from Issue #8: Poetry by Luke Whitington

Photo (CC) Igor @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Igor @ Flickr

*

Only fig, wine and prosciutto

In the gilded mirror we sit – expectant
Yet distracted, sallow figures in the glow
Of a hotel dining room – the hush of luxury
Hovers in the background, waiters blur
Passing with a tinkling of glass and silver.

Thoughts of finished lovemaking linger
And float away, words begin to form
But trail off into softer, vaguer notions
Our limbs start to wake, stirring from recent idleness –

Dazed still we contemplate a pyramid of bruise-purple figs
All painterly perfect – some peeled to a ribbed, pale green
Some split wide open, inviting the tongue and lips to try —

And combine them with a silky slice of Parma ham
Folded in ripples of filmy redness across our plates.
Under its dark blue skin, the unpeeled fig waits
For our palate, with its pulp of honey-slow flavour –

And your smile broadens as I watch
You stab your fork into a pink and cream slice
As you anticipate the flavour of rosy flesh
Your eyes swimming with reflected light

Swirling up from rubescent wine from Umbria, Torregiano
A Terroir type, grapes trellised and grown and plucked
Carried in baskets from the tilled furrows of their province.
Your nose crinkles – another sniff of tannin pungency
Cured ham and fig and wine nurtured from ochre chernozem

Chewed and tippled carefully, warm and cool from a fecund earth —
A quick taste; a quiver to the heart, savoured in recollection
Of summer and winter harvesting, feasts under trees and slanting memories
Begin to mingle, turning sweetly in my mouth –

Crisp marries well with soft and also effervescence
Seconds later lush and lean slipping down
A sumptuous buttering, a plump delight
Remaining on the tongue, more wine – now

Intoxicating us – drained like an old friend – the ruler of our tipsy minds.

.

*

.

Apricots and cumquats

For days I watched you walking
Through the marketplace
Gulls’ cries above and wings gliding about you –
How those naked sandals on your feet, amazed

And hair unkempt but carefully tumbling so
It tossed articulation when you spoke –
And then you reached and picked up the fruit; an apricot
Always was your first choice, and your preferred theme it seemed –

A skimpy orange dress
Suntanned legs unhindered by the floating cotton –
In certain stray slants of sunshine
Your hair curling with its light, flecks as free as autumn leaves

Unfolding red and russet against the walls of rising green swells
Breeze-blown threads across the travertine pier –
You were tall amongst the older women’s scarfed heads
Through the sun-bleached slanted green umbrellas…

The recurrence of the sea’s echoes heaving against travertine
Seemed an undercurrent to your course
Through stalls and barrows in the windy square
Giddy green crashing against your conversations

Made often through cupped hands…
Soon I learnt to follow, a little careful
Not to get too close, buying apricots and cumquats
And then for good measure some oranges and mandarins; appearing to be

Circling there for no other reason – innocent or complicit
Furtive or urbane – ridiculously I strayed along behind you –
Until several days later when the sky had changed
Displayed in streaks of greys and yellows

And you did not come again
And I had the market
To myself for three or four days –
And then for weeks afterwards…

My bowls and oval plates

Placed on the window ledges –
Still lives – depicting to a wintry square
Your absence, arranged in mandarins, cumquats

Oranges… And with the tawny silence of the apricots.

.

*

ABOUT THE POET

LUKE WHTINGTON has travelled extensively and has been published in Dublin journals, anthologies and Irish media, as well as several Australian journals and anthologies, including Australian Love Poems 2013 and an anthology of Canberra poets to be published in China. Recently he read his love poems in Florence with Sarina Rausa, a lead soprano with the Florence opera company, singing her arrangements of his poetry. Luke divides his time between Italy and his cattle farm in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales.

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New Double Issue launch on 10 April!

Contrappasso Double Issue, April 2015

Contrappasso Double Issue, April 2015

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Roll camera…

Contrappasso starts its 4th year with a DOUBLE ISSUE.

Writers at the Movies, edited by Matthew Asprey Gear and guest Noel King, brings together many kinds of artists who have been captivated by film: its imagery, history, personalities and political edge. Across essays, fiction, poetry, interviews and photography, the contributors are James Franco, Emmanuel Mouret, Sarah Berry, Barry Gifford, Michael Atkinson, Luc Sante, R. Zamora Linmark, Richard Lowenstein, Anthony May, Michael Eaton, Jon Lewis, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Scott Simmon, Clive Sinclair and the late, great Richard Hugo.

