from Issue #6: Poetry by Stephen Oliver

Photo from the author's private collection

Photo from the author’s private collection

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Editor’s note: scroll down to listen to recordings of Stephen Oliver reading two of his poems published in this issue.

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Amongst Vine Leaves

…………………………………………….for Pina Ricciu

She is young, your mother amongst vine leaves—
head thrown back in a gesture of sensual impatience,
for the harvest festival, maybe, her face belonging
to sunlight that falls low over the hill where she stands
amongst the vine leaves on a Sardinian hillside,
close by her village—dreams as clear and bright as

the air which envelops her. She feels she ought to be
elsewhere, amongst laughter and song, and all the
young men of the village circling her in slow dance—
as in a tryst she would make with herself in the
bedroom mirror—the scented breath of night, cool
and secretive, she dreams of her lover who will carry

her away to far off places of fashion and glitter
promised by American movies, long silvery streets seen
from skyscrapers, New York accents, the sun warm
upon her bare arms, she stands forever in the vineyard
in that black & white photo, leaves autumn dry, ready
to drift and scatter about her feet, at harvest time.

*

House of Occlusion

…………………………………….After reading Tatiana Shcherbina

Left open long enough spiders will weave these
windows shut, then my world would become a web,
as though I were peering back through old age
as if through gauze, not knowing if that glimmer lies
behind or ahead of me. So I consider my imagined
blindness from plan-view. Is focus an inward,
or outward speculation on this house of occlusion?
Spider spells it out in web letters, by a lexicon of
intersections, through hollow-eyed caves of the dead.
‘Buried in our lives we are governed by ghosts.’
My windowsills remain a battleground, bits thrown
about, shattered insignia of the housefly abound.
Yellow and crimson grains of sunset make an altar,
as the oblatory spider pays fully the lares et penates.

.

*

The Vendors

It was only upon reflection. The glimpse suggested light welling up from the darkness of the storm water drain had shifted his orientation. All the translucent icicles melted so that what lay before him was indefinable as grey sludge. The monitor into which he gazed, a digital crystal bowl, only gave back to him a myriad of distractions at any one time. These annulled every question he might have asked had he understood the need for one. As if an answer were necessary to his investigation. But what might this disclose?

            Images and banners passed before him in procession over the plains of the monitor like a mediaeval pageant or armies on the move. Then he realized it was nothing more than the market-place rabble. Vendors selling their wares silently as if in a mime. Only at the farthermost stalls, on the outer circle, could be heard the sound of something abandoned as though an echo had bounced and broken. He knew then agitation as movement had replaced focus. There was little danger—for the crowd would not cohere and no one sought common purpose. As long as he held onto this one notion he knew that retreat into something he had forgotten was possible.

.

*

Kitchen Table

……………………………..“Kitchen tables—where would us poets
……………………………..be without them?”
……………………………………………………………..—Peter Olds

The question now arises, how to make a poem
at a kitchen table? Only a small space is required
between the clutter of the last meal and the HP bottle
of sauce bullying the mustard pot next to it.
Should the palette feel jaded, a pinch of angst
and emptiness is recommended. Broken love affairs
are an excellent ingredient, as binding as broken
eggs. To this, add four drunken nights, and possibly an
argument with an estranged partner over not
too much in particular—a desiccated sprinkling
of laughter is optional to add a piquant flavor to the
mix. Beat in one old flame with one tablespoon
of hard luck and low expectations; as to additional
emotional sweeteners, half one disastrous gaff
with a potential partner, and stir well. Let the mix
‘rest’ for a while (for some it is a lifetime) then
spoon contents into one baking dish. Set the Oven of
Retribution at 90 °F and bake for 40 minutes.
Prod with thin skewer to check for moisture levels.
Stand for about 10 minutes and garnish with the milk
of human kindness. Serves all who sit and wait.

*

ABOUT THE POET

Stephen Oliver is the author of 17 volumes of poetry. Travelled extensively. Signed on with the radio ship The Voice of Peace broadcasting in the Mediterranean out of Jaffa, Israel. Free-lanced in Australia/New Zealand as production voice, newsreader, radio producer, columnist, copy and feature writer, etc. After 20 years in Australia, currently in NZ. His latest volume, Intercolonial, a book length narrative poem, published by Puriri Press, Auckland, NZ (2013). A transtasman narrative. Creative non-fiction in Antipodes, June 2014, and poetry in Plumwood Mountain, August, 2014.

