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Title: Unmanned

Author: Stephen Oliver

Release date: August 2, 2004 [eBook #13081]
Most recently updated: December 18, 2020

Language: English


Copyright (C) 1999 by Stephen Oliver

Stephen Oliver

Also by Stephen Oliver

           & INTERVIEWS
      (Horizontal Press, 1978)

      (Horizontal Press, 1984)

        (Hazard Press, 1993)

      (Penguin Australia, 1996)


(C) Stephen Oliver, 1999

First published 1999

ISBN 0-473-05753-0

Published by

       HeadworX Publishers
             26 Grant Rd,
       Thorndon, Wellington
      Aotearoa / New Zealand

Printed by

Otago Uni Print

 Typeset by HeadworX Publishers
     in Elegant Garamond 11 pt

HeadworX is a registered trademark
      of HeadworX Publishers

        This book is copyright.
     Apart from any fair dealing
  for the purposes of private research,
  criticism and review, no part may
    be reproduced without written
     permission from the author.



Cultural Misappropriation Word Maps 1. Down By The River 2. National Park Holiday 3. False Idols 4. Surveyors Party 5. Got Ourselves A Convoy! 6. Cultural Desert 7. Down By The Station 8. Continental Shelf Co. 9. Three Cheers The Militia! 10. Video Conference 11. Crow Country 12. Hills Of Home 13. Eco-Tourism Generation of Pat Boone & Tonto To Talk of Flags Words to Lure a Ghost Chistmas Emblems 1. Adam 2. Oblation 3. Detail 4. Born 5. Style 6. Beachcomber Transgenic Pigs Sheet Music Myth & Mariolatry Stork Unmanned Braidwood Modern Love Brilliant Losers Hotel Diligencias Wardrobe Drinkers Girl. Gold. Boat Domestic Pack Shots 1. The Gays Next Door 2. Working Hot 3. Hooking For Jesus 4. The Priest Across The Lane 5. Corruption Is Glorified Mateship 6. Inner City Camping Blues Tarts & Takeaways Who Killed Brett Whiteley Sugarbag Carpenter Aunty Eve Harold Lloyd Conrad & Wells & Co. Hoppalong Cassidy Bob Orr Dave Spencer You Dont Remember Dying Graham Clifford Bruno Lawrence The Still Watches

Poets have wrongd poor storms: such days are best;
They purge the air without, within the breast.

George Herbert

Cultural Misappropriation

is that what I hear you cry, citizen? If a delph-glazed moon with its O so delicate pattern pans over Holland, flat as a tack, it also comes by way of the Antarctic circle right to your doorstep in equal measure. If the sun clamps its golden torque on mosque or synagogue, pa, cathedral or sacred site, does this endorse any one people over another? Is it your wish to head off the cultural bandits at the historical impasse, citizen, by placing a patent on your mana? Beware the polemicists who define and so divide, who aggregate authority unto self where before lay none. Symbol becomes the circumference of time & custom. It is not the thing itself, but the beautiful echo of a peoples harmonic which cannot be bounded nor weakened. Here lies the camouflage that protects the ancient matrix, the silent memory of our bloods journey & sound leads you to it.

Word Maps

1. Down By The River

Of the brain, mushroom shaped as bomb blast, we project the image to fact; up river from the torrent, amongst the calmness of boulders, the angler shadow-casts looping the steady surface for the archetypal fish whose leapt arch anticipates t but the headwaters are held greyly back by a concrete-net on this dappled and uncaptured urban afternoon. He deftly flicks & spools back and forth from channel to channel.

2. National Park Holiday

If you go into the woods today you will be part of a task force moving in line-formation. You will allow that the plastic yellow tape which cordons off select areas does not imply a Sacred Grove. If you go into the woods today, disinterment, not picnics, is the order of inquiry. The Vegetable Kingdom remains thoroughly documented and every species is accounted for; some of whom are human, or parts thereof.

3. False Idols

It was always wood, wood along the way, and exits went from grove to sacred grove till deeper wood lay beyond the Roman shield and sword; that, though, belongs to another picture book. The lyre-bird mimics the chainsaw and Birds of Paradise spit chips. Along the Hume Hwy. east of Eden, a concrete Mountain Ash dubbed Yggdrasil boasts a wide-screen computer enhanced vista: an arrow-straight monorail running from Uluru clean through the Olgas.

4. Surveyors Party

These twin obelisks which guard the southern entrance to the Great Sandy desert, though partnered to a sun fiercer than anything Egypt had to offer, preside over a millennia of flat emptiness, and attest to the prowess, not of indigent cultures, but the engineering whim of the LAND BARONS who pray that one day, these too, will invoke an air-conditioned resort for the rich to dwell in, amongst hydro- mythological fountains, playing endlessly over sacred-site motifs.

5. Got Ourselves A Convoy!

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! But theyve been laid off. Round Oberon, the town spirit flat as a plank; then fury knots in pubs. The big rigs aim chrome cowlings at Canberra, Convoy! through the ring roads to circle Parliament House wagon-style. Hey, you cant knock it: logging by generations for generations have trod them down. Count the rings of the rigs revving. Each logger raw-red, necks blood-throttled. Say what, anger? You can put a ring around that, champ. Hi Ho! Hi Ho!

6. Cultural Desert

The earth is dismembered & what remains gives evidence; clues: history by blocks displaced as in the Aswan Dam & the Temple of Philae. Osiris rolls in the winding sheet of the Nile (O moisture of the World!) and vainly cry the well-wishers. Richard Burton tracked the source back to Lake Victoria, and back again to the Royal Geographical Society; no gushing waters from the cleft rock, only lameness, fever under the rays of the Sun God, Ra.

7. Down By The Station

Indecision. Doubt. A bungled liftoff, the bumpy landing. Of course, the forest dwellers who continuously run at you from tangled undergrowth onto the stubbled airstrip, dreamlike, dont make it: LAST CANNIBAL WORLD: lithe tribal girl hand jobs hero through bamboo cage. The spiked wooden ball swishes from tree canopy to impale support cast. Sunday matinee in country town. Farm boys lope under dirty clouds to crop-dusted paddocks, and water slips by the BP Service Station, somewhere.

8. Continental Shelf Co.

I officially declare the millennial Poets Symposium on the Age of Inner Space now open: Welcome to OCEANISM. Poets are required to be proficient in submarine mythology of an exploratory and Cousteauesque manner, able to identify myriad life-forms luminescent yet undiscovered (except, perhaps, for the Vampire Squid) at depths unsounded, in sea trenches unknown, free, hopefully of maritime wrecks & missiles from any epoch; whose task it is to float lines at once filigreed as plankton, filtered as sunlight.

9. Three Cheers The Militia!

What plays us back - death? That this worlds a stage and we upon it act to revolve the scenery with our yearning: and while the syrinx play, panic rebounds to the dead cry: ET IN ARCADIA EGO from the walled garden and far wilderness. O desert! O armour-plated sun! Under a scornful wind the madmen bellow and tribes cower amongst the rubble, caught in the sound bites & grabs of war: Tibet, Chechnya, Kurdistan, Iraq, Burundi, plus the boys in the hills back of Montana.

