from issue #2: Poetry by Paolo Totaro

Photo (CC) Phillie Casablanca @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Phillie Casablanca @ Flickr

Tide of tides

It will be June, month of high tides
in this god-forsaking corner of the Pacific Ocean.

Well past our estuary, past the marshes
and the worms drilling into pylons,
past the blue soldier-crabs
immersed in their writing on the sands,
she will be force-feeding these broken bays.

Self-important, that queen of tides
will be higher than ever seen at the anxious gauge
and we shall watch but won’t rush to any other corner,
watch as she pauses at the fireplaces
to try perhaps one last smoke,
while mounting floor windows and the horizon line.
Listen: the silence will be unbroken.

She will pleasingly rest over the wrinkled roof
of the beach-house.

Inhale: has the smell of the sea changed?
Listen more: has the sound changed of the new winter?
Is the sun rotating with piercing sight of flames?
No and it’s no use distracting your attention
or keeping it fixed onto the idea of your own doom.

Will these paintings float?
Will these chairs, already safely anchored
to the convivial table?
And this ream of paper, will it be toy to waves
and feed to plankton?

Will I still be here or, from some place above,
evergreen see the sea again slowly withdraw
under the shadows of the leafy pediment,
each day faintly more generous to the shore?
For a long second there had been this dying expectation
based on reading news from other islands
at other corners of this alien Ocean
fallen to the long hand of man’s outgrowth .

But when it comes you find it is flush with all imagination
and less scary. It’s a fact
natural as this seepage from broken vessels,
brown blood on the hands,
the failing equilibrium
or the pose each day more bent.

Earth is ageing. These bays age.
This old beach who saw the ritual feasting.
These verses rhyme-less and scanty of clear sense.
But the oscillations of the moon, like of taste,
sweep away bad and good
but hand back any overdue
in the fullness
of astronomical time.


PAOLO TOTARO, born in Naples, Italy, lives in Sydney and has been writing since the ’60s poetry in both English and Italian. He was Foundation Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW, a Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission, a contributor to The Bulletin, Visiting Professor at the University of Western Sydney and Pro-Chancellor and Member of Council of the University of Technology, Sydney, among other positions. His main interest has been human rights. A practising chamber musician, of late he has concentrated on poetry. He has published a novella in Italian, Storia Patria (1992) for which he won the Due Giugno Literary Prize; Collected Poems 1950-2011 (2012). He has also been published in anthologies of Italian Australian Poetry; in Two Centuries of Australian Poetry, Oxford University Press (1994), Crearta(1998), Quadrant (2013, 14), Contrappasso (2012, 2013); Le Simplegadi (2012): Water Access Only (2012),ARC/Cordite Special Book on Australian Poetry (2014) and several other. A collection of bilingual poetry about children and war is nearing completion.

See Paolo Totaro’s poems from issue #1 of Contrappasso.

Contrappasso 2 Launch Events

We’re pleased to announce that the new blockbuster 400-page issue #2 of Contrappasso Magazine will be launching at two events in Australia in December 2012.

On Saturday December 8 we’ll be at Manning Clark House in Canberra (4pm start). On Wednesday December 12 we’ll be back at Sappho Books in Glebe, Sydney (6pm start).

The new issue contains Anthony May‘s never-before-published 65-page interview with the legendary Elmore Leonard; ‘STR82ANL’, a new novella by British writer Clive Sinclair (accompanied by a career-spanning interview); a long narrative by film writer David Thomson; fiction by Mimi Lipson and John Salazar; a memoir by Australian jazz musician Paul Pax Andrews; an essay by Peter Doyle; and poetry by Antigone Kefala, Chris Andrews, Tessa Lunney, Erin Martine Sessions, Mark Tredinnick, Daniel East, Mark O’Connor, Paolo Totaro, Chris Oakey, Elias Greig, Luke Whitington, Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi, and Floyd Salas.

If you don’t happen to live in Canberra or Sydney, you can buy a copy of the new magazine here:

Other EBOOK formats @

from issue #1: Poetry by Fiona Yardley

Photograph by Dave Hosford @ Flickr

Eros. Thanatos. Waiting for Orpheus.

