David Brooks is the author of five collections of poetry, three of short fiction, four highly acclaimed novels, and a major work of Australian literary history, The Sons of Clovis (UQP, 2011). His The Book of Sei (1985) was heralded as the most impressive debut in Australian short fiction since Peter Carey’s, and his second novel, The Fern Tattoo (UQP, 2007), was short-listed for the Miles Franklin award. The Sydney Morning Herald called his previous collection of poetry, The Balcony (UQP, 2008) ‘an electric performance’. Until 2013, he taught Australian Literature at the University of Sydney, where he was also the foundation director of the graduate writing program. He is currently co-editor of literary journal Southerly, lives in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, and spends several months each year in a village on the coast of Slovenia. His most recent collection of poetry is Open House (UQP, 2015).
An Invasion of Clouds
My study has just been invaded by clouds
each smelling vaguely of lanolin and urine,
soft-eyed, wet nosed, curious-tongued,
come to inspect my books and papers,
like tax collectors for the invisible
or auditors from the ineffable earth
trying to determine how I waste my time.
Their leader, the unicorn, wants to taste
the volume of poems in my lap, while another
makes for the unfiled bills, the third
stares at the ancient aquatint
of my great-grandmother in her wedding-dress,
and the fourth, the black one, turning his back,
slowly and sensually rubs his behind
on the literary theory section of the bookshelf.
Following the others out,
he pauses at the door-frame for a final scratch
then pees with pleasure on the just-washed floor.
Midnight, and out of nowhere
a giant hornet
worrying the window-frame,
two red moths
dozing under the desklamp-shade
and a bright green scarab
clambering over the stale bread; outside
a purple moon
rising over Nova Vas, the Great
Bear and her cub so
visible last night
now hidden by cloud, or should that be
mist, in the Vast Forest?
Somewhere a priest
worrying a fragment of a leaf.
Somewhere an ant
wrestling with her God.
Somewhere another Earth.
Tracy Ryan is a Western Australian writer whose most recent book of poetry is Hoard (Whitmore Press, 2015), and whose latest novel is Claustrophobia (Transit Lounge, 2014). She is currently a visiting fellow with Literary Cultures of the Global South at the University of Tuebingen, Germany.
Inured by now to snow
nothing could drag me
away from inwardness
this would-be scraping
and clearing of the mind’s
dark drive with its slick
misnomer “black” ice
to the neuralgic window —
except that queer aria
of howls, falsetto, which now
in counterpoint and now
in unison makes plaint
to a woman who not so much
walks two white dogs as is
herself spurred on by animal pain
and mine, and stops her ears.
…haul/ My eyelids up
— Sylvia Plath, “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”
Unseen, and named not by our utterance but by his own,
cranking the day up for me as he cranks your day down,
insistent and regular as the kitchen roller-shutter: creak…
creak… asserting particularity, necessity, marking off time
remaining in this place, staking out hours for work
and hours domestic, that querulous line between Home
and Them. The rest of the process a guessing-game,
if you care to determine who makes that mimic cry
and is endemic and does not leave in winter, allowing that
seasons are now so altered the guides don’t always apply.
If we have to make him real I’ll settle for woodcock,
Waldschnepfe, but in our private bird-world he will not
have to be hunted, only to be what he does, Winch-bird.
John Pavlou is a poet and songwriter from Brisbane who regularly engages in both literary and musical activities around Australia. His passion for literature was evident in his childhood and he first began writing short stories and poems while he was attending primary school. Songwriting was a natural path for Pavlou considering his love of both words and music; however, his affection for poetry, prose and spoken word was reinforced upon taking literature courses at university as well as engaging in local poetry meets hosted by Ruckus Slam. He identifies as a Greek-Australian and maintains that the feeling of belonging to two nations often plays a role in his life and work. The poem “Feral Dogs in Igoumenitsa” refers to an experience he had during his first trip to Greece. John Pavlou currently lives in Brisbane; he practices music and creative writing and is also undertaking study to be an educator.
Feral Dogs In Igoumenitsa
A rag-tag gang of teeth and fur approach the work-lights at the Port of Igoumenitsa. Each animal is startling in its own right and each carries robust folksy colours under their paws. City soot jumps off their shoulders as they swagger in the midnight air. Some are wearing collars and I can hear the metal buckles and trinkets jangle, singing with charm – the ghostly remains of a regal past.
