There Is No Hell Like an Old Hell

Molten yellow wax held me entranced
suspended within a glowing lamp
my little room, my comfortable gloom
walls papered with faces and thought
so safe, even in the aftermath
violation against volition
tearfully contrived contrition
memories wrapped in cotton mist
and the brittle fragility of my youthful simplicity
as I tapped out tales of stupendous stupidity.

Where my heroes would hold me close
roiling cramps from an incorrect dose
among tumbling words from the gods I heard
the deep resonance of the renaissance man
where I would lay for hours in silent howls
scissors bleeding and clarity receding
mosquitoes eager to commence their feasting
humming in my head told me and scolded me
“It’s not over and you’re not done yet,”
where the world came to a violent end
over and over and forever again
where the door bore scars from my impotent fist
where I cracked my toe in a raging fit
where tantrums broke when I awoke
while my nightmares lay down and slept.

Where a single song could contain me
when nothing else could save me
and for every moment that I spent
I could recall another unique torment
that Pandora’s box filled with dirty socks
where my life was as cheap as the rent.

Happy Spew Year

I’m staying in tonight, taking care of my old man’s greyhound. No drinks, no smoke, just a quiet night without stress and craziness. I’d like to thank my readers for sticking by me through 2019, and I want to wish you all a safe and happy new year with your friends and family. May 2020 bring everything that’s good your way.

Music Lessons

She drew music in the sand with her toes
laughing as she tried to explain again
how the universe could be rearranged
while the key might not change at all
and the rise and fall of her merciful voice
guided my eyes along those rivulet lines
until the tide began to sluggishly turn
and the waves rose up to erase her work.

“It’s all just crows sitting on telephone wires!”
I said with half a heart and a stubborn head
“Scales and intervals and diminished chords
it’s a load of nonsense with a pleasant form.”

She laughed, smiling perhaps
for the last time in that decade’s span
we were ignorant and blissful for an afternoon
until the ferry returned to take us home.

Stoned Crows & Starving Lizards

A hunter moves in sudden bursts
furtive track across a vertical desert
minute black eyes and yellow scales
he is forever ready to drop his tail
lest another predator should appear
to turn the hunter into his meal.

While out in the garden a lazy buzz
as a fattened gatherer wanders about
bumbling drunk within a sugar rush
blue belly shining in the orange sun
a life of flight from orchid to rose
collecting flowers for the family home.

Ignoring both the gecko and the little bee
a noble thief scrambles among the leaves
for secrets to discover under netting cover
forbidden fruits are purloined with ease
“Hidden treasures are the greatest of pleasures!”
said the clever crow with his blueberry feast.

Coal, Franking Credits, & Metallurgy

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Heavy thoughts for this empty head
I always hoped we would meet again
but the moon hides her anguished eye
and the sun blushes bright in shame
as we steal a moment in despair’s embrace
while our pancake planet goes up in flames.

Behold! My lump of holy midnight gold
my compressed pet
my best damn friend
pulled from the banks of a stagnant creek
my pound of fossil flesh
my chunk of destiny manifest.

Merry Christmas! from the sacred coalface
now an endless Summer with no solace
Season’s Greetings! said the koalas weeping
we can’t stand the heat ’cause the kitchen’s burning
Wishing You All the Best! from the edges of the earth
we’re just cooking up the end of the bloody world.

Operation Highjump

“If you only climb a mountain once a year
you can’t really call yourself a mountaineer…”

Deleting myself
gives me a sense of what control must be like
a taste of power with sweet and sour
while hanging on for happy hour.

Noodle arms and stir-fried brain
this place doesn’t feel the same
I’m always too cooked or under-done
embittered by what I’ve not become
how am I supposed to find composure
in the tedium of raw sobriety?

Smoke and mirrors
whats for dinner?
I would eat my own head
if it allowed me to forget
that I am the culmination
of those hapless generations
lost to time and creeping death
I am where the story ends.

Hot Shingles in Your Area

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Where the estuary opened her arms wide
enticing embrace from the vaulted sky
in the shade of tangled mangrove boughs
we lightly explored the depths of love
with salt and vinegar for reckless beginners
a taste of elation with a lemon slice
seagulls descended to eat our lunch
and it never mattered in the slightest
that the evening tides were against us
sands receding with the sun’s retreating
we fumbled, unsure and stubbornly insecure
our hands weaving an impossible knot
our hearts were bound and beat as one.

Rainbow Herbicide & Mass Fratricide

I am the painter
pigments primed
suffused and saturated
splitting white light
my cup may run over
but a true creator
is never satiated.

I have constructed
a vast and arid canvas
I have conceived
a horizon without blemish
I have contrived
this choking ochre dust
this unnatural orange rust
this thickening
this quickening
this poison in your blood
I have composed
a future for a faceless multitude
I have cursed
you, your children
and your children’s own.

