from Issue #3: Poetry by Richard Tipping

Here’s a gallery of visual poems by Richard Tipping, published in Issue #3 (2013): Swofehuper, Division of the Sexes and Omen. Scroll down to read Richard’s note about their making and their meaning… 

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Author’s note

These three word works have grown from my interests in visual concrete poetry since the late 60s, when I first encountered poems such Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Acrobats, and Alan Riddell’s Revolver among many others, and was alerted to the possibilities of making poems which did not depend upon the ear, which aggressively utilised the page as a visual performance space, and which explored the special characteristics of written language.

Swofehuper doesn’t need explanation in content, while teasing out innate structures which amplify meaning: its self-sufficiency arises from the opening zip which separates the sexual halves, ironically positioned in a not-mutual dependency.

Division of the Sexes takes the single word sex, and applies a mirror inserted into the middle of the X. The resulting eight vertical sexes can be made by mirror planes placed horizontally and vertically, each one building another, like a gene replicating, in embodied symmetry.

Omen locks the letters of women and men into a grid, counterpointing them dynamically, using a particular font and spacing to emphasise the physicality of this constructed fascination which speaks of our bonded oneness amidst or alongside our otherness as both genders and cultures.

There are four ways each of reading women and men across the grid. The diagonal bar of Ms divides and unites the WOs and the ENs. The opposite diagonal gives WMN, which might be a ‘texted’ short-form of women. Together the ingredients of Omen create a sense of shared inheritance, the inherent made together.

To be continued …

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Tipping - private poetry

Richard (Kelly) Tipping lives in Sydney working with visual poetry, subvertising graphics and public sculpture. His folio of fifty letterpress and screen prints The Sydney Morning was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in 2009. His word art is substantially represented in many 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. From 1984 to 1986 he lived in Europe, where he made documentary films on expatriate writers. He completed a masters degree and a doctorate at the University of Technology, Sydney, and lectured in media arts at the University of Newcastle. UQP has published three collections of his poetry: Soft Riots (1972), Domestic Hardcore (1975) and Nearer by Far (1986); Picaro Press published Notes Towards Employment (2006). A fat book of visual and verbal poems is nearing completion. He is represented by Australian Galleries.

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from Issue #3: Poetry by Richard Tipping (I)

Photo (CC) Chris Brown @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Chris Brown @ Flickr

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In-Flight Service

Is this thing turned on?

Good evening. This is your Captain speaking.
We are now fanging along somewhere
high over the countryside.
Don’t worry which country.
Think in terms of “government policy of the 2020s”
and it doesn’t matter, left or right,
we need both wings to fly, right?
There’s no real cause for alarm or panic,
yet. This superb machinery means you no harm.
The maelstrom ahead is
just coffee stains on the radar screen and is
being wiped up as I speak.
Our landing gear is safely down
and the fuel blockage
may yet fix itself
on that tilting wing, through all of this
astonishing night, alive with stars.
The plane’s course is set on autopilot
so there’s no need for human error.
Your crew has decided to parachute to safety
this time around, and dinner will soon be served
on a self-serve basis.
Just switch on the microwave.
We trust that you have enjoyed your flight.
The doors to the cockpit have been locked
in the interests of passenger comfort.

This is a recorded announcement.

Bon voyage and
God Bless.

.

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Tokyo Sunrise

Bamboo concrete sushi computer haiku!
New Heaven rice plot no-strike factory haze!
Strict diet breakthru on Nippon Ameriglish motordrive!
Seaweed kimono! Bonzai Honda! Mega yen!
Deepfrozen flashing neon mountain stream!
Steamy bath-house! Microwave instant Zen!
Space-invaded A-Bomb Fashion databank! Basho!
Technojargon Mitsubishi Zero Shinto kamikaze anti-
nuclear disco hero! Fat carp! Heavy silk!
Sony Buddha-mind lotus highrise-postmodernised
photocopy Pure Land credit export! Rising Sun!
Nikon automatic futon disc-drive blowdry!
Dark suits! Jet trail splitting headphone sky!
Bullet-train instamatic snow white crane
Spring-blossom headlines! Mini laser Fuji robot!
Mossy rock! Camellia petal moon! Cultured pearls
of wisdom harbour! Furrowed accountant!
Santa Claus is crucified? Taoist chrysanthemum!

