from Issue #6: Poetry by Stephen Oliver

Photo from the author's private collection

Photo from the author’s private collection


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


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
…………………………… 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.



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:

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


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