The waves lick the jetty posts. I breathe in the green sea and detect a faint scent of burning oil. The feral lot rolls past me without so much as a look in my direction. This haphazard array of shape, size and colour is almost laughable, is laughable. And I do laugh as the sound of their claws hammering the bitumen recedes into silence. I’m left to imagine the richness of their history and wonder about their former glories. They, who know both the craziness of domestication and free winds of urban shabbiness. They, who make blankets out of tatters and houses of rags.
The wind belts across the waters surface and up into my face. I see the sole light of the ferryboat, swinging on the dark horizon.
Prerna Bakshi is a poet, writer and research scholar of Indian origin from Sydney, Australia. Her work has previously been published in over two dozen journals and magazines, most recently in Grey Sparrow Journal, Silver Birch Press, Wilderness House Literary Review, Kabul Press, Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature and South Asian Ensemble: A Canadian Quarterly of Literature, Arts and Culture. Her full-length poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love, is forthcoming from Les Éditions du Zaporogue. She tweets at @bprerna.
The death train
You’re all grown up now.
Don’t jump around too much
out in the open.
A girl gets told
as she plays hop scotch.
You have grown breasts now.
They bounce up and down.
What if anyone sees?
I’ve been told rubbing
this oil helps.
It works like magic.
A girl gets told
as she gets used as a guinea pig
for virtually every ‘home remedy’
under the sun.
Don’t wear this dress.
It will attract the eyes to your weak spot.
You have such small breasts.
I worry who will marry you?
They are either too large
or too small.
or too perky.
They either bounce too much
or not at all.
Too this, too that — never right.
Never satisfactory enough.
Except on that day when it didn’t matter
how women’s breasts looked.
How big they were
or how small.
They were just right.
Just the right size.
The right shape.
The right shade.
The right kind of breasts
on the right kind of women.
The chosen women.
Women who were handpicked,
one by one,
had their breasts chopped off;
blood gushing all over the jam-packed
train carrying refugees;
slowly to death.
Their breasts, finally,
finally — the right size
for being cut into pieces.
David McCooey is a prize-winning Australian poet and critic. His latest collection of poems, Outside (2011), was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards and was a finalist for the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Best Writing Award. His first collection, Blister Pack (2005) won the Mary Gilmore Award and was shortlisted for four major national literary awards. McCooey is the deputy general editor of the prize-winning Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (2009). His album of “poetry soundtracks”, Outside Broadcast, was released in 2013 as a digital download. He is a Professor of Literature and Writing at Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria, where he lives.
‘Whaling Station’ Redux
What trash, that poem of mine about the whaling station
we visited in Albany in the primitive 1970s, those years
when an operational slaughterhouse could be a family
tourist attraction. My late father’s legacy of 35mm slides,
newly digitised, undoes my poem, with three shots—
miraculous and amoral—of butchered whales,
a shock defacement of poetry’s mouthy reckoning.
In the first capture, there are winches, wire, a stone wheel
(for sharpening things, I imagine), rust-coloured concrete,
a fibro building, and the figures of two blue-singleted men
in gumboots, one bending, both partly obscured by steam rising
from blocks of whale meat. The steam has a pink colouration.
The second capture suffers from camera shake,
that analogue of nausea, and shows two men with metal bars
prying into the whale’s remains. Above them are
the innocent clouds, a seabird with extended wings.
In the third capture, two boys are in the frame. They could be,
but are not, my brother and me. They are looking at a single carcass:
headless, flayed, and eviscerated, the mess of it
rendered into dreadful blacks, reds, and whites.
In the centre of the whale the JPEG clips to pure black.
I was five years old when I was taken to witness this industry of men.
When I show my father’s photographs to my six-year-old son,
I skip past these three images, momentarily panicky.
My blonde son, intent on the screen, wants to know what
he’s just seen, but does not argue when I tell him it’s not for him.
We move on to a grainy shot of Uncle Mac—who was no blood relation,
but shared my father’s name—standing before the Arc de Triomphe.
The grey and the green
under the white of the sky,
and over the black of the earth.
The annual pogrom of Autumn.
Soldiers in the fog;
in the guiltless dusk.
The storybook animals
living in bungalows.
The night birds singing
their repetitive songs.