Companion issue Contrappasso #8 takes the journal’s adventures in international writing further and wider, with its biggest selection of new fiction and poetry, from nine countries.

There’s an interview with Filipino authors F. H. Batacan and Andrea Pasion-Flores, plus stories by Pasion-Flores, US authors Rick DeMarinis and Kent Harrington and, in a Contrappasso first, a long-overdue translation of Argentine modernist author Roberto Arlt (with translator Lucas Lyndes)…

…plus the most poetry in any Contrappasso issue, with work by Nicaragua’s Blanca Castellón (translated by New Zealand’s Roger Hickin), Spain’s Alicia Aza (translated by J. Kates), China’s Lu Ye and Geng Xiang (translated by Ouyang Yu), New Zealand’s Kerrin P. Sharpe and Mary Macpherson, the UK’s Bill Adams and Richard Berengarten, the USA’s Floyd Salas and J. Kates, and Australia’s Elias Greig, Philip Hammial, Travis McKenna, Sascha Morrell, Tony Page, Sarah Rice, Frank Russo, Page Sinclair, Alex Skovron, Paolo Totaro, Lyn Vellins, Luke Whitington – and one of the last poems by the late, much-missed Morris Lurie.

This Contrappasso DOUBLE ISSUE presents the most writers so far, across the widest range of fields.

And… cut.

from Issue #3: Poetry by Luke Whitington (II)

Photo (CC) Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious @ Flickr

*

The last valley of oil

We brake on the rise, the cloud of dust behind
Envelopes us in a gritty tide, below
The roads rampage up and over and across
Pinning down the land, the trees

Herded on to traffic islands, the landscape
Becoming incomprehensible, truncated
Configurations cut off at cross sections of rolling dust.
A haze sweeps and forgets its way, here, elsewhere, everywhere.

The valley is a murdered garden, a butchered kingdom
Of palms, the sky is furtive, hiding behind veils of mist
Or rolling east like tumbleweed, For Sale signs slide

Or lean or topple, now all bought and sold. Telegraph wires
Dip and rise, dip and rise in emigration toward the light.
Scarecrow antennas, poles criss-crossed like crucifixions

Leap on to nowhere, the desolation so unreal
You ask yourself was God in on this deal?
Time half way up the driveways withers into unclear surfaces.

The view will not confess, lines of cypresses swerve
To avoid any intersection, the conversation between man, sky and light
Has ended in blank befuddlement. California here has finally stopped its dreaming.

As you drive on the light barely glows, drags across your car bonnet
Gaunt trees stand all together in unrelated families
Type and gender orphaned, palm with conifer

Tea tree or eucalyptus paired with dust-reddened cypress, foxgloves trespass edges

Of roads and whisky grass rides high along the loping ridges.
The land of God’s acres and orchards lies spent. The fences fall or run amok
The gates grow rusted runners in the dirt. The rhododendrons

Have spread low with flowering weeds, the wars of roses with the Joneses
Are all over. We continue to drive in timeless silence, through a mistaken land.
Perhaps we had taken a wrong turn or swung through a chance gate, blown open

After years of rot, broken locks and rust. Somehow the scraggy trees look ashamed
Caught with their foliage down, slumped above lakes of black gold
And the rigs with their weighted arms pump as if to God’s command

And the only motion of being is to suck into the sea of oil
Slowly rising with the clang of turning ballast
Pumped into pipes heading west, towards the dark refineries edging the sea.

*

Postcard from Latvia

Folding your napkin in a Latvian seaside hotel
The waiter attendant, waiting for you to go
The same with the sea, a waiting wintry grey

Carelessly cresting to somewhere you do not choose to know.
In honour of the bronze thirties décor you chose
A three-piece suit to wear and a Windsor knot to eat with, alone

In the huge dining room, a high-ceilinged temple to occasional throat-cleared silence.

The gold chandeliers glowed a garish tribute to midday.
Surprisingly the fish (a flounder) was delicious. The music, however – a dirge of Russian
Origin was listless as autumn leaves on the hard stones of socialism.

