Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown has studied poetry at the University of Sydney. His poems have appeared in Heat, Southerly, Total Cardboard and Philament. He was shortlisted for the Blake Poetry Prize in 2008 and is a recipient of the Marten Travelling Bequest for poetry. Lachlan lives in Southwest Sydney and teaches at William Carey Christian School in Prestons.



a secret work

After a time the prophets kept their silence,
no longer speaking of that place where decisions were made,
where the glint and curve of hardened metal formed a singular language
and the cries of departing flew out across the landscape.
I have struggled for years, against this gap in the record,
attempting various solutions with little hope of success.
Now though, I sense the approach of another,
and must make preparations to leave this city.
The shadows of buildings darken the pavement,
dragging the evening ahead of itself.
And the wind channels its way through every street,
like the breath of something vast that draws near.
I am locking my office for the final time and so take out a small key.
Without astonishment I feel its weight settle against my palm.


a miracle occurs

Somehow I have made an astounding return:
the alps rise against a blue sky, the sun streaks down the valley,
a meadow feels those mountains pulling skywards
and lets its daffodils run into the light.
Yes I have seen this place, known it before.
In my childhood I was taken to many fabric shops,
and as my mother made her purchases
I would weave my small frame through the rolls of material
into a soft world that did not begin or end.
In one store a picture of this setting was fastened to a wall,
and I stood spellbound, until my name was finally called.
Now, so much later, I am here and cannot help but smile
at that younger self pushing through a forest of silk and cotton,
only to be held, silently, captivated by a scene.


Phyllis Perlstone

Phyllis Perlstone, a Sydney poet, first worked as an artist and experimental filmmaker. She turned to poetry full time in 1992, taking courses in poetry at the New School for Social Research in New York. She has gained various awards, including the NSW Women Writers poetry prize in 2004, and was second in the National Women Writers poetry prize in 2005. She has published reviews and articles. Her poetry is published in various journals and anthologies including Westerly, Siglo, Social Alternatives, Notes and Furphies, Meanjin, Blue Dog and A Way of Happening. Her first book is You Chase After Your Likeness (2002), reviewed in Southerly by Jennifer Maiden, and by Louise Wakelin in Five Bells. Her poem “Music and Landscape and other Consolations” was included in The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology for 2007and her latest book The Edge of Everything published by Puncher and Wattman was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry in the 2008 Premier’s Awards for N.S.W, and ‘Ondine’ was included in Motherlode, 2009.

                                                                                                                                                                  (Photograph by Max Deutscher)



after your ‘thirty six
views of Mt. Fuji’
now you surprise me
on my calendar for April
with a print of poppies
the flowers are paper party-cups
folded on themselves
or flattened wide by a wind
springing the seams of things
in whole fields
open to the new season

That’s why I look at

my mother and her sister

in a snapshot

on a city street in Sydney

at their eyes on the photographer

their smiles and their hats 

the bunched violets on my mother’s lapel 

and my aunt’s cape

flaring on her shoulders

they dare their happiness

as if they were young and without care

looking good

they might have said of themselves


and why I stare at my orchids

my white ‘butterfly’ phaleonopsis

my dendrobium purples that arch out

into the room

and then turn to look outside

at the lemon-scented gum

rising,  a casuarina going up even higher

and then back again to gaze

at a grevillea the way

it crowds the balcony with a branched extension

its tiny flowers spray-brushing the rail


Hokusai, because of your print of poppies

I look around at these things

for a joy to match yours




Tuesday 24th April 2007


For the rain it raineth everyday

today’s rain is falling

landing on leaves on roofs on

whatever catches it first

it’s as steady as the air

it drops through

at one or two almost-stopping points

you can hear the run of it

over the ground

where it puddles and leaks into holes

At an attention of waiting for its last

or next to last tick

my ears can’t help but measure it

Expectancy as it’s still   

unable to be tightened into silence

doesn’t let me escape either

from your stress  

your turning away

from what  I can only think to myself

you don’t need to feel…

Basho’s frog croaks  

in the half-quiet

the  sound of my voice can’t repeat

adequate replies to you

the rain a mirror to everything

comes back

as if it’s shining a night-light at itself

there’s a lane of echoes

opening and closing

only the frog’s joking note

can hop away


Anthony Lawrence

Anthony Lawrence’s most recent book of poems Bark (UQP 2008) was shortlisted for the Age Book of the Year Awards and the Judith Wright Calanthe Award. He is currently completing a PhD on the poetry of Richard Hugo, and a book-length poem The Welfare of My Enemy is forthcoming. He lives in Newcastle.



Your Letters

I can’t smell the oil-stained deck ropes
on the last boat leaving              
the last town of the Cinque Terra,

or see the highlights in your hair
as you pass the Roman wall in Lucca,
but I can see you’re in a hurry –
the broken flourishes of your thinking
as you run for a train, the word because
reduced to bc in all your correspondence.
I can’t see you there, in that postcard
version of your dreaming, overseas
or when you returned to a life
doubled by keeping your options open
like a wound gone septic from neglect.
Today I see your name on my calendar.
Your birthday will come and go,
untroubled by gift or word, though under-
scored by this certainty: lost in the poor
terrain of your grammar, you worked
a moulting brush through muddy pigments
to abbreviate me.



The Sound of a Life
In frames of elapsed time
and contractions of deep sea light,
an open water dance    
between science and bivalve
is bloodflow and the muted sound
of a life hinged and weighted
to its own design.
Behind the shelled meniscus
of a marine biologist’s faceplate,
where assessments of fact and beauty
play across her eyes, under pressure
she hears the blue mazurka
of loss and non-attachment
and she outbreathes what remains
in her tank to understand it.




