Kristine Ong Muslim

Kristine Ong Muslim lives in The Phillipines. More than six hundred poems and stories by  her have been published or are forthcoming in over two hundred journals and magazines worldwide. Her work has appeared in Dog Versus Sandwich, Foliate Oak, GlassFire Magazine, GUD Magazine, Iota, Noneuclidean Café, and Slow Trains, Cordite, Boxcar Poetry Review, Nth Position.

 

 

City People

This is how we bloom: a dance of petals–
each one whiter than the other, each one
glances at another’s husband, another’s wife.

We follow the white line on the road. We let
the turning wheels desecrate the graves
of forgotten roadkill. The black dust-wind

hurtles beside us, a windshield’s width away.
There are urban cathedrals, sixty-four floors
of stacked cubes made from glass, marble,

reinforced concrete. We spend two strokes
of summers assembling corners out of round
objects until there is nothing left to stretch,

nothing left to pave. Drawn to the colors
of the maps, we mark the wrong turns
of the city streets before they disappear.

 

Small Town Rain

The elders insisted that our small town was built
by their hands alone and that the rain always came
on time for the planting season.
We were seven then, and we believed them.

Ten years ago, frogs rained down from the skies as well.
They were still alive when they hit the ground. Their eyes
had a quiet dignity in them; they were the eyes of creatures
who had seen too much. Their limbs cushioned their fall
from the sky. Not heavy enough, the frogs took gravity
for granted.  

But the town folks stomped on them,
declared that they were the enemies.
We were seven then, and we believed them.
So we joined in the rampage.

Ten years later, we drove towards the city,
and lost our names, faces, memories.
Perhaps, there were times when we dreamed
about the frogs and what they represented.
Some of us ended up living with the homeless.
Some of us wore suits and traded stocks for a living.
Some of us learned the language, gnawed at the edges
as the city swallowed in satiation day after day.
Some of us gave up and went home,
told lies about being bored with city life.
The town elders always believed our contrived success tales.

Every morning, all of us saw our eyes in the mirrors.
We did not know what they had become and what they had seen,
but the look was familiar. We did not want to recognize it.

 

The Shack

When my little brother found the shack last summer,
it was already decaying so it had to be alive once.

He savored that moment until there was no need
to ever look back. It was, would always be, his shack.

The field of wild grass supported the abandoned
hut’s impending collapse. Behind it was a cypress,

where owls spent two winters sharing their kill.
Rodents foraged from mound to mound, still looking

for the right place to die. Wind rattled the wooden
boards, and my little brother gasped–half in fear,

half in anger–knowing that the shack would not
last. That day, he went home with the clump of moss

he had scraped from the side of the shack. His shack.
He reveled on the moss’s instinct for regeneration.

 

 

Kylie Rose

Kylie Rose lives in Maitland with her four children. In 2007 she was a resident at the LongLines Poetry Workshop at Varuna, the Writers’ House, and was awarded a retreat fellowship to work on her collection, Sea Level. She is due to return to Varuna as a resident/ consultant for the 2008 LongLines Community Week. Her suite of poems, “Doll Songs” was commended in the 2006 Newcastle Poetry Prize, and an extract of Sea Level was included in the 2007 Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology. She is currently collaborating with poets and composers on a project commissioned by the Hunter Writers’ Centre.

 

Bees,
Nanjing

In cloisonné fields,
emerald greenhouses cling-wrap the earth
and incubate the foetus grain.

At the toll gates, bees rap and rattle
my face painted on the glass eyes of the coach.
Bees propel themselves

at my steely hive with zeal,
their pharyngeal meal meant to ease
the propolis seal stoppering my throat.

Welcome Queen, incarnate, they hum.
Nanjing––plum blossom city––
opens its fist for you.

 

Hanshan Temple,
Suzhou

Gilt flames squall.
Incense pours into carved
and fecund air.

From the pagoda,
temple faces squint
with faithful irises of coin.

Three blows, the bell’s belly
induces fortune’s triplets.
A fourth strike

renders me
fortune’s orphan.
I leave, a monk,  

robes––dissolved peach––
flirting with fallen
sycamore floss.

 

One Thousand People Rock,
Suzhou

In the Dynasty of Song,
one thousand men lost their voices
on a stone octave.
Still ringing in the spring rain of peonies,
one thousand voices sink my skin.

