Born in Malta, emigrated to Australia at fifteen, Charles D’Anastasi has had poems published in various publications, anthologies, and on line poetry journals including malleable jangle, wandering dog(UK), Going Down Swinging, and Divan. In 2006 The Melbourne Poets Union published his chapbook The unreliable harbour (Union Poets Series).
the man in pierre bonnard’s ‘the open window’
he comes home after the monochrome of another day to believe in bonnard’s ‘the open window’ the room vermillion splashed rouged heads straight for the open window stretches a hand in the cool air reaches for the stillness of the trees he comes home to a system of beauty considers himself gripped by the bay in the sky he comes home to the open window some kind of moment quiverings scheming in his head he comes home convinced this is not only bonnard’s room rubs his face in the burning walls he comes home all things midnight a much descended staircase he comes home to the windowsill works the slowness of the hour almost invisible half-man half-bird knows it’s there doesn’t know how it stirs just feels it like the fire in his throat he comes home to the open arms of the window the smell of pine inhales the moment flies past the comfort of the window’s ledge
Agnes Vong Lai Ieng is a postgraduate student at the University of Macau, currently completing a thesis on Macao poetry. In 2006 Vong had three original poems (as well as some translations) in The Drunken Boat’s Chinese supplement. Vong was the assistant editor and a contributing poet for The University of Macau Poets’ Jubilee Anthology and a translator for a selection of Yao Feng’s poems in his recently published Faraway Song. She has just finished a collaborative project with Christopher Kelen on translations, variations and responses to the poetry of Xin Qiji. The resulting book, Spring Wind Brings the Fireworks – is in press with VAC in Chicago and expected to appear in the coming months. Vong’s own book of Macao poems is currently in preparation.
ying yang hotel
a mixture of water and milk
so the Chinese say
it sprang from a fragrant, milky bath
a white towel wrapped her black body
heat sucked up the water
a local paper, with compliments
women from afar
in red and black
smiled sweetly at his Rolex
under the blazing sun
half-naked men covered in mud
scaling bamboo, to and fro
lover of fairy tales
a valley of shadows
secrets between my footsteps and
the tangled bushes
a twig from the first branch
for the ash girl
a red apple
for the snowy white girl
a magic door
for the nosy girl
at the end of the valley
my grandmother’s grave
incense for Buddha
the only order in this pig sty
drink makes blur of reality
sickness of the heart
light burns brighter
the mountain turning grey
my final symphony
carried away by a sparrow
and delivered to Buddha
burning incense for me
Christopher (Kit) Kelen is an Associate Professor at the University of Macau in south China, where he has taught Literature and Creative Writing for the last seven years. The most recent of Kelen’s seven volumes of poetry Eight Days in Lhasa was published by VAC in Chicago in 2006. A volume of Macao poems Dredging the Delta is forthcoming from Cinnamon Press in the U.K.
Free translations from Xin Qiji (1140-1207)
water dragon chant #3
the horses of heaven
float back from the south
the elders of the central plain
wish to attack the north
around the Prime Minister’s villa
the party goes on day and night
fragrance of flowers, songs
with birds singing, it’s always
‘let’s raise just this one more cup’
those officials meant
to protect the country
empty it of what’s worth saving
how efficient they are
the northern tribes will never come
knowing there’s not a thing
left for them
congratulating the bride
I can’t help it but I’m getting old
I don’t travel much anymore
old friends are fewer
white hair is more
you laugh at the world
or you cry
what is there makes an old man happy?
not weddings so much I’m sorry to say
but I look into green mountains
among them lies always the smile of a valley
the mountain and I this way alike
a glass of my favourite brew by the window
and waiting for a friend to come
I think of Tao Yuanming’s poem −
the motionless cloud −
those who wish to be famous
drink on the other side of the river
discover deep meanings
in dregs of the wine
I turn my head now
to roar with the wind
I’ll never regret
having not met the heroes
though I could do with
one or two here right now
what worries me
is just that
over my beard
if they came
second poem to the slow tune of ‘lily magnolias
down now I’m old
at banquets I fear
how merciless time
moon’s bright and round
but it won’t shine on my next reunions
the Yellow Springs are too far
if the emperor asks me
to pen him an edict
I’ve already worked out
what I will say
my wish is to wake
from wine into autumn
its empty strings
the river cares for nothing, for nobody
follows the west wind
and whether they’re king’s
or whether they’re commoners’
blows boats away’
god of water
I laugh at the water god
wonder what angers him
I laugh at the goddess
now amending the sky
no paths to follow
through this weed, this mist
I take a walking stick
to the dark green moss
was it I who asked for this wind
for this rain
all these thousand years?