Kim Cheng Boey reviews Eighth Habitation by Adam Aitken

Eighth Habitation

by Adam Aitken

Giramondo Publishing
Poetry, Paperback, 144pp
ISBN 978-1-920882-46-4
Publication April 2009

Reviewed by KIM CHENG BOEY 


            In “The Photo,” the concluding poem in Eight Habitation, the traveller-poet who has journeyed from the safe and familiar precincts of Sydney to the ravaged landscape of Cambodian history, poses a question: “To forget or not to, / to write or not to – therefore live – / to forgive the monster/ is this impossible question.” In parodying Hamlet, Aitken does not merely revisit the Theodor Adorno proposition about poetry being an impossibility after Auschwitz, but also broaches the role of remembering that Milan Kundera has framed so memorably: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” Eighth Habitation is a project in remembering; it revisits a personal and familial past, and then turns to the barbaric years of the Cambodian killing fields. The collection confronts the unspeakable without the false portentous gravitas that many bring to the subject; it does its work of remembering and witness with sensitivity, grace, humility and honesty, offering compelling records of the atrocities and sufferings in one of the most horrific nightmares of recent history.

            But to suggest that Aitken’s cogent, rich and varied collection is merely an addition to what Carolyn Forché calls the poetry of witness is to miss its many other resonances, its arresting range of subjects and tone. Doubtless the core of the collection revolves around Atiken’s Cambodian sojourn and is shadowed by the country’s violent history, but there are other vital thematic veins to the work, not least of which is the story of Aitken’s father. In fact, Aitken’s father’s Asian adventures in the first part of the collection prefigure and frame his son’s Asian sojourn. The book begins at home; the first of the triptych, aptly called “Broken/ Unbroken,” puts together a family portrait, albeit fragmented, mythologising a father whose exploits echo the colonial figures Aitken examines in the Cambodian section. The father poems recall “the salt ghost” who left home when Aitken was thirteen, retracing his career in the army, and his travels through Asia in the 1950s. “The Fire Watchers: A Memoir” address the poet’s brother but tells of the family’s disintegration, and his mother burning all his father’s books. Out of the ruins of the family, Aitken has salvaged photographs, and “the narratives refine themselves with each passing year.” He follows his father as he “bargained with a waif at Changi/ for 13 postcards” and recreates his antics as he “danced, quite pissed, in women’s lace/ then swapped the Major’s lucky digger hat/ for a set of Dutch clogs.”

            In “Archive” Aitken reconstructs his father’s Asian travels in the form of a travel journal. The son takes on the father’s voice here, giving a shorthand account of his encounters. Here Aitken senior is portrayed something of a ladies’ man; the poem is strewn with allusions to dalliances with local women, like Eleanor Kwong, “a commercial artist at Cathay Ltd,” Noël Bulke, the Anglo-Indian daughter of the Pakistani Ambassador, Edith Atkinson, “daughter of a Thai-Malaysian and Dutch mother,” a host of taxi dancers and “Singapore models.” Charming, irresistible, Aitken’s father seems interested in the East only as a site for sexual fantasy/ adventure, and cares little for Asian culture and politics. But this Orientalist exterior belies a complex mind and history, the flamboyant representations ironically hinting at a father whose contradictions the son is trying to apprehend without judgement.

             Aitken senior’s adventures pave the way for his son’s Asian journey in the next two sections, his imperialistic/ colonial attitude contrasting with his son’s more sensitive explorations. Also, the hybrids that Aitken senior flirted with reflect his son’s complex make-up. Aitken, like Edith Aitkinson, is a hyphenated person, the product of an Anglo-Australian father and Thai mother; a diasporic childhood lived in London, Bangkok and Malaysia has resulted in multi-locale attachments and a shifting and complex sense of belonging. It is perhaps a need to articulate and affirm his transnational identity, to connect the Asian, and Anglo-Australian strands that impels the journeys in the collection. To this end the poems in the transitional section “Crossing to Lake Toba,” located in Cairns, Malaysian Indonesia, can be seen as metaphorically and geographically negotiating the liminal spaces between Australia and Asia. “Kuta Diary” reverberates with the Bali bombing and “For Effendy, Emperor of Icecream” is a tongue-in-cheek look at Wallace Stevens, globalisation, tourism, and the interaction between tourist and native: “And home we went to ‘Saving Private Ryan’/ on your new DVD.” Beguiling, observant, these poems reveal Aitken’s attentive eye for details and the nuances of cross-cultural interaction, his natural warmth and empathy, his aliveness to the Other, and a quiet humour that offers a light counterpoint to the heavier themes. “Cairns,” the last poem in this section, provides an engaging portrait of Aitken’s mother, giving her a voice as she recounts her migrant story. Aptly her Thai origin steers the collection to the ravaged landscape of Indochina in the next section.

             The Cambodian poems grapple with wreckage left by years of war. “A Map of Cambodia” gives a synoptic survey of the country’s traumatised history and scarred landscape: “Magenta for bombed areas, /beaches named after hotels/ islands sold off to foreigners.” In quick effective strokes, Aitken captures the tide of changes sweeping across Phnom Penh, the signs of the nouveau riches, the gap between them and those still in the grip of poverty and the aftermath of war. He captures the precarious balance between destruction and recovery tellingly; while the capitalist developments, the multinational takeover of Cambodia betoken healing and movement forward, in reality they constitute a neo-colonialism that is partitioning and destroying the country in ways not different from the plunder of French colonialism. A new Cambodia is rising from the ashes of the past, eager to forget the past and embrace its capitalist future: “Under one map there’s another/ rising on the tide/ as the pain recedes.”  

             Aitken possesses a photographic eye alert to the telling instants and details. “Ruins” gives revealing snapshot:

In  Phnom Penh a mountain of junked bicycles
is a monument to Welcome!
but Siem Reap’s giant preying mantis
toting an AK-47
at the Foreign Correspondents Club
counts as art.