White sepulchral birds in unison,
chant through bony, fluted beaks. One
thousand egrets howl a mating dirge,
calling soul from stone
to nest.

 

Peter Boyle

Peter Boyle lives in Sydney. His first three collections of poetry Coming home from the world(1994), The Blue Cloud of Crying (1997), and What the painter saw in our faces (2001) have received several awards including the New South Wales Premier’s Award, the South Australian Festival award and the National Book Council Award. His latest collection of poetry, Museum of Space, published in 2004 by University of Queensland Press, was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Award. A chapbook Reading Borges was published by Picaro Press in December 2007. The Apocrypha of William O’Shaunessy, fictive translations of imagined classical texts, is due out from Vagabond Press in May 2009. Since 2001 he has also worked on collaborative poems with Australian poet M.T.C. Cronin. A first collection of these collaborative poems, How Does a Man Who Is Dead Re-invent His Body? The Belated Love Poems of Thean Morris Caelli, is forthcoming later this year from Shearsman Press (UK). His translations from French and Spanish poetry include The Trees: selected poems of Eugenio Montejo (Salt Publishing, 2004), as well as translations of Federico García Lorca, Luis Cernuda, César Vallejo, Pierre Reverdy, René Char and Yves Bonnefoy. In 2004 he was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award for translation.

 

 

Poems from The Apocrypha of William O’Shaunessy

Book III, VII

Half an arm’s length above me
mosquitoes tracing a zigzag pattern,
unpredictable, elaborate,
more beautiful than stars.

Completely still
I watch the grey swarm’s
inexplicable drawing –
tiny masters of life and death,
greetings!

(Erycthemios, Knowings, Book IV)

 

Book III, IX

By morning
three women, an old man
with a cart, two children.

By evening
two women, two men,
a young boy with a dog.

This summer,
two years passed.

        ~0~

Flies zigzag on the air;
a stone lies
where it has always lain;
smoke stirs
in a green space between silences.

Days end.

        ~0~

Today, looking down on the plain
where three roads meet,
a white dove settled
on my shoulder.

There is only
one journey.

        ~0~

Rain falls on dark roads.
Behind rough white walls
tears are endless.
In salt brine
olives best preserve
their sharp pure hunger.

        ~0~

Just above the level of the trees
two lightning bugs flicker their passage.
In the garden a single candle
shows me the path to the sky.

        ~0~

In the outer spaces of the world
the pure light awaits.

(Irene Philologos, A poetic journal of ten years in Boeotia)

 

Book III, XI

“The blue snail”

It does not offer
an answer
to autumn.

There
where it has dragged
its own sky

everything it touches
shines
with belonging.

    ~0~

Over a stone bridge
all feet leave their own
residue of mud.

    ~0~

The vendors of bread and sweet pastries
stalls laden with beads and perfumes
mansions of the rich
sinking yearly deeper into the city’s
obliterating mud

And before me
the white butterfly confused by the wind’s messages
the plum tree opening its fragrance of coolness.

(The Green Book of Ebtesum)

 

Book IV, XXX

The blind horse knows the scent of the world.
Walk with it slowly.
Rest your hand on its mane
so you may know that nothing is endless.
There was a river that restored the tracks it erased.
There was a pebble not touched by any journeys
left behind for you alone
forgotten in the hands of the sky.

(Erycthemios, Knowings)

 

Book V, VI

Among the Mountain People II

And it was a tiny hand reaching out of the soup,
the tender grasping cry of a flying fox
whose bones the old men were crunching –
and the bitter chill was still
around the oil-doused cauldron.
The fire blazed its monumental resistance to night.

How they laughed, the women,
seeing our startled gaze,
our lips dropped in disbelief –
they knew that even children of the forest rafters
don’t begrudge the passage of their still budding flesh
into thin broth.

This gliding that goes on when the last skin dissolves,
the tenderness of wild faces.

