• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 12
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No Title

Dear Members of the Search Committee, I have flown eight hours into the future to be here in the past, in this dark office with you. I grew up here. I knew something like love. I am covered with letters. Like an improbable animal suspended on a skyline, I am writing to tell you how delighted and keenly aware, redoubtably, I would be to step off this airplane to stand in my newly discomfited glare. To be fitted to the raw basin of a hotel attic room at the top of the stairs. To be handed the key to a house for one day. To contemplate a return. To fly in from the future in a dusk of pink forgiveness. Dear Search Committee. Two decades have passed, their many labours. Did you know there are many places in the US and Australia named Ithaca? But only one in Greece. Dear Search Committee, I descend slowly, slackened at the neck. In new clothes, my animal unwilling to admit that the cold hotel sausages look delicious. Contemplate instead the feet of a sculpture under which you fall again and again whose name is beauty, whose name is the mother of Hermes. Dear, I have torn open all the letters you did not send. I confess that it is your dark office, its storied walls, that I most want. To stand in this peculiar sunlight, under these jacaranda trees. To make peculiar this improbable animal of longing. What was it my mother said, that morning, as I woke in her city, our city, a complex evolving picture. You know very well. I am an evolving picture of intersecting revolutionary aesthetic movements. I believe I have made my experience your aims and objectives. Drawn to its many opportunities. Dear Search Committee, I hope your loved ones, too, recede into darkness when you wish for them most. I thank you for your time. I yield my time. I yield to your dark offices.

1

Time Travel Incident Report

We should have seen it coming—the barely visible glare, the brewing electrical storm, the office windows full of spooky action—but instead the messengers had to come wearing our own faces. The journey itself was badly planned—temporal infrastructure inadequate, the portal certainly unpredicted, funding bodies kept in the dark. Now, the boy insists I take the letter. At around one thousand feet tall, stepping from a door to the way the land used to be, he feels the urge to check his feed—in a subversion of weather, people are participating in widespread revelation, while the prices of household products and utilities fluctuate wildly around us. The judge is watching with his little kangaroo face, his little kangaroo hands, claws clasped in a panicked summons. Now on our backs the sun is staining the lavender plumes—rings of red coral pulse in strings of light against the cold. In the letter, someone has written how they are always thinking about how we are groupings of particles so tiny, everything a coalition, a collaboration, a teaming of life! The voided forest waits on for its carers. I only seep in lilac, the wavelengths to which it will go—

2

Dear Citizen —

I have letters for some of you.

        I didn’t build this city out of fields. Pedal faster, aloft in the air. The dog’s glossy fur, your glossier hair. I never get such mail.

Ink courses my veins. Ink, your only witness, fades. Mail drop.
Drop.
Drop.

        It wasn’t me. Soil darkened my grandfather’s palms. My boss stuffs the bags. Stamped. Seared. Cancelled. In service from an early age. My route shortens each day.

Iron.
Borrowed pearls.
Barbed wire.

        How teeth loosen in the skull. I called gummed paper a stamp, now your letter’s here. My mother never wore brocade.

You, me, and a third thing.
Isosceles.

        Do not distrust my lidded marble eyes. Drowning’s fine. Once you’ve left, we’ll reprise your leave-takings, such pathos to play.

3

At the Fork of the River

My mother can’t breathe. They say that her lungs are filling with water, that she is drowning from the inside. Every few weeks, they draw out the fluid with a long needle to give her more space for air. In her soft accent, she says that when she finally goes, she wants her body to be buried at a fork in the Credit River under a Canadian Maple and a German Oak.

The Credit River is Treaty 19 territory. Canada is carved up in this way, treaty by treaty. I ask my mother if the German Oak is considered an invasive species. If it’s OK to plant a German tree in Anishinaabe soil. I ask her where people like us should bury our dead.

My mother doesn’t have an answer for this. Instead, she asks me what we should call a country that is a patchwork of treaties, the stitches still raw. We wonder if there is a collective noun we could use. We decide it should be called, a mourning

 

4

Dear Spectre

I have something to tell you.

I singled out this pen. Umber through silken paper. Dusk in flowing feather. Burnt sienna fur slipping away

Caught it – no.

I have something to tell you.

Ink in carmine dread. Vermilion etched in silken paper. Cerise in flapping plume. Scorched claret sodden and dejected.

Drip.

Drip.

Plink.

I have something to tell you.

Seal in amber coating. Flaxen stamped in a spineless box. Golden in lemon fumes. Charred lily-livered and spiritless.

Sputter.

Sputter.

Sputter.

You and I in false wrapping. The waning reminiscences. Cerulean eyes in fancy beryl. Don’t doubt the azure graze of ice diamonds. Let’s play once more.

Till the next rendezvous.

5

Postal boy

Send him anywhere / first class, registered, bulk mail / he arrives by air / by freight, by delivery van / gets there on time / no postage due / salutations and postscript intact / because boys are like that / beginning, middle, end / delivered through rain, sleet, snow / handwritten / typed / rubber-stamped onto blank envelopes / addressed to those of us / who want to open him up / see what’s inside /
6

The Postmaster

In a felted edged envelope
he found himself. His childhood self,
in a makeshift, make-believe, post office set.

He was the postmaster, then
with steamed off stamps,
torn scraps for notepaper.

He’d crayon letters,
all twenty six. And progressed
to rearrange them

into wish lists and dreams
he’d post to the future.
But his message got lost

in transition, translation.
He got lost
at the bottom of the postbox.

He got lost
in bills of responsibility,
got pigeon holed until

he broke from that seal,
and found the note to keep
the postmaster’s promise.