            Casual, understated, the observations get to the heart of the matter with arresting vividness: “Here, cows know more about road safety/ than townsfolk selling photocopied/ books on genocide.” Even clichéd images of the Vietnam War can attain cinematic clarity:

A woman sheltering under a rattan mat
from a thunderous downdraft of Hueys
by the banks of the Mekong
her last recollection of home.

              In “S21” Aitken gives a virtual tour of the genocide museum where the Khmer Rouge exterminated 20 000 men, women and children. Unflinchingly the poem delivers the images in all their stark brutality:

Blood and rust melded together
in the springs of an old French style bed base.
An old cartridge case shit can.
Samplers of jumbled DNA,
in a room of ragged cast-offs.

              The fragmentary images address headlong twentieth-century life in extremis; the connection between the two holocausts is inserted subtly: “Someone who’d been to Belsen/ had written ‘Justice’ in the visitor’s book.” Aitken lets the artefacts stand as evidence for what happened, avoiding the pathos and sentimental catharsis that popular representations of Holocausts like Schindler’s List peddles.

            In perhaps the most powerful of Cambodian poem, “The Wearer of Amulets,” the poet meets “an old boy soldier” who reveals the secret of how he survived with the help of an amulet: “a desiccated human foetus/ cut from the uterus of a woman/ pregnant three months.” Here again Aitken reveals an ability to weave splintered lyric narrative and social observation. There is an engaging sense of kinship and empathy with the survivors, a respect for what the poet can perceive but not understand. Other memorable poems in this section include “Dear Henri,” which offers a critique of French colonialism in Indochina, “Pol Pot in Paris,” which suggests again the tenuous line between culture and barbarism, and the memorable “The Photo” that this review began with.

            Eighth Habitation, as the title suggests, is a sojourn in purgatory, a journey through liminal zones where questions of self, the past, pain and suffering find expression in poems of lyric grace and compassion. If there is any flaw at all, it is its generosity in offering so much; one feels that there are a few poems that could have been omitted to make a more compact and coherent collection. But the reader shouldn’t complain; it is a rich collection that yields many pleasures and insights upon re-reading. The poems conduct their quest, ask the necessary questions in an honest, unpretentious, intelligent, self-effacing way; they inhabit and explore difficult thematic territories and  have much to communicate to us of the complexities of travel and cross-cultural communication, of a fascinating family history, and of the ineffable experiences of loss, death, and healing.



Priyadarshi Patnaik

Priyadarshi Patnaik (b. 1969) is a creative writer, painter, translator and photographer. A number of his poems and short-fiction have appeared in various journals outside and in India including Ariel, Oyster Boy Review, Hudson View, Melic Review, Still, Toronto Review, Kavya Bharati, Indian Literature and Muse India. His translations and critical writings on translation have appeared in Translation Today, Visva-Bharati Quarterly, Muse India and many edited volumes.

He has published two anthologies of poems, a critical work on Indian aesthetics and co-edited two volumes on Aging and Dying (Sage) and Time in the Indian Context (D K Printworld-in Press). He is presently editing a volume on Orissan Medieval Poets and writing a monograph on poet Achyutananda for Orissa Sahitya Akademi.

Patnaik is currently Associate Professor at the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, IIT Kharagpur, where he teaches literature, communication and visual aesthetics. His research interests include Indian aesthetics, media & multimedia studies, visual & nonverbal communication, and translation.


My Daughter’s Shadow

Surprised they can touch
They stand still

They have so many colours
you will be amazed
by their depth texture
the shapes they take
like water
on the other side of light
somewhat shaped like your body
strapped to it

Yours is frozen in wonder
like a small still fish
and mine tired
smelling distant death

What else can I do
on this first meeting
this brief introduction
but say
“Look, this is your S-H-A-D-O-W!”


Night at Jagannatha  Temple

The star-printed wall-paper sky
flutters lightly against dark sandstones

The sleeping priests dream miracles
of holding shadow-of-time in hand

Lamps go out against temple walls
–  widows’ dirty white sarees

Silence wind of ages breathes
thousand whispers of dark blue sea

Ancient mouths of stones keep secret
A knife cuts the shout of life from death


1. Jagannatha: 12th century AD Hindu temple in India


The Song

The old men look at the world like it is a memory
                               Ernesto Sabato

Your voice breaks over the harmonium
like an old leaf the colour of
autumn as the notes of thumri  fade
into the distance in their
ageless sadness the way
they did twenty years back

An old man is only a memory
of a life that has lived him
like wind passing through the
grooves of a drying leaf

Your voice breaks again
My memories play with your
notes – ancient rains that
course through the veins of the day
– my seventy year old memory that
has already lost me


thumri:  A form in Indian classical music


Usha Kishore

Born and brought up in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Usha Kishore now lives on the Isle of Man, UK. Usha was educated at the University of Kerala (India), Sheffield Hallam University (UK) and Canterbury Christ Church University College (UK).   After having taught for some time in the British Secondary and Tertiary Sector, Usha now teaches English at a Secondary School on the Isle of Man . Usha’s poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, UK, Ireland, Europe, New Zealand, India and online. Some of her poems have been translated into German, Spanish and Gujurati. She also writes critical articles for international magazines.  Her poetry has won prizes in UK competitions and has been part of national and international projects. Her short story “Dowry” was shortlisted for a major UK literary award, the Asham Award (UK) in 2005.  Usha also translates from Sanskrit; her translations of Sankara have been published in India, the UK and USA.   She is now translating Kalidasa’s Ritusamhara, in conjunction with Dr.Rati Saxena of Shree Shankaracharya Sanskrit University, Kalady, Kerala.