What is this hesitation? This cheerful face
questions his brother’s caution.
Eros touches; it is a beginning. It makes
him happy to do it, to fulfil his purpose
and spread himself thinner and thinner
though never to be less
than he is.
His touch is fleeting but haunting, the
touch of inspiration, a catalyst of people’s
creation of each other
and their finding of themselves.
He has never touched his brother.
Eros wonders
what it would be like,
to take his twin in his arms;
to enfold
him in his strong limbs, to kiss
his smooth cheek, his pursed lips,
the dark curls garlanding his brow.
His own hair shines gold in the sunlight.

They wait together, for that other
who has gone below—though the dark
one never yet touched him, laid a
finger on him, though that other
feels the shadow of the warm dark
breath—he thinks—on his ear—
They wait.
It is a barren spot, all stones,
seem to crowd the place.
A sense of cold wind, though it is still.
The sky is too big, too empty,
an overturned basin
spilling the emptiness of space.

Thanatos tries to sense
that groping in the dark
toward the bright flame of life
somewhere below.

He cannot make out what is happening,
what is to come. He keeps still,
close, contained within himself
while his bright brother strides about the emptiness,
his limbs long and clean.
Both have power in their touch.
Both inspire poets, differently.
One begins, the other finishes, in most stories.
They only touch in the mouths of the poets, who
need the light with the shade.
The last pure notes played by that other
before he went below

into the darkened passage
seem to echo through his dark ear.
He plays them over and over, tries to hold them,
though they lose some of their shine
with the repetition. Touch, for him, is an
ending always.

They have waited,
amid unnumbered, crowding moments.
There is no time, here.

The other—flesh and blood
and tears, now—
though he makes no noise, the salt flood
slips down his cheeks—he is blind with grief—
he is alone.
He turns to them, an echo of another turn,
gestures sadly; helpless. It is so small, so slight a shrug.
They see
the lyre at his side is stone; its strings
will sing no more.

Each brother believes the gesture
a signal to him only.

Orpheus returns to the world.
He is alone.

 © 2012 Fiona Yardley

from Contrappasso Magazine #1, August 2012

* * * * *


Photograph by Ian Woodforth at the Contrappasso Launch, 1 August 2012

FIONA YARDLEY is a sometime writer living in Sydney’s Inner West. She has previously had work published in See See Miscellany, Hermes, and Tangent, and one of her recent poems is forthcoming in Overland. At present she is writing a thesis in English literature on ethics and aesthetics in unreliable narrative fiction, and spending far too much money on Book Depository. “Eros. Thanatos. Orpheus” 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. Previously she has written a collection loosely centred around weather systems and the sea.

from issue #1: Poetry by Tessa Lunney

Photograph by Charlotte Marillet @ Flickr (CC)

Bellingen Days

The sky pinks with sunset.
Orange tints the grasses and the birds call
lychee and rum. The beach sits gritty
between my toes; cicadas hum
a humid blanket round my shoulders
while summer dusk drips
from the fern-tips and eaves.
These are the days
when the waves mould me
like a cliff face, when the wind
shapes me like dunes.
These family-soaked nights,
when the stars twist snakelike
from yesterday to tomorrow, hold me
always on the edge of dream, hold me
always in the deep
frog-call dark.

I have forgotten my keys

I left them somewhere
some time ago, but I have
forgotten where and when.
I have forgotten what you said
that hot night in Hoi An, where
under the red light of silk lanterns
you whispered how much you loved me,
the geckos blinking at us from the walls. I
have forgotten the way you danced with me
at our friends’ wedding, running your hands
over my hips in syncopation with the jazz band,
my face kissing your neck and both of us hidden
amongst the other dancers. I have forgotten your smell, your skin
softly pulsing with it in bed in the morning, your breath
pulling me into your embrace. I have forgotten
where I met you and when. I have forgotten
why I have forgotten. There must be
some reason, some reason
why I have forgotten
your voice and its
song. I know that
I have forgotten
my keys, but
where I—

Walking Shadow

It is damp, cold, and the garden is
spattered with debris. Used tea bags,
mandarin peel,

rotting celery and sickly white plastic
packaging have been hefted out of the
garbage bin by the rain,

and lie sodden in the dirt. The sky stares
back, grey blank, a cement sky

that doesn’t care if your lover left you, or
your mother hates you and always
did. The waste

of ordinary life bobs in puddle-holes left
by weeds torn up. A wine bottle leaks the
last of its purple dregs onto the path.