7

The Rosy Hopped Warning

Shhh. Over here. No down and over. Yes, this way, friend.
Run, hop, scurry—whatever you can do to get away. Do not listen or read the lies handed to you—no matter how cute or unassuming the one who delivers them. For it is not their words on the page, not your interest that is thought of nor expressed and most of all—not the truth. They do not abide by your 'No Soliciting' sign, or the tired look on your face begging not to be bothered.

Look closer through your rose-colored glasses. Squint if you need to. I know they soften and placate this world so you may survive; you may get up out of bed and on with your chores, your job, your necessities. But now and then, remove them to glance and look closer. Yes! See there, right there… see the lie from the corner of your eye, or that prickle in your heart or the churn in your gut.

The past has been reframed and comes back to haunt us. Shift your stance, relax your shoulders, take a deep breath, remove those rosy lenses and seek a new perspective.

Now Question. Question? Question! Who is the author? Who paid for the printing? Who stands to gain? Follow the money, follow the love, follow the power and sometimes even follow the jealousy. Follow their crumbs.

Hmm. Wait. Oh OOPS!

I see now. It is nothing but a thank-you card. I will hop down off my soapbox, and blend with the roses and thank yous. Crumbs, crumbs, crumbs… I will hop away and follow the crumbs to my next question.

One more thing before I go. I wonder, why did you not question me?

8

Stamp

Stamp – a good stamp
[May you be inscribed in the Book of Life]

Stamp – a good stamp
[that your days may be long upon the land
which]

Stamp – a good stamp
[that your days may belong upon the land
which]

Stamp his (?) rubber stamp
sign and date the document

Stamp his (?) rubber stamp
or seal, sign and date the document

Stamp – a good stamp
[May you know no more sorrow]

9

Rules for grandparents when embarking on imaginative play with a seven-and-a-half-year-old

The detailed and lovingly hand-painted Schleich model of the kangaroo you bought your grandson last Christmas has been transformed into a Boeing 777. Calling it a kangaroo will be met with disdain.

The pink carpet in your spare bedroom is now the well-known Australian city of Cranberry, which your little darling bombed with candy floss from an open window of the Boeing 777 as you were coming in to land at Cranberry International Airport.

You must never interrupt play with factual discussions about why, for instance, aircraft windows don’t open, even if you try to make it interesting with dramatic descriptions of people being sucked out at 32,000 feet. In his world, at this moment, it is perfectly feasible to be able to open airplane windows in order to distribute candy floss to Australian children.

Although said little darling appears to be dressed as a 1960’s postman, he is in fact in full super-hero mode. Do not stand in his flight path as he circles the city fighting crime, bringing villains to justice and being an all-round good guy. Your only function is to shout Whack! Pow! And Splatt! at appropriate moments and to praise him frequently for saving the world.

Rules may be changed without notice at any time. You will be expected to be fully aware of the new rules without being informed about them.

The game will last for 30 minutes and although it will take you three times that long to clean and tidy up afterwards you would do the whole thing again in a heartbeat.

10

From Violet Blossoms

Of the earth from violet blossoms and bud
I sprang forth

at sixteen I hear the call of the army
for king and for country

across worlds I am the bayonet of battle
striking for good

these small white fingers hold close
the rifle like a baby

and soon I will deliver the advent of death
from beneath my hot metal shroud.

11

The Boxed Life

snapshot words                     postcard mind
greetings from nowhere        that you would know

my DNA hidden                   behind a stamp
the closest you get                 to touching flesh

redundant and slouching         towards your front door
two weeks away                     from the dirt of the socials

                                       but

here is more human                than mere text
more heart                             than mass communication

a thought of you                      trussed and trusted
to anonymous hands               outback to city

deliver me                             to you
a new tattoo                           the world as a bridge

12

Rosy Glow

a clouded mind
the hope and optimism of younger years
past reminisces
through once empty streets
that now struggle
to contain
the day to day
this air bites,
every eye waters too readily

a push past a corner
to where a park once sat
wildlife scattered
birds lit from tree to tree
gentleness could be found
a brief haven
all annoyance
a dim buzz

now an asphalt blanket
waits to hold
visitors to pancake tiers
that erupted from far hedges
empty but for the saturday stampede
of tense wastes
and bun grubbing hands

Read more >
13

Dear Mom

I used to write poems with crayon on scrap paper and fold the edges until wings grew and a sharp needle to pierce air emerged. If I stood on a chair and aimed it just right, it would sail up toward the ceiling and then spiral down the stairs to land in the hallway.

Sometimes a gusty wind swept these airmail letters out the door where camouflaged among dry leaves or drowned in rain puddles, their poems were never read. Those that landed safely, you stuck to the fridge with magnets, souvenirs from the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, the Florida Everglades, the San Diego Zoo.

Older, I replaced those magnets with airplane tickets to faraway places—Mexico, England, France, Argentina, Spain. Like my paper gliders, I left you behind. I imagined you stuck like the magnets you still collected from your occasional flights to favorite destinations but always spiraling your way home.

I learned to lick stamps, found where they put the mailboxes, but still I forgot to write you. The stationery with lavender fringes and a faint hint of lilacs was tossed away in a drawer to clear the desk for work papers, printer, computer. Once the perfume faded, the lavender sheets served for lists, shopping and errands.

What a fanciful airplane one of these lavender sheets might have made, if I had allowed myself to be a child again, if I had written you then, when the world stretched between us like a faded postcard caught under a magnet, calling me home?

14

THE MESSENGER

I ran away when I was four.
A satchel snatched and stashed inside
was a pencil, a postcard of pastel skies,
and six sweets to pillow my cheeks.  
Slung on my apple shoulder, the satchel thumped
like a parent patting a choking child.
My face, urgent like a hot round quiche,
sweaty warm, not crying but the blackbird did
in the peeling gums edging the strip of houses
before the town.