For The Dynasty Of the Moon
(after reading Kylie Rose)

For the dynasty of the Moon,
A hundred thousand lives lost
in verse…

Metres of battle scanned into
Krishna’s eternal song –
A stoic sage chronicles the

end of his own dynasty –
a patient elephant God scribes
into eternity…

In the Vela kali of yesteryear’s
setting sun, I hear the battle cry of
the lone sun-warrior, who challenges

the house of the moon.
Panchavadya notes echo
into twilight memory –

The raga hindola, mourning the death
of the lone young warrior killed
by deceit. Arjuna takes a terrible

vow and Krishna smiles in the
bugles of Panchajanya, while a
lone monkey mediates on the flagstaff…

From the carvings on the temple wall,
she, with unravelled hair, calls out to my
soul from stone – screaming revenge for

the disrobing of womanhood….


Krishna’s eternal song – The Hindu “Gita”
Vela kali – Temple art (dance) form
Panchavadya – five instruments played together
Hindola – a raga in Carnatic music
Panchajanya – the conch of Krishna (The poem is based on the Hindu epic Mahabharatha)


Nikhat’s Mother

She stands out in a crowd –
Her shocking pink
dupatta carrying
songs from the Gilgit –

She is without
a language here –
I am her interpreter –
translating her
language, her culture
her colour–

She does not understand
why Nikhat has to attend
school daily – Nikhat is at
her sister-in law’s cousin’s
wedding in Bradford–
Today is Mehendi, tomorrow
is the Nikah  and Nikhat will
not be in school for a week –

She does not understand
why Nikhat is harassed
by school bobbies –
Bibi jaan, taleem lena,
dena hamara mamla hai –
Ye gore kyun dakl dete

Biting back half-an hour’s
exasperated laughter,
I interpret to the irate
Head of School:
Nikhat’s mother  does not
understand the concept
of compulsory education…


Mehendi – The henna festival before marriage     
dupatta – veil/scarf    
Nikah –  Muslim Wedding ceremony                                        
The Urdu dialogue can be translated as:  Madam, education is our personal business, why are the whites interfering?                              
Gilgit – a city in Northern Pakistan and is the gateway to the Karakoram ranges of the Himalayas.




Jal Nicholl

Jal Nicholl’s poetry has appeared in Retort Magazine, Stylus Poetry, Famous Reporter, Quarterly Literary Review SingaporeThe Diagram and Shampoo Poetry.






Conjecture what his studies were that year:

to ride a pony led by the harness

was far the largest part of his tuition.


Conjecture how he gathered in

the blackberry harvest; through what conceit

sucking, as he went, the juice of recognition.


Conjecture it was a rented domain¾

weevils in the grain-chute, dry vats in the dairy;

still, rule at that time was by divine commission.




On the Demolition of an Inner-City Housing-Estate


A discontinued pylon waves

Steel tendons that anneal

A stump that wont let go the earth.

And, strange to say, that steel


Calls to my mind the tentacles

An invertebrate puts forth

And thus, seemingly, on the sea

To again submerge the earth.


And the fact is theres little here

But suffers a sea-change,

And turns to something richthough far

From positively strange.


Ah! No more arguments by night

Over bail or heroin:

Pigeons and poverty alike

Have left on tattered wing.




And I will put my things away

As well, and throw away

All that I can of my life till now,

And set up house and stay


Where car-lots, fast-food and store-outlets

Are unevenly strewn

In clumps, like ethnic diasporas.

Ill learn to live alone


But still remain dissatisfied

As with a kiss on the cheek,

With the only answer you could give

To one who, for the sake


Of more than you acknowledge asks

Again: is my worth greater

Than my wages, the same, or less?

That you were of the latter


View then was clear, although you claimed

No answer could be found

To a question thatcould I not see?

Was patently unsound.




Evening Piece (After Houellebecq)


Outside the shopping centre

A crowd is on the boil;

A crippled pigeon doesnt ask

Whose tyger, or why so cruel,


But seeks the gutter; while, nearby,

A beggar holds his sign, and bears

The foreign students chatter

As saints submit to jeers.


I make my way down Swanston St.,

Passing electric signs

That point pseudo-erotically

Down stairs and back-lanes.


Oh, hi, Its Adeline;

I make my excuse, and hear catcalls

Directed at a Doric-skirted

Pair of school-age girls.


The economy flourishes;

I try to breathemy chest grows tighter;

And you will not appear.

I still love you, Rita.



Dilip Chitre

Dilip Chitre n 1938 in Baroda, India. Studied in Mumbai. After graduating in 1959, taught English for three years in Ethiopia, returning to Mumbai in 1963, worked as a journalist, columnist, commentator, editor. Was Fellow of the International Writing Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA from 1975 to 1977, Back in India, made films, painted, roamed around. Now live in Pune, Maharashtra for the last 25 years. Published 30 books in all, 5 in German translation, Won many prizes, honours, and awards. Travelled all over Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa.






The Ninth Breakfast: Astrological Forecast


Sometimes a mere sausage portends,
Waiter, the coming shadow

Of Saturn. Sad days begin
Insignificantly. But sinister days
Foretell their ways. The innocent sausage in one’s plate
Grows into a cobra. And one knows
That the tables have begun
To turn.
On a Saturday you never
Get horseshoes for breakfast.
But a severe exhortation
In the morning’s editorial
On the duties of a citizen.
Here, where the cows are sacred,
And pigs taboo, a starving mob
Glares at your subversive sausage
Whose shape, moreover, is an implicit
Insult to Shiva’s phallus,
And you choke because you know
One man
Is another man’s breakfast.
No thanks. I’ll only have tea and toast.




