Dressed to Impress by Chris Kelly, camphor laurel wood and other materials
Carved shoes, hat, dress address the subject of the Stolen Generation
Exhibited in Down The Rabbit Hole, a Queensland College of Art, Griffith University and USQ Research Project
Issue 14 of Mascara is edited by Michelle Cahill.
Special thanks to Cameron Brown and Mowana Chapman
Richard James Allen is a poet, choreographer and filmmaker. His books include the critically lauded The Kamikaze Mind (Brandl & Schlesinger) and the NSW Premier’s Literary Award-nominated Thursday’s Fictions (Five Island Press).
His forthcoming collection Fixing the Broken Nightingale will be published by Flying Island Books, an imprint of ASM (Macau) and Cerberus Press (Markwell, NSW).
The Optics of Relationship, or
With this Poem I Thee Wed
For Chee and Stephen
Who I was in the past,
Who I will be in the future –
What distractions these are
From who I am now.
Who I am now,
Here, with you.
In this moment,
You have rewritten my past.
You are rewriting my future.
What I don’t understand about
Who I was or will be
Doesn’t matter now.
Whoever that is
– As we stand before the shimmering altar
Of the unfolding lights of our lives –
I know that we will find out together.
Because this is what a marriage is,
This is the optics of relationship,
The coming into focus of two lives.
The Secret Language of Border Guards and Those Who Wish To Cross
1. The Secret Language of Border Guards
What we dream we might say to each other,
if the roadblocks all came down
and the checkpoints disappeared.
If our language were not a secret one
we might share it with you.
If we had not already given up
on your ability to hear,
we might open our mouths
and allow that magic expectant
in and then eventually out
with some words for you.
If we had any faith left
in your capacity to listen, to think, and,
on such basis,
we might hope
for you to understand.
But you give us no reason
with small things.
2. The Secret Language of Those Who Wish To Cross
Do not speak to us of faith.
Faith lingers like smoke, drifting
through the rubble you have left
of our homes and our children.
But deep below, nestled
like burnt seeds in the soil,
the embers of the fires
you have planted fester.
We do not dream,
Even if the roadblocks all come down
and the checkpoints disappear,
the road between us will never be open.
Carolyn Gerrish is a Sydney poet. She has published five collections of poetry, most recently The View from the Moon (Island Press, 2011). She runs creative writing workshops in the community and at WEA adult learning. She is currently working on her sixth collection and hopes that one day satirical writing will save the world.
War of Nerves
sometimes the feeling nothing can harm you
the dizziness of freedom where anxiety’s
a useless passion & there’s no vigil waiting
for the end to begin you’ve lost the fear
life could just haemorrhage away or that the
mobile phone tower could morph into a Transformer
& ruin the suburb & there’s plucky Bette Davis
who after receiving a negative prognosis from
the handsome doctor claims I’m young & strong &
nothing can touch me
is an entry
but why are there so many security guards at the
Mall then there’s the worry of wrong weather
(this year summer was autumn) & those nimbus clouds
painters’ inspiration or evidence of Apocalypse
& that shadow just resting on the road becomes a
suspected portent & please note the asteroid
passing by us if we collide could certainly
take out a medium-sized continent so with
Armageddon averted for now one antagonist
is missing but the 24 hour news cycle never
stops as a rogue Afghan soldier kills
the omniscient narrator peers down the air
stoic rather than heroic no ignorant armies
(that) clash by night & Stendahl would find
nothing to swoon about it’s just a mess of stuff
detritus of the city’s zeitgeist & are these
your pets? dogs? camels? a baby in a backpack
on the way to Kindergarten Adventure Travel &
objects Jung would love to discuss a key for
no particular door residences are generic here
a torch to search for your neglected self a
globe of he world beginning to shatter after
ignoring all the warnings a lady’s hat housing
no skull & sheep & goats wander the street & he
shall set the sheep on his right hand but the
goats on the left a decaying apple brain in
cognitive decline when I am dead & doctors know
not why a life-size doll with attitude & paint
brushes that achieve an extinguished palette
but unfolding unfolding as being emerges
After Rita Lazauskas, View from the Ramparts # 5
(drawing in charcoal, gesso, conte)
A J Carruthers is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney and the author of The Tulip Beds ( Vagabond, 2013).
