- Vol. 10
- Chapter 01
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.
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—
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.
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.
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.
Do not distrust my lidded marble eyes. Drowning’s fine. Once you’ve left, we’ll reprise your leave-takings, such pathos to play.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
Stamp – a good stamp
[that your days may belong upon the land
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]
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.
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.
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
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
a clouded mind
the hope and optimism of younger years
through once empty streets
that now struggle
the day to day
this air bites,
every eye waters too readily
a push past a corner
to where a park once sat
birds lit from tree to tree
gentleness could be found
a brief haven
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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 >
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.
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.
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 >
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
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
a borrowed disquieting time.
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.
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
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 >
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.
The city went pink to the news,
the colour of a phone call slapped
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.
a poem within a poem
reading the letter, the envelope
sealed; my early hours require
drifting through sky, I am
curious, or reaching
blue veins like a map,
echoes that bend back
and insist, or eclipse
or carve language, eons
into the ether, or
contours like water, tapping
on a backdrop
against a backdrop.
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.
Today is November
and the weather seems somewhat
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
with open arms.
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 >
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
am a boy man
Tall as a Mulga tree
and beyond your definition of me
In my native lands I am like cattle “good stock”
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
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
Beating out a pulse
And saluting the sun
Read more >
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
An origami of past pictures unfold
revealing the pastiche of places
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
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.
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.
A purple haze
Giving birth to technicolour
Giving birth to black and white
Giving birth to Hendrix
Giving birth to the Sex Pistols
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…
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,
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,
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,
Read more >
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
Come with me!
to a land that’s free
away from the noise
Just wait 'til you see
clear water and
Shed those rosy glasses
and follow me!
Come with me to a land that is free.
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,
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
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
“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.Read more >
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 >
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
In an Aussie prison.
You say you miss the rain,
English Autumns littered
With bendy, black umbrellas,
Charity shop offerings, and
Damp, London buses,
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.
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
Just a Phase,
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.
Just ask the geeks,
Social media posting,
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.
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.
I've been dreaming, of course
Stretch and yawn, listen to the dawn chorus
Reach for the one, lights shining brighter than ever
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.
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
"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.
"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 >
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.
I wanted to be like my father,
to follow in his footsteps,
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.
Say you hold a drop of dye
in a pipette above the globe
of your eye and squeeze
the rubber bulb until
the world is flooded Magenta.
Say history saturates
a Kodachrome slide
double exposed and you
see the Italian city from the start
of a descent --
progress built on battlefields
the child your grandfather once was.
Say his face is too early
inhabited by age.
Say he’s handing you a letter.
Say behind him there are others
addressed to you
Say there’s a spot in this picture
where the clouds dilate
where green light is unabsorbed
and in that frame of hope
an implausible acacia grows
and your grandfather
steps out of what harnesses him
to all those undelivered letters
and is free.
Governments design postage stamps
to reflect the national story
they want to portray.
Each is a miniature of bureaucratic vision
filtered through the lens of an artist.
As such, they shed light on history,
not just as we understand it now, but
how people long dead thought about
As national symbols, animals can be tricky, because
iconic ones don’t only live in one country.
The Canadian moose and the Norwegian elk
Caribou and reindeer are also similar, but
not as popular.
Australian animals are more distinct, so
text isn’t necessary to identify the
Historic figures are also thorny.
Alexander Graham Bell is
embossed on multiple countries stamps.
He is claimed by both sides
of the 49th parallel and likely Scotland.
Few discount his historic significance, even
though he has been repeatedly accused of
plagiarizing parts of the telephone.
Read more >
The pink kangaroo hunches on the roof,
haunches quivering with unused potential.
The wee postman is coming as fast
as ever he can, dynamic glide in violet.
He is the messenger, shooting mail straight
from the satchel on his hip
Oh do not jump, curb your capability.
Wait. Wait. It could be good news.
How he loved his paper planes
the crease, the fold, and tuck
a pilot’s license he could obtain
He’d fold and throw, and throw again
watching swoop, and dive, and hooping arc.
How he loved his paper planes
His mother never could explain
her son’s being so entirely struck
with the pilot’s license he would obtain
His mother’s wish, a purple strain
on roo-like dreams bounding amuck
he really loved his paper planes
And so a postal worker he became
finding flight in letter husks
grieving the license he daren’t obtain
Now she’s gone, only her wish remains
he stamps his foot as colt would buck.