Absence From Myself


I am emptying my shelves and my drawers
I cannot cope with their contents
Any longer. They connect with a past
That hardly seems mine though known to me.
The shelves contain books, of course,
And some of them go a long way
Into a memory not exactly my own
Where my treacherous roots lie
Into humanity’s favourite myths.
The drawers contain documents, notes,
Unfinished manuscripts, faded photographs,
Letters, memorabilia, and possessions
That could be called mere fetishes.
Alternatively, one could call it heritage.
My father’s dead and my only son died too
Within just a short span separating them
And I would be someone sandwiched
Between them—a piece of living history
Between two dead ends.
I am the one that has endured and survived
Two ends of history and the emptiness
Of shelves and drawers and largely
Unwritten books, abandoned poems,
Unfinished paintings, unrealised films,
Spaces more empty than filled,
Occupied and left.
Spaces, spaces, spaces.
Time leaves no detail untouched
And time takes all details away.
My ancestor’s gone and so is my successor.
That leaves me no space but
Here and now, no room to negotiate,
Not even an edge to fall off from.
I am exquisitely here and now
And where I never before was
Nor ever will be.
Moreover, this is not an end.




From Moscow To Leningrad (1980)


From Moscow to Leningrad
I was travelling through a three-dimensional notebook
The notebook had mile after mile of snow
The notebook had railway tracks
Close to my chest there was a broken
Anthill the size of a woman
Close to my chest were eighteen she-cobras
Close to my chest was powdered turmeric
My body flung northwards
Pointed to the Pole
Whose sins were washed out by that journey
Whose wounds bled away in that journey
There were characters written in the notebook
Spreading like fire through the snow
In the shape of a spark.




Underneath the Chandeliers Hung by Stalin


Underneath the chandeliers hung by Stalin
People swarm to buy bread
And at a distance stand the churches of Christ
Detached and compassionate
Underneath this Russian snow there could be
Several flowering plants of poetry
Countless thorny solitudes
The bones of former citizens




On the Way to Petrograd/Leningrad

(—for Irina )

Time turns to ice
Boots fall into a vanishing line
The grief of black living eyes
Lies hidden in the groin
Ointment on a tender spot
Graft on an alien branch
In the closed car of a train
Disoriented copulation
The ice of coals shovelled into
A couple of hours of intimacy
The rail track is refreshed by
Wheels speeding over it
From Moscow to Leningrad
You commit adultery and it’s a torture
And this Express goes
Right up to Finland
Towards the land of White Nights
The tall ghost of Peter the Great
The solid buildings of the navy
The palaces, the squares, the canals,
The innocent eyes of Mandelstam
Pushkin’s love affair
Lenin’s speech
Dostoevsky’s vigil in terror
And the European masterpieces
In the Hermitage
Before the Revolution and after
All this is eternal
The Great War and the great peace
The pleading breasts
Of a starved woman
Her thighs gone awry
Vodka dripping over her shoulders and body
And as a frightened sparrow hits a wall in its search for a window in the dark
Her breath enters my nostrils and my mouth as she gasps for air
I do not dare to write a poem
On all this
Our own relatives will become the angels of death
To exile us into Siberia





Sam Rutter: Box Hill

Samuel Rutter is an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne. He lives in Brunswick West and has an ardent passion for all things Latin American.






