Sampurna Chattarji

Sampurna Chattarji is a poet, novelist, and translator with eight books to her credit. Born in Ethiopia in November 1970, Sampurna grew up in Darjeeling, graduated from New Delhi, and is now based in Mumbai. Her debut poetry collection, Sight May Strike You Blind, was published by the Sahitya Akademi (Indian Academy of Letters) in 2007 and reprinted in 2008. Sampurna’s poetry has been anthologised in 60 Indian Poets(Penguin); Both Sides of The Sky (NBT); We Speak in Changing Languages (Sahitya Akademi); Interior Decoration: poems by 54 women from 10 languages (Women Unlimited); Fulcrum (Fulcrum Poetry Press, US) and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (Bloodaxe, UK). Her 2004 translation of Sukumar Ray’s poetry and prose Abol Tabol: The Nonsense World of Sukumar Ray is now a Puffin Classic titled Wordygurdyboom! Sampurna’s most recent book for children is The Fried Frog and Other Funny Freaky Foodie Feisty Poems (Scholastic 2009). She is the author of two novels, Rupture (2009) and The Land of the Well (forthcoming 2011), both from HarperCollins.Absent Muses (Poetrywala, 2010) is her second poetry book. More about her work can be found at




Space Gulliver has gone.
I don’t miss her.

Then why does her going make me think of an evening in a hot northern town I erased from my biography, rarely said the name out loud, as if it were a curse, or a dirty family secret, the dust from the afternoon storm everywhere even with the windows barred, the floor a singeing tawa under my bare feet, barely fourteen, having shut myself up in the corner room to study, despite the heat, despite the fact that no one has told me to, despite my brilliant cousin, a scientist, visiting, who calls me, like no one else does, ‘tui’, despite chilled lime juice cordial, despite the fact that all around me cockroaches with enormous wings are flying towards the uncovered bulb above my head, monstrous, evil brown hard undying fear, despite the fact that any minute one of them may land on my back bent over my books in a cringe of revulsion and despair?



Rubidium is a woman she might have liked being.

Odd how the women from the poems keep chasing her through the gullies. Has she let them down? Acrostic, she called across to the long red hair, didn’t you like it? Intuition sucks, and who sees hyacinths anymore. She feels it is futile to argue. Which year do you live in, nineteen twenty-two? A little more spite and she will throw them off her tail. Rooms, rooms of her own. Virginia, Jacob, James. Why so Western? Why the men? Shuck it off. Live, leechlike. Here, take this sentence. A snake, a mongoose and a peacock. Happy? All true, even if it makes you laugh. She is covering up for covering up. One morning a baby monkey had tugged her shoelaces at the bus stop. She spoke to it calmly, it went away.

The house was open to the rain. No one thought of covering the stairs. The house saw a bent back moving backwards down the stairs, rag slowly moving. The house was a man standing at the top of the stairs, confusing morning for night. Eunuchs against the glass. Slippery yellow edible root. The house was new when they moved in. Limewashed walls shedding gently. It was better than the one before but worse than the next. Last riot, they burned it down. 



Behind the breeze the bonfire blazed. No time for tongue-twisters.

Grandfathers have a way of finding where the fish-shops are, even in a strange town, crossing fields, asking strangers, returning triumphant, the fish oil wobbling separately in a little plastic pouch.

Grandmothers have a way of knowing you are awake, of cooking strange flowers.

On no particular day, a line of vultures arrived to sit on the compound wall. Smokie was a band we listened to. All was not unbeautiful.



Miss Popular in a homemade frock. Clingfilming, jaywalking. So what if the ringers aren’t dead! Small meridian, the put-put-puttering squeal. Hail, tempo. Squeeze elbow knee and back into elbow back and knee. Not fit for goats. Last time she rode a rodeo was in a tea-truck. Try to imagine you are a picked, curled, fried and fermented leaf. Ignominious patri. Bookworm, fattening slowly, thickening out the world. The mut-mut-muttering formula that sees her through another test. Star pupil in the teacher’s eye. Fall, wish, shoot. These are the ways a girl survives. Nun in a dun sari. Grotto, gay. Carry in a sealed envelope the weal of trust. Amaretto, acerbic. Call nobody home. The tempo, the Matador. Skin a rotten place to hide in. A fist in the breast from a passing cyclist. Scar from the too-tight tie-ups. Lipserving, daydreaming.