The wind cracks plastic and knocks on
doors in the night. Sirens cry under the

of the sulphur street light, and the rain
pulses against the house, one cloud

opened and gutted against the window,
and then the next one, and another siren,

with sick-yellow, dies in jagged bursts.
In the morning, the washing drags dirty
from the line.

Yesterday’s newspapers ripped apart,
their now black pages torn and


Under too-close asphalt clouds, a boy
throws a ball against a brick wall. The

tennis ball bounces with a thwack, which
echoes with the power of the throw. The
boy leaps as he bowls

and runs to catch the neon yellow fuzz.
Under his grey uniform, his shoulder

bulge and his quads stretch. He twists
and grunts until an invisible school bell

inside his ears, and he runs off with his
school bag through a solitary ray of sun,
the ball shining hot in his pocket.

There are his splintered hands

on the page. They crack with cold
in this coal town, his tin shack
buckled with snow. He’s too worn-out

to work or stoke the fire; he must wait
for his son to come back. His swollen
hands lie limp; my knuckles throb.

There are their whirling skirts, on the page.
They twirl in red blue green pink orange
yellow and white white white for all

the soon-to-be-known girls. The drums beat
and the men clap and the women throw open
their smiles to the sky and sing La la la la lai

faster and faster, tongues tap and skirts twirl
and the sun claps on the cobbles, on the drums,
in their mouths.

There are her hips. Her skin is the terracotta wall,
his hands are the shafts of sunlight through the alley,
the shafts of sun on her hair, her waist, her bare skin.

There is his breath on the wall, its terracotta hot
from absorbed shafts of sun, held by the alley,
and the dust rising golden in the light.

There are the houses on my street. The grass
is washed with full moonlight, and a breeze
rustles the eucalypts. A possum scuttles

from my footsteps up the path, and leaves
crunch to release the bush smell. A home
scent of gums, grass, dust, salt, and sand

rises from the green-grey and velvet night.
My home is vast, vast enough to hold
all my generations and me,
a cross of the t on the page.

A heart-shaped land

To Sarajevo

Hillsides of red trees
Haystacks on pikes
Plastic rubbish washed up
on the riverbank, now green, now grey
across rocks brown and broken
Brick houses and brick sheds
Hills and hills with skeletal trees

Villagers amble across
the tracks as the train
stops for an hour, two hours

Red signs among the bony trunks
with the skull and crossbones
Pazi! Mine!
A gleaming spinaret, a silver beacon
from the valley
Sunset pierces the mountain cracks

I still have so far to go

High Noon in Sarajevo

Little beggar boys weave
amongst the tables of the big central café
Little boys whose faces
look like all those shots from the war, pale
and broken like the side of a building.
Fashionable Bosnians drink coke and smoke,
smoke white-tipped cigarettes
in their fur-lined parkas outside Club Bill Gates.
High noon in Sarajevo — but it’s Wednesday,
and people are walking and working and don’t care
about the past, that’s for tourists. Everyone my age
or older lived through the siege, which is almost everyone I see —
except for the little beggar boys,
handing out cards bigger than their dirty hands,
under the blare of Balkan pop, under
the watch of the Cathedral, the Mosque, the hills.


The central library
full of Hebrew,
Christian and Islamic
books was bombed.

The pages exploded
far into the sky.

For days the citizens
were brushing their
forefathers’ thoughts
off their shoulders.

Photograph by Tessa Lunney

© 2012 Tessa Lunney
from Contrappasso Magazine #1, August 2012

* * * * *


Photograph by Ian Woodforth at the Contrappasso Launch, 1 August 2012

TESSA LUNNEY is currently completing her creative doctorate at the University of Western Sydney. She is looking at silences in contemporary Australian war fiction and has written a novel as the bulk of her dissertation. She has had her poetry, fiction and reviews published in Southerly, Mascara, Illumina, Phoenix, and Hermes, among others. She works as an editorial assistant at Southerly. Apart from reading and writing, she loves swing dancing, champagne, late night art galleries and travel—preferably all together, if she can manage it. She lives in Sydney.

from issue #1: Poetry by Lindsay Tuggle

Where Moderns Have No Myths


The reproduction of the eye
incised beneath the rendering of lashes

Some days her face obliterates my own.