How he loved his paper planes
A pilot’s license he must obtain.
A magenta forest sits at the heart
of our city of blocks.
Bisected by a road that runs
as straight as a Presbyterian engineer
from there to here.
We turn our minds from terra nullius
circle our wilderness.
Cut windows and watch
while life silently drains away
from here to there.
Phantoms patrol our rooftops
sham sentinels who mess
with our sleepy minds
our temporary repose.
Will you accept this note from the past?
We never leave our birth day home,
geography re-corded soon,
though cut had brought a nestled breast,
a rest from wrestle, water break.
Recorded as our nationhood,
stamped birthmark on our flesh for life,
however many ports we pass,
it lingers, genes, though unbeknown.
The site our mother found her time,
the place with which she came to terms,
and though we join in global spins
we would touch down where niche begins.
One step, where toddle first admired,
to send, record delivery,
our scripts of connectivity –
as ley lines traced the ancient net,
where cradles rocked, lays, lullabies.
Postcard, birthday, pillar to post,
some sorting office in the clouds,
for city, hamlet, street, or block,
to drop, box in our homeland’s door.
Though purple haze – or never moved –
as countless creatures make their way,
homing pigeons, Sargasso eels,
that magnet draws to our first love,
cap, satchel, pouch, mail, our behalf.
The bridge across the Volga is a triumph of Soviet engineering.
The van they crowded us into, however, was not.
It broke down at the tollbooth. They pulled us out and told us to walk.
I wanted to run home but the apartment blocks all looked the same.
Flat and featureless. The dwelling places like office blocks.
The office blocks like factories. The factories like abattoirs.
They told us we had denounced our parents. I did not remember this.
They walked us for an hour, crocodile-fashion, across the river
But when we reached the other side we found a city identical
To the one we had left. Yes, take a leaflet. No, I have not
Read them. I do not want to learn to read. I cannot go back
Till all are disposed of. Correctly. They check.
Before I am sixteen I will be ordered to the front and I will go.
I will find my father. And return his hat.
The earth has circled the sun again and again
and I still tell my friends: My grandfather was a
New York Newsboy
– Just like the musical. Just like the movie.
He passed out papers to workmen on the street,
collected coins in his pockets, tucked into the tops of his socks.
Like an unwritten Will Smith blockbuster,
these coins bought his way from foster care.
He didn’t stop there, snagged a scholarship to study law,
spoke at the Supreme Court, found time to raise my dad.
At the end, he lost his hair, some teeth,
his skin’s elasticity and hue. He told
bad jokes, like, “Look! I stole your nose!” We laughed
as though they were our only albatross.
These days, I collect coins for parking cars
and future plans to tour the land his family fled.
Between my nose and me, I watch and then
rewatch the Alan Menken film until
I pixilate his face to blend into the rabble,
connecting with the camera. Grinning toothlessly.
"Tickets please! Tickets!"
I want to escape the city.
I want to become a child again.
I hear the station squealing
as the train leaves it.
The station hears me squealing.
The train has left.
My heart is a postage stamp and you are on it.
I send it on a letter out of here, to the place where you are.
Now I stand in the city,
heartless and bold and bloodless and cold and
did it ever arrive? I'd
If I had the heart to
Somewhere there is green and no fluorescence.
Somewhere there is a story I tell myself about us.
Somewhere a station sighs as a train arrives and a child gets off.
Somewhere there is a conductor, and a whistle is blown and screams and then is silent.
Remember that fad, a few years back, for writing letters to our younger selves? You know the kind of thing. Dear sixteen year-old Me, here’s some stuff I learned along the way which you might find useful.
There were some funny ones, like the guy who told his younger self not to bother watching Australia, despite the attractions of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, and the Baz Luhrmann screenplay. That, he said, is three hours of your life wasted. Or the one who suggested it wasn’t a good idea to laugh at a drunk squaddie, because that’s a short cut (excuse the pun) to a broken nose.
And there were the sad ones. The woman who was terminally ill, who implored her younger self not to ignore those tell-tale symptoms. The man who realised that the woman he’d just broken up with was really the woman of his dreams, when it was too late to do anything about it. The guy who wrote about the fun of trying fags and alcohol behind the bike sheds, but warned his younger self to stop before it became an addiction.