What saved her?



Your sky travels towards me


I have been trying to outrun it, shifting location rapidly, bell-tower, syringe, locomotive, landfill, a vanished Syrian Christian eatery, Lebanon, cedar pencils, sackfuls of rice. Sometimes I trip in my eagerness to get away, Salamun, Sam Pitroda, sapodilla. If I travel fast enough from the detectives, savage, to the amulet, unread, I might have time to catch the next and the next, Hadron Collider, Right to Education, gas leak, hung parliament, sabotage, the Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. Jia Zhang-Ke, exactly my age, not a wrinkle or a grey hair, says: I feel time is a tragic thing. I feel it too, compatriot, smoke rising in the public bath. In a Brooklyn flat a Chinese-American poet puts her baby to sleep. The Chinatown bus to Boston might take me far enough, to clam chowder, mussels steamed in milk. Oh but this is slowing me down, I can feel again the taste of it, this lingering will not do. I have been trying to translate two words for a month now, drunken god, Shiva’s Stupor, should I say blue-god, or just say Krishna, how will I ever get across the story of the snake goddess in the chamber of the new bride? Meanwhile, the clouds are coming, they have the same shape, texture, colour, terror is a cumulus, run.

When the landmass broke away from what would be India and travelled toward what would become Madagascar the small blind snakes went along.

That is the only explanation.

Tim Wright

Tim Wright lives in Melbourne in a house backing onto a train line. The poems for this issue were written in the south west of Western Australia and are part of a longer series.





From a tank of water to a cup of coffee. ‘Mistral duet’ (toaster). Panasonic. A group called Save Our Suburbs: ‘I think we need to work to address the main concerns.’ An elderly couple at the door with copies of Watchtower, husband and wife, more or less out for a chat. Do I believe that science and the Bible are compatible? The different light of a Saturday. Phana-sonic? Turn the radio down too low to understand.

Nationalism is always bubbling away somewhere. That which is of academic interest. Acts of language. Electronic grizzle, ‘dubby’. Increasing the value of the easily available. Apparently what it’s all about. Black pencil. Turn on water and wonder. Printed out poems now Things to Do lists. Inside a house in Australia, learning the language of France. Cough with confidence and continue speaking. Cracking cans on the porch. Those interesting times of sobriety, like a metallic token collected in the tray of a machine. Stretch your legs.

Boxes in the landscape. The assumptions of architecture. A different beach. The longer a trend takes to reach one. The grimy inner city becomes an idea. Patterns of light through the curtains. The Bolaño effect. Packets of mud. The relatively recent feels distant, yesterday six months. Amnesty. Lines from The Simpsons. Flip book. Guy Maddin’s ‘My Winnipeg’. A Grammarian could be an alien. ‘I can’t even begin to think of that yet’. A missing bracket, bed made of earth.


 ~ ~ ~


Compression: the shape of an animal running. ‘My mind was elsewhere’. Some thing, with other things pressed into it. A warehouse. Crushed leaves and bad posture. Or reaching between leaves to take something back. Respiration: an engine turning over. Next door, not communicated. A temporary cenotaph. I had never seen a swarm of bees before, pouring into itself like that. And the sky incites an exclamation. Browsing as methodology. Cable car.

Toxic green. The sense of expectation, when walking very early in the morning, that one is always just about to encounter a body. Inhale through a turbine. A senile blue. The dream washes over the framework. Bend over backwards. Catch the train somewhere new. A place one was once questioned. Heavy ankle length skirt. Manufactured reply. Dessicated branch, place it in the freezer. Dramatic postcard. Not the work but what the work implies.

Bust wrapped in cellophane; diaphanous transcript. Are we becoming a nation of wimps? A jug of beer carried carefully across a room. Luminous sweepings, staple remover. Drumming on gathered materials. A casual eclipse, seen from behind. Opinion columnist; common irritant. Chain of Ponds Road, western New South Wales. Let the nostalgia run its course. ‘Chromatose’. Having driven through applause. A book, a beam. A drinking song, not easily brushed off. Walking on forest floor. Rushed through a hospital. Darkish glint.