You ate your peach without a knife or fork
After Prufrock no longer thought to be so courageous
And you thought of your youngest daughter, bored and married and
Pregnant, far too soon, in snow-cocooned New York…

God – how the wind here moans against those quivering hotel windows
Lost like the sounds of gulls dissolving in the fog
Or guard dogs or poets forgotten in Siberian prisons
Or your mind rebelling against ever fitting in …
You wonder what an old girlfriend is doing now

The one who taught you Italian in Trastevere down there in Rome…
And wore a black velvet bustier and suspenders like a natural skin to bed
The first time you met her, and who wouldn’t stand for any sex
Totally naked, described it as like having to digest cold toast

Unbuttered, together with hotel punnets of frozen jam
And a paper napkin for luck, which you had always delighted in sending back
Untouched in tribute to her, especially when left to dine alone in grandiloquent hotels
Empty and solemnly lit as this one, time pinned under the glaze of winter time…

Where the cutlery would unquietly tinkle away to itself.
Where you came avoiding distractions to try again to write
And ended up being distracted most of the time
By big-toed attempts of staff to be silent, the wry
Ongoing reflections of your several lives and lost wives
And daughters finally gone to live their lives behind windows elsewhere.

* * *

ABOUT THE POET 

Luke Whitington lived in Italy for nearly twenty years, restoring Medieval structures in Umbria and Tuscany. He continued this work in Ireland, restoring the Norman castle of Portlick at Lough Ree. He founded the multimedia gallery Pleasants Factory in Dublin, which supported artists and writers for seven years. Luke’s poems have been published widely in Ireland, including in The Irish Independent, The Westmeath Independent and Poets In Cahoots. In Australia, his poetry has appeared three times in the Henry Kendall Award anthology and in Overland, Quadrant, The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, Melaleuca and the Five Bells anthology. He has read poetry written for art in galleries at Cessnock, Bowral, Pearl Beach and the Charles Cecil Atelier Art School in Florence. He founded the Jean Cecily Drake-Brockman Poetry Prize and divides his time between the Central Coast, Canberra, Ireland and Renaissance Italy.

from Issue #3: Poetry by Luke Whitington (I)

Photo (CC) Ralph Hockens @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Ralph Hockens @ Flickr

*

Central Park and Columbus Avenue

Infinitely warm in your hand is the memory
Of her fingers entangled with yours
Wandering in the park painted with snow, windows
Like lit up altars, floating in all four flanking views

The moonlit paths teasing your eyes into the dark into the light
Through foliage shifting ahead, beneath rising oblongs inlaid with gold
Christmas time zipping up granite buildings into the blanketing sky.

She smiled around her turned-up collar, her body
Plumply buttoned with a warmth that pulsed through
Her fingers dovetailed into yours, promising more, the tepid hollow of air

Enclosed between your palms, a tryst not to be dislodged.
The snow skedaddled away from your feet
As you swung through the pinpricked tapestry of twilight

Pausing to kiss, both stroking the bark of the old sycamore tree
Where somebody, Joe, had carved a heart for Mary
The wound now healed, a ripple of growth over the scar.

You sat for a while in your moonlit profiles on the bench
In unconscious harmony with the sacred tree, you were
Her stranger, she was the strange New Yorker, both of you nameless

And watchful aliens, pausing halfway through the trails of trees.
You had met at Szabo’s check-out counter; she with her tea, Twinings Earl Grey,
You with your shortbread biscuits. “Is it time for tea?” you suggested cheekily.

She took you literally and by the waist, and together arm in arm you walked
Into the streets under the stars, now both foreigners in love with the sky
In love with the golden outlines of passing strollers, their plumes of breath, no plans

To make, only the vague idea to walk gladly together for the length of a block
Before saying goodbye in front of her building, a looming
Stone village in the sky. After a hug before the foyer doors, she decided in life’s favour

And you ascended, smiles conspiratorial in the mirror-walled lift, up past
The carpeted floors of nobody-talking-to-anyone-else floors
Except perhaps for a blue-rinse lady with a manicured pink dog
Until with a click and a buffeted shudder you were walking
Inside, across her shining metres of parquet-patterned floor.

The park was a better backdrop for being with a mysterious stranger
She had said, pulling me out on to the terrace
Where we hugged, cosy in our warm wonderful strangeness
Under the same moon that patiently waited, had glazed the park to gold for us.

In the morning buoyed by bouts of love and tenderness
I slipped on my jeans and shirt to go down for milk and coffee.
After shopping I found my way back to the foyer
A harvest of things in both hands as I walked into the lift then soundlessly
Ascending I remembered I had forgotten to remember
Her door number and her floor and her name I had never asked for.