And then there was that poignant one that started with those tender words: Dearest Absurd Child.
Then some bright spark saw the commercial opportunity, and published an anthology. Which you bought. You read them all. And of course you wrote your own. Well, you had to, didn’t you? We were all doing it.
Yes, me included. Cynical old me, who never fell for that kind of mawkish tripe. I picked up a pen and wrote... Then I folded it up, put it in an envelope and tucked it beneath the pencil tray in my desk.
End of story. Or so you’d think. Scroll on ten or twelve years, and we’re into another fad. Baby Boomers Downsizing. That thing we suddenly realise we need to do, once we’ve had the trauma of clearing our parents’ homes.Read more >
I’m leaving the city—
I’ve said it before—
but this time I mean it.
Let me go.
Pink smoke pours from buildings.
Pink haze fills the park.
In the streets walk pink people
I don’t know.
I’ll go to Australia
(or to Grandma Jean’s)
where kangaroos play
in the fields.
Where zephyrs shake leaves,
and the air smells sweet,
and nobody makes
I’m leaving the city—
I’ve said it before—
I’m leaving the city…
Will you open the door?
...rather fight a giant-sized child
or a hundred child-sized giants
someone asked me once,
but it makes no sense, what
is a child-sized giant?
I guess they have the ferocity of giants
(hill giants, or ice giants, I wonder)
but in a bite-sized package
whereas the giant child can crush
a city block with a step
but is soft and mostly
Prime Minister of Malaysia bad!
our giant-sized children deserve to work
or else they spend all day feeding
Isn't that true, friend?
Ok, not quite friend, but
definitely acquaintance right?
No, well, stranger who happened to be
sitting behind me on the bus
just doesn't quite have
that ring to it
now does it?
I been trudging these streets. Up and down, back and forth. The amount of shoe leather I been through don’t bear thinking about. I got to know them on my round. Ladies and gents, lords and ladies some of them. I give ‘em a wink, a smile, a wave – careful not to overstep the bounds. Not too familiar, just friendly-like. People like to know you notice them, could spot if there was something amiss. Nothing ever is. I used to hope sometimes that I’d happen upon a pile of unopened letters, newspapers, uncollected milk and the like. I’d be able to report it – be first on the scene like. Call in the law, give a statement to the local press, maybe even get on the telly. Just for a couple of minutes.
But nothing ever happens so I trudge on, up and down Acacia, to and fro on Chestnut, back and forth on Sycamore. I could walk that route blindfold.
They tried to give me a bike one time but I never took to it. Heavy, wobbly thing wouldn’t stand up at the kerb or by the fence. The front was always so heavy that it pulled the rest of the confounded contraption round in a circle and down to the ground. ‘Sides which, I just prefers me own two feet.
Nowadays I got one of them trollies. It’ll lighten the load, they said. What they meant of course is that they can give me twice as much, double the length of me round, taking me all the way down past the station. I thought at the time, some poor sod’s going to lose their job over this. If you double all the loads, you only need half the men. Or women. Stands to reason.
Kept me head down and the chop passed me by. Lucky that time, I thought to meself. Lucky. Head down. Keep moving. It’s harder to hit a moving target. So I don’t stop. I give my smile, wave, wink. Never over-familiar. And I keep moving. Up and down these streets till there’s no more letters to deliver. Else, what’s the point?
The child stood like a colossus.
he reached into his satchel and pulled out a flyer.
It was his first day on the job.
He eyed giant passersby
tiptoeing on the asphalt
moving warily across the city skyline.
slightly flushed with an air of uncertainty.
Tipping his hat the boy asked ‘Fancy a dance?’
‘Perhaps, but I don’t trust your eyes’ came the reply,
‘I do however find myself at a loose end’.
The boy jumped at this obvious opportunity.
‘In that case, there’s a club behind that tree.
The marsupial will show you the way’.
Slightly exasperated the fly-ee retorted,
‘Oh for heaven’s sake!
I am from Brobdingnagian
and consequently far too big for such an establishment’.
‘Fear not’ said the uniform clad lad.
‘The magic instigated by the transition from purple to green
will cause you to get small’.
And indeed, that is what happened.
Oh what a night of music and dancing.
One to be remembered forever.
I know you think you've failed us, mate.
Such big dreams we've always had,
and that wide world out there to roam.