Click here to view one of Stephen’s latest poem-videos, The Great Rogatus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6lJ24iskxA&feature=youtu.be

from Issue #6: Poetry by Iain Britton

Photo (CC) KamrenB Photography @ Flickr

Photo (CC) KamrenB Photography @ Flickr

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Leonardo’s spaceman

from city sleep

………..the night’s long shadows

……crawl inwards /……late walkers

…………….stumble home

the cat in dog’s fur / listens for owls

the thudless bells

…………of the temple………whisper

.

from here it’s a primitive hot house

……a neural-fed stardome

……….of short stories

of a man who lives in an iron lung

……….who walks up hills

…………….lying on his back

………who watches the clouds through a glass map

mouth open to spoonfuls of sea life

.

………..everyday

…..he responds………like a tide

………….caught between rocks

.

……….a helicopter

passes over………….stirring up

sound / dangling vistas
…………………………heartbeats
…………the air pockets of athletes

.

………..the man in the iron lung

dreams of standing upright /…….naked

…………….like Leonardo’s spaceman

head and shoulders

…….amongst the congested luminaries

…………..of his reading /………head

……………………..and shoulders

decorated by a turmoil of feathers

solar systems parading their colours

.

…..he compares himself to a tree in blossom

………his nights populated

……………by ethnic interpretations of what he says

.

this morning he flew too close to the sun

.

……………i put back the soft golden peaches

………that are too sweet / i leave the grapes

……………to shrivel into green wrinkled heads

………i leave him to his confinement

 

…………everyday

he relies on small revivalist shots for something greater

 

…………with calculated ease

………………he stroke plays

………………….his love for objects out of reach

………………………for the silky fragrance

………….of another’s skin / the slipped momentum

…………………..of a similar person

.

the man who lives in the iron lung

……knows what it’s like

…………………to breathe underwater

…………..without sleeping

.

 *

.

chrome yellow hypothesis 

 

the house isn’t what it was

the voice of a radio

predicts a storm / it mimics a politician

……..commentates on cricket /

the radio possesses the eye

………..of an orchestra

anthems on walls / flags and

coronation stuff / a platoon

route marches to Hill 44 /

.

the family has taken its furniture

……..its god particles

…..and disguised itself in bundles

.

…………the house isn’t what it seems …

a square brick object

………at the mercy of orthodoxies

……………dousing gentiles in holy water / they

chant / play / sing / love thine enemies

 .

Te Hahi o te Whakapono

………..the church……..(sermon-bloated)

…….hunches its white skull

…………..beside the lake

.

passers-by are pulled in to drool

on historical grounds

…..where prisoners in wood

……….hug others in wood

where the lake laps music against stained-

glass windows /

………………….a flute’s voice

………….breathes on naked skin

……..a woman smiles

…………..undoes her soul

………………..for the cost of a camera’s sharp bite

.

….life………..i observe

………….is a sulphuric cloud

………raw and exposed

…………….a matter of confessions

 

this woman this mother
approaches

.

……….the miracle makers
…………..who each year split atoms
………………………by walking on air

.

she’s fascinated by silica

its crystals / this geothermal fragility

………………which domes the town

.

……..she opens herself to parkland

…………………………fantasies

……..any stuntman might exploit

.

beside the lake

…………..birds scrap

………over chrome-plated godsends

plucked from moonstones

.

this mother this woman

…..goes into the house of

…………………one room
…………………one kitchen
…………………one radio

.

a solitary figure clothing

……..legends in bright garments

.

what if                                                                                                           

…………..i place my lips on her lips

………….would forests                                                                      

………………….buckle up / would ghosts

………..return to their shelves to rest

.

she speaks to each gnome in her garden /…….paints

their hats gold

…………..handles them carefully

.

each night they rough and tumble

……………squabble…….like her children

……………….where invisibility is an asset

where in her house

love battles

love charges up a hill /    e hoa

………………………………..she calls

and the radio responds

with the news

……..the weather

a boy scoops up a ball

and runs with it

through a yellow cloud

 

ABOUT THE POET

Since 2008, Iain Britton has had collections of poems published by Cinnamon Press, Interactive Press, Oystercatcher Press, Lapwing Publications and Kilmog Press, plus two pamphlets with Greendoor Publishing and Like This Press. Also, his work was included in the Shearcatcher Poetry Anthology, published by Shearsman Books, 2012. A recent collection, photosynthesis, has just been published by Kilmog Press (NZ), with Rufus Books (Canada) publishing new work in 2015.