I was birthed in obscurity
smothered in secrecy
and now
I am murder in perpetuity.

I am the rainbow
refracted and remorselessly perfected
no frail human hand
may grasp my venomous essence
as I pour from the thunderous heavens.

 

Note – today I did some reading about the Vietnam War, and learnt that Orange wasn’t the only colour we painted the landscape. We also used Agents Blue, White, Green, Pink and Purple. No care for the people we dropped it on, whether they were on the other ‘side’ or ours, nor the generations who came after. Who knew that war-crime was so bloody colourful?

Thirty Rusted Lawnmowers, Forty Busted Boat Motors, & One Caravan Full of Nightmares

Mowing the lawn?
You’re doing it
wrong
but I care just enough
to provide for you son
my life’s
only lesson.

Don’t break your back
staggering around your stack
with a thrashing howling living machine
rock shard and cut grass spraying
sweat cooking on your back…
No! you take that mower
and you rip it apart
scatter its guts all over the yard
let the blades rust in the Summer sun
then you go buy another one
and repeat this every weekend
until every inch of earth on your land
is home to some ruined piece of machinery
and the lawn will be
the least of your worries.

Take it from me, I’m a puzzling man
that is,
I’ve framed all the jigsaws I’ve ever done
and when I’m gone that’s all I’ll leave behind
puzzles and garbage
pornography and dreams
and my shack with views of the ocean deep.

 

Author’s note – Long story short, I went a bit crazy the last few weeks and nearly bought an alleged ‘house’ (in reality a run down rubbish-strewn shack in the middle of nowhere about four hours away from where I, or anyone else lives). In between dealing with all the loan sharks and real estate double agents, I spent a long time inspecting the place with the caretaker. It was a deceased estate, and the family hadn’t made even the barest effort to clean. And as I stood there in among the busted asbestos panels, tangled fishing rods, faded filth magazines, and all the accumulated detritus of another human’s life, I had a bit of a moment…

The Latitude of Gratitude

All lined up in my sights
my little duckies in a row
a dozen windows open all at once
and then at last I’m home
fading red wine melancholy
paired with your sacred text
my evening hums with electricity
as I bathe in your eccentricities
discovering and recovering
aspects long lost, now resurfacing
or carefully concealed, re-emerging
fragments I once discarded
re-birthed in wanton laughter
your songs are a lullaby to my soul.

Greedy as a starving dog
I consume your musical words
graceless in my unrestrained gluttony
your glorious expression surpassing me
your clever deceptions delighting me
you lead me along the garden path
you get me higher than heaven itself
and for all the hours I should have slept
I would make your poetry my gentle bed
comforting myself within your essence
your thoughts become my convalescence
and with your loving holy hands
and your blessed, messy, crazy heads
you wrote me out of hell.

“And now for something completely different…”

I live in a small flat overlooking a main road, facing the expanse of the city’s South-West, staring right down the barrel of the setting sun. Local daylight saving time kicked in a few weeks ago, and rather than dealing with an extra hour of searing heat and blinding light pouring into my glorified shoe-box, I have taken to walking in the evening.
“To a store that sells curtains?” I hear you ask. No, not to the curtain store. Just wandering around my suburb, blending in with the dog-walkers and lycra-joggers, you know. Walking.
This place used to be a slum, with houses crowded close together and built tall and thin with adjoining walls, whole blocks of terrace homes with fences and tiny balconies decorated with wrought-iron. Some are modern castings, replicas created for more recent owners who pay millions of dollars to live in these done-up 19th century flophouses, but others are rusted and worn with a hundred years of weather and traffic exhaust.
Further down the street I walk past a mansion from the same era, sold in the 70’s, and converted with fibro and asbestos into a pile of tiny flats, now crumbling gradually and gracefully and only rarely collapsing on the students, artists and minimum wage scrapers that reside within.
My eyes are drawn again to the wrought-iron work on both the restored terraces and that old mansion. All I can think about is that iron, once heated to a glowing white, then bashed, hammered and twisted into shape by sheer will and muscle. I picture this blacksmith, some huge burly bloke with biceps like gnarled wood and a grip that would break the bones of my hand, not that such a fellow would likely offer to shake the hand of a modern dandy like myself, but you get the point.
This huge guy, this big dude, this strong, fucking manly bastard spent his days in a workshop that was hotter than Hell itself, his unshaven face black with forge-soot and scorch marks as he uses fire and raw strength to delicately manipulate the burning metal into flowers, vines, broad and narrow leaf shapes, ubiquitous fleur de lys, these patterns of intricate beauty that adorn hundreds of homes, once thousands perhaps.
And I doubt one person was doing all the terraces in the city. I suppose there would once have been a street that rang with the striking of a hundred hammers as they worked, a legion of skilled craftsmen, people who could never conceive of the future into which some of their work would survive. Schools of technique that competed with each other maybe, and maybe some conventions that were universally taught. How many horse-shoes and hobnails did an apprentice have to make before they let them have a crack at this stuff? I wonder if I could study these lattices for long enough to understand what it all means…
A young man ambles past me, about my height but thicker in the arm and shoulder, tattooed hands and low-slung jean-shorts. I jump when he speaks with a smoke damaged voice.
“How high are you bro? You’ve been staring at that fence for, like, ages.”
“I’m on my way to the curtain store!” I say, maybe a bit too quickly. He nods, and walks away without saying anything else.
Should I go to the curtain store?” I consider it for a moment, but that guy is right. I am definitely too high for the curtain store. And it’s getting dark anyway, so there would be no more sunlight in my flat “So who needs fucking curtains?” I turn around and begin to walk home.