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Snap

JAL 422 London to Tokyo
via Anchorage, Alaska
Final Call, Gate 23

……………………….Jet-lagged bargains
……………………….squeezing credit cards

Jumbo shivering vast fatness
Dinners warming in the microwave

…………………………………………………How do you find
…………………………………………………the Tao, remind me
…………………………………………………quicksilver runway
…………………………………………………blade of a moon

Roar-blast into thick English
late November sky, sun a pear
shiny polished skin

……………………………Droning whirr of the Pratt Whitney turbines,
……………………………bulging accelerators of force-fed air

…………….Start climbing your mountain
…………….from the inside, first

……………………………………………….Silk suit Osaka businessman
……………………………………………….calculator cool
……………………………………………….holding a dripping fist
……………………………………………….of fillet steak, with chopsticks

Fibrillating atoms
outsmarting space, clustered in gaps
between then and now

inside this long white streak
slicing the air’s blue eye

……………………..10,000 metres up at 900,000 metres an hour
……………………..the patterns repeat, rich as wedding cake.

……………Across mistgrey rock, rivers like totemic signs
……………twist-turning, convulted texts made only for sky

………………………………………..Anchorage ice floes
………………………………………..like frozen water lilies –
………………………………………..slept most of the way
………………………………………..to Tokyo.

White noise, speckle buzz
……………………….TV ppssssss, flash-flicker dots

.

………….A clothes shop called A-Bomb Fashion.
………….A robot writing Happy Birthday on a creamcake

…………………Eating tempura no soba
…………………listening to fat black crows

……………………………..walk by goldleaf ginko trees
……………………………..to the palace moat, swirl-tail carp,
……………………………..sleepy white crane

.

……..Is this the Way?

.

Raining predawn, freezing hands
to the fish markets on a white enamel morning

Blue nets of pipi shells for miso
goobly squints, fish-eye mirrors
…..irridescent eels, gills pumping
…..purse-lipped blowers, spiky skinned
……….sea cucumbers, sprats, roe, yellow spiral whelks
……….small dark squares of whale
…………….opalescent oily rainbows, slick-scaled water shooters
…………….everything helplessly fresh and dying.

…………….Shuffle stool breakfast sushi bar
…………….Handwet flop. Melt-soft raw flesh slice.
…………….Steaming thick green tea

.

………………………………..Bullet train to Kyoto
………………………………..speeding by still river, reflecting rain
………………………………..Chain-smoking chimneys
………………………………..Greyroofed villages, rice fields, cement

……………………….Old man hands on hips,
……………………….garden of six fat cabbages

.

Labyrinth train station to neon city.
Red scooters yowing. Deep burble trucks.
Subway to Kitao-ji.  Is this the Tao?

  

…………………………………Effortless autumn..

………..Morning light through slats,
………..paper walls, street touch

.

Crowds trooping up stone paths,
log-strut pagoda, copper doves,
bamboo flute skin
chrome tap drip stone trough
at Daikoto-ji

Reflecting powerlines through needle pines
shatter, distort, reform.
Entrancing exactness –
gravel swept into a cone

.

…………Globular persimmons, orange weights
…………glowing in bare branches

.

Old man, bowing to a crowd
of worn stone Buddhas.
Etched shadows on crystal moss

.

…………………………………..One hundred bobbing nuns
…………………………………..all laugh at once

.

Maple leaves in dusky orange sweeps.
Bamboo-rustled silences.
Camelia-petalled moon

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6am, dragon clouds coiled on black silk.
The golf lesson starts on video screens.
Tightly rolled hot cloth, unwrapped
to steamclean expectant faces

.

………………….Through the many to the one.

.

Looking down, Australia
rippled red, huge beyond horizons.

……………………….giant wing
……………………….by tiny window
……………………….banks and turns.

to the borders of a
possible music,

.

…………………bringing home the snaps.