from Issue #6: Poetry by Elizabeth Smither

Photo (CC) Leah Gregg @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Leah Gregg @ Flickr

 *

Oysters

Six dozen oysters on the half-shell
in ice in a beaded champagne bucket
saved for from the housekeeping

now at the centre of the banquet table
the pristine cloth, the forks in a line
the knives and plates, a bowl of roses

and the big blue platter for the beef
the salads like forests, the tongs
the mountain of bread rolls heaped up

fresh from the oven under a steaming cloth.
‘Oysters,’ someone drunkenly exclaimed
as she edged them slightly out of sight.

Around the table her husband’s fellow-
managers from the chemical plant. He
was in design, did advertising bumf

in an office filled with cardboard and stencils.
The oysters were status: he would climb
as each one slid down a manager’s throat.

The sheath dresses pressed in against the cloth.
The crumbs cascaded down. Next day
would be devoted to slow loving cleaning.

But where were the oysters? Suddenly gone.
The silver bucket, drops drying in the night air
was through the French doors, at the garden’s end

where three hooligans sat on their heels, scoffing
and hurling the shells. Should they hide the bucket too?
Separately they came into the room and downed

three whisky and sodas to disguise their breath.
The hostess saw them from the doorway, held
a towel for their hands. They burped and smiled.

She smiled back with thin oyster lips.
The Rape of the Oysters was talked about
all next week by the water cooler.

.

*

.

Alice and the carrots

We three advance across the uneven field
to where Alice, the horse, with one white sock
and forehead blaze comes forward to take three carrots.

Two are experienced carrot-givers. I stand awed
by a mouth so removed from the grinding jaw
and that my carrot must be inserted.

A fool, Alice thinks. In need of training. Yet
my carrot is the fattest, biggest. And I turn back
and look at her longest.

.

*

 .

Swimming with our fathers

…………………………………………………for Beth

You used to swim with your father and
I used to swim with mine. The same
beach but perhaps never at the same time

though that’s a possibility. We’d never met
when, aged ten or thereabouts, we swam
in our ruched swimsuits, our flat chests

with our handsome fathers. Mine
going further out than I dared –
or maybe he was guarding me from the sea –

swam breaststroke in. I saw his legs
snap and open like scissors, his head
regarding me and my dog paddle.

And you, my long-time friend, saw your
father too, floating on his back, but
turning his eye, time and again, towards you.

.

 *

.

Ukulele for a dying child

No right to write in longhand with a black pen
the stroking words as fine as ukulele strings.
The ukulele pink and curved, the little girl
whose dying is unknown to her, adults presume.

She sits propped up with pillows, plays
with her teacher who has come visiting,
sweets in his pocket, if they are called for,
music’s notes fat in the air, and infallible.

And everything is pressing in, before it flees
(how unbearable to live this way forever)
and yet to live would be nothing fairer
with just the ukulele and the giver.

.

*

ABOUT THE POET

Elizabeth Smither has written 17 collections of poems as well as short stories and novels. She was New Zealand poet laureate (2001-3) and received the Prime Minister’s award for literary achievement in poetry in 2008. Her most recent publications are The blue coat (Auckland University Press, 2013) and Ruby Duby Du (Cold Hub Press, 2014).

from Issue #4: Poetry by Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi

Photo (CC) Paul Albertella @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Paul Albertella @ Flickr

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Read Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi’s original Italian, followed by Theodore Ell’s English translations in blue.

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Da Il Parlamento d’amore

La camera bassa lancia il grido. Un razzo
si accende nel cortile del nuovo millennio.
Una cometa chiama a raccolta. Decisa a riaprire
il parlamento d’amore chiuso da tanto tempo.

Da quando il Novecento è finito e i bambini
chiamano da ogni finestra cieca. Da ogni lager
di Germania Italia e Albania. Da quanti
anni non parlano. Mentre tornano in mente

i volti scarni di Giorgio e di Giovanna. Tornano
per affacciarsi alle pareti gialle che il male
ha scalcinato. Se aprono le finestre e la bambina
accenna un bacio. Le imposte crollano sotto

il fuoco delle domande. E le artiglierie in tivu
una ad una apparecchiate. Tornano a sparare.

-

From The Parliament of love

The lower house starts shouting. A rocket
ignites in the courtyard of the new millennium.
A comet calls a gathering. Intent on reopening
the parliament of love, closed for so long.