His work appears in Southerly, Cordite and Contemporary Asian Australian Poets.
patheme no. 7 (inverted bouquet)
by blind metonymy line (nonlinear &
horizontal) cuts flower, goes straight
thruit. curious about that stand – on the
same ground as it were – as the
inverted bouquet, as hard as it is to
imag | rays crossed ast a corresp | ine |
onding points of, quite easily, a sound
-box – sound-box possibly invocatory
patheme no. 18 (two mirrors)
you & I? don’t fool (us)! spherically
combine inadequates the correct feeling
| “I’ll have none of reality, thanks!” |
the subject’s on the edge of the mirror,
so this mightn’t end well. VS, that’s
you, code for virtual subject captured
from a young age in the secret contours
of an actual mirror
patheme no. 19 (simplified schema)
if you’re not sure just give me depth
psychology. can’t be on this see-saw
of desire forever! colorless green
ideas slip fervently read as careless
musicians sleep forever | “I read among
my disordered books” (Yü Hsüan-chi)
| let us be quite plane: your whole life
will unfold in O . . . . . and in O’
Born on Wakka Wakka land at Barambah, which is now known as Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve, Lionel Fogarty has travelled nationally and internationally presenting and performing his work. Since the seventies Lionel has been a prominent activist, poet writer and artist; a Murri spokesperson for Indigenous Rights in Australia and overseas. His poetry art work and oral presentation illustrates his linguistic uniqueness and overwhelming passion to re-territorialize Aboriginal language culture and meaning which speaks for Aboriginal people of Australia. In 2012 he received the Scalon Prize for Connection Requital and his most recent collection is Mogwie Idan: Stories of the land (Vagabond) (Photograph by Tony Robertson)
For Him I Died — Bupu Ngunda I Love
For him I loved
For him I became a dove
For him I tamed a game
Why has he taken my love
Wine as shaking my dine
Woe who outer my dinner room
What great sound he calls
What graving sound it gave
Wrap sapping his heart
With dem he got sung
For him I loved
Forgive the tearing
four faces he has seen
Funk hunk drunk
For him I lived He been in a body
I been in a bottler
Since once he send me
Sin onto me
Now sinly I surrender
Sewer poorfully I adore
For him I loved Swear back just to glad
sweet birds just to grand
sweeping fights just to game
a one lone feels his sex
a two cone feeds his senses
a three owns feeds his sick
For him I loved
his silent liniment myths
his sires searcher meek in me
his resting bees many inner tests
even I forward his happy wills
even I forever his papa ills
even I forever his everlasting tills
For him I loved.
He bin in behind my soul
He bin in beloved mindness
He bin in beggar meanness
Why has he taken my lying
Win who in the taken winds
Will be bless my love my love giving
For him I love For him I loved
What great sound he calls calls
For I Come — Death in Custody
in a jail.
Even a Murri wouldn’t know
if him free
The land is not free
Dreamtime is not free.
No money needed.
See that scarred hand at work
that’s cutting away
Jail not for me
but a lot of my people in jail
White jail are cruel
Set up the family, stay away
come to see your Murri
look big and grown
in learning, of our gods teaching.
What they give you in here?
Away from the corroboree
In the fuckin’ jails
Murri get out, so we can fight
like the red man has done
Lord them a come.
My brother die there
in white custody
And I hate the way the screws patch up
and cover up.
He died at the white hands
it was there, in the stinkin’ jails
up you might blacks
Him not free
For when white man came
it’s been like a jail
with a wife and a family
black man can stay in jail
like its home.