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ABOUT THE POET

Richard (Kelly) Tipping lives in Sydney working with visual poetry, subvertising graphics and public sculpture. His folio of fifty letterpress and screen prints The Sydney Morning was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in 2009. His word art is substantially represented in many 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. From 1984 to 1986 he lived in Europe, where he made documentary films on expatriate writers. He completed a masters degree and a doctorate at the University of Technology, Sydney, and lectured in media arts at the University of Newcastle. UQP has published three collections of his poetry: Soft Riots (1972), Domestic Hardcore (1975) and Nearer by Far (1986); Picaro Press published Notes Towards Employment (2006). A fat book of visual and verbal poems is nearing completion. He is represented by Australian Galleries.

from Issue #3: Poetry by Mark Tredinnick

Photo (CC) David Joyce @ Flickr

Photo (CC) David Joyce @ Flickr

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Mark Tredinnick’s poems – ‘Landscape with Laptop,’ ‘But Did You Ever Feel’ and ‘Bach, or is it Ravel?’ – are presented as a PDF to preserve their unique formatting.

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ABOUT THE POET

Mark Tredinnick—winner of the Montreal Poetry Prize in 2011 and of the Cardiff Poetry Prize in 2012—is the author of Fire Diary, The Blue Plateau, Australia’s Wild Weather and nine other acclaimed works of poetry and prose. His new collection, Bluewren Cantos, will be out in early 2014. Raised in suburban Sydney, Tredinnick did time as a lawyer before working for a decade in book publishing. He has lived in Sydney and in the Blue Mountains; these days he lives and writes along the Wingecarribee River, where he is at work on Reading Slowly at the End of Time. In 2013 he edited an anthology of Australian Love Poetry, published by Inkerman & Blunt. Read more at Mark’s website: www.marktredinnick.com.au

from Issue #3: Poetry by Mira Peck

Photo (CC) grendelkhan @ Flickr

Photo (CC) grendelkhan @ Flickr

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Halina

She was nine years old and eighty pounds
When the Nazi officer stormed her Poznan home
Barking, Raus, raus, while his men sang
German army songs and carried away her antique bed,
Piano, stamp collection and favourite doll.

At ten years and eighty pounds
She was locked within ghetto walls
In an airless dungeon for sixteen hours each day
Breathing leather tanning fumes
Her skin one spectral sore.

At twelve years and eighty pounds
The cattle train rumbled under her feet
For three days on the way to the Birkenau swamp.
Schnell, schnell, the armed soldiers urged,
Shaving heads, searching mouths and fingers for gold.

At thirteen and eighty pounds
A windowless convoy delivered her to the Baltic Sea.
She watched the Camp Stutthof commandant play
Beyond barbed wire with his toddler and pet dog
Then publically hang young Russian boys.

She was fourteen and eighty pounds
When the guard caught her speaking
And beat her with a whistling oak branch
Until the sand beneath her turned red.

.

Take a look at her smiling face.
Walk through her garden of golden wattles.
Hear the warbling of crimson rosellas.

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ABOUT THE POET

Mira Peck is an author of poetry and prose that blend her interests in science, art, family and justice. Her inspiration comes from a wide range of experiences, including the fields of chemical engineering, business, music and law; living in Poland, Australia and the USA; and hitch-hiking across Asia and Europe. During her twenty years of creative writing she has edited and published a quarterly newsletter, arranged literary workshops and public readings, and coordinated local critiquing chapters. Her multi-genre collection, Sour Cherry Tree, was published in 2012. She received the annual Goldfinch Prize for prose in 2010 and for poetry in 2011. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children and travels widely.

from Issue #3: Poetry by Mark O’Connor

Photo (CC) Maxwell Hamilton @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Maxwell Hamilton @ Flickr

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Diana Spencer (1961-1997)

Trapped and snapped,
cut from twisted tin,
a blowfly on the windscreen
preening its compound lenses.

Nothing to be done. They sewed her back,
packed the cut flesh in ice and flowers.

Not one for white gloves,
kneeling to the young and the dying
while those lanky knees pushed out,
she proved kings were film stars,
then deposed the prince.

TV made it like a death in the family;
anchors maudlinly adding “Diana up-dates”
to pre-recorded game-shows.

The decent, balding would-be-King arrived,
his face the colour of scraped beef,
and claimed his wife from the dead boyfriend.
Dying, she gave back his crown.

It was a young girl’s dream of ceremony
to be so taken up, believing
husbands mean “I love” when they say “I do”.
As he led her into the public’s den
she had leaned so shyly on him,
seeking that ease and devotion
reserved for another.

Even London held off its weather.
A minute’bell tolled each stage of her ride
with tall men like centaurs riding beside her,
spattered with seasonal flowers
canonised as a fallible saint, a flame
strongest when half blown out.