Ever since the Twentieth Century ended. Ever since
the children call from every blind window. Since
every lager of Germany Italy and Albania. For as long
as they have not spoken. While the fleshless

faces of Giorgio and Giovanna return to mind.
They return to face the yellow walls that evil
kicked down. If the windows open and the girl
beckons for a kiss. The shutters collapse beneath

the fire of questions. And the artillery pieces on T.V.
are set one by one. They begin shooting again.

-

La camera alta quasi tocca il cielo. Dalla plastica
verde piove l’eternità. Come l’amianto ingessato
piove la democrazia del male. Piove sempre perché
lassù gli yankee d’America muovono pietre di luna.

Ma torna persino il tempo in cui ci amammo
per opposte tifoserie. Se il Novecento è il grande
vecchio ora sciancato. Buono a essere cucinato.
Volerete in noi se vi spoglierete del vostro orgoglio.

Fummo soldati bambini in terre di Albania. E voi
le bambine impietrite in fronte alla tivu. In pace sì
perché finissero le guerre nel sussidiario. Faceste
pire di libri e fuoco. E obiettori finimmo il testo

a scuola sempre paludato. Ora votiamo una
mozione d’ascolto. In sella a questo millennio.

-

The upper house almost touches the sky. From green
plastic rains eternity. Like plastered asbestos rains
down the democracy of evil. It always rains because
up there the Yanks of America move moon stones.

But even the time when we loved each other through
opposing fans returns. If the Twentieth Century
is the great old man, now lame. Good to cook.
You will fly within us if you cast off your pride.

We were kid soldiers in the lands of Albania. And you
the girls turned to stone in front of the T.V. Yes in peace
so that the wars could end in the textbooks. You built
pyres of books and fire. And as objectors we finished the text

that at school was always so wordy. Now we propose
a motion to listen. In the seat of a new millennium.

*

Edipi

Meditazioni per Edipo Re a Fiesole

…………………………………………………..per Antonio Crivelli

I

Che cosa cerchi nel Tempio etrusco?
Prima di ogni scena. Prima di ogni
complesso. Madre e padre presidiano
insieme a te. Edipi travestiti già nel seme.

Nascono. Inesorabile sorge la comunità
fantasma. Le stele con cuori di pietra
serena. Segnano il Tempo della Legge.
Chiamano dalle rovine le figure di pietra.

Distrutto il Tempio. Tornano ancora
gli Dei di pietra? Essere in volti emersi
dal nulla. Immobili urlare il nostro dolore.
Non poter levare due braccia al cielo.

 

II

Che cosa cerchi nel Teatro greco?
Di fronte alla Porta di Tebe attendere
di vedere. Lo scheletro spalancato. La sorte
inesorabile. Edipi nelle terracotte corrose.

Le ante. I due battenti gettano la tragedia
nel labirinto iniquo degli affetti. Esiste
il Presente? Vi piove il Passato. Vi piove
il Futuro. Nel fango i volti parlano. Il Coro.

La Sfinge Bianca. Non esiste alcuno scampo.
Aperta la Porta attendere tutti. Il Presente
diventa la pietra rossa. Nel sasso pietrificati
noi che il sangue ci macchia per sempre.

 

III

Che cosa cerchi nelle Terme romane?
Accade nelle vasche ai nostri corpi. Eppure
evaporare. Edipi disfarsi via dalla pietra.
Farsi marmo bianco e rosso. Lavarsi da colpa?

Levigati attendere di esalarsi tutti nel Futuro.
L’esilio. La comunità d’inermi. Mentre stanno
padre madre nel cuore della Legge. Finalmente
riunita la famiglia. Cipressi e pendici sassose.

È il luogo dove vagasti? Di fronte al desco
mangiare. Tre archi in piedi. Tre orbite vuote.
Esiste la speranza? Edipi in cecità vagando.
Mentre il Tempo non assolve. Getta il muro.

 

IV

Che cosa cerchi del mondo in Piazza Mino?
Figure crivellate dagli spari. Il destino è ancora
immobile. Mentre non sparano più sulle colline
dove il fronte passava. Ma sparano dalle ombre.

Edipi non potersi sottrarci. Tutti li abbiamo
nel cuore. Tutti Edipi dentro la folla assiepata
negli affetti. Ora corpo a corpo un’altra peste
intraprende il destino. Più dura. Ci fa di bronzo.