the shepherd boys here
started a fire
sometimes oxen and sheep
will lock horns
spring on the rock
like a drop of fresh milk
now and then jade blossoms there
four, five pagodas
singing and dancing
water god, goddess
both laugh at me now
‘don’t think too hard,
just join in’
how can I get Spring to stay?
how can I get Spring to stay?
tonight there’s nothing in my cup
the five hours −
each has its own dream
paws up in sleep
but each dream runs away
morning − the birds here
sing the sun up
behind closed curtains and closed lids
I let the jade screen’s story run
Libby Hart was a recipient of a D J O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship at The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne in 2003. Her suite of poems, Fresh News from the Arctic won the Somerset National Poetry Prize in 2005. Her first collection of poetry, also titled Fresh News from the Arctic, was published in 2006 by Interactive Press and has just won The Ann Elder Award for poetry.
I see you there, standing in only your legs
and a cloak as dark as winter night;
your one eye gleaming, as if a glass eye.
And true, it is glass. Yes, it be.
For my doctor, with hands dipped by chemical
performs a magic before me.
In focus, I gather its light
and dare not move.
I feel the weight of feathers.
It’s the fallen bird that keeps me grounded
to this chair and to this room.
To the very stillness of things.
Note: This poem was written in response to Hugh Welch Diamond’s
photograph, ‘Seated woman with bird’ (c.1855). Diamond was one of the
earliest photographers. A doctor by profession, he decided to specialise
in the treatment of the mentally ill and was appointed to the Surrey
County Lunatic Asylum where he produced numerous photographs of his
patients. Diamond believed that photography could assist in the
treatment of mental disorders.
Your Body Bare
‘According to Inuit culture in Greenland, a person possesses six or
seven souls. The souls [are] scattered throughout the body.’
− Annie Dillard
Hold your many souls like a juggler, this is Inuit land.
The chest and arms, all Inuit-souled.
Even the eyes have two souled-suns that burn a gleam
through a viewer’s head.
This is the breadth of your many engines:
a hand, a moon-shaped sigh
a cheekbone, rare
a glimpse of finger.
The turning of the body
You are like a horizon
bending and shaping itself at will −
a balloon of escape,
a lung of tree.
The form of things to come.
Nightfall comes hesitating with light.
It reaches out in short, sharp Morse Code.
Indecipherably lingering, and then it leaves.
All I have are three letters: I.O.U.
Then it’s gone like the wind that’s forgotten its anchor.
Curled and weighted like an anchor
you’re as heavy as sympathy
and as warm as December.
Waves roll in from the half-opened door.
Ouyang Yu now moves between China and Australia. A poet, novelist and critic, he has to date published 36 books including fiction, non-fiction, poetry and translation in both English and Chinese. Ouyang’s best-known works in English are his poetry collections Moon Over Melbourne and Other Poems (1995), Songs of the Last Chinese Poet (1997), short-listed for the 1999 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards) and Two Hearts, Two Tongues and Rain-Coloured Eyes (2002).
you are your own alter-ego
you see, life has not treated you badly
even though there were many times you thought it did, it didn’t
thing is, you don’t feel much desire for many things you used to
so passionately believe in. the sum-total of hard work seems to be
more of the same. you, and your self. in your language, alter-ego
is the opposite of the alter-ego, not the mirror image but the reverse side
of the mirror. it requires a strange translation to make sense: know-heart
hence the alter-ego that knows the heart. not true. the distance between a know
and a heart is a hyphen. often, it is this hyphen that cuts you apart
day after day you live with a diminishing sense of romance
the word itself having ceased to mean anything more than a mere memory
an age in which fallen teeth serve as part of an improvised interior
design and daily written things, fodder for future franchise the owner of those teeth
will not be a part of. incidentally, though, alter-ego is
the other self, the enemy of the self. hey, but what has this got to do
with the mathematics of it all. when will it happen? when the real
become the imaginary
here you go
here you go again
why is it never associated with failure is something that beats
an ant. does one ever hear a bird awarded a prize for flying
over mt everest or ever wonder why it simply stops
flying if it deems it beyond its capacity? a being, though, a human
being, in particular, is a totally different kettle of worms or a can
of fish. how so? it will leave you moved when you see how fame
is allowed one person like, like, a wrong word, once used, that will never
be used again unless the magnetic starts attracting it again
in a never ceasing business that we proudly call humanity. meanwhile
more died in lebanon, their names, never known before, now known
and shortlists could be abolished altogether considering how time and patience
consuming to get so short that one never gets there. as for longlists, one should
not even invent the word for the pain of it simply not worthwhile. the emperor
syndrome is still there. who wants to be lin biao that is one above a billion
but below the one. top is always top till it becomes topless and that’s when
the eyes are happy. nothing in the bowels seems to be brewing anything
that is wanted, unlike the brains. is it because the process does not involve
long enough but what about constipation that is even less awardable?