The crowd gave her the gift of its silence,
the sound of lilies striking on tarmac
like one hand clapping on earth;
and snuffled its dreams of her into a million hankies.

At the palace, a weeping wall
of flowers and plastic. Commentators
rich from tickling the public’s itch,
pondered such public decencies; and a priest asked
why folk should worship with lilies a mateless mother,
child-like and adulterous, whose knack was to set
her bruised heart helpless on display.

Round her corpse they wrapped natural ermine
cotton and timber; as if sending her back
to some green Avalon, lake-island, out
of a life lived in the smell of fresh paint.

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ABOUT THE POET

Mark O’Connor was born in Melbourne in 1945 and graduated from Melbourne University in 1965. He has been the Australian National University’s HC Coombs Fellow and a visiting scholar in its Department of Archaeology and Natural History. His poetry shows special interests in Italy (where he spent some years), in the Barrier Reef, and in other Australian environments. He has published 15 books of verse and is the editor of OUP’s much re-printed Two Centuries of Australian Poetry. He was Australia’s ‘Olympic poet’ for the Sydney 2000 Games, with a fellowship from the Australia Council to ‘report in verse on the Games’. Visit him at www.australianpoet.com

from Issue #3: Poetry by Geoff Page

Photo (CC) Leonard Bentley @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Leonard Bentley @ Flickr

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Edwardian

Edwardian, let’s say;
his mother losing too much blood
and lingering a week,

his father not re-marrying;
then those first few years with nanny,
followed by the governess,

the boarding school with sleety fields
and Oxford at the end.
‘Eminently eligible’,

the great-aunts used to say —
with ‘nothing of the funny stuff
that finished Oscar Wilde’.

They’d promenade their protegées,
demure, or just a bit more knowing,
but none could hold his eye —

although a few, it’s said,
considered they’d been flirted with.
Years on now, he has his interests

but nothing more demanding;
he’s seen a play by Bernard Shaw
and read a book by Nietzsche.

His Greek these days is fading;
his Latin rather less so:
he smiles at Martial now and then.

He’s done the Grand Tour twice at least
and come back unaffected.
He likes the slump of leather chairs

in which to read The Times,
the club’s small shock of single malt
before its gong for dinner.

His valet, Ferguson, in Chelsea
keeps his rooms in order.
He talks a little with his friends,

the chaps he knew at Balliol,
but hasn’t their ‘get-up-and-go’,
their fever for the Commons,

their hankering for well-bred eyes
or servant girls and modern money.
His father’s in a big stone pile

up there in Worcestershire
with half a dozen dozy servants,
letting whisky take him.

One day, not far off, he’ll need
to sort that business out.
A tribe of J.M. Barrie children

romping through those empty rooms
would once have been an answer
but here inside the club

it’s all a men’s affair:
butlers, waiters, maître d’,
the women off-stage, down below

tending to the cauldrons.
His nanny, rather loved, is dead;
the governess found other work —

or so he’s understood.
She too, it seems, was not for marriage.
The debutantes he once was shown

are mistresses of mansions now
and having their affair or two,
their ‘weekends in the country’,

trying not to say too much
when husbands slip out now and then
with slender explanations.

The world is as it always was,
will bear no alteration,
although, these days, he’s not much asked

to grace their grand salons.
Hard to feign an interest really
in anything so idle.

A faithful tailor in Pall Mall
keeps his measurements exactly
and doesn’t talk of women.

A lawyer for the family,
and rather more uxorious,
attends to the accounts.

‘Misanthrope’ is just a word.
The club is where he’s happiest,
its rituals and order,

the well-worn chairs, the newspapers,
the waiter with a second whisky,
the call to dinner in good time,

the nights back home in bed alone
but somehow less than lonely.
Ferguson is still polite

and has no troubles with his station;
is certain to turn out the lights.
It’s winter now, the warming pan

has done its job again.
He wonders where they can have gone,
those nymphs who vanished from his life,

sweet creatures surplus to requirements.
His mother though remains a sadness.
These last few nights, a dream’s come back…

he’s floating in the amniotic
a day or two before his birth,
stalled in that still-dreaming world

above the birth canal,
the sides of which he’s almost sure
his temples can remember.