Uccidiamo padre e madre. Salvarli da inutile dolore.
Per essere noi soltanto i condannati a cadere.
Il Tempo non mitiga la colpa. Si ripete di collina
in collina. Neppure ci illude fuggire dal Mondo.

-

Oedipi
Meditations on Oedipus Rex at Fiesole

………………………………………………………..for Antonio Crivelli

I
What do you seek in the Etruscan Temple?
Before any scene. Before any complex.
Mother and father preside together with you.
As Oedipi camouflaged already in the seed.

They are born. Inexorably arises the phantom
community. The stelae with hearts of serene
stone. Now they mark the Time of the Law.
The figures of stone call out from the ruins.

The Temple is destroyed. Will the Gods
of stone return yet? To be in faces come from
nothing. Motionless screaming our pain.
Unable to lift two arms to the sky.

 

II

What do you seek in the Greek Theatre?
Before the Gate of Thebes waiting to see.
The skeleton spreadeagled. Inexorable
fate. Oedipi in their corroded terracotta.

The shutters. Two panels fling tragedy into
a vicious labyrinth of affections. Does the Present
exist? There Past rains down. There Future rains
down. In the mud the faces speak. Chorus.

Bianca the white Sphinx. From here no escape
exists. When the Gate is open all must wait.
The Present becomes the red stone. Petrified
into rock, we whom the blood stains forever.

 

III

What do you seek in the Roman Baths?
It happens to your bodies in the pools. Yet it
evaporates. As Oedipi loosening from the stone.
Becoming red-white marble. Washing guilt away?

Smoothed all waiting to exhale in the Future. Exile.
The community of the helpless. While mother
and father stand in the heart of the Law. Finally
the family reunited. Cypresses and rocky slopes.

Is it the place where you wandered? At the lunch table
eating. Three arches standing. Three orbits empty.
Does hope exist? Oedipi in blindness wandering.
While Time does not absolve. It throws down the wall.

 

IV

What do you seek of the World in Piazza Mino?
Figures riddled with bullet-holes. Destiny is still
motionless. While they fire no more from the hills
where the front went through. But from the shadows.

Oedipi we cannot escape. We all have them
within the heart. All Oedipi in the crowd thirsting
in affections. Now destiny embarks body by body
on another plague. Harder. It bronzes us.

We kill father and mother. Saving them from useless pain.
To be ourselves the only ones condemned to the fall.
Time does not mitigate guilt. It repeats from hill
to hill. We can pretend to flee the world no longer.

***

ABOUT THE POET AND TRANSLATOR

Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi was born in Pistoia, in western Tuscany, in 1961 and has lived in Florence since 1992. He has published four collections of poetry – Magnificat (1996), Jacquerie (2000), Patricidio [Parricide] (2005) and Rosso degli affetti [Red of affections] (2008) – which have increasingly focused on the frailty of the individual within violent cycles of history. His fifth collection, Il bene cucito al bene [Good stitched to good] is forthcoming. The Oedipus sequence published in this issue was written to complement sculptures by Antonio Crivelli, commissioned for a staging of Oedipus Rex in the Roman theatre at Fiesole in 2011. Paolo has translated Frank O’Hara and Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) into Italian and has rediscovered and re-published numerous works of the poet Piero Bigongiari (1914-1997), whose archive he oversees. Paolo is Artistic Director of the Accademia Pistoiese del Ceppo, a literary academy in Pistoia, and chairs the Premio Letterario Internazionale Ceppo Pistoia, awarded since 1956. For information: www.paolofabrizioiacuzzi.it

Theodore Ell is co-editor of Contrappasso Magazine and an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney.

Contrappasso, Issue #6 – launching in September 2014

Cover image "DSC02603" (CC) Vincent Lou @ Flickr, altered from original

Cover image “DSC02603″ (CC) Vincent Lou @ Flickr, altered from original

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New Issue. New Authors. Contrappasso 6 is launching soon! This issue explores still more possibilities in international writing, bringing together work from nine countries in four languages, by more than twenty authors who are appearing in the journal for the first time.

Their work leads from snowy streets in Montana to packed train stations in Tokyo, from Hong Kong horse races to Sicilian passion-plays, from the Coal River Valley to Manila shopping malls, and from an iron lung to The Raft of the Medusa.