Fuck, they hung us all.
Love…walk with me
Love…waken with me
Love…is a black newborn
Camp fringe dwellers are my love
Love is not seen in cities
Love is my Father
Love is my Mother
Scrubs are hid in bush love
and we say
Love is alive and received.
Love is a kangaroo
Love is an emu
Love is the earth
Love is the love of voice
Love is my friend.
And what about us
who has no love?
Well, love smells.
Us Murris knows
It’s love in bad love
Give us love. Give us love.
Our Dreamtiming is love.
Catch my love over a fire
Fire of love.
Culture is our love.
Culture is ourself in love.
The school don’t give love
so we black power give you love
Proud and simply
love is the love
to our lands love.
Love walk with me
Love awaken with me
Now give us the true love.
from New and Selected Poems, Hyland House, 1995
Walk white fellow, as you all can’t write
Our battle just at your sunrise and night sigh ties.
The noble note runs in our native modern now from then.
Black resistance is every were now on written,
Face books there door mat roof an in-laws.
Walk white fella, you all can’t rights us.
First lovers black and loving came and stays
No fables dreams stop our mountain eyes,
Bodies for the dirt tears can’t ours, pains can’t our pens.
Resistance with us makes no trance but struggle over struggles,
The black diligent are our gent, believe it ladies.
We appreciative our fighter of these times
Awaken white vital man physical to a black world women’s call.
They’ll find renewed upsurges.
Continuing the non-silence is what we about
Lazy exterminator in their policy’s
Will fall to a decolonisative voices powered by our master race.
Wall up white fell, as your impediments will not combined.
Our men sang weak walk on white fell as meant economic
Are seen to wider our children’s fight.
The continent still not there’s even in numbers contribution historical upheavals
Walk in sleep, walk in lifeless is still,
The dreamer’s white man men made
Under Over the Rainbows
It’s fair we have charcoal colours people
Being black child skinned by past.
It’s fair we have European cloth
But our art black not lacked.
We have darkest blue-eyed baby
White with complexion from a dark race.
It’s fair physically to keep love in own
Race speaking singing English or not.
We may material all thing white parentheses.
Yea but caste is half fullest to all human mentally black people.
They mightn’t mine old bludger sex anymore, the naked began to swim.
Bones blooded addicted spirit gave fair care a drug voice so alcoholic.
Better being of black sky light morning night never being palmed by lies.
Moon sliver peace just us now,
Sun redden please just us now,
Stars umbilical scalpel surgical the sterilized.
Wind dwellers purest those selectivity,
Specimens blanket enlighten burden of those rich unwittingly on arrival.
Its first race wills keepers to the lasting are not seen touched or spoke on toiled.
It’s benediction of Father Mothers smoke fire cherish sweetness symmetrical our souls campfire said wrote now painted.
Precision your blackfellas now babes
The race of your birth did know colour.
It’s fair when we black people off the charcoal not mined
I abstract salt: pans
I am we to the river in sky before the rain fell from the ground.
I am softly in wild nest in the city decent as veins land cut over devils dust
My gum mouthed washing cling all mountainsides.
I am those Australians snow hugged in the hot aerial elaborate systems.
I am wombat ready and the fight plains were roads kill them every day.
I am all killed no spirit police men’s,
Yes millennia soled guarded man off a tribe not colour-blinded.
I am dispossession in style baring about by possessions
Now artist concentric they motif privy were divulge boomerang the intriguing features.
Well a marsupial beliefs is not beliefs when not a leafs.
I am in account in gorges absorption,
Yes paws and print head somnolent are ancestral travels.
I am the Pop art and the pointillism for resemblance I will identifiable all broken families.
I am notion even central people heard my speaking,
I am broadly at your enterprises.
The Country Anywhere Race On Races
Racist are not children’s
Racist are not Mothers
Racist are not Fathers
Give unity peace a chance
Racism is a sick disease
As a place for Non humanity
Racism as no race in Australians
For the first race is the only race.