David Ishaya Osu writes poetry and nonfiction. He is a board member of the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation based in Uganda. Among publications, his poetry appears in Chiron Review, The Lampeter Review, CutBank, Vinyl, Transition, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, The Nottingham Review. His works are also published in anthologies including: RædLeaf Poetry: The African Diaspora Folio, A Thousand Voices Rising: An Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry, Maintenant 10: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing & Art. David is a fellow of Ebedi International Writers Residency, and is currently the poetry editor at Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel.
Time in my bread
I will sandwich
time in my bread
and swallow it, then
my mother’s mode
the eels and the
snakes and the gas
flames will take me
as their friend
fit to control
You cannot lock
air in a
casket, or not
expect people to see
the white you wear
or the black
in the eyes;
there is no hope
that the house will grow back, she said
but, there’s wine
in the glass
and the people
will have rains to make
their burnt bodies
Ben Hession is a Wollongong-based writer. His poetry has appeared in Eureka Street, the International Chinese Language Forum, and Cordite, with work also to appear in the 25th anniversary anthology of Live Poets at the Don Bank Museum, Can I Tell You a Secret? In 2013, his poem “A Song of Numbers” was shortlisted for the Australian Poetry Science Poetry Prize. Ben is also a music journalist and is involved with community broadcasting.
Stuart Park Lagoon
After the storm, the stream breaches
racing out skeletal branchlets;
racing out unconscious, plastic fragments
Ostensibly still stands the lagoon,
the surface, tense with stillness,
a pelican breaks.
You can tell where to fish, watching a pelican —
an Aboriginal man had told me, once.
Where then, are the fishermen today, absent
from the overflowing water?
Andrew Stuckgold is a writer and photographer living in Erskineville, NSW. He has been published in Meanjin, Cordite, and Spineless Wonder’s Writing to the Edge (the 2003 Joanne Burns Award). He is currently working toward completing an MA degree in Creative Writing at Sydney University.
These eyes that split
from the darkened water
A snapping lunge
armoured in nightmare,
a maw that reeks
like a bone garden, crammed
with punching teeth;
the spike hammer clamp
of shattering leaden jaw.
This green scaled grinder;
meat and sinew torn
from that still half living,
to the feeding;
consumes its corpsed bride
in a salt red wash:
blood, bile, and faeces
Stuart Barnes was born in Hobart, Tasmania, and educated at Monash University. Since 2013 he has lived in Central Queensland and been poetry editor for Tincture Journal. His manuscript The Staysails won the 2015 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, resulting in the publication of his first book, Glasshouses (UQP, August 2016). His website is https://stuartabarnes.wordpress.com/; he tweets as @StuartABarnes.
The Moon and the Mason Jars
for Ruth Whebell
Purified in stainless stockpots
with black Italian cursives and gilt,
stuffed with smashed green cabbage, sea salt,
whey; three-quarter revolutions compel
the Latin blanks. From elliptic orbit a well
versed silver tongue assuages the dish rack’s
Willo Drummond is a PhD candidate in creative writing at Macquarie University. Recently migrated from the wilds of the NSW Blue Mountains to the shores of Sydney’s Parramatta River, she has weathered previous lives as an actor, singer-songwriter and arts administrator. In 2012 she served on the assessment panel for the Varuna Publisher Fellowships and last year completed a Master of Research thesis examining the ethics of the lyric mode in Australian ecopoetics. Propagules for Drift and Dispersal formed part of this work. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in Cordite, Meniscus and The Quarry.
Cooing to R.A
Mr A, mangrove man
Mallarmé of the mud flats
I’ve taken you in to the jelly
of my brain,1 in a kind
of mud-dove dreaming
You’ll fly with me forever
now, we’ve simply no choice
in the matter. Once mud gets in
to mood and memory, life
becomes mangrove in a minor key
Swamp dweller, fisherman
I see you in the eye
of a Bush Stone Curlew; hear you
singing for your love; feel you slip
through the gap
in a waterfall of words,
a manhole of meaning
You, of the in-between
place; you, of the feathered
imagination; you, who wrote
yourself into existence, one bird
at a time; I row with you, now, gently, along
the mangrove mile
I dream with you
Fish scales glint
in the tangle of your hair, and
on the breeze, I detect a hint
of ‘no referent’
It comes and goes with the tide
1 “I sing softly/ from the jelly of the stone curlew’s brain”: Robert Adamson, “The Stone Curlew”