10. Video Conference

Like a hurried geology that arose out off glasshouses came the skyscrapers; meanwhile, History cut a swathe through the Natural World and architecture strove to regain it. Lost to the familiar, Age moved us out of living memory, unlike those tribes, the autochthons who saw the earths infancy still. Let us go, you & I, to re-invent the damage and call it discovery, to uniformly lift up our cry in schadenfreude, meek before Great Cities that bend as fenders to the glare.

11. Crow Country

A field of wheat, a paddock of stubble, the chafed dust-cloud staggers the pick-up at distance, the Rock of Ages rises over Plainville: pop: dead serious. No hermits, only the bowing pumps facing west for oil. Family photos hang easy next to the semiautomatic in each clapboard. The Long Horn Saloon boasts the one rule: NO SPITTING. NO STRANGERS. The hard hats passed round every Sunday and the big fists knuckle under prayer & flag real righteous like.

12. Hills Of Home

Greywacke mostly, & fat pale clay where I troubled the hills about Wellington (Brooklyn-west) that you dug through to reach China as a kid out-the-back of our place. The gorse gully and yellow flowers, black seed-pods bursting in the summer heat. Down you went past broken bottled glass to the untouched cool clay hoping any moment to pot hole up into a paddy field through the earths centre. Every failed dig stayed a secret from adults, forever.

13. Eco-Tourism

Welcome to Smeltback Inc. copper, zinc, lead, uranium, iron, O mineral gardens of the Inland Sea! A company satellite tremulous as a divining-rod maps onto flow charts corporate terrain; prospectus for all the kingdoms of the earth. Radio Redneck pumps the poet who banks safe on a right-wing bet, steadies to subvert the norm for God and Clever Countrys sake. Prettily thus he underbends the knee to throw his best foot forward O.

Generation of 68

Frank OHara (here Im skating slow on sacred ice) has got a lot to answer for, yet who hasnt? Take the legacy of 60s poets, for example, who cant help but write like him; syntactically careering around his blizzard of words, elbow-jolting crazily, clutching at each others earmuffs, buttonholing opportunity. Seems they did that as par for the course till it got too dizzy. Round and round the freedom rink they went & those who zigzagged quick & cut up rough fell back upon the railings youth exhausted to exhale worn, cautious success though tried not to show it. What happened to the stragglers in the maul is anyones guess; some unmarried, a good number courted hardship whatever. Nobody cares overly much. The 60s poets they go on to write like Frank OHara: fewer drop-by parties, meaner somehow.

Pat Boone & Tonto

White-shirted (not blue) they approach in twos: Excuse me Sir, a small moment of your time? Soft-selling eternity & the clean-cut hereafter. The boyish accent downloads the serious side of the American dream, eyes fixed computer bright. The other is slower, slope-shouldered & discipled, backgrounded by a blandished brain. As a child, when the God was always friendly, big as a house, long as a street & the day endless, the knock upon the door signalled: Excuse me young man, is the lady of the house in? Welcome the suitcased salesman; the Bon-Brush Man: big-bristled, wooden-backed scrubbing & bottle brushes, sandsoap & Brasso for hard domestic usage. Not now. These two modern peddlers head out to the brick bungalows of the inner city suburbs selling the Light & the Way, galloping round the outer handicapped districts; brainwashed right-wing angels confident as professional sportsmen on a World Tour.

To Talk of Flags

The flags fall like large, hollow, monochrome leaves, said Ritsos, but this isnt Greece. How can you talk of changing flags as blithely as you would a marriage? When we fly the flag its as label to proclaim attitude, and rightly so, too: the Remembrance Day Parades, Expansionism, other peoples wars; the main street of every country town at the dying of day lights up the Unknown Soldier & the long lists of the Dead written in lead. No, these things will always hold, rung up once yearly, regular as a poker-machine. Change flags, to acknowledge what? Whose domestic honour, what custodial deaths?

Words to Lure a Ghost

An exiles soliloquy

Henley Pub? I am one year from your death, and a mad mile from your achievement twenty or so years down the track. I think you may have killed a few of us off, brother, who rejoiced in your thicket of sorrows. Jim Baxter, if a cabbage tree marks your spot by the river, I am glad of it. After you went, we were too eager for another Apollo, and the laurel was tossed from hand to poetic hand like a hot kumara. Most dropped it. A number were swept by the winter river with the eels into the Underworld.The God Love and the God Vengeance sat down in a burnt out warehouse to share out the small morsels of pain. The poets are playing hide-and-seek with each other in and out of marriage. The sharing is done. A southerly whistles up over the gun emplacements on Brooklyn Hill,Jim, scattering the unposted Autumn leaves.


Under the mining operations of the moon, continental drifts of cloud collude and a pelican scaffolds the air. In cities, bricks sweat. We are blinded by the rush to live; keep it moving, says the sense of loss, our common language. The information Super Highway informs to inform supra clicks the instinct. Hold on screens survival. We are built upon reflection; under the arch of the railway see the conduit flow & steady in the round. A piece of hill lights up and beneath it shadow so shakes the net. Hear the sheer drag of scythe on metal the shunter makes at the curve of the viaduct while, with elongated wail, rolls three spoil-wagons to the hollow hill.


1. Adam

A lamp passed behind a perforated shield; stars leaked. What he thought thunder brought footfalls of lightning. He scanned over the plateau & nowhere found a neighbours spoor.

2. Oblation

The Island nations of the colder latitudes breed alluvial poets, it is believed, who convene once yearly under friendly, arched viaducts to talk of river shingle, boulder, and water birds.

3. Detail

The yellow machinery tracks on the freeway are as soldiers in single file stretching out into the late afternoon, slanting sun, shadow-crimson earth leaning forward to the compassed horizon.

4. Born

The year of my birth followed by a hyphen, by the solace of expectation, by a small measure of success, by a teasing out of hopelessness and of course, by another date yet to be fixed.

5. Style

Would he have leaped from the stern of the Orizaba, at noon on April 27, 1932 if hed known of the unfashionable rise in sea-levels 70 years hence; Hart Crane, a rhetorical gesture, surely?

6. Beachcomber

Pampiniform it writhes, bladder-wrack or kelp, a heavy swell that slops about rustily in the basalt trough, breaking through the sea rush; & solitary goes Heaney, curling at dictions.

Transgenic Pigs

The oink is a fugue, Baconian and philosophical. By a corncob moon they snaffle, silvery-hulled backs adrift & dolphin-arched in the mire. A litter of stars in the laboratory-bright sky. PUT SOME PORK ON YOUR FORK intones the television commercial. O but but these are no bristle & foam flecked boars of Arcadian Days, brutally twisting on some Danaan spearhaft, in a flying rage tearing at ilex roots, or blasting marble shards with iron-tough tusks. These are the sleek-lined, chrome-bright & delicate trottered. These with a call soothing as a computer bleat, ears alert as mobile phones, flesh pliable as an artichoke, temperament cool as a cold cut. These, the upwardly mobile, porcine delicacies, models of dinner-table decorum. Designer-label pigs, feted, wined & dined exemplars of taste, accepted in the most refined of social circles. These are the well-appointed pigs replete, with a privately funded education bred O so exclusively for the Export Drive.