The town; the place of still-faced statues,
of adults set about in chairs and offices
like caged animals performing tricks
for profit. Feeding the great collective
on the slow grey death of the earth.

So I drew it with pencil on postcard:
one tree, short grass, a kangaroo - all I knew
of freedom and joy and handled it like Marie Curie
cupping a precious extraction.
Stopped by police, I gave it to them
saying, “This is the way to be.”

As an adult, I sit among the automatons;
a puppet grinding words for dollars
having forgotten the wise child
who knew how to live.

15

WHERE OPHTHALMOLOGY FAILED TO SEE

It wasn’t a childish stare:
                                          but one that was embodied
                                        in make-believe, just for play,
                                     dressed in uniform, like a game.

As you were marching down the hill
the rain came, and the whole city
was washing pink. Your thumb
was sore: the tip was split,
though just a little. You didn’t see
how it happened, how the skin broke,
leaving a mournful sight―
no blood, but you knew the pain was right.

You stood for a while on the bridge
overlooking the motorway:
the which of wherever rapiding past.
They said twenty years,
you said you’d give it five.
The uphill walk, the downhill trot.
Absent-minded. Silences. Idle talk.
“Tell me your thoughts,” you asked yourself.
Waving your hand, you fingered a Nay-I-Know-Not.
“What a straight-back posture!” You trotted out
these pointless words.
The pink houses were still standing though.
Wasn’t there a patch of green
behind those knickerbockers?
Aye, but it was nobody’s thought.

Read more >
16

Gangurru

In the violet hour
              the satchel filled with post is keen to be delivered
Others play at being waiters and waitresses
              taking my order
                          before the violet hour

Boys and girls stirring berries rose petals and sand
             to a nourishing potage
                      I pretend to relish
                                  at the violet hour
The apartment full of witches and spidermen
                 for a while credulous
                             of superpowers
                                       beyond what a parent has
                             of wisdom or persuasion
                  in the face of the violet hour

Grinning role-play of post boy and delivery girl
              on Christmas morning
                           the gifts laid at the feet
                                       of grandma and grandpa
           now dead and passed beyond the violet hour

Delving with beach spades in the back garden
             with no thought of the parched Outback
                      where flyers skip
                                their pockets of feeble young
               sucking at the violet hour

Where eucalyptus trees flay themselves alive
             beyond terracotta rock
Read more >

17

Surpanaka’s swag

A chubby boy dressed in scuffed khakis, a mailman’s hat with a bag overflowing with a chunky load of letters popped up on my WhatsApp from Amma.

“Who is this?” Amma had this strange habit of sharing pics with a guess-who-it-is or a peekaboo gif. My guesses fell flat for her connections reached beyond our family universe.

“Shanthamma’s grandson.”
Oh. A bulb switched on in my head. Amma’s response set me thirty years back in time.

It was my grandfather who had got Shanthamma’s husband Kannan a postmaster’s job in the nearby village. Though the office was was just an extension counter and the postmaster duty didn’t bring Kannan any of the central government job privileges or pension, it made Shanthamma walk in the air.

Accordingly, Shanthamma had some strict superiority-claims: The tarkari and flower vendor should park and honk at her place first; no wilting leftovers for her. She fixed salaries for house maids which she expected other ladies to follow.
“Surpanaka.”
The kids in the village used to refer to her.
When grandmother called all the ladies for summertime appalam-making, Shanthamma arrived at the nick of time with her cynosure-of-all-eyes Varanasi marble chakki and belan. Her work time gup-shup would be all about her soon-to-be-born fourth child.
“Astrologer Dharmambal says it is going to be a son- born with a Prince’s virtues.” Shanthamma’s eyes would be like two gleaming diamonds, her hands smoothing her rounded belly.
Read more >

18

Afterglows of Sentience

Air turbulence
Smog
Cyanotype
As if all of this
Can ever materialize
Over and above a city
Like a haze forming
A smooth slash of an edifice
Of towering catacombs
Reaching up to the skies
From a reversal of fortune
To lay claim over the living
And stake a vigil around
The lost pleadings
Echoing inside the chambers
Of resonant disregard
That lie at the heart
Of this teeming enterprise
Which we live to revive
Offering our body parts
To an offal sacrifice
Inside an inferno that
Is perhaps sepia and perhaps technicolor
But hurriedly adjusting to the templates

Read more >
19

The World Is Flat

I follow a voiceless sound―
the gravity of the unknown,
a weightless body of absence.

My hand grasps the nothing
that pulls me into its wake―
I am surrounded by waves,
drowning in the confusion
of exhausted shouting.

As this unjourneying continues
on its invisible trajectory,
I find that I can neither rise nor fall.

(If I shed my skin
will I leave my bones behind?)

I am going nowhere
fast, endlessly―inside
a borrowed disquieting time.

20

A Foreign Post

A letter arrived.
But not from the postman.
Every house on the street had one.
Through the letter slot, and it fell
to the floor. Waiting there for us.

And we all gathered over a table
laid with tea cups and cakes,
and we brought our letters with us.

Some thought they were written in
a language of blood and speech.

One woman said it gave her an icy neck.
The old widow wants a chain for her door.

The man next door wants to put
his letter in a bottle and throw it
into the sea.

Someone said the sea'll refuse it,
and throw it straight back.

Those letters left us feeling fragile,
like icebergs falling apart.

Someone mentioned invasion,
and everyone said tut.tut.tut.