Geoff Page

Geoff Page is an Australian poet who has published eighteen collections of poetry as well as two novels, four verse novels and several other works including anthologies, translations and a biography of the jazz musician, Bernie McGann. He retired at the end of 2001 from being in charge of the English Department at Narrabundah College in the ACT, a position he had held since 1974. He has won several awards, including the ACT Poetry Award, the Grace Leven Prize, the Christopher Brennan Award, the Queensland Premier’s Prize for Poetry and the 2001 Patrick White Literary Award. Selections from his work have been translated into Chinese, German, Serbian, Slovenian and Greek. He has also read his work and talked on Australian poetry in throughout Europe as well as in India, Singapore, China, Korea, the United States and New Zealand.


The Class

After forty years of fiction, he dreams he’s in a class again, back at the beginning. The tutor doesn‘t show herself, as is the way with dreams. All of them must read a story, a classic that they’ve loved for years: Chekhov, Guy de Maupassant, Frank O’Connor, Alice Munro. They read them carefully and well, one by one, and  then as if at her instruction, and almost ceremonially, strip the words away like washing and throw them in a corner. The idea hangs there, newly naked, a yard or so above the desk they find they have in common. The dream goes on. He does not wake. It’s not quite his turn yet.


Alex Skovron

Alex Skovron was born in Poland, lived briefly in Israel, and came to Australia aged nine. He is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Autographs (prose-poems, 2008), as well as a prose novella, The Poet (2005). Awards for his poetry include the Wesley Michel Wright Prize, the John Shaw Neilson Award, the Australian Book Review Poetry Prize, and for his first book, The Rearrangement (1988), the Anne Elder and Mary Gilmore awards. His novella was joint winner of the FAW Christina Stead Award for fiction. He lives in Melbourne and works as a freelance editor. His New & Selected Poems is in preparation.




Then one night the books ganged up on him. He was seated at his table in the studio-den, composing a cheque for the recent fence-repair, when an odd rapping, like muffled drummery behind his chair, a kind of tapping, caused him to cock his shoulder. The books were floating off the shelves to the floor, in random order; hundreds had already sorted themselves in steep spires. As he swivelled, stunned, watching the stacks grow higher, the bookcases empty, each steepening tower like a tottering sentry began to flow, a twitching perpendicular river, converging on his patch in the middle. There was no time to unravel the riddle – he was aghast, then horrified, distinctly, for the piles were merging. Some books had their heavy gilded spines towards him thickly, some their grinning edges – surging, swirling backbones bluntly fisted (convex or squared, many jacketed), or concave ledges viciously snapping, swaying as they listed; thousands of covers chaotically flapping, yet no chunk of any teetering creature (each mystically bracketed) likely to collapse. Cowering now, subsiding to the Persian rug, he saw the twisters lapse to a terminal dance, each obelisk in its terrible advance gave a kind of shrug, appeared to shudder forth and back, clearly readying for the final attack. Desperate by now that it must be a dream, he squeezed his eyes shut, breathed deep, then took a chance. Look! Bookcases crammed again, and quiet – no more savage parade! But flickering on the floor, its pages splayed, a single book.



Maria Takolander

Maria Takolander’s poetry has been widely published. Her first book of poems, Ghostly Subjects (Salt 2009), was shortlisted for a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in 2010. She was also winner of the inaugural Australian Book Review Short Story Prize in 2010, and has recently been awarded an Australia Council grant to develop a book of short stories, which will be published by Text. She is a Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies and Creative Writing at Deakin University in Geelong.