(Iannarchus, Poems written while travelling with the embassy of Antoninus to the Silk Kingdom)

 

Book II, XXVII

To the north
bow low
scatter the beads of water
gently scoop tufts of wheat
let the wind trickle
through emptiness

To the east
bow low
scatter the grains of dawn
may your hands be open
kneel
let where the sun is
know you
Speak
“Shame on my head
on my eyes
Shame on my lips and tongue
Shame on my hands
on my walking
Shame of the seed
and of destiny.”
Again dip slowly your hand
into the grain sack
scatter grain
scatter what lives
what will live
Speak
“Grain of grains
dew of sea
fire that rises from mist
accept our shame”
bow again
lightly sprinkle the water

To the south
stand firm that the realms
of Four Heavens
may see you
bow low
scatter the grains
let the ghosts
know of your presence
scatter the dew of water
let the beads of water
rest on the lips of all people
let the thirst of the living
and the thirst of the dead
be calmed
bow again
wait for the silence
to give you permission
to stand

To the west
eyeing the west as an equal
eyeing the west as a mother
eyeing the west as your child
scatter the grain
scatter the bright joy of water
kneel
kneel do not speak
wait for the light that rises and sets
to touch you
wait for the winds that come
from the lands of all the dead
to filter around your ears
wait for their voices to enter you
wait till their voices speak
wait till the words
are fierce and tender
wait till the words
tear at the sinews of pain
till the words slice
through forehead and skull
till the heart is open to all words
the earth is struggling to say

Kneel longer
wait till their voices
cease
wait till the silence steadies you
speak
“Brothers”
speak
“Sisters”
speak
“I give back
I give back
I give back”

(Dawn Ritual of Purification for families and descendants of those who participate in slaughter,
 to be used by all visitors who enter the Holy City of Kitezh)

 

Book III, XVII

He is coming,
the great poet of African silences.
Water is in his steps,
the great torrent
of water crashing though rocks,
water that slips and glides
through the locked fingers of children
dreaming of sunlight.
He speaks the soft rain of all seasons,
he speaks the fragrance of fruit,
the drawers and porters of water,
the skilled craftsmen
who shape and guide water
to accomplish all the longings of men.
He speaks the unspoken abundance,
the full granary’s ease, the floor laid out
for the ritual greeting,
In his speech lives the woman whose soft voice
tames all beasts,
who feeds doves and scorpions alike.
He knows the secret name smoke carries in its own language.
He understands night and speaks its infinite epithets –
he knows the twelve words for waiting,
the three hundred diminutives of sad.
And through his voice
flows great calm
and the five tones that unite
thunder and raindrop.
His voice is the child at five
and the woman at eighty.
He comes to renew our world.

(Thrasymenes, poet and archon of the Greek colony of Phos in Mauretania)

 

Book III, XXV

Nausicaa:  You have come from far, and love
                    is a stranger’s right. But first
                    speak to me of the journey, of what news you bear
                    of places known only to exile.
                    For from strangers all seek a name or a word,
                    a presence, a gift brought back.

Osiris:       Many wonders mark the earth.
                   Small fish that climb the sky and race across water –
                   I have seen their wingbeats dazzle the sailors at noon.
                   Or an old man bent above a blue lute
                   out of India, I’ve watched his worn hands
                   threading time,
                   making the horizon at midday tremble,
                   settling the shape of sunset in lands
                   where the water-craftsmen dwell.
                   Beauty is the one word uttered by earth –
                   it is beauty I bring you.

 

(Fragment from “The handmaidens of Persephone” by Xeuxis of Anagoge)

 

 

Liam Ferney

Liam Ferney is a Brisbane poet whose work has been published in Australia, New Zealand and North America. His first collection, Popular Mechanics, was published in 2004. It’s follow up the french word for ‘voyage’ should eventually be raised from the depths of the Marianas Trench sometime around 2010.

 

 

Kurilpa
       for Paul

all those flat whites & what was the name?
       shopping for bargain bin westerns
       after the donuts

while the day kept it’s blistering silence
like the coal station at black diamond bay
       given as a gift to the jungle.

with no where to go i drink beer with fish
& banished cheap music but
       i remember you making machiatos  
where the cats played sax

before you shopped for kalashnikovs,
gunja by the kilo
            at a 3rd world truck stop.

                   they were beautiful days
tables adorned with tulips and skulls
where renegades retired

       & we are ready to assume
the poise of our generation.
common music betrayed by static,
            the treachery of an fm ocean.

 

Iron Lion Scion

As abandoned as drive-in’s, tracer fire
no longer fireworkflecks the six o’clock news

and the friends he made in Barcelona
have all upped stumps, migrated to Angola.

So he spends lunch hour’s lolling at the lights,
the cavalcade of unspecific grooming,

a crimped starter at the boom where we all go bust,
melting figurines of Posh and Becks

puddling on the high table, the slow waltz
with the sticky palms and dystrophic hearts.

