Liam Ferney

Brisbane Poems


For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror which we are still able to
endure and we are so awed because it serenely
disdains to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.

“That guy’s gotta see us!” Followed by a long screech, a skid, then silence and then the thud of glass smashing as I careen through the windshield of my Porsche Spyder at 100 miles an hour. No matter how I die I long for a rock star’s elegy. Such is poetry where every beauty becomes the sun and every poem is inevitably an Icarus melting at the peak of its ascent to an unattainable. One day things will seem far more important but while the Aussie dollar remains steady alongside the greenback swapping kisses for cigarettes takes on the chivalrous ceremony of religion. Finish your black coffee and consider getting a job because no poet ever got rich off love except for, maybe, Shakespeare and even he was long dead before his investment was earning a significant return. From a marketing perspective perhaps I should sell the rights for these poems to the producers of a movie starring Hugh Grant. But your bonsai eyes shine in a way that would blind the ubiquitous cameramen. Five minutes between shifts while the crickets complain like a Charlie Parker saxophone salute is not time enough to write epics so I’m left instead to staccato salutations undergoing rapid permutations. And then I realise that your life itself is as tangible as a car crash and I’m the brakes failing pathetically on a wet road in the mountains. By the time I’ve written this line the night is over and dawn hangs in the air like a bad ending to a good novel. You paid for your meal but you’re not hungry anymore.


beyond the scrub
for sarah

at dusk we followed the roses down to
the inlet and watched millions of soldier
crabs running between tiny mountains and
craters at midday the sun scorches the sand
like impossibly hot coffee and we try to hide

in patches of grass or by drinking pots on the balcony
of the surf club the long road past the army bases
back to the highway blocks out everything
but sunscreen and ice creams out here the
radio’d break and the night would go silent
(like a hoarse kookaburra)

and we’d dream of ways we could get
my little Galant rolling through the soft sand.


“Grunter’s gotta do,
what Grunter’s gotta do!”

the trouble with dichotomies
is that you’ll always end up on one
side of a besser brick wall with a
stick of dynamite in your hand and typing
far quicker than the words appear on
your screen the screech of a vulture
or tyres signals doom and you start
to count back towards the definitive
moment in you’re life when you became
that person you were today but its
retrospective and impossible like the way
I can’t remember when I started writing
in the third person like a frustrated second
rower down on game time and form being
interviewed after the game they’ve just lost
you’ve just lost the vulture swoops the Holden
pounces and the dichotomies all dissolve as you
bounce of the hood the last drop of water
evaporates off your tongue and the night
falls across your eyes like an overabundant
pension of booze and pharmaceuticals –
ya dig!


On the Television

The spiderman descends from
the clouds
disguised as an art thief
robbing the National Gallery
of Victoria.
Oscar Wilde with a beer
gut sits in the stands
on the fourth day
of a Gabba test
and when Youhana gets
dismissed for 75 he yells :
“Nice shot,
ya dickhead.”
We laugh but I’m not
sure of the value of
humour, smiling
clowns grinding to
a stop at a show in
The spiderman quickly selects
a Howard Arkley
and attaches it to his belt,
gliding up
his web, silently
towards the heavens.

Sylvia Petter

Eyes to See

I’m on the Swiss Intercity from Zürich to Geneva and have just left my husband back in Vienna. I just walked away. And I cried, as I know he will when he finds my note on the dining room table: “We don’t see things with the same eyes.”

I slept surprisingly well on the night train, but this is the day route and grey hills roll down from the mountains. We will soon be in Berne and then only a couple of hours to Geneva where I must start all over again.

Green swirls from the landscape against the grey of the sky and my eyes slowly close.

“Stop! Sit here,” a woman’s voice says.

I open my eyes. We have just left Berne. Bright red, black and gold bustle in the doorway as a woman steers a young boy before her, one arm outstretched, the other dragging a suitcase. She stops in the seat in front of mine. The boy must have taken a seat by the window. From her manner, as she peels off her cropped red leather jacket, it must be one facing the wrong way. I have always hated travelling with my back to my destination.