Racist are instil by cheaper cap chaps
And those that joke on slip mouth are drops of sin bad food bad bodies of all ages.
Racism owned up changes the pace off no space
As the ship code to learn.
The ray of the sun shines for all under on solar.
The earth equally birth human
Yet the world’s laws class those poor minds backwards,
When a racist sit with a first Australians proud
Of one race made a lace to lust we all comes from women’s
The Swan Book
by Alexis Wright
Reviewed by MICHELLE CAHILL
The hallmark of a great writer is the capacity to renew and reinvent their creative vision which Alexis Wright achieves with startling virtuosity, sureness, wit and political astuteness in The Swan Book. This is an eclectic fiction, mythopoetic, a meta-narrative epic that takes Wright’s invigorated representations of Indigenous and wilderness mythologies to new levels. Her third novel, it follows on from the internationally-acclaimed Miles Franklin, award-winning Carpentaria, turning its focus to the future, to environmental crises as much as Indigenous crusades. But The Swan Book goes further. It places Wright’s work in a rich, transcultural literary tradition, its verbal pyrotechnics reminiscent of Salman Rushdie’s fiction and James Joyce’s Ulysses; its unflinching forecast written with the potency of Cormac McCarthy or George Orwell, it weaves outback realism with remixed Dreaming, classical references with political allegory, post-colonial and postmodern tropes.
The Swan Book tells the story Oblivia Ethyl(ene), a girl who never speaks after being raped by a gang of petrol-sniffing youths. She is dug out and rescued from the bowels of an ancient story-telling river gum by Bella Donna of the Champions, a European gypsy refugee from climate change wars who arrives on the coast of Australia and makes her way to Swan Lake. The lake has become silted into a swamp, a sand mountain littered with rusted craft, overseen by a white Army. It’s a dystopian future where the policies of intervention remain widespread; where the current wave of conservative thinking is used ‘to control the will, mind and soul of the Aboriginal people.’ The themes of belief, sovereignty of the mind and ancestral voice which were heroically rendered in Carpentaria, find a pessimistic and cleansing register in The Swan Book. Nothing is spared; Wright turns her acerbic lens to illuminate an encompassing scope of Australian political and cultural life, while the land, topography, birds and mutant wildlife flow sinuously in spates and epidemics through the braiding of the narrative. Some passages are written with penetrating zeal:
This was the place where the mind of the nation practised warfare and fought nightly for supremacy, by exercising its power over another people’s land ─the night-world of the multi-nationals, the money-makers and players of big business, the asserters of sovereignty, who governed the strip called Desperado; men with hands glued to the wheel charging through the dust in howling road trains packed with brown cattle with terrified eyes, mobile warehouses, fuel tankers, heavy haulage steel and chrome arsenals named Bulk Haul, Outback, Down Under, Century, The Isa, The Curry, Tanami Lassie, metal workhorses for carrying a mountain of mining equipment and the country’s ore… (165)
There is a sense of the journey of storytelling running through the book, tracing Oblivia’s passage from scribe, whose fingers trace the ghost language of dead trees into Swan maiden, from First Lady wedded to Aboriginal PM, Warren Finch and living in urban sanction to a widow returning to the swamp as guardian of a myth-making swan. Along this winding odyssey through dust storms, floods and cyclones that exist outside of linear time, Oblivia witnesses and internally records the plight of refugees, illegal crossings, the homeless hordes, the aberrant reptiles and displaced birds. One senses that Wright herself gives over to the textual process, surrendering to its detours, its meteorology, absorbing and weaving whatever arises along the way. Her dialectical suppleness and impressive knowledge makes for an innovative, politically-engaged Australian and translocal vision.