Sheet Music

Like some murky storm that presages pain, or engine that mauls the curb, the stereo wallows its bass notes at the top of the head, lands soft as afterbirth. If you place a white sheet over America 500 Indian Nations show like bloodspots, said Jim Harrison at Lake Superior, the buffalo and the Big Trees gone too. Greed! Mostly, beauty is nostalgia. The random motes of a rainbow end up on the garbage heap again. These sticks which encase the Great Lakes, Jim, are the Happy Hunting ground for the likes of you & me. Men picking on the chance sounds of emptiness. The daily round of campfire, man and nature, etc. A moon patient as an escalator, maybe. Its all been done before, anyhow. What was that about Indians leaving a flaw in the fabric for the soul to escape? Ours is the gift of factory seconds, well-made & well-meant through to a public we detest if you think about it. And the quickest way to solitude is via a four wheel drive, eh? Theres comfort in that mate, getting out.

Myth & Mariolatry

At a small village not far from Manila, in the house of armaments & munitions, in a house of grenades & ammunition, the plaster statue of the Virgin Mary as humble as a trademark, stands splashed in carmine tears like some peasant shot on a quiet morning bearing water from the creek. The hovels strewn about the hills are so many broken boxes. The sun is spinning clockwise for hope. One cloud out of nowhere & then a drape of blue that might be the sky. The gathering of people is more impressive than a food drop. They come at the appointed hour when the boy who serves as runner to the Beautiful Lady arrives, breathless, with the Word. Occasionally, the statue weeps paint-fresh tears. They will leave once faith is gathered in abundance like so many wild flowers off the nearest mountain slope. Here under a glass blown moon, a cool wind shall leave this place sacred.


The scene is of a deep rural setting done by one unhurried Impressionist, say, pre-World War 1, c.1907. Everything luxuriant, soft and round, the paint is combed out by cordial summer breezes. Countryside: Poland, a rained-on morning, the distant plash of milk into wooden pails sounds thinner than its clotted creaminess. The cobbled yard is blue and wet after the mornings sluicing; alder, elm or poplar windbreaks, but what shows through is the church spire you would observe if you lifted your gaze up from the unhitched wagon, its spars tilted off skyward from the fields, past chimney, gable, and farmstead. The stork is here on its top (though) bottom heavy nest of thickly woven twigs which throws the scene into surreal proportion, suggesting a still hour of witches and moonlight moving stealthily through the forests black patches. Stork, calm as a weathervane (a model) presides over maize and barley crops, that brighten through weeks of high summer, stretch tight as a canvas to the nearby farms, and further still, to centuries old, grassy marshlands from which the stork feeds its nestlings.


Take this day, lonely as a man in an empty house, at his window, the wintry yard below.

Sea calm. The moon scatters its coinage. A rubber dinghy bucks an orectic surf. Pebble beach. The conning-tower signals:

which came first, meaning or memory?

One flashlight winks hungrily under seacliffs, and then the flare. This setting becomes an habitual space, chosen era for commando or smuggler.

We make our choice, learn that grief comes regular as sunset.

The bow-wave turned in chrome coils as the coastline dropped from view.

Once in a metal-etched hour, people ran away to America to buildings the colour of gun-metal, to a sidewalk venting steam about the ankles of sable-stockinged girls.

How many of us cannot begin the adventure of the day upon its arrival? The ablutions of the night done with, the half-bad dreams wiped away, the tensions of the muscles adjusted in preparation for the

perpendicular, the carpet rolled back, the masks hung up once more upon the wall at the ready. Each waking is a starting out from the old country.

The responsibility of light beckons, unclothes the familiar objects and not so familiar ones.

Lightning leaves the expression surprised and the lone tree in the paddock startled with cinematic glare, unharmed and lovely.

In a homely way, the headlights sweep the back yard hovering over the roped-swing in the pelting rain and neighbourhood of cat & dog. This tells you that the family

is in deep trouble to be called into account in afteryears while the shutters slap wettish to little effect.

Shaped as an emu neck, steam extends over the factory stack from the industrial sector in this small, southern city. A yellow band of horizon suggests sunset. The steam dissolves out.

Now runs at 4:15 the see-through veins of rain from window to sill. A splashed up forest of drops tap out what is left of this late, ruined day in July.

Here there is no history, if by history you mean the soul fired in the kiln of time. Here there is only the compilation of event in a scrap-yard of days & kicked aside incident.

You can still hear the settlers squeeze box & fiddle in suburban settlements & tavern, the landscape-flat accents, the Sky Channel applause and throat-clearing of smoke exhaust.

We remember the po-faced poets who went away never to return from the Ambition Wars & Success Sorties.

As always, cars chittering in long queues in the persimmon light of dusk, on freeways dreary with drizzle and distance, at the encoded city-bound intersections.

He makes his heroine his addiction and vice versa, becomes the object of obsession into which safe-zone he precipitates himself, unmanned.

Away now from that well worn cliche, the crazy party hat of Sydneys Opera House / the bat-eared shells

& clouds that muscle reflective buildings

to the O so cloacal coil of green hills round the rectangular cattle, prominent as so many out-of-town acts in provincial centres.

You pass smoothly in your car the valley below & there - an intimate scene: a family gathered shock still: the overhanging forest imaged on the coffin-lid,

momentarily, then lowered into shadow. The town lies behind you.

The world will change to that which forgets you and your enthusiasms will be as a passing fashion. In this you come to understand the nature of illusion

and the hoped for expectations of youth, a too well-travelled dream. Here where life recedes further into distance

you will know yourself as unmanned.


for Judith Wright

Granite & quartz country, once gold rush, now cattle tread amongst

the white hawthorn and yellow broom; from Captains Flat to Majors Creek

the creek-beds cut the empty vein.

Hail or heat, the hanged ghost of Thomas Braidwood rolls out his

oaths big as boulders upon the town: dust, poverty, despair, drunkenness

before he choked his rage at the end of a rope, phlegm thick as gossip.

November 4, 1996

Modern Love


They are survivors, the sole occupants of this one guarded world. The local repertory theatre packed up & departed elsewhere. These two old troupers stay on as the sweeper plays his broom against the grain backstage. They play out by agreement the familiar angers to a suspension of hostilities. A semi-believed in love tried but haunted by its past. A self-deceiving hope posturing the loss of lives that went before of youth, of partners had & names forgotten. What holds at the seasons close is passion flogged to life like a single-piston engine, a sputtering exchange of plenitude, the usual run of days & dishes. The couple come home to roost at last, tense & too aware.


Squinting back down the telescoped years as he had once through bombsights to that recently freed city, after the war & burnt out trams to how they first met. He posted to Berlin and the American sector, she from Baden Baden where he had fallen for her. So agile & aerial, a mermaid of the trapeze, star act of an old fashioned circus. A picture framed in time within the bleak cabaret of youth: he uniform crisp & she in sequined tights with her angels Wings of Desire flared from bared shoulder-blades. They are holding hands in celebration of the letter M. Now, married into age & ageless on an ancient Island, theirs is a love old as childhood & wise as water. Solidly based as the fist-backed rock of Uluru.