The elder as afterthought
flashes of our biological ruin.

Welcome to the end of the line.
The flowers are changed daily.

Photography is forbidden
but you may leave an offering.

Still there’s something to be said
for such high baroque entropy.

The walls have been hollowed
for your convenience.

Kindly note the exit nearest
what was last your body.

In order to emerge from a transaction
unharmed, simply withdraw the possession.

What remains after the end:
One sister is never enough.


We missed the labor
of absorbing small wars.

Let’s be honest—
the weather helped.

Say you lived in Sarasota
because it sounds better.

All the old voices in tandem
Requiem for a wayward daughter

And all that banality,
thick as thieves who can’t

halt the slow curl of kudzu
over stolen cars.


Habit is a dead gardener.

In the first place,
she’s slimmer now, peculiar

in the way of martyrs and other
unwelcome guests

those who revel in deceit and
the sleep of open houses

the inaudible patience of machinery
blindness in a room full of corners.

Votives and alabaster aside,
if there’s one thing I’ll never be

it’s sentimental.

Inflight Hospitality

‘The only thing that
can occupy a seat
(other than a Guest)
is a cello.’

The border arrives
in altitude
as an excess
of ascent or descent.

Beyond Wichita
grids trace threshing
patterned swirls from
tractors, an occasional
dappling of green
around the edges.

The   Ghost   beside   me
is           not       a        cellist.

Cloud Seeds

within this cumulus milieu
high spectacles unveil her
as supplicant

curling into cave gutters
her sleepshirt       billows
toward covered bridges.

the suppression of hail
was once common in airports.

since we have undertaken
the seeding of clouds
there’s a perpetual saline rust.

it’s alright she says
iodide becomes her.
we’re all redheads now.

the celsius rebellion started here.
the weathermen meant no harm.

after the salt harvest
the toxicity of silver is approximated.

algal blooms induce
hanging weather:    39º
and humid with a slight breeze.
for swaying affect.

we bathe in siltwater
ignore the encumbrance of moss
or irrigated dresses.

we all know
(have been told)
beauty is thirst.

drifts of pollen follow
the reclamation of damages,
a flourish of voluntary dissolution.


where do the dead go?

past my raincoat
under her cul de sac

there are so many ways out.

Hunting with Dick Cheney
an elegy

The explosion that is my face
always was political.

I descend
wearing my dead
in brooches
of curling hair and ash.

Count the days he lay unfound
with my footsteps.

Is posthumous retrieval
anything other than semantic?

Antigone would know
the sanctity of a name.

The pretty suicide guide
says the beautiful ones
never destroy their faces.

I am sorry she did not know
you were such a lady.

© 2012 Lindsay Tuggle
from Contrappasso Magazine #1, August 2012

* * * * *


LINDSAY TUGGLE’s poetry has been published in HEAT, commissioned by the Red Room Company, and included in various journals and anthologies in the US and Australia. In 2009, her poem “Anamnesis” was awarded second prize in the Val Vallis Award for Poetry. In 2012, she is the recipient of an Australian Academy of the Humanities Travelling Fellowship. Lindsay grew up in the Southern United States, and migrated to Australia eleven years ago. She now lives in Austinmer, where she is working on a book of elegies.

from issue #1: Poetry by Elias Greig

Coming Home Last Night

Walking back from your parents’ house
I stopped to watch you walk,
Watching your plumed breath curl
And the easy stroke of your legs.
I wondered how many suburbs
Those legs of yours had covered
Before they covered mine,
And why, so suddenly, I loved you
For your quiet defiance
Of gravity.

All the Torn and Tangled Days

And all the torn and tangled days since then are lying,
Piled on the floors of dirty rooms and cluttered kitchens,
And woven in and out of all the places
We’d so often try to visit together.
And in the budding days, the newness,
Ageless from the empty buildings of our desires,
Would walk so rare and real beside us,
On the street corners and up and down the corridors
Of our interminable happiness.