Read more >
21

Delivery Notification

Rose numbs the grey
which threatens to spill and spoil
the sepia grains
that charmed her heart
to dance once more.

Squat and square they sit
behind clear lenses
smiles and concerns
as linear as the sunsets
which slice their days to dusk.

If only they'd addressed
the red letters,
small print smirking,
as the type screamed
"Heart for Loan"

Bubble wrapped debt
amidst the lost and found,
retrieved, delivered and
shipped back home
bathed in blush

22

Bertie Junior

Bertie Junior’s father was a resourceful man; always using innovative and intriguing techniques to promote his mini Australian animal park named ‘Roo Zoo’ situated in the middle of the metropolis.

It’s crazy to think that at the tender age of four Bertie Jnr. would stand on an upturned wooden vegetable crate; on the paved intersection of Rothbury Avenue and Sunbeam Drive; the busiest part of Perth’s noisy, shopping district. He would hand out flyers to passers-by, dressed as a miniature bus conductor, shouting “Come to Woo Zoo and see all the cute, and SCARY ‘nimals ov Awe-stray-lea. Half Price entry with vis flya!” - This was a regular Wednesday afternoon occurrence for this unconventional little man, after being picked up from playgroup.

Albert Senior, Bertie’s father, was a slight build, ruddy-faced, British expat now firmly planted in the sunshine of the southern hemisphere. He was truly proud of his eccentric and colourful leaflets for which he paid Bertie, 5c for every fifty he managed to distribute to shoppers.

Part of the appeal employing Bertie Jnr. (if you could call it, employing!) was this little man had an extremely serious face, reminiscent of that expression one might show after sucking on a slice of lemon. It was often commented that Bertie Jnr. looked like a cross between a pint-sized Adolf Hitler, and that really scary kid who played Damien in the Omen films. But whatever you thought of this scary, tot, you couldn’t help but think he was a perfect for this job.

Bertie Jnr. managed on a regular basis to distribute all the flyers given to him by his father. So, on these momentous occasions he would be rewarded with his choice of sweets from ‘Professor Wayne’s Pop ’n’ Choc Emporium’.

Read more >
23

How he loved violet

From one side of the spectrum,
Short, temperate and rare in nature-
Contrary to fiery red of the other end.
So he planted 'Aparajita', a curative herb
That soon began to grow-
Creep up and bloom violet, in white too.
A landing pad for the butterflies and bees-
Along he hopped, jumped and soared
High above, borders past as he had dreamt.
With each new flower, he wrote a message
And let the wind take it to the earth-
Let peace and love bloom violet,
At times in white too.

24

Slapped

The city went pink to the news,
the colour of a phone call slapped
across cheeks.
There was no point looking
out of windows or walking
down roads or through woods.
or buying new clothes or waiting
for the leaves to return or asking
strangers what their names were.
Pink. Pink. Pink.
Why read when the story has changed
forever? Nothing can be
the way it was because now it is pink.
Food shopping is easier when everything
tastes the same: a packet of crisps
in a pink car in a pink country
on a pink sofa next to a face of pink tears
pretending its cup of tea is still brown.

25

A Map, Elaborate

I recite
                     a poem within a poem
without
                     reading the letter, the envelope
                     sealed; my early hours require
sound as
                     drifting through sky, I am
                     curious, or reaching
my
                     blue veins like a map,
elaborate
                     echoes that bend back
                     and insist, or eclipse
words
                     or carve language, eons
                     into the ether, or
curve
                     contours like water, tapping
the atmosphere
                     on a backdrop
                     against a backdrop.

26

Battle Royal

Paper planes
fly above a purpling
landscape, blood pooling
beneath damaged skin.
This world's trying to heal,
trying to remember
what it felt like before the fight,
before the knock-down,
before the birth of one small
boy or another, or all of them,
in the dingy locker room
behind the ring.

27

Morning Letter

Today is November
and the weather seems somewhat

relieved.
I feed the birds in the garden

starlings land at will.
In autumn the air is already colder

and the light falls as if dabbed
by a masterful painter.

Look at our humble roses
how they persevere

their beauty undeterred by the seasons.
I know there is a lesson here

beyond fences, bricks and eaves
before the fear of hunger —

I write down I wish
the future to arrive

like the return of a long-lost relative
and that we can welcome her

unafraid
with open arms.

28

Not All Balls Are Round but That’s Ok

Jimmy the Postie enters my lilac dreams on the eve of my departure. He delivers a letter.

Catania – Messina – Fremantle – Melbourne. It’s the land of opportunity, sis. You’re going to live in Richmond. And there’s a special wall at the end of the street that has a big sign on top that lights up at night. We can even kick a ball against the wall and the wall won’t tumble. Aunt Carmelina has even planted an Italian garden. You wait, in no time, we’ll have prickly pears, lemons, olive trees and even pomegranate.

Jimmy the Postie warns me about seasickness before homesickness. Jimmy the Postie reads my letters.

Neptunia looms in the distance. Trepid steps make their way up the plank. Unknown faces poke out of portholes.
The journey is filled with Christmas carols, rosary recitals and proxy brides staring at a not-so-faithful- picture of their future husbands. I wander the decks reeking of expelled breakfast, lunch and dinners, build castles with playing cards, and cover a black shawl with buttons that have lost their home.

I abandon my home—made to—a lost button, but Jimmy the Postie says life is about hops, skips and jumps like the Aussie kangaroo. A what? He takes a photo out of his black satchel.
*
I catch my brother kicking the ball against the special wall.

“What happened to it? It’s oval?”

“Nothing sis. Bobby down the street is going to teach me footy.”

I try footy but the ball never bounces back to me. Maybe it’s lost too.