Man, would we explode in love,
and in love, for sure, the gods
would see us home.
I know, it's not been like that.
All those circles that we drew?
They seemed so small,
and this old town, now, crumbling,
its walls, they blocked our every turn.
But what better way to shift the gaze?
From the outwards, to the in,
and through the light of imagination
to hear the angels sing.
So, do not lament the loss of ages,
for all the ages melt away,
and the atom splits to emptiness,
to that field where angels play.
Indeed, you've brought us far, old man,
you have shown the universe quite small.
You have peered us deep into infinity,
and closed our fist around it all.
I look over the haze of purple smoke.
“It’s lavender,” I hear my sister say.
I shake my head, I want to tell her that right now there’s no room for matter-of-fact statements or pretentious entities.
“Let’s just get to where we’re going.” I continue walking.
The buildings that once stood, were destroyed into a million little pieces.
The brownstone that was once my piano teacher’s home laid in a mess of broken glass and brick.
“I do feel kind of bad, though she wasn’t the nicest to me.” My sister kicked a scorched piece of brick.
I picked up a torn photo of my teacher’s smiling face. “How would you feel if someone spoke ill of you?”
“Oh, I’m sure that they do.” I felt the venom of sarcasm in her voice.
I continued to walk, looking up at broken stop lights and storefronts that were once filled with tired mothers and their energetic children and men who went home to be alone. At least that’s the story I came up with for them. It’s amazing what the mind can do.
“You’re daydreaming again.” My sister’s voice startled me.
“No I’m not.” I walked past the burning bus stop.
“Keep focused on reality.” She warned.
I crossed my arms. “I am focused.” I looked at my reflection in a tinted car window.
“You never were focused.” I saw her come into frame in the window. “Your imagination had always been bigger than life.”
With bated breath and an eyebrow raised I bellowed the word, “So?”Read more >
Did you hear it-?
Have you seen a-?
Can you help us-?
Are you busy-?
Why did you visit the Grey city zoo?
Are you here to witness a fantastical view…
Intrigued by the stories of our performing rats,
Our creepiest, our crawliest, our most vicious cats?
Who did you bring to the Grey city zoo?
Are you with parents, your siblings, is it just you…
Enjoying the performers, popcorners and parks,
Our magicians make mothers disappear for a lark!
Perhaps you came for the pink kangaroo?
Rumour’s he’s elusive to security and crew!
Taking lost children from the grey city zoo,
Promising to get them on tonight 6 o’clock news...
Tell me, why did you visit me at the Grey City Zoo?
Hadn’t you heard the stories of what I would do?
Don’t you cry, here’s some candy floss to lighten the mood,
Hide your tears from the man with the pale pink hood.
Is it me you hear calling to you? Calling from the past to you
Shipped from the poorest parts of our biggest city.
We were full of promise as we traversed the gangplanks
The girls with shiny, satiny ribbons;
That bounce off their shoulders at the end of their plaits
Me with a small suitcase featuring a change of socks
And a reminder of ‘I love you son.’
With bountiful hope we chattered through the many days
We didn’t know what was to become of us.
We are a secret buried for decades,
Concealed under the space of an entire hemisphere
We were separated from our dearest siblings,
As we realise our new reality,
And under those towering gum trees we survived.
Once we expected more than this toil, this heartbreak
This is a place with no way out.
Now pain is all that reverberates through time
I send my message out from under these oppressive, sepia skies
Brother can you hear me? Brother are you there?
Weren’t you a somebody once – a “used to be”, a “once upon a time”? I remember you a bit, but my mum remembers you better than me. A star, the world following your every move, writing you letters, sending you presents, keeping your picture on the wall. Yes, that’s how it used to be. Mum and Granny told me.
You had a big mansion place in that star town, where all of the stars live. A swimming pool, a pink piano, a St Bernard dog called Bruno. Or was it Bernie? I can’t really remember now. It was some name beginning with “B”.
A child star, so sweet and endearing, ruling over that part of the dream where little kids lived and you were right at the top, one of the best. Little girls flocked around you, you were seen in all of the best places, winning awards, winning the hearts of mothers everywhere. The papers called you “The Town Prince.” You could do no wrong. Not when you were five anyway.