Box Hill

The beer was sitting uneasily in my stomach. Carl had the window of the taxi down as far as it would go, letting the air hit him full in the face. We rounded the corner and made it halfway up Whitehorse Road before the meter ticked over and we had to tell the cab driver that this was as far as we could afford. He pulled over almost immediately and rounded up the figure, the doors still locked as Carl handed him some notes and I left sweaty coins on the dashboard. He could count it if he liked, it was all there. I thanked the driver, without thinking why, and Carl was already on the footpath heading towards a service station in the distance when I slammed the taxi door shut.
            Carl always got this way when he came back from his trips: impatient, brooding, nocturnal. I caught up to him and put my arm around his shoulder. His steps were surer than mine, although it was my neighbourhood. I had drunk too much beer.
            Every time one of us came back we’d do the same thing. With the passing of the years, it was something we held on to as old school mates. We’d meet somewhere near Melbourne Central then head to a nearby bar where we’d drink beers by the jug until someone got hungry. So then we would set off for Chinatown looking for the same cheap restaurant we’d eaten at last time. We never found it, but quickly settled on one that might have been it or looked just as disreputable. There we’d eat three course banquets and wash them down with watery Asian lagers recommended by the waitresses. As the years went on, these nights began to end earlier and earlier; some had work the next day that now mattered to them. Work never mattered much to me, and even less to Carl. He didn’t have a job anyway; he was just back from South America.
            As I shifted my weight from my feet to his shoulders, I told him how the others were turning into suits, how they now had office jokes and not much else to say. How they had changed, or maybe how they hadn’t changed but had stopped pretending to be something they weren’t. Carl agreed with me, and told me that I hadn’t changed, that I was doing different things but I was still the same. Even when things are different they’re the same I told him.
            We were now past the church with signs covered in Korean writing and walking in the lights of the service station. We didn’t have to watch for traffic or lone trams rolling into the terminus as we crossed the road. It was past four in the morning and there are no cars, not even taxis, at that hour on a Monday in Box Hill.
            I told Carl we should walk up through the mall as I wanted to go to the ATM on our way through. The mall joins the old Whitehorse Plaza with Box Hill Central, the bigger shopping centre set above the train station. Both of them are part of a chain of shopping centres that nearly went under last year. They are now joined as one, Whitehorse Plaza has been completely refurbished and is no longer the dark old cavern it used to be. I was too young to remember it first-hand but I got lost once in the supermarket there when I was about three. It was the lady from two houses down who found me and had them put an announcement over the loudspeaker for Dad to come to the service desk. Her name is Margaret, she used to be a nun and she still lives two houses down but I used to call her the Bird Lady, for the huge aviary of quails, finches and budgies along the back fence of her garden. To reach the bank, we passed through a neatly paved area where they had torn down a wooden gazebo overgrown with wisteria. They tore it down because men and women in tracksuit tops, jeans and runners used to drink there well before noon and smoke rollies in front of their children.
            Carl hung back by the glass doors as I pulled cash from the metal slot in the wall. I’d lost the habit of using a wallet along with my actual wallet when travelling through Europe, so I just stuffed the two plastic notes into my pocket along with the bankcard, driver’s license and train ticket. My other pocket was reserved for a single house key and my mobile phone.
            We walked by the TAB, with its tattered receipts and betting forms littering the pavement outside its locked doors, and Carl still wasn’t talking. I wasn’t feeling much better than in the taxi but I was no longer stumbling, the walk and the air putting an end to the spinning. It’s those dodgy restaurants every time it’s the same I told Carl and he said I ought to be used to it after twenty-one years and no wonder I hated the Chinese food in Europe, it just didn’t have that taste of home and that I must be the only white guy still living in Box Hill. I told him I was born here before it changed and he asked me if I could even remember that, if that even meant anything and so I told him if he didn’t like my neighbourhood he could fuck off back to the dead centre where he came from. And that must have hit on something he’d been sitting on for a very long time because he began to talk then and he spoke uninterrupted for what seemed like an hour, probably because I was drunk, but he spoke and I listened.
            He said it’s not a question of like or dislike because you take your home with you whether you like it or not. He told me he’d left the desert behind years ago but that he still found the desert everywhere he went. Even when things are different they’re the same he told me. And then he told me about the ants. He said that in the desert, the sand is red, but red like it is nowhere else in the world. Out there in the day, he told me, it looks like there is nothing alive because there’s no vegetation and the wind leaves the sand rippled like a rusted sheet of corrugated iron. But there are ants out there, he said, not little black ants like the ones down here but ants as big as your thumb, and they live in this heat and build anthills as tall as a child. So all day these ants go about their business, using their six feet to move quickly over the scorching surface in a single file, working together. But at dusk this desert turns into an icy tundra and the ants have to retreat underground, where the heat stays trapped and doesn’t seep back up to the stars. The ants march back, he told me, they march back in single file, and one by one they climb up the mound and then down into the hole, down into the warm earth where they’re safe from the cold. This column of ants heads down, all except the last one, the last ant in the single file. That’s because this ant gathers together a clod of sand and pushes it up the anthill, stopping the opening with it so the cold can’t make its way into the nest. This one ant stays behind and stops up the opening and doesn’t go down into the warmth with the rest of the ants. It finishes its task and then does nothing. It sits there in the growing dark, waiting for the cold of the desert night to kill it.
            All this time we kept walking, past the chemists where the signs were no longer in English and Italian but English and Mandarin, or English and Vietnamese, or Mandarin and Vietnamese, and past the stationery and gift shops and internet cafés, past the two dollar shops and the restaurants. The restaurants weren’t too different from the ones we went to in Chinatown, but at this time of the morning they weren’t lit up and didn’t smell of ginger or ginseng or shallots but like burnt oil and spoilt wantons. In the windows of the Yum Cha dens the metal hooks hung empty; only hours ago sides of pig and chicken feet and whole ducks dangled from them, glazed and crisp with the fat forming congealed stalactites threatening to fall as the night wore on. They would all have been full. Carl sucked on a cigarette.
            We crossed the road, walked down Station Street and into Harrow Street, coming up against the huge, concrete Centrelink building. I started to tell Carl about Baudelaire and the swan but it didn’t come out right because I started to feel like I needed to vomit and next to Centrelink is the cracked white weatherboard house, which now has its window frames painted bright blue and I told Carl that’s where Mum lived for a while after she left and Carl nodded.
            We weren’t a hundred metres from my house now; we were turning into my street. I was tired, my feet ached and my guts churned again. I was tired, but I wasn’t thinking about my house or my neighbours, the Hong Kong family whose grandma still called me Boy after all these years. I was thinking about what Carl had said. I pushed the key into the lock and we echoed through the hallway, collapsing finally into the couches. I knew Carl was tired too, but I also knew he wouldn’t sleep. He’d lie on the couch for a couple of hours perhaps, drink plenty of water. But as day broke, before the house stirred, he’d go, leaving the front door ajar to spare the clash of wood on wood.

Oscillations: A Brush Without Words and Words Without Images, by Dilip Chitre

Dilip Chitre is and Indian poet, artist and filmaker. He has published thirty books, five of which have been translated into German. He has won several prizes and awards.






           I have been drawing, sketching, and painting since my early childhood when I also started playing with words. My father collected books of all sorts and he being a printer and publisher by profession, some of the books he collected were examples of excellence in book production— illustrated books, art books, atlases, almanacs, catalogues, photographic books—and so on. They fascinated and intrigued me. I spent hours browsing through them. They were the beginning of my visual education as well as my verbal education.

            I used to spend a lot of time in my father’s printing press and his master printer, Baldev Bhoi would give me tins of printer’s ink with their little left-over contents. I would also get left over cut pieces of various sizes and kinds of paper. These were the first art material I used. From Baldev I learnt how to mix inks to produce secondary colours and shades from red, blue, yellow, white, and black. Making different kind of greens by blending blue, yellow, red, and black was my favourite learning exercise. We had lots of trees and plants in our surroundings and the varieties of green I saw there made me want to reproduce many of them.

            My father purchased an 8 mm movie camera and a projector, as well as a box camera, and being the eldest of siblings I got a chance to make five-minute silent movies and to make black and white portraits and landscapes, action snapshots and images of monuments. I used a baby pram to take tracking shots and pans and zooms that were not possible to shoot with the fixed focus lens of the camera. I was already innovating techniques to overcome the limitations of the basic equipment in my hands.