Read more >
29

Nothing new

Have you ever looked into the faces, the brown, deep-shadowed sepia faces, of those children from another time, when everything was brown, colour of rotting leaves?

The huddle of little girls on a doorstep, one doll between them, smocked and wrinkle-socked, boys huddled, unsure if their pose is manly enough, wrinkle-socked and hand-me-down trousered?

Look deep into those hollow eyes, the reproachful gaze that lingers, like the sight of a dead cat by the roadside, beneath the peaked toy soldier cap, the hand, thin-wristed shielding from the gritty city sun.

See aspirations, fragile as baby birds that died before they flew, love that never flourished, children never born, dreams and trust betrayed. Read the message this time, perhaps, though it’s been so long.

This city was built by men in slick suits with dirty hands, on the bones of little messenger boys and guardian girls. Remember that.

30

Phenomenon

Grown men do not wear cotton suits

with gold cufflinks anymore. They are

not ramrod straight and clean-cut or

well spoken for opportunity nor for

romantic renditions of any kind. Old

immigrant cultures are losing their 

identity, homogenized into a vacuum,

cast into the shadows, somewhere in

the outer boroughs where the future 

seems alive and dying at the same

time. There's a museum, for earlier

reference, newspapers that tell the stories,

against a backdrop of modern-looking

buildings, framed into rows, in a Brooklyn

neighborhood and beyond. 

31

My Huge Son Floats Above the City

When I picture him he’s tall:
the buildings here blush purple in
his presence, his float above them,

shadows cast where the sky should be.
What is he? An airship free of
moorings, mute and huge as

Cumulus-cloud, my son the sun,
gorgeous dawn with satchel, shorts
and soldier's hat, broad as a tree.

Most of us are small, teased from
Earth like truffles, tugged from
far within ourselves like stubborn roots.

Why’s he free to turn his back on gravity?
My son the god, my freakish son
from somewhere deep inside me.

32

The Messenger

Like a diminutive bellhop calling out
for Phillip Morris, a boy straightens
his hat two sizes too large, frequents
the stock exchange, dolls out memoranda
with unsolicited smiles & endless vigor
serving papers to executives, breaking fasts
on rooftops above the corporate fray. Alone.

Undaunted by gossip, he steps out
of a Kodachrome moment emerging
as a black & white photograph: sharp,
focused, distinct against an anemic skyscape;
primary colors gone sepia display hues
faded by sunlight, visual wavelengths perceiving
the city’s former grandeur in muted pixels.

Hazy, dark skies shade somber buildings;
commerce still thrives behind stone walls
to the sound of typewriter keystrokes
& Johnny Reventini throwbacks exchange
personal privacy for vocal trademarks,
rainbows for a gloomy metropolis.
bold saturation for a dated messenger.

33

The Pink City at Height

In my maladaptive daydreams,
I watch the shrinking cityscape
through neon-tinted lens.

I'm a nuclear ape, you see:
shredded out from mortal vestments
into a muscle-bound beast
with no limits. I reign terror:
stampede pot-holes into the main roads
(that the council will never refill),
or steal a blonde woman (conventionally
attractive only). I'll cradle her away from
the disappearing surface of her world,
her dull routine, like an uncrushed flower
in one palm: the other used to climb, meanwhile,
a TV tower like the tallest canopic tree.

And I'm sat on the tower's edge,
no ape hypertrophied in sight.
I'm the blond woman now, I realise:
gazing at shellaced red nails on beds,
cyanosing. My unstilletoed toes wriggle
experimentally... in the lonely breeze.

I mourn the existence awaited to me
by gravity. I, the unnamed heroine, work
a 9-5 reception at the tower's foot:
the conglomerate's hubris.
The higher ups keep building it
as a shard to break the sky.

Read more >
34

I came to say

I
am a boy man
Tall as a Mulga tree
Strong
and beyond your definition of me
In my native lands I am like cattle “good stock”

they’ve written:
stamped
         shipped
                 sold

Welcome me home and
Look on me
Deep into my heavy-lidded and soft eyes

I wish to sit atop that tall tree and play like I have four limbs
with two large muscular hind legs

Very large ones to kick down these torturous confines
I will soon be hardened by your pilfered systems

I had to learn to be self-forgiving to survive
your blushing exploitations

You be forgiven and forgiving and be reborn in my youth

35

Dear Me/You

Do you still miss me
The way I panic in the dark
The curve of my lip when I doubt myself
This letter is for you/me
The person who was supposed to be
The one who got away

It’s good to hear from you
Where are you living now
Are you still inside
Peering through the curtains
Hoping no one can see you

We always saw you
Didn’t you know
I just pretended you weren’t there
Like a knife in my pocket
Sharp and fresh

Sometimes I hear you leave
To go outside
As if you were the first flower
On earth
Beating out a pulse
And saluting the sun


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36

Dear Earnest…

Yes, I was never that short but taller in wanting to unite a precarious world.
I'd like to think, without blowing my old rusty trumpet that I could stand taller than the buildings in higher places just to get my forgotten words out.
In kinship, reflection, honesty, and love.
My words start to untie as I ink my letter to all the others, misplaced in my postbag.
Words I have seen with bitter-stinging daggers and the echoing sound of foolish ammo from my friends yelling in no ordinary pain.
To my family,
I am coming home.
To all the others,
Never leave.

37

Paper Planes

Above the purple skies, I rise
like paper planes in an airy flight.
Standing like a General of the earth,
I radar planes with clear signals to tear
through the windows that are still open.
One plane carries a Kangaroo, another one
a blue whale imprint—like the fossils of
dinosaurs to remind. The teeming coral reefs
bright and colourful, the paper holds unwet.
I hope it lands deep into an ocean as it flies.

Hurry, my mother waits on rooftops in my search;
she does not know the responsibility that has fallen.
I left the inhaler behind and carried a tree to revive
a planet of greens and kangaroos. Hop on my plane.
I have enough to save one of each, like Noah's Ark.
My tome Ark is not in three layers but one universe.
I am no Noah, but I do my part. My mother wakes
me from my dream, the skies still purple.

38

Curious Chemistry

And you see the truth from all angles, all at once in that impossible but acceptable way things are shown to us in dreams. Pink punches through your subconscious, skewering the ordinary thoughts of postmen and kangaroos. Your neighbour’s postage stamp garden makes you want to scream with its too tight corners and chameleon hydrangea; the pink is not pink enough, the blue is the weird blue that tinges your grandpa’s lips. And when he speaks through those blue veined lips, his voice is miniature, trapped and wrapped, and you know that it is the little boy that he was, that he is, that he still sees in his dreams and he is posting those tinny words out of his own old mouth.

39

Here

Go on, take it.
Pull yourself in.

Take the long view of the straight roads
right angles and stone squares
the multitudes the cruelties the sin
Pink paint yourself in

to the middle of the black forest.
Notice single green trees
bends and blades of grass. Make
your angels leap down from their pin.

40

Through the Purple Portals of My Mind

As I travel through
the purple portals of my mind
searching for the truth
and trying to connect to my ancestors
to give them some hope
that the future is making sense
I find that I don’t have much to offer
because although my hands may be softer
I don’t have the wisdom of their day
I’ve allowed the patterns of modernity
to lead me astray
If I only had read that letter
If I only had finished coloring the picture
and solved that anagram
I would have been a more colorful child
not lost in an image trace
tinged with disgrace and standing
on a mismatched plane
but today I know my bane
that I can’t go back in time
to question decisions that affect life
today is just for today
and while I wish I could travel through that portal
to connect with another version of myself
I have to reserve daily living for the daily life
because despite the decision or distraction
I can’t go back
I just have to accept that
the purple portals will have to
swallow my unsettling dreams

41

Shattered Glass Paintings

An origami of past pictures unfold
revealing the pastiche of places
we've been.

Colour on postcards
leak and seep onto
posters and prints.
some pages stuck
like we were for the last two years.

A picture from the past can
fold and twist
your mind
into feeling
that memory can be a source of happiness.

The little boy misses his home
as he hands you a taste of today
eyes not innocent
a fricative waiting to explode
at the tip of his tongue.

Like the angle-headed kangaroo
we hop from rooftop to rooftop
searching for a connection to our past that doesn't hurt.
Keep hopping!

We are but a pastiche of everything before us...
like a shattered glass painting of memories
that colours the way we see and feel today.

42

The Unexpected

A purple haze
Giving birth to technicolour
Giving birth to black and white

Sinatra
Giving birth to Hendrix
Giving birth to the Sex Pistols

Spandau Ballet
Giving birth to Oasis
Giving birth to Lady Gaga

The past evolves
In ways unimaginable
In ways that scare and amaze

I am in awe of life
I am in awe of evolution
I am in awe of what comes next…

43

First Class Mail

Stop. Don’t press Send on that email.
I know you’ve read it over and over
and tweaked the draft many times
so you hope your intentions are clear
but you know there is something about
a black typeface on a white background
that comes over as scolding and critical,
don’t you?

So pick up a Parker, dip it in Quink
and lift the little gilt lever on the side.
Suck up the ink – and it must be blue.
Remember the cursive handwriting
Mr Kelly taught you in junior school,
with all those loopy ups and downs.
Use that. Don’t go all kinetic on her,
will you?

Take your time. Copy out the text
of your email. Don’t make mistakes.
Don’t blot your copy, or reputation,
with crossings out and smudges.
Make it look as if you have thought,
deeply, and are now presenting
a gift from your very own hand,
won’t you?


Read more >
44

Blind Greed

You pumped carbon dioxide
Our sky is radiant purple
Yours was blue with fifty green shades below, and dew
Carpets of abundant life

The fat of the land was yours
Who greedily stuffed it in
Discontent with enough you manufactured more
Flaccid food and plastic waste

Money means nothing here, now
No bank or crypto matters
Your investments hollow poison, as seabeds parch,
Flames rage through grass and woodlands

All animals are dead now
The last kangaroo has gone
Gasping, scorching, blistering: incessant heatwaves
Its tongue withered and blackened

Those who once served, self-serving
Switched off a light now and then
Avarice for your tomorrows, gave our today
To dry bones, to null and void

45

Manifest Delusion

Come with me!
to a land that’s free
away from the noise
concrete
crowds and
Poverty!

Follow me!
Just wait 'til you see
wonderous creatures
green vistas
clear water and
Prosperity!

Hear me!
Trust me!
It’s destiny!
Shed those rosy glasses
and follow me!
Come with me to a land that is free.