The goat fished from the old wooden jetty. A hangover, he thought, was a state of mind, like the stench of the slimy pippies on the hook, the pull of the dirty tide on the line. He wiped the residue of the bait onto the tangled fur on his flank and picked up the thermos lid of coffee, cold as the dawn. The sea, he mused, always made him philosophical. A couple of pelicans had settled on the peeling roof of the only boat moored among the mangroves, tucking their beaks into the rancid feathers of their backs. From time to time the goat saw their eyes, rimmed like a drunk’s, move to watch him. It was no use; his bucket was empty. The fish, it seemed, had cleared out of this place. There were mud-crabs, exposed at low tide like rickety bones, and the usual detritus of birds. The landscape, though, had found a way into him. It was something his wife had never understood. Sitting in the deck chair, the goat rested the rod between his pressed legs and poured some more coffee. He heard the sound of the slick water on the hull of the broken-down boat, weighted by the pelicans. He swallowed some of the foul liquid and noted how the mangroves had spread. They were secretly closing the place in. A seagull flew down from the anonymous sky and landed on the boat’s stern. Its orange claws hooked the taffrail, and it began to vomit sound from its neck like something jagged and material. The goat pitched the fishing rod at the bird. The pole landed on the oily water like a praying mantis. The seagull stopped and looked at the goat. Then, with unblinking eyes, it took up the screeching again. The goat, casting his chair and thermos into the sea, began to bleat and bleat in return.



She could not be said to think, but standing alone she was bothered by the vast movement and sound of the grass on the plains as the night bloodied the day. When the world yielded and was swallowed, she pressed herself to the hard dust, holed among the rocks with those of her skin and smell and hair and blood, and rubbed herself from fear in the hot place she knew until the wind swept through her. When she opened her eyes she was yet in the ravenous night, among the flesh and sounds of her kin, who were all given to the night within, and far from being riven by the thrill of the wind her body was quiet as a beast with its throat cut.




The day disturbed her with hunger like flint, so they trapped a young beast and held it down and razed its neck again and again until it bled and stopped moving. Her teeth were made for tearing. She took rest on the spoiled grass with the blood and flesh of the beast on her hands and tongue and on those to whose blood and flesh she belonged. There were the sky creatures, ragged as the carcass beneath their floating, and behind a strand of thirsty trees the sloping dogs. Then came the rustling night, always wanting more than the light, and as they fled through the gloaming plains it struck her that she was not afraid but whetted by its unending hunger.



Kate Waterhouse

Kate Waterhouse is co-editor of Motherlode: Australian Women’s Poetry 1986–2008 (Puncher & Wattmann, 2009). Until 2010, she lived in Sydney with her husband and three young daughters. She is currently living in Auckland, working on her accent and two poetry collections—one set in Australia and one in New Zealand, and on a second editing collaboration with Jennifer Harrison.




Cups (what is the sound of a mother breaking?)

all this mothering fills mine up but what about those whose cup got broken / no fault theirs / some damaged / father / mother / uncle / other trusted figure / institution (choose one) / cocking it up before the girl got her own shot at it / who comes in the night when she’s all done with pouring to lift the sob / howl from her throat / let it go like a wing and her baby with it / only a light space left / a feathered echo / where’s the compensation at 2am for theft of a good role model / who turns up in the place of a missing mother / grandmother / sister / functioning family unit / a class action’s clearly needed / think of the damages / diy security’s a difficult business / always demand outstripping supply / there you are carefully filling the cracks/papering over / three coats of the right paint / when the baby arrives in a jugful of milk and under that cup of yours there’s a dark pool and a suitcase waiting / my grandmother gave me a matching cup / saucer / plate set / fine bone china / she knew a thing or two before she laid all thirty of hers out on the stainless steel top / don’t cut on the bench / and fresh lamingtons waiting for the gang to come around before they went out on a boat long sunk / aunts and uncles ought not to fall out at times like that but grandma’s cup had a crack and some of my uncle was lost there in the first few flights of the mothering jug and it went the way of leftover milk at a tea party / I’d rather be the Queen of Hearts than Alice with a broken cup so next time you’re thinking / not thinking of her children / think of the cup and piss off to a cave / choose another portfolio / get some professional help / whatever / she’ll thank you for it


Iron Cove

After the drought, a week of rain and the ground gives up its water. Obviating sleep I run alone through deep pools that bathe the roots of trees. Cloud, close like smoke, amplifies the whine of a 747 hulk ghosting in over Callan Park. Here clouds of leaves lie down on the past but a flaked sign speaks: You are now entering the grounds of an acute psychiatric hospital. This morning troubling no one – runners, cyclists, dogs all absent. Around King George Oval tall turpentines incline towards the north, the queue of planes immune to rain, lantana prettily strangling the undergrowth. Past Leichardt pool where the track breaks out to open ground a Noisy Miner hunches disconsolate in the casuarinas – a grove of them that twins this cove of idle fishing boats to a small Italian town; the rowing club locked, skiffs pulled out like prosthetic limbs, the persistence of water. Red-eyed, a gang of crows shadow a magpie chick abandoned by the path; anxiety, such a human concept, as in: the magpie waited anxiously while the crow looped across the grass sours the world that is, festers in what’s to come. My feet skim sunken ground, overhead another jet engine grinds through the rain, that crushes us with love.