There was that part that you played in that film. I can’t remember the name now, but you were so sweet, helping that man win the heart of his true love by delivering a letter to her from him every day. You were the postman, the cupid, the adorable deliverer of joy. People fell in love with you then. They weren’t bothered about the other two. I can’t even remember who they were.
So, what happened? Why are you here in this place, washing dishes and sweeping floors? You had it all at one time. Where did it go wrong? Maybe you’ve asked yourself that a few times.
People grow up. That was the explanation. That was the problem. No longer cute, no longer adorable. Just an acne-ridden teen with an attitude.Read more >
A good day is our ennui lulls
Being serenaded – to
By existence’s, cacophonous
Symphony of vitality
Health so good, it’s innate
Kindness so widely abundant
Capitalism’s, gangrene gates
Hope, baked into weary smiles
Emotion, tasting sweet in tears
As kids flippantly plant, craters
In devotedly trumpeting heart’s
While tap-dancing imagination’s skies.
A good day, is not like Sushi
All neat and rolled-up tight
Cut-out into mouthful bites
Since, no perfect recipe exists
Instead, it’s excavated
While bracing our falls
Scraped hands and knees
As our finder’s fees
Smiling, waltzing in-step
With life’s chaotic – beat
We dance like we’re living
Tomorrow’s: in each breath.
Letters came every day from the same little boy. They came every day from his outstretched hand and his professional smile. It was an aged smile, solemn, wise beyond even the years of those much older.
Sometimes he stood on the corner, handing out flyers. The same hand, the same smile.
The little boy wore a little hat and a little suit and little shoes; all the same colour – the colour of that which has no colour at all. The most drab colour one could put a bright little boy in.
The little boy, his outstretched hand, his smile, his clothes, looked more sad even than the saddest of buildings in the city around him.
Compared to this little boy, even the saddest of cities seemed alive with colour, exotic and fresh when compared to the muted little boy who delivered letters and stood on the corner.
But the little boy looked not to pity himself. Though so young, his little head was down and to work he got, delivering letters, handing out flyers, learning to tie his shoes.
I come from – fields of green
from trees – from birds
I come from fish – from blues
here in my hand a letter
to my future
I step into your nightmare
of concrete – plastic – purple rain
I see you look down on what you
create – how much light you
suck from this land you
lay waste and which you
want me to grow – want me
I write letters for every gift
whether liked or hated
but this note to you
is unfinished – just as you
gift me what is yet to be
Here – open it
I want you
“So handsome in a uniform” they tell my parents,
when I dress up as a pint-sized mailman
to deliver valentines to the neighborhood girls.
I decide on a life in uniform, not realizing that
you don’t look good in anything if you are dead.
Nobody ever tells me about the lies
when my government gets me to don a uniform,
as old men dispatch me to the front lines,
lamb to the slaughter, with scant regard for my life,
in pursuit of power, glory, and immortality.
Those innocent hands that once handed out
missives of love, now dispense death casually.
Someday, I will lie in a casket, a casualty of war,
as letters I wrote home are delivered after my death,
and mourners say in hushed voices “So handsome in a uniform.”
Here. Take it. It is all you have to go on.
I do not remember if this is the first or last.
The air is thick enough to walk on.
From here I can see what’s coming.
I could make you happy, cover your eyes
with tiny hands that smell of candy floss
—but what good would that do?
I have premonitions too high-pitched for you to hear.
I stand over your city with my head
that is too big even for my head.
I oscillate in the heat haze
over fading power stations.
I come and go, my Doppler selves,
in the guise of ambulances, fire engines, fighter jets.
I am as colourless as what must happen.
I am not the messenger. I do not flinch.
I do not always knock twice.
Everything is not rosy.
A Jimi Hendrix sky descends
upon Sydney at dusk.
Lavender sand settles,
casts the city
in a soothing aesthetic.
Female kangaroos recognize
this tranquil time, enter
evening-abandoned office buildings,
hop up stairs to roofs,
survey what the fuss
of Progress is all about.
Here they find a cupid-like
mailman distributing Purpose
to pouch-proud joeys.
Do not be fooled,
the statement of purpose reads.
This is an illusion,
a Mask of Want.
Return to the grasslands.
Grow old where you belong,
with those who care.
There is nothing for you here.
The Alien rises above the ground, pulling me with him. He's taken the form of a mean-looking little boy, yet strangely I feel no fear. He says, here take this deal, read it carefully for the sake of humanity.