You’ve cancelled your appointments
but there’s no point apportioning blame

on the circus tent revivalists preaching at the riverbank
or a hedge fund backed Buddhist retreats.

The aficionados swear by the tune in the tumult
a detached viola, adagio on the kitchen radio.

That’s how Black Tuesday sounds on a website,
there were warnings but they were polite

and for once the phoney doctors are right:
“Coin is clarity, that much is bankable,”

(you’re holding it long until the ever after)
“call our hotline,” that’s what they say

coming down off the millennium
        like a bad pill on a good day.

 

some nights the heat

Coming home
I read the alleyways
like Toohey Forest tracks.
The night is over tropical,
silences and shuffling,
television antennas
and fake iced tea.
Kept awake
by Kinsella’s
anthology aliens
the earth’s thermostat cranks
and I smoke This Plus™
at the top of the stairs.
My accent gets smudged
like important digits
penciled on an ATM receipt
dishwashed against the coins
in your wallet.
Watching the scuffling
drunks at the end
of the street
it’s as though I’m the big prize
on the crooked game show
destined never to go off.
I learned surrealism
from travelling exhibitions
then did my best to forget it
hoping I could come off
easy and casual
like terry towelling hats
or cold beer.

 

The brave and the free

These are not good days with the Gipper still on TV,
the Kool-Aid sins of the brand new colony;
when the truth is too grotesque to grasp
all we’ve left is a remembrance of things fast.
While the lights go out on Melbourne’s plains
our best friends have all assumed new names.
The things in your cupboard you no longer trust
the graduate scheme analysts are nonplussed.
And like any goomba I’ll extract my vig,
endure the torment when they breach the brig.
It seems like yesterday that Bopper, Bamba and Holly:
the asthmatic engine, the wheeze of Buddy’s Folly.

 

 

Jessika Tong

Jessika Tong is twenty six years old. Her work has been published in various national and international literary journals including The Age, Tears in the Fence, The Speed Poet’s Zine, FourWStylus, Verandah, Pendulum, Wet Ink, Polestar and The Westerly. She  recently performed at the 2008 Queensland Poetry Festival and her first collection of poems The Anatomy of Blue is forthcoming in 2008 with Sunline Press.

 

Moscow

 
.1.
 
How will I describe a man to you?
Stirred from clay
Peeled from the old black bark of German oak
Curled inside my palm, his arms
Tucked back like new, featherless wings.
How will I describe a man to you?
Can words do him justice?
The bones pressed upon like envelopes,
The flesh salted and steamed.
And men, where are the women?
Where are these homes of children and kitchens?
These waist deep cauldrons,
The highways thick with winter lights…
 
.2.
 
Thinking that my hands were pearls you took
Them to meet your mother
She sniffed the city lights at my wrist,
Alarmingly red,
As if slit and put us to work like rusted mules
Where they would bloom
Softly and out of place against the cold white steel.
 
I began to bleed bolts and axe heads.
To eat and live machinery.
Its hissing motor
A heart, my heart that turns over each hour
With a long, desperate cry.
 
Going home, we share an apple seed.
A chicken bone. We march on.
One red foot in front of the other,
The grinding of metal,
Finally a small child that throws up
Lightening each time I lend my breast to it.
 
My dear, we are producing terror
In that warehouse.
Do not look so astonished that
We no longer breathe love or its strange pollen.
That the whitewashed tongue of decency
No longer pricks our imaginations
But leaves brick dust on our teeth instead
Of those mythical fires.
 
.3.
 
Water froze during the night, closed up its
Clear, consistent arteries.
The war encrusted pipes screamed at our
Tea cups while we danced off death
Before the stove light.
The two of us, great wounds
Refusing to scar, to mend the tortured rhythm
Of arms that no longer hold the other.
 
The air froze right there.
We could touch it.
Pull it between our teeth like a blackened finger.
That month four people in our street
Killed them-selves just to be warm.
 
The landlords arrived and threw all of their things
Into the gutters.
Lovely in life
Now they are turned in leaves
Ferried from the canopy to the earth
With no right to privacy
The kind that we share in this room,
On this bed, across this kitchen table.
I ask you,
Has enough been sacrificed for you to be a whole and I a half?
 
.4.
 