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ABOUT THE POET

Geoff Page has published twenty collections of poetry as well as two novels and five verse novels. He has also won the Grace Leven Prize and the Patrick White Literary Award. His recent books are A Sudden Sentence in the Air: Jazz Poems (Extempore 2011), Coda for Shirley (Interactive Press 2011), Cloudy Nouns (Picaro Press 2012) and 1953 (University of Queensland Press 2013).

from Issue #3: Poetry by Fiona Yardley

Photo (CC) Nikolay Korobko @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Nikolay Korobko @ Flickr

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Asterion

Contrary to paternal expectations, he treads
gently through the broad underground spaces built to contain him. He
knows them like the tracking veins on the back of his
larger-than-normal, strong left hand —
the more dexterous of the two, four-fingered, more human — its
grimy cracked blackened nails chewed down to the
quick.

He helped to build his own prison, since
none can stand to look at him with anything other than
fear or revulsion — also, more practically, because the
corded muscles of his back and shoulders allowed the work to
go much faster. He takes solace, and refuge, in
puzzles of the mind, in the invisible tracking of geometric
proofs, and in philosophy.

There are several who trod these stone alleys, who
were surprised to encounter such a soft-spoken
bass-baritone, profundus in thought but not in the tenor of his
speech. He only roars when he is hungry, but the
echoes of those sounds of anguish are captured
and reflected, also to his father’s purpose, through
………cochlear horns
………carved by one of his uncles,
………to maintain the trepidation
………of the place amongst the
………crowding heroes and
………trembling maidens.

But when others are sent down to the sprawling maze,
built by the will of Minos using the brawn of his own
body, and his knowledge of recursion; well, he is
so starved for company and conversation that he squeezes
all possible knowledge from them before he
cracks their bones and, with the greatest reluctance, eats the
tenderer parts of their bodies.

He knows he is a monster. But he has a
set of pipes, made from hollow bones, which now and
then he plays; scant orphaned notes swim lost through the
heavy air, dank with rot and neglect, then they amplify
through the stone horns that guard the entry; and, for a while, the
teeming heroes with their lithe muscled bodies and their endless
thoughtless competition, amongst

the shrinking maidens, are struck by mournful thoughts and
wonder which musician, condemned by the king, wanders the
maze in spirit, for they regret his passing and the ending of such
beauty in the world, regret this sad and delicate music, then
curse their fear, which they have penned and call the Minotaur —
for only Asterion remembers his own
given name.

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ABOUT THE POET

Fiona Yardley is a writer living in Sydney. She has previously had work published in See See MiscellanyHermes and most recently Overland. She has just completed a thesis in English literature on the topic of ethics and unreliability in contemporary fiction. “Asterion” is part of a series of poems she is currently writing based on Grecian myth cycles, reimagining well-known stories and characters and experimenting with perspective, interiority, and motivation. Another poem in this cycle, “Eros, Thanatos: Waiting for Orpheus” was published in Issue 1 of Contrappasso.

from Issue #3: Poetry by Lindsay Tuggle

Photo (CC) Rachel Titiriga @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Rachel Titiriga @ Flickr

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The Bone House 

In the thralldom of debt
there is said to be honour among thieves,

martyrs, hair-eaters and others
beset by archive fever.

An oracle of sleep preceded
the resurrectionist’s calling.

Against all agonies you push through
shades of bone assuming old faces.

An unrepentant guest
her arrival marked by bells

as in some cavern mourners
choke on mouths of light.

 

There is nothing more seductive
than a ghost

except perhaps the invitation
of an ambiguous wound.

She carried that letter
in her pocket for days,

‘always thought drowning
was such a pretty way to die’

(danger is when
the hand returns).

I don’t remember the rest
but it was given as

an anatomical treatise
on the laughter of

leaves against skin:
elegy for a floating world..

.

It was a relief to no longer be seen
……………………..as hollow.

Her fists curl into organs
as she fumbles through
…………………..the open door.

All the old grievances aglow
with the lucidity of dust.

Shame ruins your taste
for the delights of melancholia.

After the whip comes down
there’s only so much charm

a girl can stand..

.

She was just there
in the asphalt,

a biological gift
………………unmoored.

Behind the trailer
clothed in anaesthetic
………….hisses
an actress with no mouth.