It's a ruse, I'm sure. Ma had told me never to accept a stranger's gift. In America, I've taken flyers out of courtesy from strangers who put out their hands to my heart. Always, I was disappointed. No sales deals but invitations to meet God to fix our souls, discounted tarot card reading sessions, offers to visit an astrology and tea leaves fortune teller.
So, I shake my head no. Is it wise, I wonder at my foolishness. We're hovering above the city. He wraps the earth in pink gelatin. Everything could come crashing down at his whims. He puffs, glares at me, his hand shaking the booklet towards me. Behind him a cutout door, aperture to another world, green grass, kangaroos hopping about. One jumps through the pink gelatinous frontier, lands on the top floor of a high rise. It peers at us, wearing pink dungarees.
Well? The little Alien boy shouts at me. He's stomping on his own creation. He’s in a fit of temper. He squeaks and thwacks at his temples. The gel trembles, shakes under my feet. He tears the booklet. Leaflets swirl like a storm.
Wait, I say, I'm sorry, stop!
Too late. He grins. The invasion has begun. My army of kangaroos will technologize your platforms, you'll be at the mercy of ME and ME alone. He cackles, swings around, and disappears inside his mind, zipping us in his grip.
Take your violet tinted glasses off
Slip your hand into your marsupial purse
Do what you need to do to prepare for take off
Pack no mittens or scarves
My news will shake you to the core
You have been summoned
to rise above your confining limitations
The time of lazing in the sunflower beds
has come to a close
Come away from this sprawling metropolis
You are needed in the eucalyptus zone
Do not despair!
Bullets shall not be strewn asunder
Your presence is required
in the distribution of seed bombs
Fertile plains must flourish
To nourish the marsupial pouch inhabitants
Bring no suitcase only fill your purse
With chewing tobacco and smelling salts
Lard, beeswax, rosin and tea tree
I will show you the itinerary once you agree
If you can see me
you have already made up your mind.
A vast metropolis stretches, as far as eye can scan. A river intersects, spanned by a bridge from side to side. It’s the only clear space where the city’s lungs can breathe, some last vestigial semblance of fresh air.
Storm clouds gather in the skies and the city glows purple in their reflected light. It feels like an eerie pause, before the deluge begins, swamping the concrete jungle beneath. Rainwater will run off the rock hard surface, causing flash floods and submerging roads. The river, its capacity overrun, will burst its containing banks.
A stunted man-child stands in the only green place still growing, while a pink kangaroo leaps in panic out of its refuge. From a satchel hanging across his shoulders the boy hands out pamphlets of the apocalypse to come. He has a strange disturbing look about him, old before he’s young, wizened by prescience. Beneath his furrowed brow he glares accusingly at us. Your country needs you, the whole world needs you. Act now while you still can.
The time before was far from perfect:
A deadly virus had killed of hundreds and thousands of the population, traffic and pollution was at its peak in history, prisons were overflowing and crime continued to rise. But it was our world, however corrupt. It was colourful.
Now, a haze of pink suffocates the city; the buzz of buildings becomes still like a miniscule bee holding its breath, watching its predator move. The poisonous rose-tinted pink gas finally settles, removing all sound. The hum of transport, the sighs of the public, even the patter of rain is silenced, creating a wordless vaccum.
As always, the people still. The pink gas poison acts as a precursor to the 'remedy' that will follow; the silence a precursor to the commands to come.
Little messengers clad in uniform resembling that of a soldier's, disperse quickly into the streets, eyes scanning for those selected indivuals.
This world, void of colour is ordered, maintained, controlled by these little messengers. We have no say.
When I unzip my eyes, I’m surprised to see that it’s a pink day with fuschia pink clouds against a salmon pink sky. Pink days are when we receive messages from other realms.
I feel a faint frission of unease at the change of sequence of days. I turn the diamond lever on my forehead to the left to open my heart to the right frequency to receive any messages.
There are only two. The first is from My Significant One and falls into my heart with a heavy thud. Each word swarms like hive of bees and I fear I’m having an allergic reaction as histamine engulfs my pathways. My system experiences a series of processing errors and fails to compute the message.
The second message crumples to ash with a faint scent of baby powder. A message from the future and what might have been.
The day fades and deepens to purple, the dreaming time.