Nicholas YB Wong

Nicholas YB Wong is the author of Cities of Sameness (Desperanto, 2012). His poems are forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, J Journal: New Writing on Justice, The Journal, Mead, Nano FictionPlatte Valley Review, The Portland Review, Quiddity and REAL: Regarding Arts & Letters. He reads poetry for Drunken Boat. Visit him at




“Monogamous. I’m interested in monogamous.”

— Anne Carson


She pulls the seat belt across her breasts to reach the buckle, a schist in femininity. She looks away. Other cars are arranged in the parking lot neatly like urns. Soon, doors will open, hand-breaks released, people busy getting in and out. She envies those clean and metallic bodies, where a scratch can be covered up by paint. In a car’s life, scars never last long. He turns on the air conditioning, her hands fold on her laps to stop the chill entering her from below the dress. Their car moves, they don’t – first to the bakery, then her office and his. The tires, monogamous to this route, deserve a merit certificate. But when they are about to join the traffic outside, she looks into the rear mirror and finds herself, years younger, in the back seat, where they first made out, where they both thought such desire could last for however long they wanted, where they found nothing in life was monotonous.


Paranormal Panorama

Galicians are proud of their potatoes and watercress; mangosteens and mangoes bear heritage only linguistically. A sheen of shame blows in when the Thai family arrives at the infinity pool with in-room bathrobes and noise. The father nears the sundeck chair whose whole existence is to serve sweaty human bodies. His white sideburns say he is a guru who bareback-rides elephants to his sumptuous poppy fields. His six-year-old bomb-dives, causing ripples that make the water’s face look aged. The mother and daughter are acting maternal at the far end, splashing water onto each other like giant frogs in swamps, ready to lay eggs that look like sago in coconut tapioca. A deserted swing in Argentina sways by itself for ten days, a new tourist attraction. A shark with a snake’s body and toothed gills is found in Japanese waters after earthquakes. More absurd is me closing a book, looking at how they merge joy with travelling. A swimming pool cliché: the father counts from three, his children kicks with skills learned and not learned, departing from the edge of infinity toward me. The clouds are doing their job by hiding the sun, blurbs on the book jacket greased and glazed by tanning oil. This is what the website promised: our resort staff clears floating leaves eight times a day with an extended net, even no one swims there with laughter.



Ivy Alvarez

Ivy Alvarez is the author of Mortal (Washington, DC: Red Morning Press, 2006). A recipient of writing residencies from MacDowell Colony (USA), Hawthornden Castle (UK), and Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain), her work is published in journals and anthologies in many countries and online, with individual poems translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean.




The secret sister

She appeared in the meadow, two hours after dawn, nightgown fluttering in her wake as the sun gilded the hills, the mist rose pale blue, a scentless smoke. Where she stood, she was a column of white and she herself pale, lips bluing, too, hair a black waterfall. Turning to look at her, the cold grabbed at the skin of my belly, my calves. In a minute, she was younger by a year. You could see it, like taking a watch pin between finger and thumb, and winding it backwards. Shrinking into her clothes, hair rising, skin tightening, smoothing, plumping up, chest-height, waist-height, knee-height, the reeds teasing me with glimpses of her. Then she was a Moses in her swaddling clothes, then the smallest embryo, then a stain. She did not have a name.


