Philip Hammial

Philip Hammial has had twenty collections of poetry published, two of which were shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize – Bread in 2001 and In the Year of Our Lord Slaughter’s Children in 2004. He is also a sculptor (33 solo exhibitions) and the director of The Australian Collection of Outsider Art.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 Photograph 2006: Philip with his daughter Genevieve



With a little help from a reader
we could crawl up onto the back
of a bicycle & blow. A horn? If
you like. Or a kiss? Maybe, but first
a question –  what
is your aim? To kill
swimming? For a closure to swimming
a kiss won’t do. Better
a horn, its blue. With
a little help from a reader we could wear
the same face for both, for the grown men
asleep in a bucket, for the children snoring
in a thimble & not care which belt
we’ve been trained up to. With
a little help from a reader we could blend
the desire for hearing with the desire
for speaking & come out on top
with meat to burn, your choice
of kangaroo or stork. With
a little help from a reader we could home rule
the market women AND their troublemaking
husbands, them to houses confined until
some progress in basting & roasting. With
a little help from a reader we could insist
that our at-a-crossroads-style becomes us
& everyone after us, even the marchers
as to heaven. With
a little help from a reader we could be joined
by an Alice whose relationship to history
however tenuous is precisely the joinery
that our journey requires. With
a little help from a reader we could swallow
the first & the second & even the third word
& even, if some truth was thereby accomplished,
the whole of the poem.



So you really think we’ve established
a case for bliss? Stand up in court
for how long? –  two minutes
if we’re lucky. Which reminds me: some joker

has taken all of the socks from my sock drawer
& filled it with forks with bent tines, all the better
to eat what with? Our last supper for two
was a disaster. Served by nuns

in a forest clearing, we were constantly distracted
by a klatch of monks who insisted that happy slaps
(as per those on London buses) could induce
instant liberation. A kind of pudding? Sue

those slap-happy bastards. For what? Their
bowls? Their beads? Count to ten
while I put this flesh to one side, for
later. Right now there’s work to do. We need

to set up for the next scene – a carriage
at rush hour, Aunt Jane getting on at Redfern
for her morning performance, will squat & pee
as we roll into Central. Watch out

for your shoes. Socks
still missing. Stand up in court
in piss-splashed shoes, no socks, our case
for bliss? Two minutes if we’re lucky.


A Ball

You saw it on NAGS, the scratch channel, how friends
in black can breed with friends in blue & at the end of nine
have a worthwhile product, a ball, say, that you can bounce
wherever you like. Why not

in a casbah? It’s speech as though by magic
translated into Arabic, you’ll break the spell
of Delmonico (the lion tamer ripped apart
by his seven lionesses). These urchins

will love you; they’ll let you live to tell the tale:
how camels, having negotiated the perils of the Pont
Neuf & the cobblestones of Rue Dauphine,

eventually arrived in Oran with three rimes
& a metaphor into which anything, even a recipe
for a homemade bomb, could be stuffed.