            In the 1950s, after my family moved from the idyllic princely state capital Baroda to the congested big city then called Bombay, our financial circumstances changed for the worse. I could no longer afford to use water colours or fine quality pastels or crayons or pencils. I started writing poetry which costs much less to practise than the visual arts. However, I continued to work out charcoal drawings, pencil sketches, and pastel compositions often scouring the city at night in search of subjects: Irani restaurants, suburban railway platforms, beaches, and even cemeteries and crematoria.

            During my late teens, I made friends with like-minded poets who were also visual artists. All of them were much older than me—-in their twenties or early thirties. Arun Kolatkar was one of them. Through Arun I met Bandu Waze, Ambadas, Ramesh Samartha, and Baburao Sadwelkar. I started visiting the Artists’ Aid Centre at Rampart Row, the Jehangir Art Gallery, and the campus of the Sir J.J. School of Arts. I met very senior academic artists such as Shankar Palsikar who liked my work despite my not being a trained artist, as well as the then upcoming professional artists such as Mohan Samant and Vasudev Gaitonde.

           A little later, I met Bal Chabda and started observing artists at work in his Gallery ‘49 on Bhulabhai Desai Road. My friend Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni, now a senior art critic, introduced me to Ebrahim Alkazi and his theatre group. I made friends with Nooruddin or ‘Nicky’ Padamsee and his younger brother Akbar Padamsee, the painter.

            Bombay of the 1950s whetted my appetite not only to see art but also to practice it myself. I worked on paltry salaries as a tutor in two colleges and as a sub-editor in a daily newspaper. Acceptable quality art material still remained beyond my means. It was only when I went to Ethiopia in 1960 as a high school teacher of English in secondary schools that I got a chance to handle oil colours. In one of my homes there, I painted a mural on the wall of the living room, much in the spirit of prehistoric cave artists.

            Back in Bombay in 1963, I returned to the cramped space of the big city once again. Wanting to live independently of my joint family, I lived with my wife and my small son in leased rooms in different parts of the city, eleven months being the standard period of lease. Living space competed and collided with working space, but now I had corporate jobs that I was forced to take up to pay exorbitant rents and support my small family with a growing son.

            Undaunted, in 1969 I purchased twelve large canvases—-the largest was 180cmx180cm—-oil colours, linseed oil, turpentine, and a set of brushes to start painting the way I had always wanted to. My first one-man show was held in the now defunct Gallery Rampart on Rampart Row. I shared the gallery space with Bhai Patki, who was my colleague in an advertising agency where he was Art Director and I was Chief Copywriter. This show opened on September 17, 1969—-my thirty-first birthday.

            Two of my twelve canvases were purchased by Air India International on the first day of the show: Green Divided by Itself and Erotic Textures. Some of my titles irritated The Times of India art critic, Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni enough for him to comment on the title A Painting for God’s Bedroom as frivolous, though The Sapphire Symphony the diagonally placed 180cmx180cm work dominated by subtle cubes of cobalt, ultramarine, and cerulean blue with a large, off-centre, vermilion dot was generously called by him a masterpiece. I still recall Akbar Padamsee telling me that the dot, instead of being vermilion, should have been cadmium orange to make the painting perfect. The greatest compliment I got, however, was from Professor Shankar Palsikar—-revered as a Guru by his art students. He came with his students, saw the entire exhibition, and said to me half-addressing everybody within earshot, “ I wanted my students to see how a genuine artist dares!”

            I was vastly encouraged by the overwhelming response to my first public show, but I did not dare to take the plunge into the uncertain life of a full-time painter yet. My job in advertising gave me a chance to script, edit, and direct ad films just then; and I needed practice in that medium before I could realize my dream of making independent documentary and feature films on themes of my choice.

            Later, I switched from advertising to the position of Creative Executive in the Art Department of the Indian Express Group of Newspapers. I contributed articles and edits to the paper, too (e.g. Editor S. Mulgaonkar asked me to write an obituary tribute to Pablo Picasso that appeared as the second edit on the editorial page on the day following the news of Picasso’s demise).

           In September 1975, I joined the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa along with about twenty writers from as many countries. When I went into the artist’s materials shop in downtown Iowa City, I was surprised to find two of my poet colleagues—-Peter Clarke from Cape Town, South Africa and Ahmed Muhammad Imamovic from Bosnia-Herzegovina buying paints and canvases. It struck me that the three of us could hold a show of our paintings in Iowa City and in a flash I thought we should create a new interactive art form in the spirit of jazz-—the quintessential American genre of music. Peter and Ahmed agreed enthusiastically.

            I coined the term Triple Triptych for the new form of painting. Each one of us was to do one initial painting and the other two were to improvise on the same theme in their own style. The size of the three paintings was to be uniform. As the space allotted to us by the University of Iowa’s museum of modern art was limited, we could only exhibit three triple triptychs ( nine paintings in all) plus some of our individual works.

            The show was successful beyond our expectations. The President of John Deere Incorporation, a giant multinational company that manufactures tractors and other farming equipment, purchased a triptych entitled Non-migratory Birds for the company’s headquarters at Moline, Illinois that has a formidable collection of paintings and sculptures. Each of us sold some works. The Des Moines Register Weekly carried a cover story on the new art form—Triple Triptych that was credited to us.

            I returned to India at the beginning of 1978 but resigned from The Indian Express, where I had a lien on my job during the Emergency, to work independently as a writer, artist, and filmmaker. I was consultant to a small advertising agency owned by a friend and wrote scripts for short films for another.  

            In 1980, I travelled with two other writers—-the late Nirmal Verma and U.R.Ananthamurthy—-to the then Soviet Union, Hungary, West Germany, and France to explore possibilities of reciprocal literary exchange through translation. The visit gave me a chance to visit legendary art museums such as the Hermitage, the Louvre, the Berlin museum, the Alte and the Neue Pinakothek as well as the Lembachhaus in Munich, the Impressionist museum in Paris— and so on.