The centrality of language is signalled in the remarkable opening prelude, Ignus Fatuus, (meaning ‘illusion’, or ‘phosphorescent light over the swampy ground’) in which the narrator embodies the creative voice as a cut snake virus replicating ideas and firing serological missiles at intruders. It’s a perfect metaphor for the sceptical, chaotically mistrusting tone and establishes voice as an internal harbinger of environmental destruction. Ventriloquisms and shavings of literary allusions combine with popular cultural references ranging from Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song to hybrid motifs such as an ‘Aboriginal tinkerbell fairy.’
Reading the opening chapters I almost felt assaulted by the insistent catalogue of swans: swans of all languages and lyrics are interpolated. The black swan in a Central Australian swamp is an unsettling symbol of Indigenity in its figurative miscegenation with the white swan of Bella Donna’s European folklore. But the brilliance of this excess is to intentionally fetishize the naming and discursive power of language so that the reader experiences language as invasion, as appropriation, as indoctrination, just as Bella Donna herself invades the swamp country of the Northern Territory like ‘an old raggedy Viking’ bringing stories of floating disasters, of refugees from zero geography. After she dies, the swamp people who had once rejected her stories begin to speak Latin in their conversation, becoming ‘Latino Aboriginals’. Wright subversively takes irony and parody to extremes as a way of destabilising not merely language but concepts of nation, deconstructing the colonial currency:
It appeared that the old ghost had colonised the minds of the swamp people so completely with the laws of Latin, it terminated their ability to speak good English anymore, and to teach their children to speak English properly so that the gap could finally be closed between Aboriginal people and Australia. (80)
In making this claim, the hyperbole exceeds stylistic effect and becomes predictive, a potent rehabilitation of colonial assumptions of control. Allusions to the European and White Australian lyric tradition of swans create ambivalence as they parody and place under pressure the authority and superiority of prevailing narratives. Instead, the omnipresent variety of storytelling is eclectic, transcultural and global, invoking inter-racial beliefs of future, past and present. Not only are all kinds of swans admitted into the way that stories are told, the characters are genetically diverse, or like Warren Finch’s minders, ‘inter-racially bred’. Half Life, the mild-mannered camel man who guides Oblivia during her Ghost walk tells her:
We are Aboriginal herds-people with bloodlines in us from all over the world, he added, and dreamily listed all the world’s continents that he could remember being related to these days, Arabian, African, Asian, Indian, European all sorts, pure Pacific Islander ─ anywhere else I didn’t mention? Well! That as well! Wherever! Even if I haven’t heard of it! No matter ─ we got em right here inside my blood. I am thick with the spirits from all over the world that I know nothing about. (315)
Wright’s work is reconstructive, seeking to operate outside of colonial paradigms and boundaries, refusing to be contained. She is able to seamlessly shift gears from third person narrator to interior monologue, from Warren to Oblivia’s point of view. Sections of the novel that contain more conventional dramatic prose such as those that describe Warren Finch meeting with the Aboriginal caucus are skilfully juxtaposed to provide relief from denser periphrastic prose. A descendent of the Waanyi people, Wright’s vast experience of activism, of policy-making bureaucrats and small-town, outback corruption is evidenced. One could argue that the meta-fictional structure of the novel feels somewhat contrived with a prologue and an epilogue used to frame a less self-conscious tension between the polyphonic narrator and the narration however the unevenness is intentional; Wright asserts herself as a highly skilful, erudite yet relaxed storyteller, warping the conventions to compromise aesthetic purity for the benefit of interrogation. The humour is eclectic, switching wavelengths and vernaculars arbitrarily so that languages and styles are remixed and mashed up.
