The small town
to the south-east of what’d
the neat array of bodies in front yards
feet first, entry wounds clean
in their foreheads.
And, looking closer – you always
need to look closer – small
marks pocked on the skin,
like a speed limit sign
dinged with pellets
from a moving car
or a ute.
there’s a woman (7.23 [a.m.]) in the doorway
of her art deco flat the next floor up
in a brown-looking dressing gown, choking a longneck.
Everyone at Cronulla North that Australia Day
got sick – the shits and a bad flu.
Then – right then
The first I heard – I thought I heard – was
a rash of fireworks near the racecourse – or shots.
The sound of yelling, more bungers, then silence,
except for the sound of running/stopping/hiding.
Something sparks in, or against,
the night’s damp gauze –
in the next lot rubbing a switch,
an image skidding from a dream.
Wouldn’t’ve done that.
Someone at their door.
Two days later, his head out in the hot street –
his face, featureless
as a country airport.
Apart from the flies, that is.
It had been said he had a “vernacular way” of playing footy.
When it began
I thought I was prepared.
I’d been watching The Walking Dead.
I’d lost track of which season.
Along the railway
the council of developers
the miners’ government
dangle buzzed and charred
hooked up as bait
for who was left
from the military
the local muscle
Word still got around
for a while
Day five, the telco networks went down
and stayed down. Then people started guessing
things were pretty much fucked.
Going on to non-government
news sites was no longer advisable.
False flag dirty bombs in country towns,
On the town hall forecourt
dozens of lumpy flags, draped in ants.
suburbs’ skin patched with carcinomas
A half-burnt body
with a blue southern cross
Before: Still life with still-birth
The vase on the trundle table –
flowers, natives sent by friends
assuming and wishing the three of us
the empty ward of light
falling across them.
unable to find a heartbeat.
of wattlebird feathers
that remind me of those thin
in orange tree flesh
caught in the low
winter morning sun
that trickles between
the shed and the flats
as her daughter
plays in her toy car
and rolls herself in dew, so,
none of that.
The first time ever
I saw your face.
That red dress,
its black butterfly motif,
clasping her breasts.
A local clip; not the first incident
around here, but the footage
gone viral 0 to 60:
the bridge’s shade on its slow
creep along the platform.
There’re two men, moving erratically,
torsos hovering above the kids
squatting/standing, arsing about.
A woman edges back,
draws two children behind her,
and is screaming,
No, put it down, no. Oh, fuck no.
White noise white space.
The awning’s underside, then, motionless.
Car bombs are so Julia Roberts,
circa 1993, The Pelican Brief, but then,
I am totally a legal romcom kind of girl.
Kiribati became a reef
and we stopped the boats.
Once a backyard goey enthusiast,
now she’s an ace sentry/rosterer.
Somewhere, there’s singing, more
The next thing, her top
was coming off over her head,
sliding from her shoulders, those
My mouth sudden
on her mouth. Her hand
at my vulva.
A source close to the research clinic
suggested the behaviour was not
what had been evident
in the modelling
or the laboratory.
On the live feed,
one of the technicians said
The engineering process, this is
not what we would have expected,
this was not the intended
not here). She coughed
as she shot herself.
It was an autofeed
direct from her desk,
so it kept running, the focus
fixing on her still chin,
the seeping muck.
The main roads blocked or gone – remembering
side paths onto the old fire trails from Guides,
and up the hills’ steep and gullied
switchbacks, killing mum’s car getting up through
there and over, walking the rest
of the way, past the party bus, empty,
headed once for the vineyards, and must’ve
detoured and detoured one of those early
nights: the doors swinging out and draining
dew onto the wrong side of the road –
look, a Louis Vitton handbag squeezed
behind the left rear tyre, unzipped.
a sharded compact’s sticking out,
catching a crack of the sun. That happened, too.
The virus moving, a vast predator across the flat
and crowded suburbs, the busy districts,
following the movement of crowds – it loved
an audience – speeding into dense populations,
a whale slicing through dark and silent water
after cornered schools, slurping us up like krill.
I remember our last time
in that hot dusty house
the pink fibro, the floors you swayed on;
streaming Nina Simone on Spotify,
The Beasts of Bourbon left on
in the spare room.
The custard pie the Home Affairs
Minister bought in the face
at his final presser,
making everything official –
laced with arsenic. The gasping,
the waggling cameras and the actual
falling and dying.
Lorikeets, little iridescent Geiger counters
in the ironbark.
I think the worst thing
I saw was a collapsible pram
writhing in the running gully.
is a poet, teacher and critic living in Sydney. His most recent books are After Han Shan
(Flying Islands, 2012), The Kurri Kurri Book of the Dead
(Puncher & Wattmann, 2007), Australian ravens
(Puncher & Wattmann, 2016) and Windfall (Puncher & Wattmann, 2018).