Brilliant Losers

On reading Geoff Cochranes Tin Nimbus

The gay psychologist quoting The Divine Right of Kings and the lexicographer, his lifes dream of the Great New Zealand Dictionary,

both entrenched alcoholics, both the originals Dostoyevsky might have claimed, although both stark losers by the worlds brute standards.

Yes, I was there too, that late Saturday night after THE DUKE, riding the Kelburn cable-car up under the shadowy, Gothic pile of Victoria

University, where furtive as hedgehogs, we found a hand-hold to jemmy open an illegal window, fossick the disused office for carton stacked upon

carton, each one packed with indexed filing cards, meticulous references, NZ arcana, forgotten dialects, fables rare as moose from Southland,

obscure derivations, etc., incalculable musings of an idealist and dreamer (this he showed us) here lay the singular industry of a reverential scholar,

abandoned yet thirty years on, The Oxford Dictionary of New Zealand English first appeared, penned by an academic of that selfsame city.

We are the last of the witnesses Geoff, like the derelicts who took the sun sitting behind the Public Library, or sheltered in Pigeon Park, days long

gone (along with THE DUKE and THE GRAND HOTEL) a city newly syllabled, yet the light remains, much the same milky white and pale as stone.

Hotel Diligencias

In Veracruz dusk troubles with a scent of gardenias after the last tramcar passes by, and the rocking chairs begin their small breeze-making on the balconied terraces between the family photographs and little statues.

The dancing couples revolve at an angle in the great brewery mirrors marked:

Cerveza Moetezuma

before the globes lighting the plaza die out at 9:30 pm sharp.

                       But this was

Lightning burns like mescal in
                                 the throat of night.

The whisky priest skulks about the mountain roads where you are headed, at Chiapas or Las Casas, charging so many pesos per baptism in the illegal night.

With or without him thrive the false saints & miracles in these remote regions, pure homage to superstition.

O comfort of Poverty! O lie of Pleasure!

You recalled the hot seaport, your departure planned on the Ruiz Cano that dangerous barge which took you out over the Gulf of Mexico

away from the anger hidden in laughter, from the pistilleros lounging by the Presidencia.

You the too curious gringo left behind you the coasting steamers & pink squared plazas to forget the taste of warm beer in dreary cantinas.

You headed for the high ground of Tabasco & the country of ruined churches. Back at the beginning

of those lawless roads lie the dingy houses smearing out onto silver sandhills.

Wardrobe Drinkers

is what they are in Austinmer. Yuppies from the North Shore, $300,000 homes on the beach front, sending the RSL broke & the greenies blocking development for a few birds up an estuary. Could be worse, given the Japs on the Gold Coast going off like mobile phones. The miners & cottages are long gone & so is full employment. In 1941 as a telegraph delivery boy I made 13 shillings 10 a week. Across the Harbour Bridge to the North Shore on a regulation red bike. Sunday was the day for casualty messages, the dead & wounded delivered all over Sydney except Vine street, Darlington, where Darcy the Crim lived & the most dangerous place in town. I came to Austinmer 30 years ago before the Wardrobe Drinkers in the days of the miners & cottages. Take those grain & coal carriers upwards of 250,000 tonnes with a 12 man crew, anchored stern to wind, off Hill 60 out of Port Kembla navigated by satellite direct to Japan. You want the best view? Sublime Pt. Lookout, right down the coast, the Pacific ironed flat far as the eye can see, a sky expanded metal-red nightly.

Girl. Gold. Boat

out of Port Moresby. The obese Oxford villain tumbles overboard speared by the fuzzy-wuzzies. Our hero, Captain Singleton, finally

puts his shirt back on and tilts his cap to the sunset. He places one arm around his sweetheart and the other at the helm. The sea falls into

suburbs of light, a topiary of Islands could be mist. He is American and at home in the world as he moves forward on the celluloid tides.

He came out of sickness country (sic) he came out of the Holy Land.

Domestic Pack Shots

1. The Gays Next Door

shrieking like hyenas in their sexual mirth to the disco bang of Madonna making her mint in the sacrilegious from the sacred. For some, perhaps, a continuous custom to hang together whatever sense of family may be had once the wild oats have passed into the photograph album: circa: June, in some tumbled month, the garden hose spurting champagne and the neighbour, suspect as an affair, out of shot.

2. Working Hot

Joe Hammer makes his move on screen and the girl cries out for Mamma. A family of sperm packs up and moves house. The removal of limbs. The images dim to an impotent mauve and the stage act begins. Shes only working warm, consistent as a vibrator. She hopes one day to make big bucks; the conference room, that is, before she hits twenty. The one spotlight fixes on the portico between her thighs. The audience soughs in the dark. Strippers dont have no union, strippers dont. O Karen, your smile, cool as a cucumber.

3. Hooking For Jesus

Let us sing the rosellas who buckle under branches for the paper-bark blossom, and the far distant shadows on slate-roofs. Let us herald the Children of God, the Family of Love, progeny of the Jesus Freaks founded in Oakland, California back in the 70s. And this child, who believes Bethlehem resides in her fourteen year old womb. Hers is the pioneering spirit caught in a spectral watercolour. There she leans, under the guiding star of a single streetlight, while bluestone clouds move away over St Kilda into yellow, polite paddocks.

4. The Priest Across The Lane

in the presbytery is maxed out from the exo-bike, beads of sweat drip off his fingertips. He is purged of the last house-boy from the jungle parish in Papua New Guinea, ten years previous. He pounds at the peck-deck in his lounge room wishing the garden hand were an opera singer. Several repeats of the pole-twists and his bowels grunt like a sermon. A final glass of claret drops him to his knees ashen faced. His big bath steams plump now, full as the Jordan river. The one bedroom light burns on the lemon bush which holds its globes of fruit like a juggler stopped mid-trick.

Chelmsford Street, Newtown, Sydney

5. Corruption Is Glorified Mateship

Its Bastille Day in Sydney. The weird man in the moon falls to the night basket. Stars roll out another lottery and unemployment raises dust over the land. Tout est perdu fors lhonneur. Among thieves. Running with images I whirl out the rainbow. Spring flutters as the National flag to salute the pilot whales herding one more disastrous landing. Waves roll head-to-head round the plate of The Great South Land. Which way to Wynyard, calls the currawong. Helicopters line up like magi over Bankstown. When you look up, that old full moon makes you feel like a cowpoke, dont it?

6. Inner City Camping Blues

under a dusty-hulled moon out of an empty Hollywood lot placed there in the out-take of twilight. The bus families have arrived in convoy. Stolidly parked nearby in protest at two suburban parks up for auction in a depressed market. A couple of pitched tents and an Information Stand of press clippings. Kids play in a refuse pit between tossed aside railway sleepers. Slung about the Council Chambers fairy lights all a twinkle since the last bi-election a year back; not much in this, not even a picnic.