(to be continued)
Kylie Rose is currently studying creative writing at the University of Newcastle. Her suite of poems, Doll Songs was commended in the 2006 Newcastle Poetry Prize and she received second place for her poem Shark Egg in the 2006 Roland Robinson Literary Awards. She lives with her four children in Maitland.
Temple of Heaven
I always see a woman in the moon.
Concubine of solar congress,
undressed in the dark.
I never knew the moon was a man
until I found the closet
where he keeps
his sleeping tablets.
God of Nocturnal Brightness,
you fill and fail,
obedient to the seminal
will of the sun.
You will never look the same.
Seventeen Arches Bridge.
Afternoon is an oyster,
pearly lake and sky
adhered to the luminous womb.
Seventeen Arches Bridge.
Men smoke, giving breath
to marble dragons. They fish
the ox-bronze sky with kites
on rod and reel.
Seventeen Arches Bridge.
Pleasure boats skim the peach
lake, hulls a flurry of bat
wings that fracture
Seventeen Arches Bridge.
I watch willows
defer to the mottled
milk of evening’s dawn.
Their branches lip the sun.
Seventeen Arches Bridge
divides this watery
day like a woman’s mineral
wrist escaping a heavy,
Suited street vendors converge on the bus
carcass of maggot-white spenders.
Welcome swallows and willows
skim the moat like nimble tongues
affixed to no mouth.
The South Gate parts her lips
and admits me into her
illicit stone pipe.
Toward the secret lacquered chambers,
I tread the golden stones.
Women are still locked
up in palanquins and camphor coffers.
in empty chambers,
let me out.
Tang Yi was born in Shanghai in 1983 and graduated from Xiamen University with a BA of Chinese Language and Literature. She is currently completing her MA in Creative Writing at the School of Culture and Communication, Department of English, University of Melbourne. She writes poetry bilingually and her poems have been published in Australia, Hong Kong and Mainland China.
Before my departure,
so much has not been said:
look after the lake for me,
which we discovered five years ago.
Watch the frolicking ducks −
be sure not to disturb them.
The trees’ old skins will soon begin to flake,
wait for their buds to emerge.
Throw a pebble into the water,
hear a cloud pass you by.
In the dawn the lake will absorb all the light
(You have noticed that too).
One day if I come back,
show me all your sketches of silent mornings.
Flowers in their spring profusion
will weigh the branches down.
Herb pickers will return to their huts
with the crisp voices of children spread around.
Blue haze will rise from the chimneys
conveying the fragrance of rice to the afterglow.
How I wish to enter this picture alone
letting my wine cup float freely along the stream.
When I went down the little stone bridge,
I could easily touch the surface of the water.
My toes were submerged in the pond;
I collected the duckweeds for my fishes.
The little stone bridge was so intricately carved
for the days to hide in.
In the night it was decorated by
the red lanterns, like a shy bride.
There was tinkling music
from passing cyclists.
The bridge was captivated −
something unspoken was connected.
David Wood is a writer and musician living at Springbrook in the Gold Coast Hinterland. His writing includes poetry, novels and, more recently, an extended philosophical treatise, Plato’s Cave which draws upon scientific, philosophical and mystical insights. David has recently built an octagonal sandstone dome in which he lives and writes. He has been Principal Piccolist with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and has contributed to many publications including The Canberra Times and The Courier-Mail. David has been a guest writer at the Adelaide Festival of Arts.
are flying through the orchard,
making love in flight.
I would not have thought
it possible – but there they are,
crisscrossing the budding
branches of the fruit trees
where the wind
has caught your skirt,
lifting it into the air
like butterfly wings.
Who taught you to kiss
I am coming down the
track between the trees
to the brown dam,
to the grasses
And the day
opens like a palm,
a pianist’s hand
I reach up to and
hold and gently
draw down towards me
into the grasses,
the fruit trees
sweet as the
nectar on your lips
when I taste you
You woke and turned, your head upon the pillow
sculpted in a silvered cave of air,
naked, lying by the open window,
stars rampant in the tangle of your hair.
Last night we slept upon the drifting waters;
the moon sang like an entering lover
secret songs that lovers’ lips might whisper,
hair falling through the moonlight like a star.
A kiss to brush your eyes into the sunlight,
to gentle you from sleep, a lullaby
of hearts so close that sing upon the waters,
flowers in the iris of an eye.
Gwee Li Sui teaches literature at the National University of Singapore. His graphic novel Myth of the Stone (1993) was published to critical silence; it is out of print today and its publisher has since wound up.Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? (1998), his volume of humorous poems, was not meant to be published; it was privately circulated before a selection was bravely issued under the same name.
Last Death in Iraq
9 April 2003
Of course, collectively,
It made perfect sense.
The day is glowing,
The old is no more.
So the last man to die
In Saddam’s Iraq
Finds himself thinking
One day like
The men in the
Like the Christians
Like I do
The morning I pick up
My pen to write
Against a war that is
Confucius! Thou shouldst be living at this hour:
Thy folks have need of thee! They have become
All bureaucrats: pens, forms, letters, tiresome
Ping-pong matters − O how our old men cower
To one corner and wet their Eisenhower
Trousers! Are we no more than this feared sum?
Then raise again thy cane and beat us mum;
Teach us good sense, manners not to overpower!
For thou alone art most qualified and smart:
Thou art the poster boy of this strange age
That sees in paperwork a privilege.
So mock us: in the name of Ancient China,
Save us from more red tape and its counterpart—
Even more circulars blowing its tuba!
The Blinding Truth
What I cannot see I cannot see—
Cannot see intelligence in nature, the tree in the bird,
The pattern in the yellow an angsana forms,
The fact that something else thinks in this moment I scruple,
How the world thinks and how I think I think as I watch you think,
The colour of my own brown pupil in yours,
The practice of our faith, a fixing in words,
The shape of each day to be speared through the dark.
When you beam and talk of rooms besieged by many corners,
I cannot find the verbal house in the labyrinth you call home;
And entrepreneurs are not my heroes, nor progress progressive.
When you deem global evil a poor shadow, the trick of subtle good,
I imagine how, on an old bed ten minutes away, the night
Is not the ticking of a grand clock which tallies for dawn.
Your hung Christ brings Sunday peace, mine hysteric living;
Yours knows property prices and backs instinctive wars,
Mine flies into the corridors of discussion where nothing is owned,
Where all weapons shall be beaten into the humanities.
The moving sun, your happy miracle of the same, is still your star:
I cannot see how such occurrences should describe religion at all,
Why I cannot see black, brown, yellow, a tree, a bird, stupid nature—
All else a perilous rupture that connects.
Who’s the idiot who says
if you meet Buddha on the road
If you meet Buddha on the road
leave him alone,
don’t kill anyone,
and don’t listen to stupid advice.
David Gilbey is Senior Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at Charles Sturt University. He is editor of 4W literary journal. Born in London, he migrated to Australia and graduated from the University of Sydney. Involved with a variety of arts groups in the community, he has been known to tread the boards and impersonate well-known public figures. His reviews have been published in Australian Book Review. His first part collection of poetry is Under the Rainbow, FourW press, 1996. He has just completed the manuscript for his first full collection, having travelled to US, UK, France, Japan and China on Study Leave 2006. In 2007 he is teaching English at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University in Sendai, Japan. David is married to general practitioner Dr Geraldine Duncan and they have four children quickly exiting adolescence.
Outside the Quan Jude Roast Duck Restaurant
a candyman glassblower makes animals, figurines,
from caramelized sugar, smiling at his skill:
brittle brown prawn skins, antennae, mouth and legs,
shining exoskeletons of dog, balloon man, and, for us,
a horse –
distending a head from the soft globe,
pinching a mouth, ears,
stretching a billowing tail
from the soft, streaked sugar sheen
hardening as he works it.
Somehow there is movement in the twist of neck
and leaping haunch, though in what we call reality
impossibly dwarfed back legs could only hobble.
A mystical beast for all that, a windrider
to carry us off to our dining palace
along the freezing street.
In the restaurant I say I’ve brought my horse,
tried to park it outside – couldn’t find the rail.
Luckily the waiter’s Chinese
and doesn’t understand my cowboy joke
but grinned just the same.