When I first came to you long nights of whisky were the rage.
We sat up reading Chaucer by a kerosene lamp
Fingers melted to the orange bone of light,
Tingling with alcohol.
 
I got pregnant, what a disaster you said,
But it was an accident.
Buttoning your heart, scrounging for an axe in the empty pantry.
We can’t afford an abortionist. You will have to kill it yourself’.
 
Biting on a cloth, gas flooded the womb, ate out
The bonneted Eve that slept upon my wish bone.
The old woman from next door
Bent above me and I sunk into her arms
This old mother who smelled so much like my own.
She took it out, that sobbing seed
And feed it to the cat. Then
Knotted a yellow ribbon onto the door handle.
The deed is done!
She told me to get up, get up and dust your-self off.
Put on your best dirtiest dress, scrape mud onto your cheeks.
Trick yourself with perfume and bread my lovely thing.
Do you really want to be all alone in this old country?
 
You will die out there for sure if he does not come back.
 
.5.
 
A little Stalin
You are fat and clean while the
Rest of us are filthy.
We are plucking at the greased bones of God
Starving and sickly as he points us away
From his door.
One night you return to me
Rich with stories of your other wife.
Of how she soaked you with pig fat before
Taking you into her mouth.
 
You wear
The robes of a Cleric convincing us all of
Your sainthood.
 
Unfortunately for me,
I curtsey
I fill you with apologetic kisses.
Who is this woman before you with the pomegranate seeds
Crushed between her teeth?
For six long months I dwelled at this doorway
Between these four walls eating rat poison,
Wailing in my widow’s armour.
At this flickering apple tree that I have sat beneath
With blue copies of myself
Hot against your cheek.
I pasted that
Long four letter word to your crutch
In hope that it will seed and give off a
Sweet fruit.

Peter Davis

Peter has been HIV positive since he was 19 years old (since 1988). In 2008, Peter has decided to cease mainstream media. He is launching in March 2008 at radio 3CR in Melbourne a weekly program called ‘Radio for Kids’, which will present kids speaking about their world as they see it. Peter lives in a small town in Victoria; a place where he can walk a few minutes down the road and be in a bit of forest.

Peter Davis has been a freelance writer and radio documentary maker. He won the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia award in 1995 for best Information documentary for ‘The Joan Golding Story’. In 2006 he won the Judy Duffy award at RMIT given to one writer each year in the RMIT writing and editing course. He has produced regularly as a freelancer for ABC Radio National including Poetica, Radio Eye and Hindsight. He has written six feature articles for The Age.
 
 
 
when i die let my dog serenade me
 
thanks for your card from India: a lot of animal activity around Baba’s resting place
like many I am also somewhere in between drug addiction and a Ph.D perhaps
learning how to recognise the jewelled mystery that falls from the neck of self

my son told me he dreamt about a land of small noises and imagined Shiva yawning
he also saw how Buddha’s shadow continues to meditate with no body under the tree

I spit against the wind, a desire for afterlife, hands at the surface while the table tilts
yes I believe in life after death, of course I believe that life will continue without me

we can learn to support the sky with dust, singing of faith like crickets in chorus
death is a serenade by a dog licking a busker’s watch and leaving three whiskers

 
 
a journey for tranquil moments (lines written whilst hitch-hiking)
 
in my own private Idaho
standing or laying beside a sealed or unmade road
whilst eternity lays across my homeless soul
its thin blanket of dust

my skin slowly turning blue in the predawn
when the trees won’t speak above a whisper
just so the first birds can be clearly heard
and the orange glow of the sun beneath the horizon
reminds me of a glow from an orchestra pit

then curling-up on the road’s edge
shivering with my eyes closed and one thumb still out
in my other hand a cigarette lighter that hovers
like a firefly for the motorists to see

asleep after entering a car before the driver could ask three questions
his or her face floating upwards inside my first dream
asleep yet listening to the colours inside their voice
a yellowed or reddened or brown leaf
filled with fresh waste from the tree

I wake and a driver is smoking my joints and talking to my puppy dog
a dog that I dressed in a nappy in case he pisses or shits
“Just 120 clicks to we arrive at Goulbourn and the big sheep, little mate”

and the dog is ignoring the driver and mumbling in my ear again
its winter of meditations
a thick snow upon the past

 

 

 

Issue Four – October 2008


Malathi de Alwis  Elibank Rd, Colombo 2006
Photograph by Pradeep Jeganathan