Tarts & Takeaways

is what hes into, he said & thats fine by me (William street in winter and pissing down is the pits) standing around in doorways waiting for some totally wasted guy excuse me! its a trick is what it is to slap his dumb meat between my thighs. Hey, Im Jasmine though I dont feel like one. Mostly bored. On each hip Ive got this tattoo, says Allan kind of smudgy & out of focus because its real old. The main man. A jerk off really in someone elses life. A lifer. Summers shit, more noise and especially groups. For hours or however long it takes & I do Spanish & French, but Im better at French. Sometimes not much happens. Idle as a lizard pointing brickwork on hot buildings, someone said. I read in this magazine once, (I meet all sorts) and this guy says, nor can I say I love you but a gentle calligraphy informs your brow. What a whacker! I know shit from clay, he just reckoned he could get away with saying nothing. Dickhead! Guys are like that with money like its some fucking secret.

Who Killed Brett Whiteley

Actually, it was Lloyd Rees killed off Brett Whiteley who couldnt live the promise of old age, the calm terror of it. Thats what Rees meant in his letter to Brett: carry the torch forward and something about being a warrior for Art. Brett, in fact, was skittled by a high powered mix of narcissism & clown. Forget what he had to, or couldnt leave behind & anything to do with High Seriousness. He got caught up in latitudes of sex where the Olgas loomed round as buttocks. Brett became his own myth when he died, and effectively slammed the door on the 60s. Maybe some other seascape, like Thera, suggestive of broken altars; looking down into the cratered harbour he might have seen beneath the lapis lazuli waters, an ivory scimitar held in the gaze of Portunus, perfectly preserved, snapped in two.

Sugarbag Carpenter

Them days all you needed was a blunt saw & an axe thrown in a

sack. If you could drive a 3" nail through a pound of butter

you got the job and thats a fact ask Bob the Builder

who shook the hand of Banjo Patterson though no-one believes him.

Theres not one finial or mullion round Boomi that hasnt

his name on it; he was there with the ox & swivel chain.

When he couldnt make a deaner he went bumper shooting in the 30s

way back before the Great War the first of the street kids in Ultimo,

and his father (hell tell you) saw electricity come to Tamworth in 1888.

From Tilba Tilba to Bondi, the last of the Sugarbag Carpenters.

Aunty Eve

who always kept the Aspidistras flying high up in her Georgian house on the windy Terrace from marble urns

had lipstick bomber pilot red & nails the colour of flame.

It was often elevenses in her lounge with Gordons served on a silver platter and THE GRAND HOTEL, DUNEDIN 1932 engraved

on the rim. Another stim dear? from the mahogany sideboard repository to dozens of weighty 78 jazz records in brown paper jackets stacked like so many ossified flapjacks.

Oh she had the most beautiful hands (in her day) they said, used for commercials in the Womens Weekly & Booths the Chemists.

Who could forget her gravel voice & make up mannequin thick

not remember her gin-sweet breath warm upon the neck? And how some Yank billeted during WW2 (here) ducky! thought she was a real living doll.

Oh such beautiful hands she had & the crystal light streaming forth from those great bay windows

onto the iron railings below.

Harold Lloyd

is stridently hanging on for dear life from the Big Clock hand reading 12:30 twenty floors up in NYC dangling a gibbet jig on the ledge beneath his girl with the bob cut screaming soundlessly as he catapults past the big businessman whose fist is foreclosed like a bank on their undying love which against all odds is saved as he grabs at the flagpole angled stark as an erection from the side of the building on the way through the office window only to upset the cooler and startle the typing pool then back down the zigzag emergency exit skittling the fire-bucket to snatch the fire-hose & bungy jump down the side of the skyscraper while the keystone cops are toppling in omnibuses furiously toward the wrong address at odds with the clanging fire brigade a cavalry charge amongst a confusion of ladders & outsize helmets pointing the way into the fray continuously as down drops Harold free falling as only a spider can to be pulled up short one foot from the side walk under the canopied foyer entrance as darling thing hurtles into the stripy canvas awning where Harold catches her in his stiff upheld arms to the astonished joy of the hotel porter

Conrad & Wells & Co.

Great to have met Joseph Conrad or for that matter, HG Wells, who said, Lets go upstairs and do nice things with our bodies, and who did just that to take a tilt at the waitress. I saw them once, Conrad & Wells, in a photograph, standing together. A courtyard setting beside a few bamboo chairs. The hour was mild in a black & white afternoon. Trees, too, green galleons shipping oars in Autumn. Conrad had, perhaps, cast off the last line of a novel: the indigo lump upon the horizon is an Island: behind it the sun spilling its treasure trove: the rent sailcloth of a sea-squall. Anyway, he could still smell the coast wobble from the deck of the Tartane, her weight to the wind. Wells, maybe, was thinking on socialism & science, and in some melancholic way of the waitress, she all ascent. By what conversations did they measure each other, these two voyagers who possessed that sense of the bigness of the world? For Wells, an electrical spark that arced across the white page, and for Conrad, each word creaking on the blocks, the woman pale before the moon, her eyes black as tornadoes at sea.

Hoppalong Cassidy

nearly topples as the Jaffas rumble down the aisle escarpment which in no way disturbs Bully Boy in the back seat corner of the matinee session on a Saturday afternoon flick with it might be Bus Stop Bev with one leg hooked in surrender over the front seat that youd think shes getting shod or something judging by the whinnying which could be some sort of scuffle but then Hoppy regains the ground & the white Arabian stallion muscling to middle screen his ten-gallon hat gum stuck atop his head & his pearl handled six shooters bristling at each hip as he thunders round the dusty back lot who has just saved the stage coach with the backward spinning wheels out of last weeks cliffhanging disaster when over it went packed with the good townsfolk but it didnt all saved by the man in the black velvet with the silver studs & turkey gobble voice much to the hand pumping appreciation of the circuit judge too old to take the high jump & this real paternal dude takes it in his stride is off next week in search of the Lost Dutchmans Gold Mine as legend has it but not for long while Bully Boy will be back sweaty as a farrier with Lemonade Lil to catch what he can with Hoppy sure is a friend indeed when a friends in need

Bob Orr

I called back down the unawakened dawn of the Tasman sea and along the East Coast from the pre-dawn light of my sleep, I called out Bob Orr soft as the punch of a howitzer to the Hokianga harbour & still further over the Waikatos billiard-table green paddocks. I hailed Bob to the Great Barrier Island & Orr to the Little Barrier, but no answer came chasing after. I sought you down the Harbour Heads & Hauraki Gulf then all about the Waitemata. I found a Thunderhead big as a container-load of sorrows & nowhere hard by were you toiling. Bob Orr I called from Meola Reef to the outlandish fishing-tackle cranes along the docks; to Jellicoe wharf, Bledisloe wharf, Marsden wharf, Captain Cook wharf to the Admiralty Steps hoping I would find you gazing out upon the glaucous slick of trawlers, or catch you guiding a snub- nosed tug under the Western Viaduct. Bob Orr I called down the unending roadsteads to Motutapu & Rakino Islands, back behind the wave screen at Okahu Bay to Freemans and St Marys Bay. And as I called into the Schooner Tavern & sought the drear interior of the Wynyard Tavern & the sailors talk told me you had fitted and trimmed your craft against every dire prediction to set sail on that other sea, Bob, the one that has no name & no horizon & is drowning you.