This issue features interviews with Australian poet Judith Beveridge, veteran American crime writer Lawrence Block and Filipino novelist Jose Dalisay. It presents new fiction by Japanese novelist Mitsuyo Kakuta (translated by Aoi Matsushima), Chilean Álvaro Bisama (translated by Megan McDowell) and from the USA, Jon A. Jackson and R. Zamora Linmark. The poets are Elizabeth Smither, Iain Britton and Stephen Oliver (New Zealand), Flora Delalande (France), Penny Florence (UK), Ouyang Yu (China/Australia) and Richard James Allen, Stuart Barnes, Jamie Grant, Siobhan Hodge, Frank Russo and Les Wicks (Australia).

Watch this website to sample the work this all-new ensemble of writers. They travel far.

The Editors

 

 

from Issue #4: Poetry by Chris Oakey

Photo (CC) Public Domain Review @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Public Domain Review @ Flickr

*

Uprisings 

1

Dawn comes in and in
while we lie shuddering
in our uselessness.

…………(Something falls
…………in the heart. It is time
…………to stop, to act.)

Light splinters
on the backs of clouds,
tumbles
down to us like rain
and becomes politics.

…………Faces are cut into smiles.
…………Flesh is butchered from bones.

And so, lovers of the revolution
spread fierce happiness
in peaceful places, until not even love
survives.

.

2

We watch the gutters fill with smoke,
mixing ash with soil, leaves spreading their panic
along like Spanish fire-ships through an immense
new ocean.

………..The floor, she said, is lava. We tried leaping
………..but lost our legs on the old carpet.

Later, around a camp-fire, singing
songs that vanish from our mouths.

………..There is no peace, she said. If there were peace
………..there would have to be war. And there cannot be war.

The floor is lava, look. The roads are burning in the cities.

………..Can we forget ourselves, with enough
………..discourtesy
………..to become human?

She just laughed and said, keep jumping.
The fire is nothing here, our flesh
steaming around us……………bodies

……….catching light, riding into the air
……….as bonfire-sparks.

Between fire and the cold night of the stars.
When we fell, it was as water and ash, separate as steam
from smoke.

.

3

………..It took time and air, the
………..gentle nuzzling of new
………..leaves.

We stood amongst our belongings
looking around, breathing.
Nobody wanted to move.

We stared at the water, hands white with ash,
hardly daring to believe that we survived
the conflagration.

………..A wind blew up, swirling in from the west, so hard and green
………..that all that was not brick began to move, calm at first, whitened by fire,
………..rose with a half turn toward the water, skirts of dust

………..in hand, then
………..stepped
………..across the surface, crisp blue, and once there
………..vanished.

We remembered the shape we had held. We remembered
the fire and how it leapt between us. Being steam

was no great trouble. It was the light that came after
shattering our delicate forms. We crumbled
to calcium carbonate, calcium oxide.

……………………………….At night we shiver. Daylight bakes
……………………………….our cities away.

……………………………….She said, after this there will be no more need
……………………………….of fire. I smiled and held her

……………………………….while her body
……………………………….blew away.

 

*

 

1912

He sleeps through the night,
and holds

a dream of
ox-carts, and a cold
hard grave.

But the morning
wakes up sick,
and when the sun should

rise, a blizzard runs
red sunlight
on Antarctic snow.

………….-I am just going outside-

………………………………………………..It’s

golden, golden, golden
where the corpse should be.

………….-Snow through air
………….like shaken wheat-

‘I am just going outside
and may be some time.

.

~ ~ ~

.

…………..Sleep; until a rumble
…………..of sudden ice.

We float past many horrible goodbyes,
the quiet look of hope in the brave men’s eyes
as the wives are put into lifeboats.

……………………………………………………..-He stretches
……………………………………………………..a kiss, in his
……………………………………………………..pressed black suit;
……………………………………………………..his waistcoat
……………………………………………………..dangles
……………………………………………………..over black sea,

……………………………………………………..shining-

And
……later, in the tented dark,
we watch the reddened sweep of wind,

………….-the snow falls through
………….the air like husbands
………….through black water-
and
……then dawn, or searchlights
on the scattered waves.

…………Everything looks just

…………golden

…………where the
…………ship went
…………down.

For now we will huddle in the lee of waves
and wait for the sun, blood
red over peach-plum waters, quiet as
a candle through a depth of snow.

.

~ ~ ~

.

…………On both sides of the main gate
…………the doors stand wide, light
…………coursing into a courtyard
…………tiled with snow.

…………Before he gets
…………to the street he hears firing,
…………returns

………………….immediately and sees all the
family lying on the floor. The blood
running in streams.