Aside from its sheer literary brilliance, I find the strengths of this novel to be its refusal to seek order or resolution and the way it replicates so much diversity: indeed, as the narrator suggests, ‘How bold to mix the Dreamings.’ In her essay “On Writing Carpentaria” Wright speaks of memory and trauma, asserting that
When faced with too much bad reality, the mind will try to survive by creating alternative narra-tives and places to visit from time to time, or live in, or believe in, if given the space. Carpentaria imagines the cultural mind as sovereign and in control, while freely navigating through the known country of colonialism to explore the possibilities of other worlds. (1)
In The Swan Book she writes a mythopoesis of swan ghosting, of environmental havoc and (un) heroic Indigenity where the sovereign mind and colonial repression are in schism. If there is a swan song it is madness, but the many registers of Oblivia’s silence reinscribe themselves as a timeless Dreaming. This is a self-reflexive book, refusing paternalistic narrative conventions endemic to our literature. Wright compels us to read actively; to reconsider the violence that brutalises Aboriginal Australia and to deconstruct the assumptions and complacencies which fabricate our ideals of nature and nation.
1. Wright, Alexis “On Writing Carpentaria” HEAT, 2007
MICHELLE CAHILL writes poetry and fiction. Her reviews and essays have appeared in Southerly, Westerly, Jacket, Poetry International Web and forthcoming in Wasafiri. She was the CAL/UOW Fellow at Kingston University. With Boey Kim Cheng and Adam Aitken she co-edited Contemporary Asian Australian Poets.
Christopher Pollnitz’s Little Eagle and Other Poems was a Wagtail publication in 2010, and his six “American Idylls” were in Mascara 11. He has written criticism of Judith Wright, Les Murray, Alan Wearne and John Scott, as well as D. H. Lawrence, and been a reviewer for Notes and Queries and Scripsi, as well as The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald. His edition of The Poems for the Cambridge University Press series of Lawrence’s Works appeared in 2013.
Satin bower bird
He is playing, he is amusing himself. But what is he playing? We need not
watch long before we can explain it: he is playing at being a waiter . . .
Black Prince of the undergrowth, to me his crackle
and hiss seem off-station, but you and he have a
thing together. As I finish each two litres
of juice, you put the lids out in the garden
and your pretty boy comes again and again carrying
awkwardly off in his beak the royal blue baubles.
So intense, so intellectual. I see him sitting
at a sidewalk café, trading Gitanes and banter
with Jean-Paul and Albert, him in lustrous leather
while Simone looks on askance from another table
or eavesdrops for news of post-existentialism
and clues on how to pick up. Smoke and mirrors . . .
It doesn’t do it for him, the bum-fuss and fluster
of hens flouncing in their pastels. Deep in his bower
blue-lit from below, magnified by his comb, I imagine
him preening, and know who it is he preens for
—him with his satin cloak and his rod of amber
his necromancy and his dark effulgence.
Subterranean cool that burns out—is this what maleness
amounts to? Brilliant fencer, prince, philosopher
or Freddie Mercury? Noting the uncollected
lids, you say He’s moved on, disappointed
but not surprised. You’ve other things to get on with
while I rack my brains conjuring up some witticism.
Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius.
Whom the gods would destroy, they say, but isn’t it rather
since the gods are mad, their devotees drive them crazy?
That one at the barbecue, proper clever feller
left the bread roll in your hand, still with the sauce on
and stole the fire for his people, as well as the sausage.
And now this one, time and again dive-bombing
in the kitchen window his own adolescent image
—demented. We worry about him and the damage.
We tape up tabloids over the glass to distract him
but still he comes, kamikaze seeking his crystal.
One day it’s different, he approaches his rival close-up,
childish anger morphing to inquisitiveness.
You tell me I should speak to him more nicely
but my every word is laced with the mordant satire
reserved for watchers of reality television
or addicts of cooking shows who are just as stupid.
“Look here,” I say, making a chicken sandwich.
“This bird came in yesterday. His name was Hansel.”
Unperturbed he inspects the preparation bench and oven
—he doesn’t tweet but his eyes are bright with banter.
He peers in like Satan at this weird domestic Eden
little realising in his innocence what he’s seeing.
But hang on, if he’s innocent I’m the serpent
long, lithe and upright to his stocky Adam
and remembering how a kookaburra tackles
a six-foot common brown (a good yard dangling
each side of the beak, snake head a bloody tulip)
that gaze could terrify. No, no, forget it
—he’s a creepy bird, but he’s a bird for all that.