            Seeing art on such a scale actually disoriented me in the end. When I tried to fall asleep, I saw such an involuntary cascading slide show of random images of paintings that I was unable to stop. My brain was fatigued by the art I saw. I was like a starving man from a famine-stricken land invited to a gourmet feast that turned him into a glutton who ended up with indigestion. From then on, I learnt to savour art by avoiding to see too much of it in a short time, something that I had already been doing with literature and cinema.

            In the 1980s I decided to focus my energies on making a full length feature film to realize a crying creative need. I knew by then that cinema was the most expensive medium of self-expression and that even to make a small budget feature film, I would need to raise a few lakh of rupees. I decided to take my chance by entering a screenplay in the annual scriptwriting competition of the National Film Development Corporation. I paid five thousand rupees to my friend, Bhau Padhye and purchased the first option on adapting his short story Godam before I set out to work on the screenplay.

            I spent a whole year working on my script and in the process spent all my meagre savings. In 1982, my script won the NFDC’s national scriptwriting award which carried a cash prize of Rs 10,000 and, more importantly, a guarantee of 100% finance if I wanted to make the film myself.

            Friends such as Satyadev Dubey and Govind Nihalani agreed to work without fees and I found an exceptional Art Director in Uday Joshi, a practising architect. My son Ashay was an apprentice cinematographer learning under Nihalani and my wife Viju looked after costumes and properties. My daughter-in-law Rohini worked as my script and continuity assistant. Several young and eager people wanted to assist me as apprentices and, always a teacher, I took as many of them on board as I could.

           NFDC bureaucrats were reluctant to let me make the film and created a lot of hurdles. I had planned to shoot the film in early 1983 before the summer began because the location I had chosen was intolerably hot and dry from mid-April to June. I borrowed Rs 100,000 at an exorbitant rate of interest from the market and started the film. I presented a fait accompli to NFDC and eventually they released part of the budget and continued to release funds till the film was completed.

            I finished shooting Godam in two schedules amounting to a total of thirty-four days and finished dubbing and post-production in ten days. It took us a month to edit the film. Alain Jalladeux of Les Festival des Trois Continents chose Godam as the official Indian entry in the Nantes Festival—as it is known. However, the NFDC bungled again by not sending the film to France in time for the festival and it was shown the next year, 1984, when it won the Prix Special du Jury for Direction. I was 46 when this happened.

            My award for Godam was announced by the festival jury on December 4, 1984 and on that very day the media started bringing in initial reports of the horrible industrial disaster in Bhopal, where I lived with my family then. My son Ashay lived with us in my bungalow opposite Bharat Bhavan and his wife Rohini was six months pregnant. The two—or rather three—of them were in the city where thousands were believed to be dead, or maimed and crippled for life. Bhopal was cut off from the world. There was no way I could communicate with Ashay who was not only my only son but also my Chief Assistant on the Godam project. Viju, my wife, was as helpless as me. She was waiting in Mumbai for me to return from France.

            Our small family world was shattered. Eventually, Ashay and Rohini flew to Mumbai and were immediately examined by several medical experts. As for treatment, none of them had a clue. A homeopath who had clinics in both Mumbai and Pune and had long queues of patients at either place, gave Ashay an out of turn priority in his Pune clinic. That is how we moved to Pune.

            My tenure at Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal as Director of its poetry centre was brief but extremely stimulating. In that multi-arts complex—the brain child of Ashok Vajpeyi, the Secretary of the Bharat Bhavan trust—-I had for colleagues the painter and thinker J. Swaminathan and the theatre director and producer B. V. Karanth. Bharat Bhavan became the hub of creative activity in the fine arts. The cream of Indian musicians, dancers, singers, actors, painters, potters, sculptors, ceramicists, and poets visited and presented their work at Bharat Bhavan. If the terrible Bhopal disaster had not affected, uprooted, and traumatized my own family, I would have continued longer there.

            However, my son’s lung capacity was reduced overnight to a mere 40% due to exposure to the lethal gas— methyl isocyanate. No physicians knew how to handle the effects of MIC or reverse them. We moved to Pune where a homeopathic physician offered us the only hope of treatment for Ashay, Rohini, and their unborn child. In 1985, I resigned from Bharat Bhavan and decided to settle in Pune. Already suffering from chronic hypertension and unstable angina, I had to undergo an emergency angioplasty in 1989. That was the next turning point in my creative career.

            The only way I bounce back in adverse times and difficult circumstances is by painting or writing in reaffirmation of my faith in life and its indomitable creativity. Crises spur me on, sooner or later. I write poetry and create art mostly in self-defence or in search of self-realization. The whole outside world impinges on my creative conscience with its political conflicts and cultural stagnation. I seek my way out by going into myself and re-emerging with what seems to me a way of saying I am. 

            From 1985 till this day, I found in Pune a whole range of visual images that came out on paper, wood, and canvas. I am a senior member of Friends of Visual Arts in Pune, an informal group of artists working in different media, in different styles, and using different techniques. We hold group shows in Pune and over the years we have established our presence. On my sixtieth birthday in 1998, Friends of Visual Arts held a special exhibition in my honour. Two years later, Bhaskar Hande curated my one-man show at the Solo Art Gallery at Churchgate in Mumbai. It was called Paintings of Bhakti. 

            My present show is the first presentation of my work by a reputed professional gallery. On view here are my works of the last twenty-three years. Friends who wish to remain backstage are behind this exhibition of works selected out of over a thousand drawings, sketches, and paintings that use a variety of media and surfaces: oil and/acrylic on canvas, canvas board, and paper; watercolour on paper; crayons and pastels on paper; marble dust, crushed stone, and epoxy resin on canvas; oil on wood; mixed media on canvas and paper; charcoal, pen, and pencil on paper—-and so on.

              I am self-taught, self-driven, and seek self-realization through art.  

              However, I am not a self-proclaimed artist.