Dave Spencer

lived his life like barbed-wire is what an old girlfriend said, man of the river. But then, life finished you off bit-by-bit though couldnt pluck out your dingo-bright eyes. Lets face it, you were pretty much an arse-hole to those who knew you. Most of us just bash the trees without seeing the kangaroos. You saw living mostly for what it is, a part-time job with bugger all security; the occasional softness of a woman, maybe, and of course grog by the bucketful. What was it you saw at the last, Dave, when passing through the ripped canvas of a thunderstorm, lightning flashing down the Hawkesbury, a good belt of rain after?

You Dont Remember Dying

least, thats what the Old Londoner told me who didnt learn to relax till well past fifty, seated alongside his two mates: a Norwegian: Youre not the same person now as you were ten years ago. And the Irishman: I like the music its the noise I cant stand. Each one, orphaned & aphoristic, deep into his sixties. NZ born and much younger, I offered: Youre not the same person tomorrow as you were today. And then, To your arrival in Melbourne, they singly toasted. (Great-grandfather, MacCormack, arrived here in 1851 & 26 years later, in 1877, set sail for Dunedin aboard the Ringarooma). So our tale of the two cities unfolded: Sydney is get what you can. Melbourne, what have you got to offer & are we really interested. The afternoon floated by as did the trams with dry, asthmatic rush in this mellow town of bungalows & brass.

Graham Clifford

After THE DUKE HOTELs demolition, (opp. Perretts Corner) one last joke: one DB beer bottle ringed by ten green cabbages

as roseate or wreath for an empty lot. Close by, the mad bucketing fountain of Cuba Mall played on. Meanwhile, at his Manners street

studio above the music shop, Graham Clifford, renowned for his Figaro, ululated profoundly through the scales. A window framed

trolley-bus poles that, tacking, flared bluely along the wire. The maestros voice floated over harbour & city, capital & far-flung country,

far from Covent Garden. A 1930s London partied on amongst black & white photographs plastered to the wall above a battered Steinway.

On Brooklyn hills toi toi waved war plumes to the southerly gusts with unceasing applause. Through a hundred, sunblown wintry afternoons

he coached opera singers, actors, newsreaders, plucked notes off the yellow stained keys: he guided, rolled golden vowels, before them.

Bruno Lawrence

Bruno, do you remember the Me and Gus stories, way before Barry Crump got keen, when a cow cocky was a bastard you met on gravelly roads? Recall the nights playing community halls, and days making a few records, only to break a few more? Ricky Mays Jazz Combo, Max Merritt & The Meteors,

Quincy Conserve, plus, the all-stars-road-show Blerta1, travelling Aotearoa, through khaki paddocks, down thistle blown highways in that diesel bus t seasonal rhythms you doubtless gathered, drummer extraordinaire, on your final journeying off Cape Reinga, the spirit freed to ride the rain you backed

the loner to the last, death the bottom line to stave off cancer. Bruno, you did that thing. R & B, jazzman, film star (didnt Jack Nicholson say get on over to Hollywood?) but you preferred back blocks, sought small towns, river shingle, the hollows of the land, and a home around Waimarama in the Hawkes Bay.

A shifting romantic, hoon & hangman, a real joker you played yourself sans bullshit in a heap of movies; The Wild Man, Ute, you leapt from life to art without a hitch; A Bridge To Nowhere, The Quiet Earth, how you loved women, warmth by the bus load, produced that classic my 12 inch, record of the blues.

1 Bruno Lawrences Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition.


The Still Watches


Autumn tinsel floats gold on July leaves and up goes the memory flare. The carbon rod of winter burns low and the dark is a mammoth locked within ice. Watch the simultaneous reels of the seasons spinning before your eyes. A plane passes, and upsets the late sun to a shadow-print upon the wall. With barely a movement we come from the bleaker months to where the picture pans briefly, dissolves upon the softer ores of spring. Ah, but the Captains of Industry are wheeling! A building boom amongst the trees after the first few casual blossoms had fallen along suburban driveways. Observe the birds investing in the green shares of September. This side of the documentary we view in armchair safety, Our Planet: a well heeled cloud pads across the moons surface, under the vast drift-net of the night tuna boats swing light probes about the arresting waters another country claims. David Attenborough journeys through deserts to break the ancient limestone tablets, and proclaim that fossils are the visual memory of stone.

We observe in awe the Environmental Mysteries and ask, is the suns bald glare through the Glory Hole truly the pointing finger of God? Laurence Olivier puts on his final mask, looking deathly, Tell my friends that I miss them, and then fades from the ramparts. I name two from the camp of Good Attitude, builders of the beauty of this planet the givers, not takers who direct our gaze upward from the burning footlights of the closing century, toward the language of our Common Future.


The seeing wears away the seer: twelve years further on Voyager 2 putts out through the pinball solar system, past Neptune and beyond the reach of time. Another day in the round and the cliche of uneventful incident has not yet arrived. The balloon that is so majestic on the plump air tumbles as heavy as a plumb-bob onto the countryside, trailing its fifty seconds of life huddled to impact. The cattle scattered, the sky did not change but released names into the wispy afternoon. Then all is as it was before the tragic flight, except the calm that betokens fear. And clouds rich as coalmines gathered from the chutes of mountainsides, over the belts of grainfield to boost the corporate climates, and to market each end of the world gyrally.

A blotting paper sky, the soft tear of thunder, then lightning. Who would demand of the wise a word to steer by? Nostradamus throws his hands in the air after the event: Mark well my words, I told you so. Backward we look upon his bag of tricks, and with each new calamity a surreal rabbit lifts before your eyes. Ribbed streets! Pneumatic heartbeat! Prophecy is the Art of Boredom for one who cannot stand his own company from one moment to the next. He pulls the hat trick, feigns the future, argues the task of his breath wearily on its way. Some ravel dreams to cats cradles in whose uninhabited solitude, slowly as a yawn, wish to pull forth the superstrings. Call it a living, this space between meetings. Those encirclements that bind us together temporally.

The distant applause of rain and the weekend screaming of a girl. The screech of a trains brake as if a fire were being extinguished. The exiles brain is a frozen, grey sea-storm; from wave to wave he stares down the barrel of the moon. It is morning and the sun spreads over Nicaragua slow as the slitting of a throat. Consider Ernesto Cardinal as he rises from his bed, how he stacks his images practical as planks. Ay, the roses blood dark as diesel!


He will come urgent as a food riot. Beware the man who sheds tears of mercury. His cough alone will thin out the ozone. He grips oceans with the black fingers of trawlers. His voice is a slow leakage in the Third World Night. Beware the Waste-Broker. He comes to paint your wellsprings ivory black and chrome yellow. You will know him by his industrial oath: $40 a drum! yes, only $40 a drum! Senegal, Nigeria, West Africa, the sun dangerous as a forty-gallon drum. Drums stacked on rotting pallets in the back yard of tropical forests. Drums swollen like the bellies of starved children with toxic waste.

The Berlin Wall is falling down, each chunk a souvenir sponsored by Smirnoff. Who was that poet who whispered, Death is a maestro from Germany. Away in America, Raymond Carver, as the provinces of his body revolted, gasped our daily losses from ruined lungs. It comes down to love, he said. What we hear is anger in its orbit.