Comes another day, another stage of intimacy
—beak to the pane, and perched on the ledge of the window.
When I move towards him, he cranes even closer
when I step away, he edges back. Is he seeing
me in himself, outlined in his own reflection
Or is he seeing the greater Self ascending
to Nothingness with the ghostly Kooka Spirit?
I put the knife down, I fidget about the glasshouse
of my insecurities, my every move filled with
self-consciousness and loathing. I can’t bear his devotion,
he gives me the creeps, he gives me the creeps absolutely.
On the third day, you blow him a kiss through the window.
He pecks the pane and is off, to join the bush chorus.
He’s growing up perhaps, losing his religion.
White-bellied sea eagle
of ryal egle myghte I telle the tale,
That with his sharpe lok perseth the sunne,
And ys the tiraunt of the foules smale.
The Little Wobby eagle in my father’s death year
I remember like an incandescence burning
to burst from casuarina darkness, trawl the river
then flip back, and up again, with a wasp-like talon.
Had I been another Christopher I might have adopted
that estuarial Hawkesbury bird for symbol,
although, in hindsight, I’d rather take the little
smouldering wicks of the she-oak for my image
for there’s another candle that can light me:
us in the car park, the great swoop of coastline southwards;
their beaks like butcher’s hooks, gannet after gannet
mindlessly crashing into the cup of sorrows
that suddenly empties, as the eagle pulse-glide-pulses
overhead of all; and you in the car repeating
details of your friend’s cancer prognosis. All I could think of
was getting away overseas on leave and a conference;
and you—would she still be here on our homecoming?
Reviewing, Promethean eagle, your outstretched scalpel
drawn over the grey breasts and belly of the waters
I don’t yield much to my fear of you, nor do I take much
heart from your liverish victim. Given pharmacological
aid I can dispense with a demigod’s foreknowledge
(or doctor’s) of what I can endure for what duration.
Now it’s dementia I fear, particular losses
of others, and having no busy mind to distract me.
Benjamin Dodds is a Sydney-based poet whose work appears in a variety of journals and magazines. Two fun factoids: (1) Benjamin collects Mickey Mouse watches, and (2) his first collection, Regulator, will be published by Puncher & Wattmann in early 2014.
Split up the back like dirty
slips, the ghostly cases
stand unmoving in the heat.
They mark the places from which
these prawn-eyed death-rattlers
have lifted themselves
on broad leadlight blades into
summer’s ripening dryness.
A far-off version of
me holds one up close,
The alien skin balances on
up-turned palm, primed
to catch even the slightest breath of breeze.
It’s hard not to wonder
just how it might feel to peel oneself
from within a congealing shroud,
to leave a pair of crystal domes
where obsidian eyes
Liang Yujing writes in both English and Chinese, and is now a lecturer, in China, at Hunan University of Commerce. His publications include Willow Springs, Wasafiri, Epiphany, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review, Bellevue Literary Review, and many others.
Zuo You is a Chinese poet based in Xi’an. His poems have appeared in some major literary magazines in China. He is hearing-impaired and can only speak a few simple words.
Celestial trees stand upside down outside the window. The train a crackless gap
falling down from the clouds. Tonight I stay with bats,
crooning for darkness. Rocks contract their four fingers.
The wall gradually resembles the face of my grandma who died a decade ago.
Empty bells mingle with streetlight. Under the moon,
the tea is fragrant. A woman guest stays in the adjoining room, playing the flute.
One of her oil-copper breasts lies outside the quilt. Laden with grief,
she plays a series of vacant echoes.
Whose cat suddenly jumps on the table? A teacup rolls. It keeps up its courage:
tiptoed, it creeps into the hot edge of the woman guest’s quilt.
Cold night falls. It keeps raining. The air is fresh.
Inside me, a horary chart is turning without stop. Petals clinging to the ground.
A conscious wind gently knocks at my door. The sandglass on my lips has foretold:
my dream will go back to where you are lost.
Zeina Issa is a Sydney based interpreter and translator, a columnist for El-Telegraph Arabic newspaper and a poet.
Khalid Kaki was born in Karkouk, Iraq. He moved to Madrid, Spain and has resided there since 1996. He is a poet, writer, artist and musician. He won the Grand Prize of Poetry at the International Poetry Nights at Curtea de Arges, Romania in 2012. He has published three poetry collections.
A belated message from “Halabja”
The children, the mules
and the dragonflies
fell asleep exhausted
in the shade of the village’s clay walls,
they will not wake up again…
Nor will the sunflowers
bowing their heads after the last sunset…
* * *
The women villagers
the harvesters of wheat,
the carriers of water from the spring,
the milkers of the morning’s first drop…
They shall stop
at this border in life,
despite the faithful sun
promising them much more
* * *
The singing voice of the pupils
spreading across the mountain’s map,
hurried towards the ringing bell of death
thinking it was time for class…
* * *
The sticky white clouds
did not distinguish the snakes from the sparrows,
nor the gates from the tiny windows…
They travelled through the houses and the alleys
and devoured the swallows’ nests,the village’s lamps,
its rocks and its fruits…
And they stretched, bleating inside the stables
like an animal spattering its poison and flames
* * *
grabbing each other in fear…
The four cardinal points
were leading to the same direction…
They died on their land
it was the only direction
* * *
The deformed birds made of steel
dropped their weighty gifts on them…
Coated by wrappers of pain
they returned to eternity
* * *
The dreams, the shoes and the horseshoes
melted in the crucible of this little hell…
Death was a mobile well
drenched in captured lives.
رسالة متأخِّرة من “حلبجة”
التي رقدت منهكـةً
في ظل الـجدران الطـيـنـيّـة في القريـة ،
لن يـستـيـقظـوا بـعد الآن ..
كذلك أزهار الشـمـس
التي أطرقَـت بعد الغروب الأخير..
* * *
حاملات الـماء من الـنَـبع،
حالبـات ضرع الصـباح ..
عند هذا الـحد من الـحياة،
رغـم إن الشمسَ الـمخـلِصة
* * *
نَـشـيد التلامـيذ الـمُنتشرين
على خارطـة الـجبل،
لـحـقَ راكضاً بـجرس الـموت
ظانّـاً أنـّهُ الدرس ..
* * *
السُحُب البِـيـض الـلَّـزجـة
لـم تـميـِّز الأفاعي مِن العصافـيـر،
ولا الأبواب مِن الكـوى ..
سارَت في الـمساكن والشِعاب
والتهمت أعشاش السـنونـو،
وأحـجارها والـثِـمار ..
وتَـمـَطـَّت وثَـغـَتْ في الإسطـبـلات
كـحيوانٍ من نِـثـار الـسُم والنـار
* * *
تـتخـاطَفُ فـزعاً ..
إلـى بعضها كانَـت
تؤدي الـجهات الأربـع ..
ماتوا في أرضهم
التي كانت الـجهة الوحيدة
* * *
الطيور الـحديدية الشـوهاء
هدايـاهـا الـثـقـيـلـة ..
مغمورين بالألـم الـمغـلَّف
عـادوا إلى الأبـد
* * *
الأحلام والأحـذيـة والـحدوات
ذابت في بوتـقة الجحيم الصغيـر..
كـان الـموت بـئـراً متحـركـة
تـنـضَحُ بأقـفال العُمرِ الكبـيـرة
He went and came back
He went to the orchard
and came back with a flower…
To the shops
and came back with bread
and a can of sardines..
To the war
and came back with a thick beard
and letters from the dead!
ذَهب إلى البستان
فعاد بلحية كـثـة
ورسائل من موتى !