Chicken Pickin’

Fumbling picking with prickly fingers
chords that jangle when they should chime
callous growth and my forlorn hopes
I’ll make these cliches dance in time
a worn-out phrase born from naivete
climbing chaos like a jungle-gym
can’t persuade myself to save myself
wandering hands play a lonely hymn
reveal yourself to me
with your melodic screed
crows strung along a telephone wire
reaching heights I couldn’t aspire
summoning crumbs
twiddling thumbs
someone’s gotta feed these chickens.

Empathy & Emptiness

“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”

-Philip K. Dick

The Wicked Witch of the Inner West

In Western Sydney the girls are pretty
and the boys are prettier still
working past dark in Hurlstone Park
“Gotta pay those fucking bills.”

Hit the frog and toad with long-neck to go
all slings and round-a-bouts
sun’s out guns out for the ‘roid rage knaves
“I reckon it’s about your shout”

Blacktown, Shalvey, Bankstown and Canterbury
tribal divides run deep
lock your windows or they’ll steal your dreams
and pull burnouts on heat-sink streets.

Others long gone like a forgotten song
snake skeletons beside a creek
now the low overhead wires crackle with ire
and all bastards become police.

Mcmansions rise over the old sand mines
tasteless solid investments
while red brick boxes built on buried toxins
pull curtains on congealing terrors.

Newtown’s terraces with the screaming jets
sipping on neck-beard tea
a backyard fracas breaks an afternoon balm
“Just pay your fucking tick!”

In the Picton tunnels the underground runners
tag walls with obscure glyphs
when the last train has gone have one more bong
“You smoke green or do you spin?”

Palms and cactus sprouting phallic masses
wine box dining or uber eats
the kebab shop’s hot with a variety box
no greens but plenty of meat.

Dulwich Hill how I remember you still
packed with hungry artists
but do me a favour and what’s your flavour
why water a concrete garden?

The Silk Road flows through Marrickville’s rows
scene kids never beheld the sea
strung out and strung up but heaven will come
with adrenaline and methylated spirits.

I climbed Mount Druitt! (someone’s gotta do it)
I swam in Liverpool’s depths
I digested myself and I divested myself
my steps bounced like bad cheques.

My lads and lasses in those discrete madrasahs
from Burwood to the Iron Cove Bridge
I’ll pretend that I know all your hidden codes
your mangled secretive language.

Tin shed alleys behind crumbling garrets
music thumping all night
but for the Wicked Witch of the Inner West
the mosquitoes refuse to bite.

I know it’s a shit-hole but save your vitriol
for cleaning the mouldy tiles
just forget your castle and white picket fence
and embrace our bogan vibe.

 

Author’s note – I know this one won’t make a lot of sense to some of my international friends, so if you want translations or explanations of any of the Aussie bullshit let me know in the comments.

Red Sky at Morning

Tension and torsion
in awkward contortion
shouldering your boulders
with feedback distortion
tepid trickling
insipid liquidity
crackling knuckles
concealed and dormant
with a phrase of praise for heroes fallen
letters on graves of door-knock salesmen
wound up round up
kick them all over
revel in your relevance
and fade in frustration
summon your sprites in a fit of pique
assembled solicitors paid for in spite
spectral spectators
in abandoned forums
cheering like starlings
chattering and swarming
snapping out lashing out
lacking decorum
anger feeds hatred
while hate eats itself
and don’t ever say
that I didn’t warn you.

Thylacine

Smoke and mirrors
a frozen dinner
ensnared reflection within the window
I am a golem
tasting the truth
or maybe just possums living in my roof.

Movement so furtive
no leaf disturbed
sky illuminated by simmering burn
dens in the heath
concealed in ferns
back striped with shadowy fur.

Their faces obscured by history
and their bones dispersed by flood
they stalk my sleep
depriving my dreams
howling in the hills a forgotten reprieve
where ghosts traverse unknown roads
painted tiger-dogs shyly roam
with babies locked in airtight jars
but for the necromancy of our art
those sad decrepit relicts
they sung to the last.