Falling piano notes. The last of the rain down brickwork. Guttering full. Something like sounds of water hitting a serving dish. A couple of taps. Its that hour. A train, of course, fading in and out of suburbs. Time running off everywhere. George Moore shuts his green door against the catholic glare of Ireland. A sense of things erased. The whole night sliding down. Lamplight. Gumleaves as strips of plastic bright through a casual breeze. What can later researchers make of this, the Age of Rapidity? Things made which had small use then cast aside. The mirage of modern love. Something swapped for something else. Made better. And that charge of energy varicose-veined as lightning, a little kindness left to hover, unquestioned? We know it as we get older.


O Bougainville! Flying foxes plentiful as copper, gone in a waste of tailings from the Island, forever. The most pure black race on earth in jungle fatigues armed against the ravages of the Corporates, wading the chemical rivers, a cackle of gunfire to make the ABC stringers dispatch. But not the words of Randolph Stow: VISITANTS: My body is a house and some visitor has come. My house is echoing with the footsteps of the visitor. My house is bleeding to death. O Bougainville! Your burnished blood flows from the split chest of Treasure Island. An opencast land and an overcast sky. I think of my mother and her breastbone snapped back. A row of Xs marks it.

The sky: one vast, curving blue wave. Blue was; then painted itself into Time, sang Rafael Alberti to the Bay of Cadiz. The day a slow melting cube of ice. Bright coldness of frost on the window, in the silence, late at night. The level rhythm of the taxi down the street of streaming lights.


Who can offer words unsullied by the Age like the sad integrity of a Graham Greene? Generations pass on into unchartered waters, the lights out along the deck. Behind, the floodlit logging of Malaysia gluts the Japanese market. Ahead, seals choke in the heavy metal swell of the Baltic sea; or through a destiny as choppy as a Berryman sonnet, the earth seemed unearthly in a hold of love lashed to the bulkheads of youth one time, O it was sometime ago. But now, the hour hangs out centre stage, a cat whiskered moon doffs into darkness and ushers in a Qantas Jumbo to Kingsford Airport, down the runway to Eastern Standard Time, and a continent the memory of elsewhere.

Welcome tourists to the whirl of Kings Cross, a caged fan spinning the night through, shredding the Sydney Dreamers. Out along THE WALL you can solicit your nightlong visas where the bare chested boys thrust hips from the bonnets of old Holdens. High up on the bulging stonework & boldly sprayed:

Its going to rain tonight, so take a bullet proof vest; and, No war on the way, only a change in the weather. Welcome the eagle-eyed predators come to roost in the coops of the cities. Let us go down to the docks again to the fat silos that overshadow Iron Cove Bridge, toward the inner- harbour, where craft coloured and alive on the paintbox waterways streak around and about, caught up against the shark-net constructions of Patrick White. Welcome the waves of early morning fog that break upon the sky-gardens, and the iron clad poppy of Centre Point Tower.


Lights ablaze in the House of Europe, and the Party rolls from room to room: Poland, Romania, Germany, the black triangle of Czechoslovakia. You can walk Europe comfortably with a plastic shopping bag, Western Europe, that is, forests and country neatly manicured. A Sunday stroll sort of feeling. In Eastern Europe you can do the same thing though must lift your steps higher, over the rubble, that is.

Under the red copper basin of the sun, under the broken crockery of stars, Senegal, Nigeria, West Africa.

Meanwhile, George MacDonald flees the Evil Wood through the unreflecting mirror of 19th-century time, a prophet of the cinema. O cine-romance! Tony Curtis (sword glint of light off teeth) and Natalie Wood, beautiful in white tulle (lungs not yet waterlogged) in heady love. Follow their laughter with an open-topped Lagonda down the white-walled mountain roads of Mt. Aetna to the Port of Catania in a blood-boiling swerve to the red-chequered table, and the fishing boats in the blue dusk. Woody Allen steps from the screen to the dead crystal lakes of Sweden. A floppy disc of moon lies reflected there in an Excalibur beam of light. Clouds, too. Those ancient purities across my triptych window-view-of-the-sky package air as light as styrofoam. The lighthouse beam chills the sandhills and oceans gather up whale breath to cloud. Our civilisation bartered on the whales back. Love undrinkable as water. The silent film of fantasy which is night plays out through the ivory keys of stars.


Abe Nathan dons black and says: Nor shall I change the colour of my dress until peace is declared in Israel. He flies over Egypt to bomb Cairo with flowers. The scent dispersed upon the breeze the breath of the PLO. He would dream the muffled explosions in ancient streets the thunder of looms and the moon over the Sinai a Lady of Gallant Memory. He would dream the sun a copper scroll, and of peace perfumed with cedar and cypress, of pomegranate, bitter herbs and balsam. The thought that catches in the throat wakes him the shout of Iraq. I will waste half your country with flame. He wakes to the taste of Saddam Husseins binary spittle, rips his garments in grief. In this clear cut country, snap your fingers, watch sound bounce off rock. He dreams that one profound thought unspoken will change the minds of humankind. O America! a poet is a detective shadowing himself. Dashiell Hammett, your success too late, success too soon. You didnt find sufficient fog in San Francisco to cover as the Great American Op.

The McCarthy era burned you off from the 50s, left the last twenty years of your life a shredded, dud cheque, the profound terror of the final breath made thin the man you knew. Patriot to the country which disowned you, your last gasp became that of a silencer. America, you try to cheer yourself up but youre too easy on yourself. Watch the coral reefs off Johnstons atoll grow the black scabs of car tires. Watch Hectors dolphin drown in the gill-nets off Banks Peninsula. From the North Sea watch the slick seals wash up dead on the Island of Texel. Watch the Pacific united all around us lie snug and blue as a body bag.


Surgical strike of the stars at the Persian Gulf. Romance of the World! How deadly our longing for peace on this earth round as an Ideal. Delicately, we remember WW2 bombers romanced in archival film-footage like forks tossed across a transformer dark sky.

David Niven steps lightly under the arched stone bridge, he brushes the dust of a crushed building from fingertips by the flares of a London sky. Childhood is the last-chance gulch for happiness, he says. Havel plays the Pied-Piper astride his multi- coloured cavalcade. A wave of the hand old-fashioned as anger, and he goes home to the Democratic Mountain, civilly. Salman Rushdie rides the magic carpet quicker than Qantas. The World is surreal, he cries, tis no more than a game of hide-and-seek, and whizzes past into the future. Lange gleefully corks the evil jinnee of Baghdad, then flies onto the green embrace of Aotearoa with the freed twelve.

Where once the melancholy bombs from heaven fell to glut a village, 1000 grey cranes have returned to the Mekong Delta in the month of pure light. One herd of elephants also returned to the tropical jungle where before was none. A pure green is that light and not the green of crouching camouflage. I bend to my past, for there is a corner of the sky forever my childhood: Rupert Brooke frolics through the soft Edwardian light with Virginia, and dreams of fish-heaven. Bad William thumps the shit out of poor Aunty Ethel.

Every poem is the last will & testament of the soul, and every lover who breaks from lover a crime unto passion. Romance of the World!