46

Missive from the past, a message to our future

Pulsating in the thin-skinned rays of the light
throbbing in the ecstasy of emotions:
He appears out of the thin year
birthing endless curiosities for many of us

Those who wonder about this 100-foot-tall boy
emerging out of thin air among us
claiming himself to be the messenger of peace, handing away the pamphlets
Of how to live this life of curiosities built on the succession of desire

How to curb the endless surreal desires of this mind?
And live amicably like the mind of a child, like the innocence of a dewdrop
resting carelessly on the thin blessed of the tall grass,
Unperturbed, Untrammeled

Laced and intoxicated by the beauty and the curiosities this life has to offer
Like an endless intoxicating beauty of a poem that often eludes our bleary eyes
The eyes that carry the dreams as a wound of our memories,
deeply seeded in the long-lost crevices of our minds

He hands over the letters, those missives, written to us from the travelers of the past,
from the hopefuls of the future to let go of our doubts and ignorance

Living like a hamster in this city pockmarked with the existence of shiny skyscrapers
piercing the heart of the skies with their pointed spires
bleeding with the broken and loft desires

Read more >
47

Emerging

From the purple Prozac fog, you emerge
They told me to let you go
That we couldn’t make it on our own
But look at you now

Dressed up from your favourite dressing up box
A bus conductor,
Handing out oversized tickets
Yes, my sweetness, I will buy a ticket

Let us travel away from here
Outside of the city,
There is green
Away from the fog

Away from Him

48

ABSTRACT COURIERS OF THE INDISTINGUISHABLE TRAMWAYS

“Bigotry dwarfs the soul by shutting out the truth.”
                                                                 -Edwin Hubbel Chapin


During that time, certain of the citizenry fantasized about invisible hoists always at the ready to boost them up-and-away from the sadness of the sidewalk and into the expanse of sky which melted deliberately over and into and between the things of the world.

During that time, had you been paying close attention, you might have caught a glimpse of them in their hot little woolen uniforms, and their peaked, midway hats. The troupe was small, very young and quite serious. Disguised as postal workers, one could surmise, oh say within the hour, that their ability to deliver mail was par excellence, regardless of what the laymen might consider less than favorable conditions. Ach! There I go again attempting to describe things as they seem, which in the beginning, or at the end for that matter, amount to nothing, are not helpful, and vaporize almost at the moment they are uttered.

I shall attempt to begin again. Though nothing was as it seemed, the citizenry fantasized about invisible hoists always at the ready to boost them up-and-away from the sadness of the sidewalk. The small boys – or perhaps I should say, the boys who seemed small, seemed like boys, were dutiful in their undertakings, whether real or imagined. No matter how many prayers you offered into the great lavender that they might remain a size which would allow you to carry them in your arms as if for protection for you both, your prayers were never answered, not by foot or by vehicle, nor in the varying road and weather conditions which were not the least bit germane.

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49

Irreverent Grief

She had long been fond of that childhood photo of her grandfather. When she was a small child, her mother would routinely bring it out, point at the po-faced little boy, in an oversized train controller’s cap, clutching a satchel with his left hand and the other extended towards the camera, an unidentified paper in hand. She had always assumed it was a grade sheet of some kind. She had never thought to ask her mother what it was. The strangeness of it only dawned on her when she was much older.

Or maybe it wasn’t so strange. She was more intrigued by the sight of her stern, tall and sinewy grandfather as a tiny, chubby-cheeked and diffident tyke. On each occasion, her mother would enquire, as if for the first time: ‘...Who is that?’ or ‘Do you know who that is?’

She hadn’t needed help identifying him the first time, let alone when it had become ritual. Even as a child, she queried this adult penchant for condescension, although she wouldn’t have had the words for it. She came to realise her mother’s shared fondness for that picture. She must have been drawn to it for the same reasons.

Over the years, she would create her own folklore around the document that baby-granddad was holding.

He was an especially industrious lad and began the newspaper round at an early age. No. The document was too small to be a daily journal.

At other moments, she imagined he was handing over a long-awaited letter to the sweetheart of a war-ravaged soldier – feared dead. Anything to humanise the old man. Anything to hold him in that place of shyness; a whisper of vulnerability. An openness to the other.

Read more >
50

Down Under

You were delivered by mistake;
Tainted with overnight rum, or
Was it just leaky gum trees?
Either way, you wished I was there.
Alien landscapes with creepy crawlies
As big as your spade, apparently
Lounging lizards don't just frequent
Bars,
In an Aussie prison.
You say you miss the rain,
English Autumns littered
With bendy, black umbrellas,
Charity shop offerings, and
Damp, London buses,
Your description
Of her,
In love with colourful birds,
Red and green flight feathers
Bunched into a jam jar,
Tree beetles that sound like
Sawmills, day and night.
I only find mucky, wet
Feathers, that cling to pavements.
I've never visited 'Down Under'
Until today, and the myth
Of kangaroos getting under your feet
Will become my new
'Did you know?'
I'm so glad you dropped in.

51

Game of Life

the boy becomes a suit
the boy becomes a dress
the boy becomes a wall
the boy becomes a line on a map
the boy becomes an office building
the boy becomes three bricks of gold
the boy becomes a limb on a great tree
growing over the woods, farmlands,
suburbs, into the downtown of the city―
stretching, stretching, stretching,
every leaf, every twig, every nest,
every space of shade
gathering, gathering, gathering

52

Purple Haze

Purple Haze,
Summer Days,
Alternate Ways,
Male Gaze,
Eye Strays,
Unwanted Plays,
Temper Frays.

Milk Trays,
Teenage Laze,
Parental Dismays,
Maturity Delays,
Just a Phase,
Who Says,
A-Maze. Balls.

Are the ‘roos a ruse,
Or the canaries down the rabbithole,
To follow or to flea,
Mermaid siren singing to me,
Ten-foot toddler transporter,
The scoop from a different quarter,
Stand and Deliver, Adam.