The unblemished girl
in the plaid silk dress

seeks mutiny in
stolen cigarettes
and snowstorms.

.

In my dream
I saw us both unblamed

so, now
we can navigate blind
alleys without enlisting

the kindness of strangers.

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The Heretics’ Asylum

Her god never condoned
the murder of horses.

After the killing spree
the local thaumaturge
traced upon her neck
a diagram of bones.

The absent face
regrew, leaving only
a pale scar to border
sleeping limbs.

She will never leave this place—

this appellation
in the eyes of the church,
a mid-stream persuasion toward

the beguiling mechanism
of belief, dressed up for
a core of materialists..

.

Accurate use of the electrical machine
was unusual in their circle.

The physician knows nothing
of angels with proper names.

Reverence is permitted only
toward unseen patients,

an innate distrust of that
which can be embodied
in a creed.

It would be useless
to attempt so minor a feat
as the removal of bones
from the throat.

A residuum of facts exist
surrounding fringe medicine:

the cure by faith as
a demand for marvels.

Her calculated regard
for uncritical adherents
results in a book of wonders,
based on antipathy..

.

My sister could have won this race
if she’d had enough breath.

Years later I utter her name as my own
against the echo of a blank stage.

Beneath this corpulent delirium
doctors see a potential corpse
to which a ghost is loosely attached.

To enter the incubation chamber
you must provoke
the knife, the drug, and the spell.

Sleep with the fourth book
beneath your pillow.

Safety is unkempt seclusion:
a wilderness of paralysis..

.

In the absence of habitual dreaming
she complains of the walls.

Falling is the only certainty.

The evangelist’s call is
a labour of recognition.

The origin of the delusion
was only her own hair.

After the manifestation of clouds
it is no longer a comfort to know
the source of that torment

there is no terror equal to
the particularity of a name.

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ABOUT THE POET

Lindsay tuggle

Lindsay Tuggle grew up in the Southern United States, and migrated to Australia eleven years ago. She now divides her time between the two countries and is working on a book of elegies.  Lindsay’s poetry has been commissioned by the Red Room Company and published in literary journals such as HEAT, Mascara, and Contrappasso Issue #1.  Her poem “Anamnesis” was awarded second prize in the Val Vallis Award for Poetry.  In 2011, she undertook an Australian Academy of the Humanities Travelling Fellowship. In 2012, she was a John W. Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

from Issue #3: Poetry by Nicholaos Floratos

Photo (CC) joiseyshowaa @ Flickr

Photo (CC) joiseyshowaa @ Flickr

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The Child

These days, I am not so old. But you
Are the wraith iced in small laughs and I
Simply will not have you. Your small teeth
Seem to countdown something.

In the old picture you are still small, your little
Bright soul snares the world and
You drag events away from me. In your tiny wake
My love is spent on a smiling wall. You are his first disaster.

And I must scurry under your weight, like the rain.
He turns your horrible vowels into myths and how they rise
Like sweet smoke and how there are no words left in the world
When you are done speaking. You enter and will not leave.

Your shadow will break my bones. You rest
In a small haven of suburban fantasies and revolving seasons
With a mother and a father and a plain white town house.
You occur viciously, without spite perhaps, but with terrible force.

The child occurs.

“He’s adorable.
He looks just like you.
I’d love to meet him.
What’s his name?”

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The Sum of a Man

Is dominion. I will not
Work, I am fed. I find
Myself when washing his suits.
And all night I have pictured
Tomorrow, being in the same
Bed, wanting nothing. I am
Diaphonous and he
The master of metals, the one
Who pinches my dreams in place.
And all night I have been wanting
To cook him breakfast, the
Fat smell of grease dirtying the air,
The warmth of pans. And he eats.
And so he goes hunting
In the skull grey car and brings home
Plastic, miles and miles of it
While I wave by the door,
Happy, jobless, safe.