Sun shines metallic off Footscray and out across Westgate bridge. Silver & green office blocks rise from a dun plain. Superman, bearing a stash of old money darts over the dockside and the hidden sea home to Melbourne. The thought of you adds weight to new memory sad as lamplight on rain sodden guttering. Sadder still is the Romantic lapsed to obscenity, the swine tides that clog the spirit. Again, I drive my centre to the eye of your hurricane. Remember how the senses wrangled, anger like a vicious exorcism of betrayals not worded? To run is to hide is to freely admit the hidden hurt. Volscian woman, we flung our fire at each other heavy as fists. The old man sits in the park feeding pigeons; like his memories, they are grey-blue and flutter about him. My memory of you from any perspective falls along the flat face of this earth. No lamp lit up our consciousness, only the blade figured the light, Psyche.

The funeral of the sea sings the Italian documentary. The worlds rotting oil-fleet blanks out the Mediterranean from the French coast to the Bay of Naples. Six hundred burning black candles turn crude the Arab night and Red Adair pots another well. Oil Magnates! Corporate Cowboys! Have you built your little ship of death, O have you? And there in the deep the Great Underwater Colonialist, Jacques Cousteau, laments the dark night of the sea, his eyes are the colour of basalt. Today we have part-time cloud & the hours work at it cruel as barbed wire drawn across the face of the moon. What then is this other? It is the shadow personality, evil comes from the power of evil. It is the third presence. O Romance of the World.


Crack of whips in substations and the horizon lights up like a Lucas/Spielberg movie. Tonight toward Blacktown helicopters make astrological moves sideways. Earlier, a trailblazer made one Caesarean cut along the western sky. The 6 Oclock news brought with it race riots & rapes, an eclipse of weather which threatened the following day, the unsteady peace of tomorrow.

60 million hectares of saliferous planet, and a new desert creeps toward Central Europe. There is salt in the wound of the earth. Closer now comes the yearly pilgrimage with candle-flame of lava to light up Mt. Fuji in ninety- nine turns of the track. Refuse of light and all that glitters. As the Stealth Bomber slides East night advances swift-footed over the Empire, over the roll-call of the New World Order.

Watch the southern sky shuffle the South China sea & galaxies thick as krill. Japanese fishing boats stack the decks with amputated fins by the tonne. Sharks loll dumb as torpedoes on waters flenched in blood. The Yugoslav Republics grow tired and another 25 frames of tankfire roll off the screens from Croatia. Pain is the visible urge to memory, says the Anchorperson. Radio KGB hits the airwaves with a global countdown from Tass and Reuter & AAP. Back in Ontario, escalators whisper to the underground shopping plazas and the Gallic snows fall loudest on Quebec. Frost at midnight lies as silent as The American Dream, and all along the border night moves. This train dont run no more this train. Yo! This train dont run no more and Canadas cut in half, calls David Suzuki. Hush now, the cyber-freaks sleep. Soundlessly, the Hubble telescope gears its focus.


An extended mobile of galaxies. A prided installation. The dark, invisible matter of a riot in L.A. Three thousand buildings ripple out flame in the city of Lost Angels. And then an open sky, a banquet of beads after fire hoses roll out the light on any upright surface. Hollywood Hills are alive with the sound of security locks. The CNN anchor-team is too well dressed for the maddening flames, in the sear, ongoing segment of a news flash. In the break, gathered the rain as pure as static, unseen, but imagined whitely and curfew-wide. Along the crippled streets in the blood blare of sirens, night arrived under the guise of the National Guard. Heat rises from the grid of these sidewalks and the spirits of the Indian, afraid enough of death to die, whoop it up around the big campfires. I wake, uncomfortable in the lurk of a dream, and my breath draws up hope like an anchor, lifts my thoughts into the day where I follow. Let us go (you & I) into the glow, hand in hand with Virtual Reality and idly make up war-games. Let us pray that a supreme silence will be down-loaded at last. Moonrise, and a luminant coal sifts through the western grate of the world.

In cornfields elsewhere, so remembered though not so high as an elephants eye, images pressed round as a hotplate suggest some mystery or midnight vigil; this is what we wish, to stamp threat onto the inexplicable, seeking out totems and to hold the dance of the primitive sacred: this city, too, let it stand as Icon.


O to wish upon a falling space shuttle! The sky tries hard to reveal itself as bluestone, but temperature and wrappings of cloud are against it. Rain falls hard as luck. Here you will see them lift up, a squadron of pigeons swinging to gun the light, wings ablaze, the bulky horizon thunderous where thunder lies cognisant. The Great Dividing Range runs this way and I am on the leeside toward the sea. The setting sun awakens our ancestral demand for bonfires big as cities, and a leisurely parade of gulls passing overhead mistake the darkening hours for seacliffs.

These coastal towns boast the best burgers, the newest surf club while the RSL bends to the heavy metal swell which runs the raft of every sea-slap every weekend. The short, broad streets are abandoned early to the blue phosphorescence of the TV and the evening rustle of newspapers. Tomorrow, of course, is uninhabited and fresh as a childs drawing. Further on through the minutes someone is hard at a hammer as if wanting to be let in. A news bulletin tells of avenues long as decades in a steepled town where tanks gather, ready to break through a hay barn in Kosovo. (Remember the Revolutionary Poet who broke through a crowd?) No, this is only a rusted keel upended in the quarter-acre back yard. Not by some turbulence round Cape Horn but the tedium of a bankrupt dream loose as a cloud. The family seams have now sprung apart and the kids school the public bars. A day in the round for the father who breaks through the top-shelf like a picket-line. At the local cinema watch the astronaut yawn, unaware the alien prepares to storm the spaceport wordless as a threat. Its dusk here, mist drowns streetlights, the earth for a time puts aside its hunger, and a delayed flight fills in for the evening star of Autumn.


Acknowledgements are due to Writers Radio, 5UV Adelaide and ABC, 2XX Canberra for broadcasting a number of these poems.

Many of the poems in this book first appeared in the following magazines:

Aabye/New Hope International (UK), The Antigonish Review
(Canada), Antipodes (USA), The Weekend Australian Review,
The Canberra Times, The Capilano Review (Canada), Cyphers
(Republic of Ireland), The Dalhousie Review (Canada),
Encore (Australia) The Fiddlehead (Canada), Hobo (Aus-
tralia), Imago (Australia), Iota (UK), JAAM (NZ), Jacket
(Australia), Landfall (NZ), Links (UK), the New Zealand
Listener, Meanjin (Australia), New Coin Poetry (South Af-
rica), OzLit, Poetry Ireland Review (Republic of Ireland),
Poetry NZ, Salient (NZ), SideWaLK (Australia), Southerly
(Australia), Southern Ocean Review (NZ), The Sydney Morn-
ing Herald, Takahe (NZ), Tinfish (USA), Trout (NZ), Voices
(Australia), Wascana Review (Canada).

Special thanks to David Sears of PAPERWORK, Melbourne, publishers of my text-based poster, S Y D N E Y T O W E R 2 0 0 0, a high quality art-work designed for the international market, for his generous support in the pro- duction of this book.

My gratitude to Pina Ricciu for her generous financial assistance, and to Mark Pirie for his strong belief in this book and personal commitment in marketing Unmanned successfully throughout New Zealand and Australia.