The child does not make a sound. The woman pulls off her soft black hat and black hair springs from the grasp of now loosened hairpins. Her fingers tuck back the stray hairs as she turns about and scans the compartment. Her underwear glows through her white nylon blouse with its frilled collar and cuffs. She sits down.

I feel exhausted. Smoke rises from the seat in front of me – first in almost perfect rings, then in slow jets, the sort that might come from the nostrils of an ageing dragon. My eyes close again.

“Watch it! You’re going to sit on my son,” the woman’s voice shrieks.

I open my eyes. We are leaving Lausanne. A man in his late forties, early fifties, large in a soft sort of way, towers in the space in front of my seat. He reminds me of my husband.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

“You should watch what you’re doing. My boy has problems with his eyes.”

“Sorry,” the man says again and sits down on the seat across the aisle, directly in my line of vision. He looks back to the seat he just tried to sit in, then over at the woman, across at the boy.

“Why are you staring at me like that?” the woman says.


“Why are you staring?”

There is a pause.

“Hush, dear.” (This to her son.) “Maman is here.” And then to the man again: “Well, what’s wrong with you?”

The man smiles and his eyes look towards me. “I am blind,” he says.


“Yes,” he says and laughs.

“But you were looking at me. Where is your cane?”

The man raises his hand and a cane telescopes from his sleeve.

“That’s splendid,” the woman says. “Then there is hope for my son.”

“Didn’t you notice?”

“No,” she says. “I thought you were trying to pick me up.”

He laughs.

“I thought you were trying to pick me up.”

“I was,” said my husband. “And I did, didn’t I?”

We laughed about our first meeting when he’d tripped and fallen into my arms in the café in Vienna where I used to breakfast. The account of the incident became an ice breaker at dinner parties during the first years of our twenty – year marriage. Then, I was well loved, alive and living in Vienna.

“What’s your name?” the woman asks.


“Well, then. Hi! I’m Belle.”

The man’s eyes droop, but he laughs again, and strokes a palm over his thinning scalp. He isn’t handsome, but there is something warm, trustworthy about him. Just like my husband, way back. Way back when.

I don’t know when things changed, when I stopped trusting my husband, when he stopped trusting me. It’s a little like what they say about pregnant women, or about people in love. When that state is yours then you see it in others. But there are times when you don’t want to see. I’m no longer sure which of us cheated first, or if in fact we cheated at all. Neglect is something that just creeps in and only later cries out for justification.

The ticket collector comes into the compartment and the man holds out his pass.

“He is blind,” the woman says. “But he sees everything.” The blind man smiles.

The woman leans forward and says in a loud whisper: “Are you sure you can’t see?”

“No. I can’t see.”

“Why are you looking at me like that if you can’t see?” She sits back.

“Your voice,” he says.

“My son, Billy, goes to school in Berne. I do this trip weekly – Berne – Geneva – Berne.”

The boy’s arm reaches across and holds out a toy donkey. The man squeezes it and it makes a noise. Eee Aaa.

“Do you work?” the woman says.

“I’m a clerk. I stamp papers.”

“How do you know what to stamp?”

“I can feel. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s all based on trust. In yourself. In others.”

She laughs. “And there I was thinking you wanted to pick me up.”

The man takes out a cigarette, feels it to his lips and the woman lights it with a red lighter. Then she light her own cigarette. They both smoke.

“Can I have your phone number?” she says. The man fumbles in the pocket of his jacket and gives her a card. “At work,” he says.

“You are so well dressed,” the woman says. “Your life. It gives me hope for my son.” She says to the boy: “Go and sit with the man.”

The boy does not move. I hear shuffling. “He won’t,” she says. “His mother is everything.” She laughs and draws on her cigarette.

“Can I give you my phone number?”

“Please write it down.” She scribbles and hands him an orange slip of paper. The man puts it in his pocket.

“Are you married?” she says. T

he man shakes his head. “But I have help. The essential things.”

“And your work? You are very clean. Do you dress yourself?”