The Museum of Inexplicable History

For six months I arranged museum dioramas; in placards explained the scenes; led bewildered tourists through small rooms. The pungent oranges and bright, green wings, ebony mocha okay choking down coffees, teas, distant gazes. Now I am safe in the deep V of a weekday, cradled like a silkworm, suspended, watching the scene below. The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their long hair, green trousers and purple velour sleeves. Queered courtiers, courtesans, slippered feet denting stone steps. When Alice steals away and consoles the Duchess’s baby, it metamorphoses into a pig and runs away from her, runs away. As I would, if I could remember. I do remember. That I, just ten, became the mystery of course, reverse, twitch, emerge. In the distance, a chiming swish of chintz, of pastel polyester: the Avon Lady treks door to door. Pinkness announces itself, calm and self-important. People are sharks, while all the wild protected liminal woods hoist their nets, weighing the harvest. Rough chaff husks falling, blowing away. Something offensive: a revolver is cooked into a codex. I read it closely. It’s January: time to go.



Misbah Khokhar

Misbah Khokhar was born in Karachi-Pakistan, with both European and Indian ancestry. She currently lives in Melbourne. She holds a Masters in Philosophy in Creative Writing from the University of Queensland. Her work appears in Australian Poetry JournalCorditeContemporary Asian Australian Poets and Peril. She has been featured on ABC Radio’s Poetica, and has performed at the Queensland Poetry Festival. She was highly commended by Thomas Shapcott, Brownyn Lea and John Kinsella, and mentioned as a ‘standout’ in Lea’s essay ‘Australian Poetry Now’ (Poetry  Magazine, May 2016, Ed. Robert Adamson). Her debut collection Rooftops in Karachi is published with Vagabond deciBels3.
Rooftops in Karachi

My cousin has named all of his homing pigeons. He takes them in his soft hands and feeds them, but I have a feeling he could just as easily use those hands to snap their thin necks. My other cousin, who lives in the same house, goes around shooting cats. Since I arrived I have been putting out bowls of milk each night. Another cousin has an imaginary lover who she has introduced me to. She makes him out to be so real that I believe he is. But I can never seem to see him, which is not due to him being imaginary, but because he is shy and agile. She describes the way he kisses her, and the conversations they have, and to this day I remember his name. I know it’s been said that falconers feel their hearts soar with their falcons, but I don’t think it’s just a feeling.

I’m Going to Give You a Photograph

And when I take the photograph you will be saved. From what I don’t know. I’ve given you a photograph where you can store your grief: let it leave your face, ignite and fade. I’ve given you a photograph, your spectral resin will have no copies. It will be your canoptic surface, a scale of the immensity of your beauty. The flash will burn away your fate, will make you momentarily famous. I will give you a photograph that will be your golden fleece, a replica that answers you in time with a little betrayal.



Adam Aitken

Adam Aitken’s fourth major book is Eighth Habitation. In 2010 he was Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Hawai’i Manoa. His work has appeared in The Australian’s Review of Books, Southerly, Heat, Poetry (Chicago), Jacket, Cha, and Drunken Boat. He teaches Creative Writing at the University of Technology, Sydney.


Imperial Days

‘ a sort of

irksome Larkin-land’

– Pam Brown


My father’s imperial days, he remembers those, the better hours. To be born British. How coloured/ful was that? Spring 1961, a run on galoshes. Naipaul’s grumpy prose: and there is only one course: flight. Flight to the greater disorder, the final emptiness. Wot, Balham? Let us say that he’s forgotten the episode with the sleeping pills. I am glad my mother was no Sylvia Plath. He forgot the presents and gifts not reciprocated (a pair of black French knickers). He can’t recall the affairs and counter affairs, the improbable survival of beauty, art, the house which leaked and the stink of my sour nappies. The boredom of housebound employment and unemployment. My mother reminds me. The well-wishers arriving, drenched at the door during a bus strike. Her favourite story: an Australian novelist who couldn’t light the boiler in a miners strike. Stuffed it with too much newspaper she said. I’ve read about the white-out of 1963, the killer fog of ’64. My father’s letters and nightmares of the dead and the imminence of mutually assured destruction. The scarce tropical flowers and fresh fruit. The deadliness of the chill and the butcher’s queue for the last pot roast. I remember the sawdust on the floor. She remembers the drunken au pair with the French lover. Or was it the French au pair with the drunk lover? The cardigan poets who ate her out of house and home. The unending party. My father dreamt of a pottery in Wales. My mother refused. The boredom of 65, the plaster-eating mould. The summer of love, they missed it.