White stars stud the indigo
like the dowry on my veil
when my father sent me from Media
to sign a pact with Babylon.
Neb has been wandering for seven years.
At first our cattle flourished like the shrubs
that grew from his back. He is blind
now. His groin reflects a fire
in the hills. Starlight leaks
on his upturned face. He bends.
Like cattle the goddess denies
he nuzzles thin grass. A famine
extends. His dog has left us
and rides him. Neb is claw-footed.
His bare gonads turn to gold.
A lyre floats in the Tigris, unstrung.
Neb disintegrates. There will be stencils
of ash. Napalm and immolations
will be the burning bush. Daniel haunts him
and the three men not consumed. The slaves
are restless for their god. Trees will char.
Their oil catches. Balls of incandescence
burst from the canopy. Neb rolls,
rolls; the world is unmade.
As a raven watches him, a slave girl
dresses my hair. This is no one’s
Zion, she says. Spines grow
from his back. White reaches
from his face to the points of his legs –
the strokes of a foreign god
jealous for justice. A dog
(half out of the picture) leads him.
The slaves have been singing
though they said they would not.
The crimson shadow of my king
is a great river. Mountains
are olive in the divine storm.
A ram’s shadow kisses the bird-clawed
man. He is struck with a vein
of gold. Blood stains the hills.
As I order my hair dyed black
my lord’s mouth overflows with grass.
With indigo and henna my girl’s hands
are stained. Cool sherbet melts
on my tongue. The bleached man
with the cow’s muzzle lies on the earth.
A tree takes root in his navel,
blooms blue. He is clay whitened
by sun. Nisaba’s scribe, I keep
account of vines. A prophet says
we make the whole earth drunk.
Arched over his gold, Neb is too ill
to write or read. (His son will forget
the finger of a god.) The sky
glows pale over the khaki plain.
There are no carcasses beside his.
Beyond the horizon a fire is doused.
A mushroom cloud is rooted in his belly
where a tree once grew. A comb catches
in my hair. The famine breaks.
A shoot pushes from his bloat
with four black buds. Ibis
dip toward the two rivers. Eden.
My dowry cloaks him. Rain drives him
toward my crow-dark hair.
The trees are poised for flight.
In response to viewing 9 paintings from Arthur Boyd’s Nebuchadnezzar in the Wilderness series,
The Agony and the Ecstasy Exhibition, NGA Canberra, 2014.
- FREE: 20 Poets anthology
- 91: NO THEME VIIISUBMIT to C Gaskin 90: MONSTERwith N Curnow, coming soon! 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith Fiona Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith Vladimir Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith Judith Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith Keri Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with Dan Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with Pam Brown 52.0: TOIL with Carol Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with Luke Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with Bonny Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with John Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with Tracy Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with Corey Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with Michael Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with Felicity Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with Jan Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with Derek Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with Kent MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with Ann Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with Gig Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with Duncan Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with Kent MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with Libby Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with Sarah Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with Sam Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with Astrid Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with Sean Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with Alan Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with Jill Jones
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- Ivy Ireland Reviews Steve Armstrong
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- Claire Albrecht Reviews Manisha Anjali’s Sugar Kane Woman
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- Submission to Cordite 91: NO THEME VIII
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- Translated Extracts from Chantal Danjou