Their shadows are stacked by number
in long tin sheds at the far-
flung end of a bitter yard.
It’s the end of the industrial age
maybe. Or the smoke’s just gone elsewhere.
You know where you can put your words
tight as cooling steel
when the factory’s closing.
To be a BHP worker, that was something
you had to work for, and keep on working for
to get your keep – there was some
Remember that old sign, Broken ill?
The H was missing like Joey’s front tooth that time
he ran into his girlfriend’s ex
or that bloke with his boots strapped on
to thick wood flats to stop his feet
from melting, went up anyway
in a tower of stink
dropping little fangs of grit
over all the washinglines of Carrington.
That kind of stuff happened heaps
but you wouldn’t hear about it
except down the pub.
Those wood patterns you were talking about
got dumped at Kooragang,
a mountain of kauri, cedar and white pine –
fifty years of carpentry all trashed
by graders, buried or burned.
The history’s gone, mate. Forget it.
Newcastle’ll be better off without the bloody place.
The Museum Of Fire
Past the shooting range and dirt
car rally track, the dump.
Names end here, in the museum of fire.
Seagulls whirl up like ripped scraps of cloud.
Torn off bits of everything – wet books,
smashed bricks, frazzled plants
in cracked plastic pots.
They serve, who only stand and wait
shooing flies and pondering
the tough-arsed 4-wheel drives
backing loads of exhausted possessions in
where no charity can intervene,
no questions asked.
The men with rights to scavenge
make useless hand signals
then pounce, pulling out lengths of
old house wiring, any brass or lead,
ignore tossed oddities, half-dead TVs,
a cabinet of ballet shoes
tipped to the burning line –
music boxes split, little ballerinas
pirouette heart-leaping twists
into shattering mirrors
smudged with ooze, crushed in
to worn-out boots,
a no wheel
crazed with cement
dust, cradling bricks
on a green pool table.
In graveyards of the mundane
glisten splinters of memory. Years
coil into stink, and rot and creeping fire,
this glorious, over-burdened century
bulldozed into fill.
Close to the End
It must be close to the end
of Star Wars season again –
eight people in the cinema
buzzing light sabre sword fights
more twisted script relief &
aeons of future hassle.
Outside, the biggest
aircraft carrier in the world
slides into Sydney.
ABOUT THE POET
Richard Kelly Tipping lives in Sydney working with visual poetry, photography and public sculpture. His word art is substantially represented in collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, which lists and illustrates more than one hundred works through www.artsearch.nga.gov.au Born in Adelaide, Tipping studied at Flinders University, and after travelling in the Americas co-founded the ongoing Friendly Street poetry readings in 1975. He lived in Europe and England from 1984-86, producing and directing documentary films on writers including Peter Porter, David Malouf and Randolph Stowe. He completed a masters degree and a doctorate at the University of Technology, Sydney, and lectured in media arts at the University of Newcastle until 2010. UQP published three collections of his poetry: Soft Riots (1972), Domestic Hardcore (1975) and Nearer by Far (1986); and Picaro Press Notes Towards Employment (2006). In 2007 he edited a special issue of Artlink magazine on The Word as Art. A fat book of visual and verbal poems is nearing completion, to be published by Puncher & Wattman. He is represented by Australian Galleries.