* * *

ABOUT THE POET 

Luke Whitington lived in Italy for nearly twenty years, restoring Medieval structures in Umbria and Tuscany. He continued this work in Ireland, restoring the Norman castle of Portlick at Lough Ree. He founded the multimedia gallery Pleasants Factory in Dublin, which supported artists and writers for seven years. Luke’s poems have been published widely in Ireland, including in The Irish Independent, The Westmeath Independent and Poets In Cahoots. In Australia, his poetry has appeared three times in the Henry Kendall Award anthology and in Overland, Quadrant, The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, Melaleuca and the Five Bells anthology. He has read poetry written for art in galleries at Cessnock, Bowral, Pearl Beach and the Charles Cecil Atelier Art School in Florence. He founded the Jean Cecily Drake-Brockman Poetry Prize and divides his time between the Central Coast, Canberra, Ireland and Renaissance Italy.

Sydney launch

Image Daniel Boud, Tourism NSW

Image Daniel Boud, Tourism NSW

Thanks to everybody who came along to the Sydney launch of our second issue on December 12 and to the contributors who read at the event: Mark Tredinnick, Tessa Lunney, Erin Martine Sessions, Daniel East, Chris Oakey, Elias Greig, and Luke Whitington. Poetry editor Theodore Ell read Antigone Kefala‘s ‘The Fatal Queen’. Editor Matthew Asprey read extracts from Mimi Lipson‘s ‘Safe, Courteous, Reliable’ and Floyd Salas‘s ‘Steve Nash, Homosexual Transient’.

Photo: Canberra Launch @ Manning Clark House

contrappasso_canberra

Photograph by Clare Anderson

At the Canberra launch of Contrappasso #2. Left to right: editor Matthew Asprey, poets Mark O’Connor, Erin Martine Sessions, Chris Oakey, and Luke Whitington, and poetry editor Theodore Ell.

For our Sydney readers, don’t forget: we launch issue #2 at Sappho Books in Glebe on Wednesday 12 December (6pm start).

Contrappasso2launchevents

from issue #2: Poetry by Luke Whitington (I)

Photo (CC) Frederick Dennstedt @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Frederick Dennstedt @ Flickr

Far from the city

Like casualties touching, teaching each other
To limp better, we shared crutches until the end;
You in your uncertain personality

Me furtive, chased by my one fear
Of being with myself. We left the confines
Of dazzling geometry and struck camp

A distance away from the smouldering city towers
Removed to where the sun flailed the earth
And made grapevines and grain and allowed minds to grow quieter.

But it did no good. You had been trained
Too well and had learnt to swallow by heart
The music of masters. You were the flute you played.

Like a jug does, you longed for the filling
And you welcomed the flavour of every last cordial
Poured into the concave of your well-formed want.

Time has passed and I remain in the dry valley
Where the priest-corrupter took you away.
The hammering love gave me

Has worked another alchemy.
Instead of precious metal it struck through to granite
Inside me, a sour note for some, but the colour

I found of sageness and restraint. Now I do not
Seek you in dreams, where your body performs
Miracles, erotic or surreal. I think only occasionally

On how you might be performing a shapely ritual
A divine receptacle for dictates
Of others’ rhymes or music.

Today in this midday land, I have eluded
The fear of being alone, for I turned
Quickly enough and snared its loathsome shadow.

This afternoon I squat in the loom of darkness
One pocket of shelter under the sun’s knuckled blast
A place that smells of basil after harshness of light.
I rest and listen in the rippling cool of twilight.

Here I have seen in a sun-carved landscape the heart
To be found in these scattered stones, the glint
That signals up from granite. In the valley

Of abandonment where trees long dead
Writhe up for the sun, where rosemary
Is the wind’s better friend, I draw water from a well
Of the alone, sustenance hauled in dripping buckets

Up from resonating dark, astringent and pure
Uninformed water, a tacit friend for my tongue.
The syrup I tasted and once licked up faithfully

Was too sweet for a mind obedient to such charm
Too tingling a pleasure, informed by the favoured
Ones, verse-contrivers who pocketed my life
My memory too easily, with blinding spokes of rhyme.

ABOUT THE POET

LUKE WHITINGTON lived in Italy for nearly twenty years, restoring Medieval structures in Umbria and Tuscany. He continued this work in Ireland, restoring the Norman castle of Portlick at Lough Ree. He founded the multimedia gallery Pleasants Factory in Dublin, which supported artists and writers for seven years. Luke’s poems have been published in literary supplements and anthologies in Dublin and Westmeath. In Australia, Luke’s poetry has appeared three times in the Henry Kendall Award anthology and has been accepted by Quadrant, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Five Bells anthology. He has read poetry written for art in galleries at Cessnock, Bowral, Pearl Beach and the Charles Cecil Atelier Art School in Florence. He resides on the Central Coast with frequent visits to Canberra, Ireland and Renaissance Italy.