Poems for E·ratio
Light Gradually Descends
on the Obsolescence Curve
gradually descends on the obsolescence curve, picturesque
a statistical report slated for a whitewash. our camera
captured for you a few aspects: night-time tracking shots
a dockside container yard. the shipping lanes, hemmed-in.
trans-Pacific news. Seduced by the progress achieved
the domination of nature, the mass-acculturated cockstand,
sweating surveillance eye… Same times found us in the
living and acting otherwise.
Somewhere a lost decade is
through a telephone. Now we are dark tunnels and
underground, spent icons of roadless outcountry,
fluctuations – pre-recorded Arnhem dawns above
of cyclical downturn. What’s known. What isn’t.
Darlinghurst Gauguin sketching portraits for a hit, the hungry
the Buddha face-down on a floor of broken eggshells
Petri-dish insomnias. Give your vote to evolution.
through endless TV vistas looking for the big clue
what’s going down. Northbound: the great convict ziggurats,
night-signals lighting up and sometimes obscuring a sky
of response. Indian smoke-signals on Mars. Stun-guns
UFO chorus-girl routines. Climbed to the top of the Bridge
throw a spanner in the works, arguing with gravity.
all happening out there on Retrovision. Yesterday only.
zenga, space junk, the absolute finito – next time pull up
knees and try to be a door. testing the inhibitory reflex,
grey verbal sludge of language smeared as upon a windscreen.
squeegee gangs hustling the intersections –Dogs in Space
the escape route via welfare cheque deposit slip.
to get serious, the life of the body you’ve failed to cultivate,
body you were born in and not some strap-on placebo.
monument to the lowest common dollar. Did you get
free measure and quote? A portrait “in absentia” –
that want life and may be kept… Like
dental floss. Rain,
upon sleeplessness and windows one after another.
closes the door and re-arranges the furniture –
of cooking fat, ash, a stomach-like enclosure you belong
an ulcer in. The future never looked rosier. Select replay.
just fifteen minutes, you too can be all you were cracked-up to be.
Sotades the Obscene
o’clock and all the worst yet to come –
Day parades, Saturday morning horrors.
living in mirrors as long as you have,
What’s life but a stumbling palindrome
a lead-suit aqualung? And you call that a man?
to another day’s ego-dissolving bliss,
condensed myself into a fraction
matter and no matter. Hours pass
rotten plumbing – the untolled village bell,
ass in its stable braying – a pair
all-night drunks earnestly at attention
the crux of their patriotic God, whistling
they urinate. How do you cross a line
in water? Jacques Cousteau
the depthless blank page – I am the whole
my own autism: the world on its axis,
poetaster’s wife, the perturbed length of a
pratfall as it drowns and breathes again
Tête de Femme
open window and morning out of doors
a Bartók sonata with delivery vans and
and pigeons in trees, the inevitable
making background noise
in arches, domes, minarets.
city’s alter-ego is crying into its drink
the woman you observe in a hotel window –
hands create their own occasion.
candour is a foreigner in time of war.
encounters without witness –
a deserted terrace along the strand,
sea’s elaborate mosaic – her face
out of it in half-profile like a Roman
And would you bleed for your
country? One word for any other word –
pass north into a scenery that begins
the sky ends. There are worlds, supposedly,
vaster. A one-thousand year ad-break.
seek what can’t be found? Behind
clock, under every stone – the noise
traffic coming closer, the sounded
the hectoring voice. The restored relation.
After Donald Friend’s The
between the reefs – a boy in a canoe
lie beside in your mind, knotted blue hair,
undone as he turns about and rides you,
shemale posed on all-fours, a four-posted
hut and postcard figures cut out to form
watching backdrop, static as Balinese theatre.
ribbed canoe flexes against the breakers’
uniformity; a snapshot makes the outfall
His mother, he says, was an orphan
Dutch colonists. Brownskinned. For another
bucks he’ll let you suck him off afterwards.
a chink in the wall you see the dogs
the periphery – remedial demons, rust-
scavenging for morsels of proof that things
indeed as they seem. The ceaseless grovel
the waves. On the wall, a gaudily illustrated map
the route to paradise – but who can say
what lies there isn’t cursed? The outrigger
back to shore, sun low in its arc, flash
an oar. Each stroke, down-thrust, a purification.
to stand in the light and not in the shadow
no guarantee against the infinite evasions of glib
sentimentality. Was anything stolen?
you provide a description? The outrigger,
up onto the beach among crab burrowings,
brine – all the surrounding amorous
estate pegged with for sale signs.
Or you alone
the island on which you walk, compass-eyed,
only the X that marks the lost co-ordinate.
taken down the statues, the portraits,
posters with children: what’s left
the quicksand simplicity of words turned
becoming the stuff of TV,
adjustments, talking heads. Their malady
solely for the sake of curing itself,
penicillin on stale bread. Tobruk,
dancing feathers of the ceremonial bird
from its habitat. We set out for want
territory, stakes driven into sand to pitch
cenotaph. Nomads of the kasbah hunch
into the storm, melancholy
shouldering TV sets – as unwatched
waft in and out of the frame, like scenery.
a Sydney-born writer who has lived in Prague since 1994 and currently
directs the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory in the Philosophy
Faculty of Charles University. He is the editor of Contemporary
UP, 2007) and of The Return of Král Majales: Prague’s
International Literary Renaissance, 1990-2010. His
work has been included in the Penguin Anthology of Australian
Poetry and Best
Australian Poems. His
most recent collections of poetry are Letters from Ausland (Vagabond,
2011) and Synopticon (with
John Kinsella; LPB, 2012). He is an editor of the magazine VLAK:
Contemporary Poetics and the Arts.