Fettered only by our loving limits,
Caught only by our careful hearts,
We seized the autumn afternoons
And breathed life into the leaves.
And always our pedestrian destiny
Would await us on street corners,
Amongst the intersections
And the poorly-scripted trees,
Over and under the terrace houses;
And in the winding of the lanes.

But now the houses are cluttered.
Amongst all the possessions,
All the artefacts of spent affection,
And trophies of despair;
All the fixtures of forgotten longings,
And the easy ornaments of cheap regret,
How can we find the space to share these things?
The solitude of company, and all the endless
Emptiness of the unshared world.

My Winter Coat

I brushed off my winter coat this morning
In the grey light, with the rain pressing
So hard on the curtained window.
And all the sounds of the suburb waking
Came sliding in under the sills,
Under the old aluminium,
Corroded to powder blue.

The thousand compelling little melodramas
Of all the unshared world
Came welling up under my window sill,
Dripped lazily down my bedroom wall
And wet my naked feet
As I brushed off my winter coat.

A Hand Through the Window

The suburb strokes my sleeping face—
Shadows by the underpass,
Dog track, telegraph and posted bills,
Bins all heaped with yesterday’s news;
Bums by the tram line coughing,
Smoking patchwork cigarettes.
The cars go jack-hammering overhead.

Behind the blinds of a crouching room
Faced up to catch the light I wonder
At the strange way my mind takes,
Why it feels a promise in the later hours.
Each streetlight like a finger beckons,
Draws me out on the night’s cool arm,
Calls me out into the air,
Takes care to rub my sleeping face
In the gutters of some little street,
To creep my eyes behind the shutters
Of undressing girls and women, see them
Blush-pink or sallow with unconscious grace
Or very conscious clumsiness.

And I follow, somnambulant, the unwinding town,
My suburb stretched bare, unshuttered,
Blushing in the moon’s desirous light,
See the fights of smaller men in public houses,
Violence and the pleading eyes of lonely women.
I will weave a new mythology
Patterned on the streets’ square deltas,
Sew it with the thread that runs before
Like a kite string from my chest,
Cut it with the scissor-motions of the clock,
The hands that beat the tune of life’s decline.

Fig Tree

Walking home tonight past the fig tree,
By the iron fence and sandstone wall,
I was lifted suddenly on to tip-toe
And I felt the sky between the lustrous leaves,
Felt its cool and countless stars,
And felt, with perfect clarity,
The pure, pure darkness between,
The stretching, fathomless sky.
As if some giant thumb had ceased to press,
I walked taller, knowing I would not hit my head.
I floated, weightless in the cold evening
Stretching candidly to infinity
Before my wondering eyes.

And I rose, by degrees, above the street,
The concrete, asphalt, and stop signs,
Saw the little streets as lines of light,
The fraught, succulent intersections of the living,
So many lives and lights and misplaced things,
The whirling madness of the city made small,
Its harmony, collusions and collisions
All reduced to golden corollaries.
Just as if I’d burst my body’s bounds,
As if all the bonds of every cell
From molecule to atom had let go,
I moved outside the world,
Saw it spin beneath my feet.

Beating by my secret heart there lives a thing,
A stupid, senseless, golden chord
That thrums with warm vitality,
Hums like a fat taught string,
A chord of senseless beauty
Backs the beatings of my heart,
And I cease to touch the ground,
My heels are winged and streaking
To futurity with unerring aim.

 © 2012 Elias Greig

from Contrappasso Magazine #1, August 2012

* * * * *


When he’s not fumbling for consonance or checking his lines don’t reach the edge of the page, ELIAS GREIG is a tutor and a PhD student working in the English department at the University of Sydney. Research interests include Wordsworth’s political poetics, Robert Burns’s democratic ironies, and William Hazlitt’s critical style. His poems have featured in Hermes, but nowhere else, and he is glad they are part of the launch of something new. If pressed, he prefers the still, small voice of literary criticism to the sounding tones of poetry, but happily combined the two as an editor of Hermes in 2010.