………….(streaming)

Time passes, and a little tenderness
smothers each cruelty.
Freezing men in ox-carts
move over frozen fields to
where a pre-dug grave waits
between thin trees.
………….The stars poke
their noses through for a moment, and
afterwards there is a blizzard as the
clouds roll the night away like waves.
………….The maid
who had wheat in her pockets begins
to sprout,
………….the soil will rise up
……………………..golden
……………………..come the spring

.

*

ABOUT THE POET

Christopher Oakey is a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales, studying Modernist and Post-Modernist poetics in relation to the philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Christopher recently completed a Masters degree research project on the poetic epistemologies of Hilda Doolittle and William Carlos Williams. Chris has also published poetry in multiple venues, including The Cordite Poetry ReviewTabula Rasa and Contrappasso 1 and 2.

from Issue #4: Poetry by Erin Martine Sessions

Photo (CC) Quinn Dombrowski @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Quinn Dombrowski @ Flickr

*

Starfruit

I’m bruised by a memory of you: sitting
on the café porch, drinking bad coffee
and sharing your carambola, watching
characters from my next poem pass by.

Starry-eyed, they stare at the sea behind
us but they don’t see your withering glare.
What on earth do you want from me? I find
you flagrant so I contemplate tearing

this page, editing details, cutting you
out… I want the sea to swallow you whole,
as I eat your carambola. More fool you
because, although I won’t tell you, I know
that just like this devoured starfruit,
love’s balance lies in the ripeness and ruin.

 

 * 

 

Sometimes

Sometimes I’m convinced you’re a boy
– those small almost imperceptible fists
stretch at my stomach and annoy
my sides – sometimes I’m convinced.

“You’re a girl,” I insist
as you plié, jeté and enjoy
(just a little too much) dancing

atop my bladder. You must be a decoy,
I think, because now my poetry consists
of dislocated thoughts and lines I can’t deploy.
You take my creative spark – of that I’m convinced.

 

*

 

Roses & Salt

Left or right? Which side to sleep on? But,
of course, I won’t sleep. If I sleep I might find
myself in your rose garden. Dreams aren’t
a bad thing, but there is more than the weight

of roses in the air. Too many budding thoughts,
too many burgeoning petals and you are like
no thorn I have ever known. Which way will you face
reclining on your rose garden bench?

Looking away from me, you say
the roses are intoxicating. Wasted words
aren’t a bad thing, but there is more truth
in what is not said. Too many flowery words,

too many unwalked garden paths
and my waking is perennial.
Left or right? Which side of the bed do you sleep on?
When you sleep is there a rose garden?

Sleep isn’t a bad thing, but there are more
roses than I can prune. Too many leaves to collect,
too many scents to dream, too many stems to cut
and when we wake it has all turned to salt.

*

ABOUT THE POET

Erin Martine Sessions is a Sydney-based poet whose work has appeared in Australian Love Poems 2013Contrappasso, the Jean Cecily Drake-Brockman prize anthology Long Glances, Sparks, and Swamp. She is a part-time librarian, part-time lecturer and always a poet.

from Issue #4: Poetry by Tegan Jane Schetrumpf

Photo (CC) Mat Hampson @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Mat Hampson @ Flickr

 *

Roving

The dull chock of carrots, free-wheeling
turmeric circles on the chopping board
say I am home again. The creaking of the eaves
against the retreating sky speak of cold windows,
the eyelash-and-louse tobacco loose
in the top-right-hand draw smells
like my father’s office, half a world of time away.
In the garden a lemon tree entwines
with my old cat, locking familiar elbows
with his grey bones. If time was a constant
and a life was a sausage, I would stretch
down the street where I have banged
shopping trolleys home with melting ice-cream,
to the lake where the rotting gums of the shore sprout
moustaches, across the ocean to grimy blue-ceramic alleys,
lipstick flowers, arched bridges, and back to the dark furls of the city’s
nightscape, flickering reptile tongues of light on the water.
But the knot would be thickest here, the house at the focus of this warm
borrowed intestine, protuberant with memories, this pretzel
of animal sacrifices.

 *

Conversations

…………………………………………………for Gwen Harwood

My favourite hausfrau,
you are richer than the amber fruits of morning
scented with pumpkins, violets
and the cream-and-honey
of Tasmanian gum-blossom.

