An ugly gentleman, six-and-a-half
feet tall, combs his black hair across one ear,
and then another. Mallee gums eavesdrop
the space where the magpies
dig for paddle pops and ants, and he sees himself
face down beneath the bench and rising,
then face down trickling down the river
until the affirmative disappearance. An Australian problem,
that is why one moves to England impulsively
at a bushfire juncture and searches for jacarandas.
Then, a swindler in a brown jacket, flinging manila folders
of old manuscripts in defiance. An early bank manager,
round over the crotch, wearing the stolen beard of Gaudi.
Abroad, he carries his hands
in his pockets because that is what his
mother had told him to stop. On the streets of
Melbourne, no one has ever seen his hands,
but in the company of the ugly gent we get his
right hand drawing the abstract symbols of
an oratory, but in farce, like a kyōgen, revealed
in reflections of bleached teeth. They
are specialists falling ill at Yarra Bend,
a conversation point for crows, later for the
kookaburras to mishandle.
The oldest country in the world does terrible mathematics
in a blue notebook using data drawn by the triangulation
of any number of the lighthouses countries away that keep
shining their sea lanterns onto the bodies of one another.
It leaves the draught of a cruelly interrogative map,
part-indictment, part-holiday brochure. Brown jacket falls to his
knees, begging for a constitutional library in British English.
Black hair, itinerant as usual, leaves a philosopher baby to trail
behind, to catch up, to always be a little too far off,
producing a vaseline-fogged Polaroid in which he reveals his ankles.
Blisters, signs of life. Inflamed like a plum pickle. The redness
of an outer-suburban encroachment. No hope
for the pale shallows of the Yarra Bend.
Residents have been kind enough to build their
fourth wall out of double glazing so that we
see them for what they are, but do not have to hear them.
Or is it that they too want to participate in the great
lighthouse triangulation? Impetuous geysers turn mud into
pits, and the pits soon enough erode away, dropping
all extraneous earth, leaving cones. Once
absolute openings have birthed at the
surface it takes but one idea for them to shine a
light to warn all the travellers of the earth of coastlines
between. But it is an indecipherable message,
openings close too quickly on the birth of say, Australia,
leaving foreign speakers of the same language to name soughing
bogs ignorant of them. It was a great winter, says black
hair playing with the white hair of his mother’s
corpse in the deepening Yarra with his legs in the murk,
a toe twirling the seaweed filaments. The same dandelions
as home you have crushed, shouts the man in the brown jacket.
But he is a stupid young swindler, burning manuscripts
and starting fires of summaries, declaring a
neutrality of violence wringing the neck of a black swan.
No more stupid than you, calls out the overhearing brown
jacket, the committer of grievous bodily harm
for the satisfaction of a grandfather’s grudge. All of your
bird calls are European war songs or heraldic threnes. Skinny
in a fat land, resembling only its wiriest trees.
A bushfire is important for the
active pollination of gum trees.
Under black crusts sprout bolls of swamp wattle, drooping dianella,
and families of timid geraniums looking about an opened
canopy. Floundering can look like drowning sometimes. A
storm far off swells the Yarra and strengthens its undertow.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 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 F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D 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 P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones