MTC Cronin

MTC Cronin has published eighteen books (poetry, prose poems and essays) including a collection jointly written with the Australian poet Peter Boyle. Several of her books have appeared in translation including her 2001 book, Talking to Neruda’s Questions, which has been translated into Spanish, Italian and Swedish. Early 2009 saw the publication of Squeezing Desire Through a Sieve ~ Micro-Essays on Judgement & Justice (Puncher & Wattmann, Sydney) and Irrigations (of the Human Heart) ~ Fictional Essays on the Poetics of Living, Art & Love (Ravenna Press, USA). Her work has won and been shortlisted for many major literary awards, both internationally and in her native Australia. Cronin has studied arts, law, literature and creative writing and after working for the decade of the nineties in law, began teaching writing in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. She currently lives, with her partner and three daughters, on a biodynamic farm in Conondale in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland of Queensland. Her latest poetry collection, The World Last Night [Metaphors for Death], was published in late 2012 by University of Queensland Press. A new collection – The Law of Poetry – is forthcoming through Puncher & Wattmann.


Every day, crucify what you know.
Watch the stone practising what it knows
of bulls and men.
When the dream begins to fall, don’t catch it.

Console the words which have lost other words.
Learn how to wholly speak
for the voice that speaks in shards`
but hints at love.

Move! And then move again!
The distance from your mother’s womb
is measured by adding what is now clear
to a bowl of yellow peaches.

Show me something perfect!
Learn the inside of your heart.
Be shaken by infinity awake.
Break poison like bread.

History Lesson

The cradle of history
is filled with rocks
which were all gathered yesterday.

The tomb of history
is surrounded by mourners whispering
in the ears of tomorrow.

Just what happened is nowhere.



Shirani Rajapakse

Shirani Rajapakse is a Sri Lankan poet and author. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013 and is a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories, Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Shirani’s work appears or is forthcoming in, Kitaab, Cyclamens & Swords, Channels, Linnet’s Wings, Spark, Berfrois, Counterpunch, Earthen Lamp Journal, Asian Cha, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, About Place Journal, Skylight 47, The Smoking Poet, New Verse News, The Occupy Poetry Project and anthologies, Flash Fiction International, Ballads, Short & Sweet, Poems for Freedom, Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012, Song of Sahel, Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, World Healing World Peace 2012 and Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence. She blogs rather infrequently at
Late Afternoon

The sun’s overhead, I’m melting
like chocolate oozing all
over. Clothes stuck to skin

waiting for rains
that refuse to fall. The grass
cracks underfoot, coarse like old coconut

leaves falling to pieces bruising
my soles. Hot winds hurry
through the garden howling in agony. The cat

looks up and shrugs it
off as crotons, red, orange and yellow
sway flirtatiously.

The sky’s a deep blue
like the skirt you bought from
some faraway

land. I wore it with pink, you
liked the effect, shocking like the sunset,
the colour of my tongue,

lipstick and something else.
There’s no respite today. The weather’s
being cruel again.

Games People Play

Staring at the kettle, steam rising to the
ceiling, she’s sitting in the kitchen in her little

house in London, wondering what he’s doing
so far away from home.

Sun’s setting; she lounges in the verandah in
Colombo, unsure when he’ll leave. Colours

change in the garden, mango
leaves turn golden. She looks at him.

Shadows fall, walls whisper secrets. “Doesn’t
know what he wants, doesn’t know

what he wants.” Pink oleander strains
over the wall from the neighbours garden. Nods

at him sitting silent wondering what to
do. Messages whispered over phone lines,

crumpled in colored papers thrown
into dustbins. Needs more time

to decide. Winter in London,
cold and chill like lilies

adorning a wreath. A strange look in her
eyes, questions demanding to tumble

out. She doesn’t say a word but comes to
him. Sweating it out in the late afternoon heat her

blouse sticking to her like a second skin
dark pink like oleander. Rising from her corner

she pours herself a coffee, staring at the rain
falling, falling through the trees. He pulls

her close to him, desires take over. The game
moves on, decisions fly in the winds.


Bernidick Bryan Hosmillo

DSC04665B.B.P. Hosmillo is a Filipino poet writing in English. He received the JENESYS Special Invitation for Graduate Student Research Fellowship in 2011 and the National University of Singapore—Asia Research Institute Graduate Student Fellowship in 2012. His poetry was shortlisted for the 2014 VOID poetry competition by Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Hong Kong’s premiere literary establishment. Currently, he is based in Rumatá Artspace in South Sulawesi, Indonesia where he is completing a collection of poetry. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kritika Kultura, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Far Enough East Journal, Sundog Lit, Alice Blue Review, Kenning Journal, Nude Bruce Review, Ellipsis…literature & art, and elsewhere.


Old Creases

—for Liêm Vũ Đức

I have already spoken. It was loud. It was clear.
The insipid flesh comes to me with a pregnant ask without any point of return, not even a single
Was it the color of Mt. Fuji? Was it really a footprint?
Was the moon absent when you departed from the night and the sun nowhere to be found?
Were you, really, alone in the exterior estuarine damp?
The clinking sound of kitchen utensils is always ambitious in the forlorn arena of a bachelor’s
gourmet. His hip-hop metals are frantic against the table’s flat slab. His pointer-finger pokes
each corner of every apathetic wall, waiting. The city is agog for another visitor, humming.
Coins are triggered in a pocket, perhaps the left, of a single man in a walk, bulging. All are
noises of a limp for chaos is a woman; it has torpor of abyss. Departure is a guillemet, just as
inside, just as out. It is the word ‘either.’ Yet places of rest a porcupine to an outsider are a
grammatical relative: where is it that augmented? She takes the receiver of a ringing telephone
just to silent it. She presses the answering machine. A voice-over, recorded from a memorized
script. A repetition, practiced and perpetual. An imaginary friend, one of whom Caliban spoke to
in The Tempest: hast thou not dropp’d from heaven? But the weather is an acid grace. It was
your tongue devoid of sap, limping for an evil trance while my words are never fluid,
always dry, always black. You motioned me with a drunken litany, an accidental violence of husbandry to a
woman now sinful for smiling at her wedding. She is a chaise lounge. A body of another reclines
against her at 3pm while James Joyce is the narrator. She is a house. A son visits her every
summer, every burial.


My Prized Room

—for Liem Vu Duc

Whoever looks seriously at it finds that neither for death,
which is difficult, nor for difficult love has any explanation, any
solution, any hint or way yet been discerned; and for these two
problems that we carry wrapped up and hand on without opening,
it will not be possible to discover any general rule resting in
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Outside the room there are plenty of noises: crickets whispering, ting-tong of two elevators, scratching of cold neighbor’s bodies, and our feet.

What keeps me focused is how your eyes as we walk like we always did inspect my doubting iris. I wanted to ask ‘what happened last night?’ but your left hand holding a wilting brownish leaf of a fig made me forget speech.

There is no silence inside the room: ream of antiquarian papers, bags of tea from the most impoverished cities in Southeast Asia, a bed where two safe pillows aground, and our photograph.

I was told early morning yesterday how you cried heavily after our evening conversation. I had to doubt. I had to search for a graspable reason why you would allow your misfortune be known to other men in the most inconvenient time-a nocturnal call of the one ready to die. I had to see you as if you were a paper that I have to write on; a page’s mystery relies on its ability to obscure the eyes.

By your right hand, you took a pillow carefully bringing it underneath your head; your left hand still clutches the almost dried leaf. ‘Will this room be forever?’ you said. I touched your head, my hand counting each hair strand. I wrapped myself around you feeling your thighs, your proud chest a delight of the sweetest nipples, your broad shoulders that can be a bridge to troubled arms. Onto your beloved neck, I pinned my warm lips. The sublime electric emptiness was a force to trust you; I let fall my left hand unto your now empty right. Then our eyes conjoined as if by accident: we met again. I gave you the room key I left in my pocket. What we have now is distance: what makes a return that finds nothing, only separation?

It was too fast. You were at your feet. I find memory in what I have: a room, garbage bin full of torn papers and dirty letters, used tea bags that only bittered my lips, a soiled bed dwelling of a pillow whose color reminds of me of urine, our photograph the object of creative dust.

You left with what you have: a dried leaf that pulverizes each step, the key to my room and your eyes with a promise of return.

I started cleaning my prized room. Since your death, it became an everyday routine; your every faint shadowy appearance is a trace that even my room will soon expire.



Nathan Curnow

_DSC8907 (1)Nathan Curnow lives in Ballarat and is a past editor of Going Down Swinging. His work features in Best Australian Poems 2008, 2010 and 2013 (Black Inc) and has won a number of awards including the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize.  His most recent collection, RADAR, is available through Walleah Press. Nathan has been twice short-listed in the Peter Porter Prize.




The Guru

his rants make sense with ‘listening glue’
he is convinced he can poop a dove
he prophesies that a dragon will shake the building
separating the wheat from the chaff

murderers go to hell and play Cluedo forever
Salvation—harder than pissing on a frog
we dig him a moat and fill it with lions
‘hurple’ is the mantra of the month

he blesses each raid on the cannery outlet
gives us hair bracelets and Kalashnikovs
flexible parentage is the number one doctrine
everything consensual at first 

how much sunshine to bleach a camel
tepanyaki is your mum
his koans are unique and so expensive
they are impossible to forget

passing the time with games of wink murder
while he sleeps in his celestial vault
it is his destiny to ascend in a skybox we bought
with the life savings of non-believers

rejoicing when the famous clown becomes a convert
until we become wary of tricks up the sleeve
we patrol the stockpile and then the orchard
executing the voluntary penance

and when the guru returns trembling on stage
trying hard to poop one with wings
we see it all makes sense in his divine program
on guard for whoever smirks first



teenagers help their parents conduct them
in exchange for car keys and weed
but if they tire of quizzing the Ouija board
the pointer just keeps on moving
packed away the wooden heart slides faster
knocking against the sides of the box
some wrap it in blankets and stash it in a draw
some submerge it in the tropical fish tank
an anonymous narrator transcribes War and Peace
there comes the back story of the Cheshire Cat
and something is spelling quality mince matters
perhaps a butcher with undying remorse
this last parlour game this after-life rhythm
a constant tapping of fees and charges
Rosabelle-answer-tell-pray—believe believe believe
over and over from beneath the house
wedged in a locker at the Ever Fit gym
abandoned in a food court at an empty mall
the dead metronome counting down
some set it on fire to watch their flaming souls
posting premature messages from the grave
some never tire remaining stuck to the board
for answers that will come soon enough
as the family car pulls out throbbing with bass
denouncing the beats of the Angel of Death
the last players of hip hop middle fingering
the stereo uh   yeah   uh   uh   uh



David Malouf

malouf-author-pic-hi-res-photographer-conrad-del-villarDavid Malouf was born in Brisbane in 1934. Since ‘Interiors’ in Four Poets 1962, he has published poetry, novels and short stories, essays, opera libretto and a play, and he is widely translated. His novels include Ransom, The Great World (winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ prize and the Prix Femina Etranger), Remembering Babylon (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), An Imaginary Life, Conversations at Curlow Creek, Dream Stuff, Every Move You Make and his autobiographical classic 12 Edmondstone Street. His Collected Stories won the 2008 Australia-Asia Literary Award. His latest poetry collection is Earth Hour(UQP), while his compiled essays, A First Place are published by Knopf. He was awarded the Scottish Arts’ Council Muriel Spark International Fellowship and was the sixteenth Neustadt Laureate. He lives in Sydney.



     Photograph: Conrad del Villar



One of those sovereign days that might seem never
intended for the dark: the sea’s breath deepens
from oyster-shell to inky, blue upon blue,
heaped water, crowded sky. This is the day,
we tell ourselves, that will not end, and stroll
enchanted through its moods as if we shared
its gift and were immortal, till something in us
snaps, a spring, a nerve. There is more to darkness
than nightfall. Caught reversed in a mirror’s lens,
we’re struck by the prospect of a counterworld
to so much stir, such colour; loved animal
forms, shy otherlings our bodies turn to
when we turn towards sleep; like us the backward
children of a green original anti
-Eden from which we’ve never been expelled.



Out of such and such and so much brick-a-brac.

Cut-glass atomises. An Evening in Paris
stain, circa ’53, on taffeta.
Four napkin-rings, initialled. Playing cards, one pack
with views of Venice, the other the Greek key pattern
that unlocked the attic door our house
in strict truth did not run to. A wrist
arched above early Chopin: bridge across water
to a lawn where finch and cricket take what’s given
as gospel, and even the domino I lost
in the long grass by the passion-vine
fits white-to-white, four voices in close canon.

Where in all this are the small, hot, free
-associating selves, a constellation
of shoes, sweat, teacups, charms, magnetic debris?

In the ghost of a fingerprint all
that touched us, all that we touched, still glowing actual.


Earth Hour

It is on our hands, it is in our mouths at every breath, how not
remember? Called back
to nights when we were wildlife, before kindling
or kine, we sit behind moonlit
glass in our McMansions, cool
millions at rehearsal
here for our rendezvous each with his own
earth hour.
            We are feral
at heart, unhouseled creatures. Mind
is the maker, mad for light, for enlightenment, this late admission
of darkness the cost, and the silence
on our tongue as we count the hour down – the coin we bring,
long hoarded just for this – the extended cry of our first coming
to this ambulant, airy
Schatzkammer and midden, our green accommodating tomb.


Shy Gifts

Shy gifts that come to us from a world that may not
even know we’re here. Windfalls, scantlings.

Breaking a bough like breathy flute-notes, a row
of puffed white almond-blossom, the word in hiding

among newsprint that has other news to tell.
In a packed aisle at the supermarket, I catch

the eye of a wordless one-year-old, whale-blue,
unblinking. It looks right through me, recognising

what? Wisely mistrustful but unwisely
impulsive as we are, we take these givings

as ours and meant for us – why else so leap
to receive them? – and go home lighter

of step to the table set, the bed turned down, the book
laid open under the desk-lamp, pages astream

with light like angels’ wings, arched for take-off.


These poems appear in Earth Hour, first published in 2014 by University of Queensland Press, and reprinted here with permission.



The Making of Australian Consciousness


The Island

Looking down the long line of coast this morning, I see the first rays of the sun strike Mount Warning and am aware, as the light floods west, what a distance it is to the far side of our country­ ─ two time zones and more than 3000 kilometres away, yet how easily the whole landmass sits in my head. As an island or, as I sometimes think of it, a raft we have all scrambled aboard, a new float of lives in busy interaction: of assembly lines and highways, of ideals given body as executives and courts, of routine housekeeping arrangements and objects in passage from hand to hand. To comprehend the thing in all its action and variety and contradiction is a task for the imagination, yet this morning, as always, it is simply there, substantial and ordinary.

When Europeans first came to these shores one of the things they brought with them, as a kind of gift to the land itself, was something that could never previously have existed: a vision of the continent in its true form as an island, which was not just a way of seeing it, and seeing it whole, but of seeing how it fitted into the world, and this seems to have happened even before circumnavigation established that it actually was an island. No group of Aboriginal Australians, however ancient and deep their understanding of the land, can ever have seen the place in just this way.

It has made a difference. If Aborigines are a land-dreaming people, what we latecomers share is a sea-dreaming, to which the image of Australia as an island has from the beginning been central.

This is hardly surprising. Sydney, in its early days was first and foremost a seaport; all its dealings were with the sea. Our earliest productive industries were not wheat-growing or sheep-raising but whaling and sealing. It took us nearly thirty years to cross the first land barrier. Right up to the end of the nineteenth century our settlements were linked by coastal steamer, not by road or rail. In his sonnet ‘Australia’, Bernard O’Dowd speaks of Australia’s ‘virgin helpmate, Ocean’, as if the island continent were mystically married to its surrounding ocean as Venice was to the Adriatic.

As the off-shoot of a great naval power we felt at home with the sea. It was an element over which we had control; more, certainly, than we had at the beginning over the land. It was what we looked to for all our comings and goings, for all that was new ─ for news. And this sense of being at home with the sea made distances that might otherwise have been unimaginable seem shorter. It brought Britain and Europe closer than 10,000 miles on the globe might have suggested, and kept us tethered, for longer than we might otherwise have been, by sea-routes whose ports of call, in the days before air travel, constituted a litany of connection that every child of my generation knew by heart. Distance is not always a matter of miles. Measured in feelings it can redefine itself as closeness.

And this notion of an island continent, contained and containable, had other consequences.

Most nations establish themselves through a long series of border conflicts with neighbours. This is often the major thrust of their history. Think of the various wars between Germany and France, or Russia and Poland, or of British history before the Union of the Crowns.

Australia’s borders were a gift of nature. We did not have to fight for them. In our case, history and geography coincided, and we soon hit upon the idea that the single continent must one day be a single nation. What this means is that all our wars of conquest, all our sources of conflict, have been internal.

Conquest of space to begin with, in a series of daring explorations of the land, which were also acts of possession different from the one that made it ours merely in law. This was possession in the form of knowledge; by naming and mapping, by taking its spaces into our heads, and at last into our imagination and consciousness.

Conquest of every form of internal division and difference: conquest of the original possessors, for example, in a war more extensive than we have wanted to recognise. Later, there was the attempted resolution, through an act of Federation, of the fraternal division between the states; and, longer lasting and less amenable of solution, of the conflict, once Federation had been achieved, between the states and the Federal Government. Also, more darkly, suppression, in acts of law-making and social pressure and through subtle forms of exclusion, of all those whom we have, at one time or another, declared to be outsiders among us, and in their various ways alien, even when they were Australians like the rest.

That early vision of wholeness produced a corresponding anxiety, the fear of fragmentation, and for too long the only answer we had to it was the imposition of a deadening conformity.

In time, the vision of the continent as a whole and unique in its separation from the rest of the world produced the idea that it should be kept separate, that only in isolation could its uniqueness ─and ours─ be preserved.

Many of the ideas that have shaped our life here, and many of the themes on which our history has been argued, settle around these notions of isolation and containment, of wholeness and the fear of fragmentation. But isolation can lead to stagnation as well as concentrated richness, and wholeness does not necessarily mean uniformity, though that is how we have generally taken it. Nor does diversity always lead to fragmentation.

As for the gift of those natural, indisputable borders, that too had a cost. It burdened us with the duty of defending them, and the fear, almost from the beginning, that they may not, in fact, be defendable.

Our first settlements outside Sydney, at Hobart in 1804 and Perth in the 1820’s, were made to forestall the possibility of French occupation (and it seems Napoleon did plan a diversionary invasion for 1804). Then, at the time of the Crimean War, it was the Russians we had to keep an eye on. The Russian fleet was just seven days sailing away at Vladivostok. And then, from the beginning of this century, the Japanese.

This fear of actual invaders, of being unable to defend our borders, led to a fear of other and less tangible forms of invasion. By people, ‘lesser breeds without the Law’, who might sully the purity of our stock. By alien forms of culture that might prejudice our attempt to be uniquely ourselves. By ideas, and all those other forms of influence, out there in the world beyond our coast, that might undermine our morals or in various other ways divide and unsettle us. All this has made little-islanders of us; has made us decide, from time to time, to close ourselves off from influence and change, and by settling in behind our ocean wall, freeze and stop what has been from the beginning, and continues to be, a unique and exciting experiment.

From The Boyer Lectures, 1998, first broadcast on ABC Radio, later published in A Spirit of Play, ABC Books, 1998 Published in A First Place, by Knopf, Random House, 2014

This extract is published in the chapter, titled, ‘A Spirit of Play’  page 124-129 from the collection of essays,  A First Place, by Knopf, Random House, 2014



Lucy Van reviews Earth Hour by David Malouf

0003242_300Earth Hour

By David Malouf

University of Queensland Press


Reviewed by LUCY VAN


David Malouf lives in Sydney. This banal-sounding fact actually tropes a major concern across Malouf’s works. What does it mean to live in a place? How do spaces inform the duration of a life, and how does time fill the houses, suburbs and stretches of bays that our bodies occupy; that, having lived in those spaces, our memories occupy? A virtuoso of memory, Malouf creates cosmologies around what we normally take to be ordinary spaces, most famously suburban Brisbane in works such as Johnno and 12 Edmondstone Street. One does not simply live in Sydney or Brisbane, or for that matter London or Rome. Translocal, cosmopolitan subjects live in the interstitial zones imagined by global topographies. And through memory one simultaneously occupies the places in which we have lived before, and to which we have travelled and passed through in other times. A certain simultaneity of space and time is prefigured by the title of Malouf’s tenth poetry publication. Perhaps borrowing from contemporary ecological idiom, the title Earth Hour suggests a kind of suturing of global space to global era, and the collection of poetry continues Malouf’s career-long exploration of the flesh of experience that weds space to time.

Spatial Memory

In her analysis of Malouf’s ‘Bay poems’[1] the novelist and literary critic Emily Bitto writes of Malouf’s poetic process as ‘a vital act of imaginative creation’ (92). Alluding to the parallels Malouf has drawn between the places referenced in his works and other fully-imagined places such as Dickens’ London and Dostoevsky’s Petersberg, Bitto considers Malouf’s ‘invention’ of the Bay through her notion of ‘spatial memory.’ More than simply recalling the spaces and places significant to the author, spatial memory implies a re-visioning where spaces are ‘repeatedly re-inscribed with new meaning and value until they become mythologised spaces’ (92). For Malouf places become real as sites of imagining and invention, not as ‘embodiments of fact’ (‘A Writing Life,’ 702). Through the spatial memory process a place is doubled. If created with sufficient imminence the imaginary place will replace the original site. For Bitto, Malouf’s Bay poems document the very process of spatial memory. Over the course of Malouf’s career as a poet, the bay transforms beyond ‘simply a “space-time” of the past which the poet can revisit from time to time, [to] a mythical space-time in which some part of the poet always resides’ (101, emphasis added).

Earth Hour opens with ‘Aquarius,’ a work rich with temporal and geographical signifiers that recall Malouf’s previous Bay poems. Breath, light, enigmatic night, expansive time and gilded space converge at a point where excess transmutes into enchantment:

One of those sovereign days that might seem never
intended for the dark: the sea’s breath deepens
from oyster-shell to inky, blue upon blue,
heaped water, crowded sky. This is the day,
we tell ourselves, that will not end, and stroll
enchanted through its moods as if we shared
its gift and were immortal, till something in us
snaps, a spring, a nerve. There is more to darkness
than nightfall.    (1)

Bitto’s argument for spatial memory as a process  the oeuvre of the Bay poems themselves document finds support in this most recent work. ‘Aquarius’ depicts the speaker dwelling in an ‘enchanted’ temporal zone, a colour-saturated day the inhabitants of the poem tell themselves ‘will not end.’ The speaker’s relation to space as an (anti-) Edenic realm ‘from which we’ve never been expelled’ suggests that this charged memory-space is not one to which the speaker simply returns from time-to-time, as Bitto suggests of Malouf’s earlier Bay poems (97-98), but rather one that functions in a radically continuous sense of mythological, non-linear time. Part of the speaker does not leave this imagined site. This, at the very least, is the fantasy proposed by Malouf’s vital ‘counterworld.’

The mythological resonances – in the title connoting both astrological discourse and ancient Babylonian/Greek knowledge systems, and in the allusion to the Old Testament expulsion from Eden – mark the notion that time once began and from thence could be measured as history. Yet their intertwining, by way of transition from title to final line, suggests also that languages of the past are multiple, hybrid and synchronous in the space of the present. The title rejects specificity of location in favour of an impression of what the act of remembering a sea-space engenders. Aquarius as a ‘water bearer’ hints that the poem itself bears an imaginary site of dreamy potentiality, in which present, past and future mingle in suspended langour. This opening poem successfully establishes Malouf’s sense of time throughout Earth Hour. Time is a play of expansion and contraction: the hour of dusk is opened-out, ‘embellished with all its needs,’ (‘An Aside on the Sublime,’ 22); and conversely, epochs pass unremarkably: ‘waiting is no sweat. Centuries pass/unnoticed here’ (‘At Laterina,’ 48).

In other poems Malouf suggests a specific sense of time and place by deploying titles such as ‘Writer’s Retreat: Maclaren Vale, 2010,’ ‘A Recollection of Starlings: Rome ’84,’ and ‘Australia Day at Pennyroyal.’ Against the collection’s more abstract titles, including ‘Radiance,’ ‘Entreaty,’ and yes, ‘Abstract,’ the significance of this specificity is emphasised, but one might venture that rather than contrast, an unexpected consistency emerges. Across the collection’s poetic imaginings, particular times and places become, if not quite abstractions, then somewhat abstracted, mythologised memory places. In ‘A Recollection of Starlings: Rome ’84,’ one single dusk, cast off from a day that ended thirty years ago, is brought into a lively present as words dart across the page:

A flight
of starlings at dusk
the wing-clatter
of a typewriter
of letters as a poem
gathers and takes shape             (38)


The speaker brings two times into simultaneity – the time of the original sighting of the  starlings as a cloud of ‘hip-sways in tornado twists above the Eternal/City,’ and the time of memory-assemblage as the poet types. Through the metonymic shift from the spontaneous gathering of birds to a spirited collection of words, distance and time collapse beyond their conventional boundaries. The page represents a coterminous moment, where Sydney and Rome, 2014 and 1984 occupy the same stroke of a key as it scatters across the page. Malouf’s sense of dwelling in a mythological space-time is prefigured through the poem’s reference to Rome as the ‘Eternal City.’ Part of the speaker continues to reside in this imagined Rome of ’84, a presence that presides over poetic staging as the ‘new draft/           of sky,’ merges with ‘A clean sheet/   of daylight’ (39).


Collective Memory Places

Bitto points out that ‘the relation between individual and collective memory is a fraught one’ (101) but suggests notwithstanding that it is both possible and productive to consider memory in Malouf’s poetry beyond the realm of individual experience. Contending that Malouf memorialises the experiences of a wider community, Bitto invites future critics to consider Malouf’s poetry in relation to various collective identities with which he may be associated: people of a particular generation, people of migrant heritage, expatriates, travelers, post-settler-colonial subjects, and ‘the amorphous group of people designated as “Australians,” “Queenslanders,” or “Brisbanites”’ (102). ‘Inner City’ registers a shift in the dominant imagined space of Australia, where symbols of the iconic quarter-acre and Hills Hoist have been replaced by,

A picture-book street with pop-up gardens, asphalt
bleached to take us down a degree or two

when summer strips and swelters. All things green,
wood sorrel, dandelion, in this urban village    (20)

The speaker uses conspicuous signs of gentrification in ‘pop-up,’ ‘all things green,’ and ‘urban village’ to describe Chippendale in an era of chai lattes and food miles. But the ‘picture-book’ cheesiness of this contemporary scene is not set up for lampooning, despite the gentle teasing of ‘the soy of human kindness.’ Malouf depicts local space in a mode of planetary awareness, elevating collective belonging in this moment of transition: ‘Good citizens all// of Chippendale and a planet sore of body/and soul.’ Contemporary Chippendale functions as a chronotope, memorialising an age where civic duty seemingly rests with the earnest and playful – the poem records a time and place where the colossal task of planet saving demands colossal optimism. Although this poem inhabits a contemporary scene, it makes strong allusions to the social practice of memory building. The memory place, the imagined Chippendale of the poem, is the culmination of the labours of the collective, the poem tellingly eyeing ants ‘in their gulag conurbations’.

Earth Hour is animated precisely this pursuit  – asking what lies beneath the surface of the contemporary. In ‘Blenheim Park,’ the sediment of history fills the earth, where what appears as a green idyll ‘of shade-trees, level grass, cattle grazing’ reveals an entry into a temporal loop:

In fact a battle plan
is laid out here. Thousands
of dead under the topsoil
in High Germany
stand upright still in lines as in the rising
groundfog of dawn (55)

The poem enters ‘the slow mouths/ of centuries,’ layering the time of the untroubled present against the ‘green pause’ of a battalion awaiting their Commander’s order to charge. Anchored by the same green location, this potent moment tumbles into the present as the same pause of an ‘untroubled forenoon.’ Time is presented as a palimpsest, where the present is inscribed with the violence of the past, and the past’s victims are ‘dismissed from history,’ transmuted into the natural world ‘striding tall over the lawn.’


Yesterday’s Heroes

Across this collection not only does history inscribe cartography, it breathes life into the words and attitudes of yesterday’s heroes. But beyond poems after Charles Baudelaire and Heinrich Heine, there’s also particular delight taken in the figure of the aging poet. Who is yesterday’s hero today? In ‘Footloose, a Senior Moment,’ dedicated to Chris Wallace-Crabbe approaching eighty, the text appears unmoored, adrift across the page. The broad spacing of the lines evokes on one hand the tidal glimmer of Malouf’s Bay, and on the other the layered thought-lines that are casually cast when  a poet considers time’s touch:

An after-dinner sleep
a bad place to arrive at
The big enticements may be
a matter of memory but isn’t
memory the dearest
and cheapest of luxuries
and of its kind one of our rarest
The footloose present
Not to be going
anywhere soon   (8)

Contrary to the singular implied by the title, the poem actually presents two footloose moments. After reifying a certain notion of the present, the speaker examines the body as time’s subject. Suggesting perhaps an impulse to render collective, rather than individual memory, the speaker takes the body, the ‘being still from toe to fingertip’ into a plural realm ‘at home in our own/skin’ (emphasis added). The subject slides into fluidity – ‘unmoored       afloat               the Bay’ – into a new mode of being ‘[n]either/earthbound nor even maybe/sky-bound.’ The second footloose moment occurs as the delirious consequence of this unmoored subjectivity, exploiting the potential of liminality as the subject travels as an unnamed star, far out in ‘the foggy galaxies.’


By way of conclusion, I draw attention to the fact that Earth Hour is full of musical references. There is the ‘touch of diminuendo’ in ‘Footloose, a Senior Moment,’ ‘Eine Kleine Background Music,’ in ‘An Aside on the Sublime,’ and many others throughout the collection. While never truly residing in the background, classical music is brought especially to the foreground in ‘Toccata,’ ‘Rondeau’ and ‘Toccata II.’ These titles borrow from the taxonomy of musical pieces, with ‘toccata’ quite aptly the name for a virtuoso piece usually for keyboard. Malouf exhibits his technical mastery over the internal rhythms of language, with each line of ‘Toccata’ mimicking the inverted stresses of a Bach exposition:

Out of such and such and so much bric-a-brac.

The thrill of this stylistic declaration matches the aesthetic anachronisms that fill the poem – napkin rings, taffeta, cut-glass atomisers, attic doors. These raw materials of memory are charged as ‘charms, magnetic debris’ by the rhythm of the poem, whose very physicality reminds us that the original meaning of ‘toccata,’ from the Italian ‘toccare,’ is ‘to touch.’

To touch lies at the heart of Malouf’s endeavour, where even in the more abstract poems, the flesh of experience inscribes the words that seduce us on the page. Like music, the enigmatic touch of Malouf’s poetics lodges its listener in a perpetual present, even in obscure or nostalgic moods. Throughout the collection the poet’s technical flair is beyond doubt and nearly beyond delight – the work carries both the whimsy and gravity of mortality with the radiance of a master poet. The endeavour to restore the place of memory to a mythological cast of present would not seem so urgent and compelling without Malouf’s touch recording a multitude of quiet lived experiences: a particular quality of light, the warmth of the dark, the silence after talk. Many writers of prose also write poetry, but rare are the novelists who are also major poets in their own right. It is sometimes forgotten that Malouf’s writing career began in the genre, but this collection reminds us he is a heavyweight of Australian poetry. In its ecstatic totality and stunning execution, Earth Hour is sure to be one of the finest poetry publications of 2014.



Bitto, Emily. ‘ “Our Own Way Back”: Spatial Memory in the Poetry of David Malouf.’ JASAL 8 (2008): 92-106.

Malouf, David. ‘A Writing Life: The 2000 Neustadt Lecture.’ World Literature Today 74.4 (2002): 701-705.

[1]Malouf’s ‘Bay poems’ are the works which over decades continue to focus on the region that encompasses Moreton Bay and especially Deception Bay.


DR LUCY VAN teaches at the University of Melbourne. She is a freelance reviewer.

Jamie King-Holden

Jamie King-Holden lives in Melbourne and studies literature at Deakin University. Her first book of poetry, Chemistry, was published by Whitmore Press in 2011. Her poetry has appeared in Antipodes, Capsule,  Dotdotdash, Eureka Street, Ekleksographia and Verandah. She was shortlisted for the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize in 2010 and was guest emerging writer for the Mildura Writers festival in 2011.


the crux

the first time you have a fever.
Saturday’s dying and you let your
umbrella melt at the door.

we zigzag to shadow, newly drunk.
find the queer wilderness of skin,
kiss and slur.

the clock halts and spills, Daliesque.
on the wall women in frames
glow and look on.

your open mouth’s a small sun
that asks my neck for a poem
over Abbe May.

when you’re inside me, at the crux
I only render this: carnal apple, woman
filled, burning moon. 

carnal apple, woman filled,
burning moon.


Lia Incognita

headshotLia Incognita is a Shanghai-born, Melbourne-based cultural critic, media maker and poet- provocateur whose work has appeared in PerilOverlandMetro, Going Down SwingingSocial Alternatives and Melbourne Poetry Map. Lia presents radio monthly for Queering the Air on 3CR Community Radio.  







the armies and opium cored you

you spat out your children
like fireworks, sparks scampering
they bright and travel far

far enough to fade     out of sight

blowfish mouth deflated
spider babies kiting on silk thread
land them softly     softly
so they swell & full up
six strange sheets of earth
to the crinkled edge
long there over indigo water
cold roiling broth, the sea
sometimes as heavy
as bolts of dye-dipped cloth

they bright and travel far
mass of black-haired heads
lacquer bleached cliffs
and sallow beaches

they wear pigtails and tax
your boys, left wives and children behind
or were children, ahead of their age
chasing faraway time that can turn
to gold, if it all pans out right

they bright and travel far
tattoo steel scars right across
cut down carved up country
for thieves to ride hoofless
and make more rapid plunder

call the ocean to you
bid it carry your song
tell them boys, slow slow walk
soft your feet on foreign soil
hold tight to each other and jŭ tóu

hao jiu bu jian jia
they long time no see home


The Skit by Roanna Gonsalves

IMG_8071Roanna Gonsalves is an Indian Australian writer. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales, Australia, researching how writers are created in the contemporary Indian literary field. She is the founder-moderator of the South Asian Australian Writing Network.




One November night in Sydney, Roslyn adjusted the dimmer on her new Ikea floor lamp. Her living room was full of the Bombay gang. They had gathered to meet John Greenaway. He was Paul’s client, and the Director of the Australia India Festival of Culture, Social Harmony and Business. Roslyn had been adjusting that dimmer every time she walked past the lamp, going brighter, going darker, until she was satisfied that the room looked cosy yet sophisticated, much like the cover of the Ikea catalogue itself.

Suddenly, Sushma clapped her hands and said, “Okay everyone, Lynette has written a skit. She’s going to read it out now.”

Roslyn, by then, was at the breakfast bar, arranging her beef roulade on brand new Belgian crystal. She had been saving up her last packet of Goan chorizo just for tonight’s beef roulade. She would welcome John with a plate full of this offering in her left hand. Her right hand she would leave free to place on his back and guide him in. When Sushma made this totally unexpected announcement, she said, “Er, Sushma, we’re expecting John any minute now.”

Paul said “He’ll be late, he just messaged.”

Sushma looked at Roslyn for permission to continue. Roslyn shrugged her shoulders.

Most of the Bombay gang were still on student visas, still drinking out of second hand glasses from Vinnies, and eating off melamine plates while waiting and waiting for their applications for Permanent Residency to be processed. Lynette was one of them. She was Paul’s neighbour from Bombay, now enrolled in an MBA at a university in Sydney. Paul and Roslyn were the lucky ones. They came to Sydney not as students, but on a secondment from Paul’s multinational accounting firm. It was Roslyn who convinced Paul that they should stay on, become Australian citizens, because it thrilled her to be anonymous yet striking in the undulating uniformity of Sydney’s affluent lower North Shore.

In the background Elvis was booming through Paul’s new Bose speakers, You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog. Lisbert, an accounting student, had just stood up, stretched out his arms towards Lynette, about to ask her to jive. But when he heard Sushma’s announcement he retracted his arms and sat down again.

“Oh,” said Paul, turning around. “A skit? You mean like a play? Didn’t know we had a Salman Rushdie in Sydney.”

“Salman Rushdie doesn’t write plays,” said Sanjay, another accounting student. “Novels he writes.”

“Same thing yaar, for any kind of writing-viting you have to have a good command of the language”, said Paul.

“I always say, if you have the Queen’s English you have everything”, said Roslyn.

“If you can write novels, you can write plays,” said Paul. “Salman Rushdie, if he tries to write plays, again he will make millions, again he will get a fatwa, again he will marry a model…”

“But Paullie, do you really think novels are the same as skits?”

“C’mon, let’s hear it,” said Sushma. “She’s written it, let’s hear it!”

Lynette opened the embroidered cloth folder and lifted a few handwritten sheets of paper into the white light.

Lisbert turned down the volume and turned on the yellow house lights. Lynette nodded ever so slightly, without taking her eyes off her script. She began to read. “It was a dark November night …”

Suddenly Roslyn stood up.

Lynette stopped reading.

Roslyn said, “One sec Lynette, I’ll draw the curtains.”

When she was done she sat down again and flicked her hand indicating that Lynette could continue. So Lynette started again.

This was the first time she had ever read her writing aloud to anyone, let alone to a whole group of people. She faltered at the start, her tongue tripping on the opening lines of dialogue. But soon, she took the silence in the room for interest, and was encouraged.

The story was an amalgamation of many stories in the newspapers that year. A girl comes to Sydney on a student visa, attends a private college, and studies hairdressing. Like many others before her she has been promised Permanent Residency in Australia, or PR, by her migration agent, by her private college, and by the man who stamped her visa. The fees are more than what was advertised in the brochure. When she complains to the Student Welfare Officer, he is very sympathetic, invites her to his house, and after a glass of Reisling, begins to kiss her. She initially resists like the good woman of Hindi films and convent schools. But he is cute and keen and accurate. She succumbs to the callings of her own body and his. However, in the throes of passion he says, “Call me Mountbatten”. Then, eyes closed, he breathlessly proceeds to call her a stinking curry muncher cunt. She is stunned. She runs away immediately and decides to lodge a complaint of sexual assault and racism through the local courts. He contests the allegations and, playing on the latest cricket match fixing scandals between India and Australia, he counter alleges that she was attempting to buy him with sex. The story climaxes with a dramatic courtroom scene, and ends with the girl being deported and the Student Services Officer going scot-free.

Lynette finished reading.

There were brand new crystal glasses on the coffee table in front of Lynette. The light from the floor lamp made them glow like compliments.

She asked, “So? Was it ok?”

Still, there was silence.

Then Roslyn said, “Oh my! That was, that was…. God! You poor thing, why didn’t you tell us you were going through all this!”

Lynette had imagined all kinds of feedback. For weeks she had practiced witty comebacks to questions about the dialogue, the sex scene in the story, the decision to reflect India through the broken mirrors of diasporic memory. But the assumption that the skit was autobiographical took her by surprise.

“No no, I didn’t go through any of this…”

Again, a silence full of pity and a collective Catholic ache to be helpful.

“Really! Nothing like this happened to me. Seriously.”

“You mean to say you made it all up?”

It’s…what’s it called…fiction or something?”

“Yes,” she said.

“So it’s not true then.” Roslyn got up and pulled the curtains back.


Sushma’s eyes were red from the tears she was freely shedding. “Such a beautiful story!. You are so brave, I mean, the girl is so brave and … so….so…. Poor thing.”

Lisbert said, “Forget your MBA, you should take up writing. See J.K. Rowling, she’s rolling in cash. What will your MBA give you? Nothing compared to that!”

Paul, who had not even taken one sip of his whisky during the entire reading now drained his glass and said, “Lynette, Lynette! Who would have thought the little two year old girl I saw running around in her panties in Barfiwalla Building in Byculla would one day write plays like Salman Rushdie!”

Sanjay inhaled sharply, but Paul ignored him and continued, “Superb! So proud of you, my girl! Didn’t know that students who come here suffer like that. So terrible that she was deported.”

Sushma said, “Shit yaar! What a heart-wrenching ending! Forget Hollywood! Forget Bollywood! This is heaps better! You can start an Aussiewood all by yourself!”

Sanjay reached for the beef roulade and put a piece in his mouth. The only other time he had heard of beef and pork together was in relation to the bullets, smeared with the fat of the cow and the pig, that sowed the seeds for 1857, the First War of Indian Independence.

“Nice bullets” he said, and gobbled up a second piece.

“Beef Roulade. High time you Hindu buggers learnt the proper names for Catholic food”, Roslyn said.

“Sorry. I was just…”

Sushma interrupted Sanjay. “It was so real what you wrote! So typical of men in power, they always abuse it, especially when there is a succulent and exotic thing in front of them.”

Sanjay said, “Lynette, give me your autograph now only yaar, when you become famous you’ll forget all of us.”

Sushma said, “This John Greenaway who is coming, read it to him, maybe he will…he will…requisition it, put an encumbrance on it, or whatever it is they do with plays, you know what I mean.”

Lynette said, “If John Greenaway likes it, then who knows, I’m ready to quit the MBA and write full time.”

She looked at Paul and Roslyn. “It’s ok if I read it out to him, isn’t it?”

Paul poured himself another stiff drink. He was drinking scotch because he couldn’t find the feni, made by his uncle in Saligao, Goa. The minute you opened the bottle the aroma spread across the room, it was that good, the feni. He took a sip of his scotch and said, “Of course. Read it, read it, he’ll be very impressed. A female Salman Rushdie in Sydney, he’ll be impressed. And my neighbor after all. Tell him you got it all from me!”

Sanjay inhaled sharply again, but Roslyn said, “You know me, I don’t beat around the bushes. The play is great, you are a great writer. But when you talk about the Student Welfare Officer, he’s Australian?”

“Yes”, said Lynette.

“A proper Australian?”

“Yes”, said Lynette.

“White?”, asked Roslyn.

“Proper Australians are blacker than us”, said Sushma.

“White, white”, said Lynette.

“Like John Greenaway,” said Roslyn. “We don’t want to offend John Greenaway. He’s also Australian. He’s also in a position of power. He should be here anytime now. What if he thinks you had him in mind?”

“I didn’t…”

Paul added, “Poor fellow just got divorced.”

“Wife left him,” Roslyn interrupted, “Don’t want to offend him.”

“That’s true,” Lisbert said. “Don’t want John Greenaway to get the wrong impression about you”.

Lynette looked at him, pushed her hair behind her ears.

“Yes, better leave him alone”, Paul said, “Recently divorced…”

“Wife left him,” Roslyn interrupted again.

Lynette began to look through her manuscript.

“What if I make the Student Services Officer half white and half Aboriginal?”

“You mean like that newsreader on TV?” Sushma said.

“That way John Greenaway won’t be offended,” said Lynette.

“What if John Greenaway has Aboriginal blood too?” Lisbert asked.

“Arre baba, Sanjay said, “See, if Aboriginal people can be white, then white people can be aboriginal, right or not what I am saying?” All Whites in this country have Aboriginal blood in them”.

“You mean on them”, Sushma said.

“In them”, Roslyn corrected her. “Queen’s English.”

Sushma stayed silent. This was Roslyn’s house.

“You can’t make an Aboriginal character a perpetrator, even if he is only half Aboriginal,” said Sanjay

“Who says?” said Lisbert.

“It’s just not done!”, Sushma said.

“It’s all politics…” said Lisbert.

“Arre! Forget politics-sholitics” said Sushma, turning to Lynette, “First the blacks will kill you. If you are still not dead then those Greens will eat you alive.”

“Greens? But they’re vegetarian.” said Lisbert.

“Doesn’t matter. For her they will make an exception.”

There was a pause. Then Rosyln said,

“You’ll just have to take out the Student Services Officer”.

Sanjay reached for the beef roulade and put a piece in his mouth.

Lynette said, “Take out the Student Services Officer? But…”

After he had swallowed the beef roulade, Sanjay said, “Lynette, one small thing, but I think I should mention it, don’t want you to get into trouble.”

Lynette turned towards him.

“In the court room scene, you actually mock the judge! That’s a bit risky, don’t you think?”

“Very risky”, Roslyn said.

“I mean, you’re a superb writer”, Sanjay continued. “What emotions you have captured! But why risk it? So many years, so much money you have spent here, lakhs and lakhs of rupees. Why risk your PR application being rejected?”

“That’s true,” Lisbert said. “You really deserve to get PR Lynette.”

“You have to make the judge look good,” Paul said.

“Just take out the judge,” Roslyn said.

“Take out the judge?”

“As long as it’s grammatically correct. Queen’s English.”

“But the judge is…”

“You don’t need to have all that drama in the court room. Just make her get a letter or something at the end, giving the details of the verdict. You can do the letter in capitals so we know it is different from the other parts of the story. Times New Roman.”

“But you can’t see Times New Roman on stage.”

“The point is this. It has to be the Queen’s English.”

Paul opened the showcase to look for the feni but he couldn’t see it. So he poured himself another scotch.

“Do you know John Greenaway’s wife?” he asked.

“Ex-wife,” Roslyn said.

“John Greenaway’s ex-wife. You know she’s some big shot Professor, femin…femin…

“Feminist”, said Roslyn.

“Feminist”, said Paul. “She was going on marches-farches when she was young. Sharlene Connor I think her name is.”

“Oh! Sharlene Connor! I know her. She’s at our uni, right Sushma?” asked Lynette, “In the Arts Faculty, Humanities Faculty, whatever it’s called.”

“She’s at your uni? You purposely made the victim into a man-hater? Because of John Greenaway’s wife?” Paul asked.

“Ex-wife,” Roslyn said.

“She comes across as a man-hater?”

“No no”, said Lisbert.

“Yes, yes, very hateful”, Paul said.

“I didn’t know she was his wife!”

“But if John Greenaway hears the victim’s speech and he finds out which uni you are in, he will think that you are mocking him, that WE are mocking him!” said Paul.

Roslyn said, “You know I like you Lynette. Don’t get me wrong. But John Greenaway is coming home to relax, get some comfort after his wife left him, eat some homemade vindaloo, not just curry from a Patak’s bottle or something.”

“I’m so sorry I…”

“He’s a great lover of Indian culture. He should be here anytime now. He’s going to support our Indian Catholic Association of Sydney. Now you will go home and go to sleep. Life will go on for you. But what about us? We are the ones who will be blamed. After all he is coming to our house. Your play mocks him in our house. He will think we are taking the mickey out from him. Even the Queen’s English cannot hide this fact.”

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean…”

“No need to say sorry, it’s not like you’ve sinned or something.

“Thank you for…”

“I know you didn’t do it on purpose.”

“I didn’t.”

“And I know very well about metaphors and metonymy.”

“She is first rate in Grammar and Composition”, said Paul.

He’s Paul’s client, don’t forget that. You know what Gandhiji said. Customer is God. So I say John Greenaway is God.”

He’s divorced, watch who you’re calling God” Paul said.

“Wife left him”, she reminded him, “not like it was his fault. You know what white women are like.”

Sanjay reached out for the beef roulade again and put another piece in his mouth. Just then a cock crowed. It was Paul’s phone. Roslyn reached across to the mantelpiece, picked up her Japanese hand fan bought on a holiday in Boston last year, and began to fan herself quickly.

“Same as Indian women” Paul said as he put his phone on silent without even looking at it. Then he cleared his throat.

“If you want to be Salman Rushdie you should be prepared for a fatwa,” he said.

Lynette cracked her knuckles.

“But why a fatwa when you’ve spent so much, waited so long, worked so hard for permanent residency?” Lisbert said.

“A fatwa is not a good idea on a student visa,” said Sushma.

“Tear it up,” Lisbert whispered in her ear, holding his face close to hers for a moment longer than appropriate.

She turned her face to him and for the first time, looked into his eyes.

“I’m tearing it up”, she said.

She didn’t recoil when his hand squeezed hers.

Then she said loudly, “Don’t say anything to John Greenaway when he comes. About my skit.”

Sanjay found a napkin and wiped his oily hands clean.

A breeze of absolution blew across the room and recalibrated it.

Sushma hugged her.

Roslyn looked at the crystal plate and saw that there was only one piece of beef roulade left on it. She put the plate away in the oven.

Lisbert went across to the CD player and turned up the volume. By then the CD had moved on to Love Me Tender. He held out his hand to Lynette. She took it. They danced in front of everyone, not quite cheek to cheek, but there would be time for that.

Paul spotted the feni at the back of the showcase. He brought it out carefully, poured a neat peg for Roslyn and presented it to her.

But she had already rewarded herself with Riesling. She turned off the houselights and sat in her favourite armchair, watching the pirouette of the Bombay gang. Crossing her legs, she held her brand new crystal goblet in her left hand. Her right hand she dangled over the armrest. She brought the wine to her lips. She breathed in the room unfurled before her. It was now enveloped only in white Ikea light.


Toby Davidson

Toby3Toby Davidson is a West Australian poet, editor and reviewer now living in Sydney where he is an Australian Literature researcher at Macquarie University. He is the editor of Francis Webb Collected Poems (UWA Publishing ) and author of the critical study Christian Mysticism and Australian Poetry (Cambria Press). His debut poetry collection is Beast Language (Five Islands Press).





She walks barefoot in the cut and rush,
she’s learned to walk, remind
through people, barefoot,
as they walk through people,
bared and fooled behind.

In each case, feet set the story:
riven skin on luckless bone,
she feels each sole in the tug of another,
a dance to the sound
that calls the steps home.

Pivots scum. Staccato, stiletto,
the well-heeled lunch crowd
snakes a cracked whip;
upper crusts scolding, flashing around
her hearing back, tough underneath.

Today is not to be pocket dialled
or tired, touching base in the lifts.
She prays and she presses,
divines the right path.
Serious. Consumed. Everlasting.


Epilogue and Origin

Agate and filmy stellate crusts like the first amphibian
(yours too), speculating itself clear of nightfall’s
pounding ossuary . . . I was or wasn’t around, Half-Planet,
depths and folds we mustn’t know; if the tall are prone
disentangle them completely from each trident-shaped
break from homing. Above the New Hebrides Trench,
wisps less laughable than firmament close out furrowed
roughcut paper in photonegative, grain through the gloom.
Before a Hawai’i I never see, netting or losing a day is direction,
instrumental in a desert of cloud (and deserts of continents
are each a Pacific). Your calendared hermaphrodite rides
sidesaddle crying wingtip light at the wonkiest point
of our tumbling cage; one bar loose to squint again, off,
at the cold diversion of a monocled Greenwich who calls
himself prime down your full turning back.