she wore strappy sandals

 

her hair was bottle blonde –

              & as she crossed in front of me

blowing out a stream of blue

cigarette smoke

              i noticed her black roots

complimented her chipped & broken

front teeth

 

she was at least seven months pregnant

 

the lights changed

              i moved off slowly –

into my own uncertain future.

Dreams and Artefacts
Lisa Gorton

after the Titanic Artefact Exhibition

 

I.

Patiently, ticket by ticket, a soft-stepped crowd

advances into the mimic ship's hull half-

sailed out of the foyer wall, as if advancing into

somebody else's dream –

the interior, windowless, where perspex cases bear,

each to its single light, small relics –

a tortoiseshell comb, an ivory hand-mirror,

a necklace pricked with pin-sized costume pearls.

They might be mine – at least, things loosed

from a dream I had, off and on, for years.

They have suffered nothing, these things raised

from a place less like place than like memory itself –

 

II.

Where the sea is

worked back upon itself in soundless storm,

              a staircase climbs.

Its scroll of iron foliage grows in subtler garlands now –

it is the sea's small

machinery of hunger, feeding on iron, makes these

              crookedly intricate festoons,

as if it were the future of remorse – Piece by piece,

the staircase returns

                     to the conditions of dream.

 

III.

In the next room, they have custom-built a staircase.

A replica, reinvented from a photograph,

it leads nowhere – or it leads to the house of images

where nothing is lost. A clock without a mechanism

adorns its first-floor landing, hands stopped at that minute

history pours through. We forgive things

only because we own them – This is a staircase

not for climbing, its first step strung with a soft-weave rope.

 

IV.

It is raining as I leave –

long rain breaking itself onto the footpath,

breaking easily into the surface of itself

like a dream without emblems, an in-drawn shine.

Overhead, clouds build and ruin imaginary cities,

slow-mo historical epics with the sound down,

                            playing to no one.

 

BOOK: The Best Australian Poems 2011
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