When I was younger, I’d wonder about the often-referenced big guy in the sky. The one who was always watching. Books of Life. Carefully curated Lists. Checked twice. I’d inhale, exhale, then sigh. Dispense whistles and wonder amidst perpetual strife. I’d want to know: Does she wear denim? Do they prefer lace? I’d imagine re-gendered and re-rendered versions of celestial beings. Out-of-this-world aspirations worth craving. All the while streaming Dolly (9 to 5) and dreaming (in puffy unicorn diaries under red gingham blankets – 11 to 6) of more nuanced versions of the cliché kitchen-counter phrase: Live. Love. Life.
My head would swirl.
Each curl a flutter.
I’d never been an ordinary girl.
I was unable (disinclined) to confine
limbs or buttocks
to school-issued metal seats.
Equally reluctant (resistant) to oblige
school-issued prancing (square dancing) feats.
Dialects & dimensions always off-beat.
Dictionaries & dinosaurs a daily companion.
I’d doodle then draw.
I’d carve ice then watch it thaw.
I’d fine-tune visions
of a few of my favorite things -Read more >
Head in the clouds? Maybe,
but you’d never have been a poster boy
for little lads with lofty ambitions.
Antipodean postman showed a certain imagination
when challenged, I’ll grant you that.
Pilot, fireman, doctor, received no such interrogation
and your classmates mocked and giggled at the attention
the ordinariness of your job aspirations attracted.
But did you deliver? Yes, you did!
Letters by the bucketful – well, brown leather satchels actually
that reminded you of your schooldays
and bullies tipping out your pencils on the floor;
toy soldiers falling out of line
when they flicked them, irritatingly.
But your parents saved wisely
And with you – and your dreams – set sail.
Eight weeks later you’re chasing after ‘roos.
Eight years later you’re sporting a postman’s uniform
and an over-size cap that rolls onto the ground
under the shade of an old Eucalyptus tree.
And you sit and pause to think of old school chums
spitting on rags to polish their boots,
then lying in trenches – some sleeping, some dying,
some struggling to find words for letters to send home.
This is the day.
So says the sun that
shines on our bodies
as we lay on the floor
like wet towels
with our mouths full
of each other.
In our moist embrace
an insistent knock
at the door finds us
unfinished and surprised.
Our naked legs guide us
to the beckoning sound
to find a uniformed boy
with no color except gray,
and in his small hand,
One year father forgot Boy's birthday
important work locked him in his shed.
Boy would listen to the cooing bedtime words
and whispered answers. Just before the sun rose
he would open the flaps...his words flew.
Boy's special friend nested on his window sill
he morse tapped the bedroom pane when
He was the boy who painted tiny pictures, he liked
painting balloons best, they meant you were safe.
They made a good team, delivering painted pictures
to children everywhere. One day they reached a birthday
and made a smile.
Words flown, words thrown
Words leaping fences, housed in hands
viewed through glass
paddled through water.
They stood mini mailman on a plinth.
L’Hotel de Silhouette. Would you attend?
Even with this invitation, would you go?
Dates and times are only for the select.
Shimmy, foxtrot, tango, swing cranked
out of the over-sized gramophone horn.
Sweet peril has been poured into fruit
punch (it’s more dangerous than un-
hinged Guatemalan tequila. Young men
in tuxedos hair as glossy as liquorice; girls
slinky in flapper frocks, chic lines undisturbed
by foundation garments; their patter
enhanced with mascara flutters. They
are much in demand for the press
and heat of slower songs.
You’re not too sad to dance are you?
Sugary laughter and risqué stories, rise
like the smoke from Passing Clouds
and Black Sobranies. Until all innuendo
and double entendre dissolves into insouciance
and dawn. Would you leave before all trace
of conviviality has disappeared? When you
might notice the monumental mirrors reflect
only the deserted ballroom. Will you anticipate
the next Ball, which is, as yet, unscheduled
when all will be replayed just as before.
Would you accept the invitation
You wrote letters (to yourself and sometimes, to me) which owed no name in the lousy cacophony of this decadent metropolis, whose lanes we traced through on the city map, on a Saturday evening just like this. The cobbled stoned path, drenched in the sticky, mid-June rain glistened and the drains gurgled as we made our way to your favourite shop. "My grandfather had an eye for treasure islands! "- your eyes beamed, as we entered the place. The antic shop was unkempt, but if one is observant, one will find fascinating things- vintage books full of annotations, wooden lamps, lapis lazuli or turquoise trinkets from Tibet or Afghanistan, ceramic cups with little " forget me not" designs, everything was so alluring to you!