Flattened peaks,
Just ask the geeks,
Supra-macro-jumbo-mega dosing,
Social media posting,

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53

Reckoning

Here is your invoice, a fine to be paid;
no, don't look away. I may be small
but I've done all the sums. Don't
be distracted by Mr Roo, at my feet,
                                                   he's my daemon
and won't set YOU free. Times up:
we need reparation and grownup government.
Take it, take the bill and don't forget to read
the summary, to fully see where the guilt lies.
You had decades to recognise your responsibilities,
to stop using our world, our planet, as your plaything.
Now, it's almost too late. How I hate your smugness;
the coming years will wipe that smile from your face.
Just to say, before I go, I wanted to have children,
to enjoy nature and clean spaces. I wanted
fresh air and unpolluted sunsets in skies
uncrossed by contrails. I wanted fields
and hedgerows, trees, thrumming
with animal life and birdsong. I
wanted to grow tall and strong
not be a stunted wee man,
hungry for good food
and calling you lot
to account. Shame
on you. Enjoy
the putrid mess
you and yours have left,
for my friends, for me. This
is what hell looks like.
Be very afraid.

54

Birds of a Feather

I won't
You can't make me
You could be standing on the towering skyline
Trying to hand me my papers and I would refuse

You won't win
You will not light my fuse
I am the calm reservoir, rippling gently
You will not provoke a storm in me today

I may be small but I am cerise
You, on the other hand, are nothing but grey
I see you standing there so smug with yourself
One foot in and one foot out of the other side of the scene

It is always greener there
Yet you seem reluctant to visit
Wild wallabies graze in the midday sun
But you prefer to stay than run away to the green

In the corner of my mind
I am screamed at to jump
Jump with both feet into the abyss
But I won't listen to my mother, she is not this.

Waking now
I've been dreaming, of course
Stretch and yawn, listen to the dawn chorus
Reach for the one, lights shining brighter than ever

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55

Colors in the Air

She moved to be with him because too much of their relationship was spent apart. He was the center of her world and, now, the center of her city. He was her focus; he made everything brighter. She decorated their cozy apartment in calming blues to stand out against the cinder block buildings stacked down the street. The courtyard bloomed with lavender flowers as they sipped cocktails to relax every evening. She hustled to work and back, wearing blinders against the rest of the city, only wanting to see him.

Over time, he came home later and later. It was too dark to have drinks outside; she couldn’t even see the flowers by the time he got home. He fell asleep on the couch, leaving her to wake alone in the expanse of white bedding.

As the apartment started to feel less like home, she took her time walking to and from work, meandering up and down the city streets. She took time to notice the magic around each corner, the squirrels chittering in the trees, the leaves scuttling down the sidewalks.

Without her blinders, she noticed more about her new city. Each building window was a hint of potential, a possible life for her to explore. She realized her home wasn’t in him at all, but how he released her into a new world.

56

Insurance of Imagination

We play in cities that glow
a different colour every day
under the mist of our whims,
sprawling purple and green
beneath our feet
beyond our eyes
with no whispers in our ears
of how things are meant to be,
the buildings do as they are told


We sit in rooms with colours
pushed to the edges,
wearing monochrome suits,
drawing lines we are expected to draw
along the page
between each other,
the air we breathe carries the word
of scripture into our blood, a tome
of how things are meant to be,
we do as we are told

57

Being Served

"Is this a prank?" I ask, looking for hidden cameras, craning my neck over the barbed fence, letting my eyes travel down the cobbled street lined with pink-block houses stacked high, wondering from which corner a cameraperson might emerge.

He's standing almost on the tail of my tiny pet kangaroo in a patch of prohibited neon-green grass, snug in a postman's uniform, head tilted, eyes searching mine, holding out a piece of paper which looks suspiciously like a letter.

"Envelopes are banned in the pink zone,"-I remind him in a hushed tone-"no snail correspondence."

I don't want my neighbours to overhear, or they'll be out with their disinfectant machine, hose my house down with liquid germicides, and probably drown the child.

Child!

"You are a child?" It comes out as a question. He rolls his eyes, takes a deep breath then huffs it out.

"You're Mrs P?" He's already certain but waits for my reply with raised eyebrows.

"This is an envelope-free zone," I remind him again, stepping back, then hopping forward and kicking some dirt on the patch of grass in a vain attempt to hide it. The startled little kangaroo hops away.

"A marsupial," he observes then, waves the letter. "You might be getting another one of these…soon."

I groan, flipping a finger at the sky where the satellite might be hovering, then glare at him.

Read more >
58

Stuck with no more than spit

When she thinks of him, she remembers her shoe rubbing against her heel in Unter den Linden and stopping for Flammkuchen and Weissbier. She remembers the nearby statue of Frederick the Great that had faced west until the soviets rotated him to greet their victory from the east. She remembers a saxophonist playing Strangers in the Night to lovers in the daytime. And she remembers the letter, the one he pulled from his bag and presented to her as though he were a delivery lad going about his official business.

A letter. A letter of offer. A letter of offer of employment. Employment in Australia where kangaroos and koalas and parakeets bounce and slumber and squawk. That determined look of a child acting grownup, the one that says job done, there is no changing this. Bye. A letter kindly presented away from home so their four walls would not be tainted with the memory of its delivery. So kind.

And she was sure her heel must be bleeding and she was sure she would soon be bleeding and she was sure that if she could have had the child he parodied, then the kangaroos would be visited in a wildlife park, and Frederick the Great would be allowed to face wherever he damn well wanted, and the letter would be written in crayon and its envelope stuck with no more than spit.

59

Like Father Like Son

I wanted to be like my father,
to follow in his footsteps,
or rather,
his wheel-steps
as he drove his tram along the shiny rails.

We played the game constantly to give me practice
but I couldn’t quite get the hang of driving.
I was scared of crashing and tumbling on to the city streets.

So he bought me a Conductor's uniform
and a bag for the money and tickets.
He drove and I sold the tickets.
It was a good compromise.

I think about it now as I look down on the city,
with its streets and green spaces
which no longer have trams.

60