Hope is what you trade in:
Soft mist.  Memories playing by the hearth.
And in that warm room
friendships with the timbre of aged wine.

I sympathise
with the rumours of your courtly loves.
They recommend to me your character.

Like me, you need
zephyrs of music, mythic maidenhair gardens
conversations with Donne
and Wittgenstein and other wits.

You know by sight
the lion-grooms, the cobblestones
hobbled in blood, the dim red glow
of sunsets which throw
the shadow of the scythe
on everything beautiful and brief.

Even with this rich tapestry
woven at your fingertips, you are
unsatisfied.

………………………The tincture of night is regret.

There is hope in your voice;
a twin note is doubt. I hear “Is this enough?”
Fear that
ripeness is saccharine. What if you died lonely,
disenchanted, as I might?

The world is not ready to feed
a woman with appetite.

Mother who gave us life
forgive us the wisdom
we would not learn from you.

*

Mr Poppins

………………………….after Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘The World’s Wife’

It’s true what they say:
you can’t keep a good woman down.
I know I can’t keep up with her –
governessing is a fast-growth industry.

She’s always running
her immaculate glove over potential-dust-mite-caches
analysing cough syrup, or deconstructing
the menagerie in her suitcase.

Saturday, she and Mrs Banks
Take Back the Night. Monday
she minds a Punjabi Sikh’s daughter. The first half of Tuesday’s
the boy with two daddies. That afternoon
is the lad with autism. When I quiz her
about the rest of her week
she quips
about linear Western thought –
pats me on the head like a kid.

Don’t get me wrong –
we still have the occasional tea-party
on the ceiling. But if I suggest
jumping into a chalk picture
for old time’s sake, she sighs:
“So retro sixties passé.”

And supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Gets me nowhere.

I’ve tried to commiserate with Mr Banks,
but he doesn’t like to mingle
with the help; grudgingly hands me a cigar
through the veranda door.

Most evenings I go home early. There’s no button
in the elevator for our floor,
something about the poetics of space
– we had to pay extra for it.

Our apartment brims
with IKEA flat packs: ALӒNGS,
KARLSTADS and HATTENS.
She leaves them for me
to piece together with an Allen key.

I can’t complain.
With the money she’s earning,
I haven’t been near a chimney for years.

When the lady of the house returns,
she puts down her Louis Vuitton purse, fluffs out
her umbrella. I take her coat,
shake her a dry martini.

I say “Do you remember dear, that song
about feeding the birds
you sang when we first met?”

She eats the olive, drains the glass and tells me
“Cryptococcus is spread by pigeon shit.”

*

ABOUT THE POET

Tegan Jane Schetrumpf writes poetry, essays and creative non-fiction. Published in Wet Ink, Swamp, Theory of Everything, Southerly, Meanjin and Antipodes, she was shortlisted for the 2013 Jean Cecily Drake-Brockman Poetry Prize and will be included in its upcoming anthology. She has a Masters of Letters in Creative Writing and is currently undertaking postgraduate research at Sydney University into the turn of the 21st Century and its effect on Australian poetry.

from Issue #4: Poetry by Phillip A. Ellis

Photo (CC) neueweide @ Flickr

Photo (CC) neueweide @ Flickr

 *

After a Shower

After a shower, when refreshed, and you enter
the main room where a fire is burning, you turn on
the radio, and listen to folk music
from Canada, and imagine the people.

You drink from a glass of red wine, are happy
enough to be content, and open
a paperback, but not read Erica Jong, but wander
in your mind as you linger, gaze at the open fire.

In another year you will do something similar,
with a tv set with Dorothy L. Sayers,
the one where they find the Russian dead,
and in doing so, you find yourself,

and you do not consider the winter, gone now,
and you do not consider whether you have surrendered.

.

*

 .

The Drowning City

It will rain for a million years,
if not now then some moment nearby,
the daily stormclouds risen high
into the atmosphere, with thunder.

The city’s easily cowed beneath
the breath of water, saying prayers
that even I am not so willing
to say, not in this age or aeon.

.

*

ABOUT THE POET

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic, poet and scholar, and his poetry collection, The Flayed Man, has been published by Gothic Press. He is working on another collection, to appear through Diminuendo Press. Another collection has been accepted by Hippocampus Press, which has also published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei. He is the editor of Melaleuca. He has recently had Symptoms Positive and Negative a chapbook of poetry, and Arkham Monologues, a poetry pamphlet, published. His website is http://www.phillipaellis.com/