I still have that Victorian flower dictionary you left me as a goodbye present before moving to Australia. Before the forest fire.
That photograph of yours, with your grandfather, that I clicked on my Polaroid, two pairs of eyes, stare back at me every night. When we were seventeen, we fought over what I called "useless", lashing out that you live in the past – angry and warm tears turned your wordless face red. And yet, despite trying not to, the photograph tugs me back. You were dressed up as a postman. While I was a reporter at our kindergarten school for Halloween. Before you went away, I confessed that I was jealous when you got the opportunity to work as a wildlife photographer on the other side of the globe. At the same time, I typed about local murders that I never investigated, in my square cubicle. I have those stamps too, that you meticulously collected and gifted me when we were ten. And oh, how am I haunted by the ghost figurine of your past.
I’m not quite sure why I hold that letter in my hand.
It’s probably the residue of the incident that grew up in the bedroom:
Cotton mixed with the conservative flesh of the shards of wood
that escaped from the mattress.
I think that’s what my sentences rest on.
You’d think I’d have forgotten by now how I couldn’t turn away
from the answer papers that flew into the balcony. The windows
had their mouths wide open to swallow them down to the street
that was already a big mess with the answers and questions
walking in and out of cabs and buses.
They flew with all the might they could pack into their suitcases
simply because they didn’t want to be witnesses to the coarse art
of applying violent shades of haemoglobin across Mother’s face.
They seemed to have had a better sense of self-preservation.
I, on the other hand, believed to be present in the here and now for better
or worse. Yes, you can tell, I had barely graduated from kindergarten
back then: The sentences are all raw, single-celled,
bathing in the ignorance that their ectoplasm kept them in.
I keep that letter in every nook I rent.
Some day perhaps, I’ll sit with it in the balcony
under the covers of a thunderstorm
and forgive its not knowing;
I’ll then go bathing for a thousand years
in the fact that I could hold myself—
Even after that which held me
A boy poses as a wayfarer of this world
There are innumerable wayfarers in this world
longing for recovery like a boy's pose on a damp
canvas. but, lately had I understood that creations
are sometimes washed off their normal
conditions. the sky indeed dwindles, the wall
breaks and the city plummets too.
forgetfulness is fluttered in the wind
& everyone sniffs the fumes.
in my country, loneliness owns a cottage in a boy's
heart and desertion blends him into a man easily.
each-day, he fights in the larking wisp
of the city. once outside, the sky floods him with
lethal intention. his eyes travel through
borders of questions & if he could show his heart,
it would indicate the void of a mute nomad.
yet with no words, he looks.
every day, his body seems to have forgotten
gestures. but today, he's grateful
to be caught in a glimpse,
with all his words huddling out of his hand,
please have him,
I nostalgically track the routes navigating each road with wispy fingers. Overly familiar pathways that I once cycled along, delivering letters and brown-paper wrapped parcels, tied with string. Old-fashioned now.
As a boy, my dream stuck firmly. I only wanted to be a postman. I’d play contentedly for hours pretending to be Postman Pat, posting small wooden letters through a toy post box. The best Christmas present my late mother could have bought me. I wrote it on my Christmas wish list to Santa, back in the sepia-soaked days when he still existed as truth alongside The Tooth Fairy.
Now, as I hover above my postal route, memories flood back. My first kiss. First love. First child. I lived a full life. Married well and happily. Flashes cascade as Polaroid snaps. Quick clicks.
The skyline is violet soaked, spectral as my physical shadow. It’s shifting. Turning cycles. I sense the tide ebb and flow instinctively. My soul starts bends with its curves, moulding new edges.
I’m moving nearer.
I trace my most-loved delivery road: Pleasant Place. The road where homeowners tipped me at Christmastime or handed warm cups of tea on wintry mornings to chase away the chill from gloved hands. My hands were purpled, swollen grapes through severe frost. Frigid fingers found it hard to hold mug handles.
The purple skies darken as a black coverlet draped the houses, putting them to bed as tucked up children. I rise higher. The well-traversed roadways now blur: distorting once clear parallel lines, now wobbly in sadness.Read more >