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ABOUT THE POET

Nicholaos Floratos is an undergraduate student at Macquarie University, studying for a Bachelor of Arts with a major in creative writing and cultural studies. Nick is academically and creatively interested in the efficacy of identity and matters of the self. He has Filipino and Greek heritage from his mother and father’s side respectively and has had the odd privilege of being raised in both cultures. He is new to the professional publishing scene, with his first set of publications occurring this year. His poetry is typically inspired by a combination of his personal and student life.

from Issue #3: Poetry by Rebecca Lehmann

Photo (CC) Nomadic Lass @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Nomadic Lass @ Flickr

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Report to Work at the Usual Hour

One morning, the archways are festooned
with crabapple boughs. One morning,
black paint covers them like shellacked
thunderclouds. What is a surprise?
One morning, all the men wear
sweater vests and extol the virtues
of abstinence. One morning, the women
don color-blocked jumpers and cardigans.
The fresh polish on their toenails
shimmers under fluorescent lights.
Lunch features overcooked beef patties
and a slideshow about the ponies
of Assateague. Their beards congeal
and drip salt water as they ford
the Chincoteague Bay. A stray tabby
preens in an oak outside the presentation
room, where staff watch a power point
that outlines Standard Productivity Outcomes.
The tabby turns away and licks her left dewclaw.
Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is required
reading for May, but it is widely
misunderstood, and Dimmesdale becomes
slang for someone who can’t properly
load a toner cartridge. When hammocks
are strung from the rafters for aerial napping,
women stop wearing skirts. No one talks
about after work activities, but rest
assured they involve a television,
a bucket of old nails, and a hunting rifle.
The time for inter-cubicle flirtation,
like all things, must end. One cannot estimate
the value of increased productivity,
of pink noise pumped through the air ducts,
of a desk near a window, the highway
traffic speeding and slowing in time
to the chews and swallows of one’s
afternoon liverwurst sandwich, the colors
of the traffic a blurred rainbow, hurrying away.

*

Sport-Utility Heart

Forget about my sport-utility heart,
its swerve and sway, the shy blush
of its beat, the bleat of red cells pushed
through clapping valves. I slumber
under polyester. That is wrong.
I told you I had the $$$$$$. Well,
forget about my little pitter-pat,
my little this and that, my twenty blue
horizon lines, my acrylic on canvas.
Forget about gestation, the question point,
the knocking horse, the rocking bird,
the barred owl’s sharpened claws.
Some mystic’s vision, and five nickels
on a hardwood floor in Tallahassee.
The summer the carpet bred fleas,
and I forgot about flowers, or the smell
of a stone fence, or the smell of well
water, or the smell of my mother’s
empty perfume spritser, or the smell
of matted leaves in a stray cat’s fur.

 *

Drought

The floorboards of the new house sung in the sunshine, polished—the wood hard as a frozen river. You wanted to walk across the Mississippi where we stopped in Minnesota in January, but I held your arm and said, No—in the middle of the river, the ice is like a magician’s trap door. Still, the pull of the sublime. But because the oil on my fingertips left a special series of whorls, I kept you at my side. The text from a friend asked what the point of narrative was. I couldn’t answer. However, consider this: I stole our landlord’s money and then wrote a lyric vignette about his failing dental practice. In the summer drought, even the corn had dried on the stalk by the time the grasshoppers began their kamikaze assaults on our legs. Then a lamb at the edge of a field—a sheep’s skin in the making—gamboled playfully in the August heat. Like that, the change, the shift in seasons, the forgotten bunch of daisies left in the overgrown grass by a fencepost. And the pumpkin plants died too. Nary the shade of an ash tree could have saved them.

We loaded up a moving truck for the third time in a year and prayed for safe passage across the fly-over states. Somewhere, on the bank of a different river, high plains give themselves over to wind to form a dust storm. Beyond the plains, a wildfire sucks up Oklahoma brush. The National Guard drains several towns and ex-urbs of their denizens. There are rivers in the north, and rivers in the south. Here is a river that’s been dammed to look like a lake. Its waves are the suggestion of water, its center the locus of algae bloom and leech. There is the fire-starter, lighting wads of newspaper and tossing them from the half-opened window of his dually pick-up truck. Upon arrival, we found cockroach droppings on the kitchen floor. Not even the knotted pine walls could keep the vermin at bay. There, the secret passage for the scorpion. Here, here is where we placed our bed. The bamboo blinds rocked just so in the breeze.

*

ABOUT THE POET

Rebecca Lehmann is the author of the poetry collection Between the Crackups (Salt, 2011), which won the Crashaw Prize. Her poems have been published in journals including Tin House, Ploughshares and The Antioch Review. She currently lives in Texas, USA, where she teaches creative writing and literature. For more information, visit www.rebecca-lehmann.com