Matt Hetherington

Matt Hetherington is a writer and musician who lives in a flat in Melbourne with a really good bath. His most recent collection is I Think We Have (Small Change Press, 2007) He is also on the board of the Australian Haiku Society



For Davids


“The cage opens.  The canary closes its eyes.”

~ David Stavanger, “Everyday Magician”



the canary sings like a canary.


it dreams of flying through the morning without moving;

its claws clutch at the perch,

but it is the yellow light only that rushes past,

and it sits almost still, tasting nothing.


within the darkness of the everyday coalmine’s heart

it falls into sleep with its black beak open,

seeing only caves of night

which suddenly bloom into fields of yellow air.

it warbles of false dawns in the lives of happy families

which sound like early morning warnings;

it rises like a puff of cigarette smoke,


and drifts over crumpled fields and the need to wake up;

it skims over seas of yellow clouds

inside which perhaps are sleeping the hooded dead.


a drop drips from the ceiling.

a candle flickers in the draught the open door left.

someone has left the gas going.

gravity is holding on.


the canary sings like a canary.

the cage closes.

the canary opens its eyes.



                                               Starving Girl, Calcutta



acting or not, it didn’t matter

                   she didn’t need

                                    to pretend

                                    to be

desperate or debased or beyond despair

                                what she was

                                             could not be hidden


i was only trying to leave the country

now trapped in the back of a taxi

                                in a midday traffic jam

she clutched at me

                                      through the open window

          sobbing, chanting, imploring, wailing

                                          not even in english

(why didn’t the driver do like he did with the others

                                             and tell her to go get lost?)


i felt for coins but had none

so (keeping my notes for the next stage to the airport)

                                       as if it could help

                                                          i blessed her repeatedly


                                         and for a whole two or three minutes

                                                                           we stayed there

stuck in the spokes of the hideous, sacred wheel


                                                               at last the traffic moved forward

and she returned to her tribe under the plastic sheeting

while we drove upwards

                                       onto the rabindra setu bridge




Lone Bird Collecting Twigs


   “ Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me

      How good, how good, does it feel to be free?

      And I answer them most mysteriously

      ‘Are birds free from the chains of the skyways?’ ”


     ~ Bob Dylan, “Ballad in Plain D”



in the middle of anywhere

                      letting its song waft where it does

the contours of its mouth a tree to climb cliffs of falling from


                         i frown gratefully into the horizon’s setting

              to see a baby looking

like she makes mandalas and angels with her eyelashes


below clouds like the brows of a father who cannot cry

           below the moon like a large clump of dirt

            below a jet-black eyeball staring through our ashes

                  yet while i give my own sight to the screen

              and it takes it

there is rarely a bad day


                        i have a craving for earlobes

and want to write a poem without nature

                         as lazy as the rain as usual

or maybe more like an el salvadorian gentleman

            who must eat even when not hungry

and cannot sleep even when he is tired


still through the voice of the indifferent wind

a question comes asking                “is it fair to love clouds

more than the sun, but less than sunlight?”


the answer is ‘yes’ if you don’t ask the question

but this one

teaching me how to breathe