“I follow advice I am given. It’s easier with someone there. Mornings are fine. If I feel there’s a spot or if someone notices and tells me, and if I have time, I change.”

She sighs. “You are so clean.” Then she stubs out her cigarette. “My son cannot dress himself.”

“That’s because he is always supervised.”

“Yes. He is at school all week. He comes home weekends. I go to fetch him. Like today.” She stops and says: “The children don’t always understand. Billy is happy, but doesn’t notice when the children tease him.”

Then there is a pause in their conversation. I lean back and think about what they have said. I think about the way they talked, too. Direct. Innocent. Saying what they thought.

My husband and I talked like that once. Then we began to talk in riddles, assuming the years had allowed us to read each other’s minds. Perhaps neither of us had really read what had been there.

Then as if out of nowhere, I again hear the woman’s voice: “Billy says how wonderful life is. Every morning he says that. Don’t you Billy?”

There is no answer.

“Do you have to pay on the train?”

“When I’m alone,” the man says. “When someone is with me, they don’t pay.”

“Same here. I travel free,” she says. “But not on the plane.”

Billy is fidgeting. I cannot see.

“Stop that,” she says. “Billy, stop it!” Then she is calm.

“He likes music, you know.”

“Does he play?”

“The piano? No. He sings. Sing Billy.”

“No,” says the boy.

The man looks at me. I wonder if he sees me watching.

“What do you see?” the woman says. “Do you see black? What did you see at the beginning? Now?”

“Nothing,” says the man. “It’s been too long ago. People only see black when they remember. I have nothing to remember, so I see nothing.” I wonder what nothing looks like.

The train pulls in to Geneva’s main station. The man unfolds his white cane and gets his bag down from the rack. Then he makes his way to the door and steps down. He says nothing. Does not wave.

“Goodbye,” says the woman. The man doesn’t answer.

One more stop to go until the airport. I settle back and think of my husband finding my note. “Billy, what do you see?” the woman suddenly says to the boy.




“How many?”

“Lots,” the boy says and then starts to sing.

The train pulls into the station. The woman puts on her red leather jacket and tugs the brim of her hat deep over her eyes. As we reach for our bags up on the rack our hands touch. The woman turns her head. “My son is blind,” she says. “He cannot help me.”

I hoist my bag down and, stopping to catch my breath, I watch the woman urge her son from the train. I step down to the platform and my vision blurs.

Published in Offshoots VI – Writing from Geneva

Neil Grimmett

New Shoes for Trumpy

The first time I saw him was in our shift room. We were coming in on mornings — early mornings. The night shift were already changed and lying on benches or sagging against walls looking ashen and mean like vampires that have failed to feed and sense the approaching ray of dawn. He stood there: red-faced, brown-suited and uncontaminated. Union lawyer or a top official, I marked him down for, come to see one of the night-shift before they got their sense of reasoning back. We get them from time to time. They treat it as some big act of bravery to get this close. Something like those people you see in the B movies that leave their safe city and head off into the wastelands for kicks.

Then the picture goes wrong. He is too old for a start: these union bigwigs give up corporeal existence at thirty and float around in a cloud of purple gas. He was an old fifty, plus some. The red, ruddy face wasn’t a healthy glow but a rage of protest. And what had looked like a firm egg-shaped head became one of those shells that form soft and can barely contain their attempt at life. Eyes stared out from deep inside as if drowning, with the ripples from earlier struggles refusing to calm.

I had guessed by now that he was our new boy. We had been waiting for a replacement following the rare dismissal of a madman some weeks before. A guy that had actually made a ball out of some plastic explosive and kept on bouncing it against a wall to convince himself it was safe. Rumor stated that he’d been sacked for getting the mix wrong. Our description of this place: If England is the arsehole of the world — this place must be ten miles up it. We took anyone.

He opened his locker and his kit was all neatly laid out with his own number embroidered on every single item. I can see he is admiring the stitch work and probably thinking how considerate and charming it is of them. Someone will enjoy telling him it is done so that they can possibly identify his remains when all the other recognizable bits have melted or are up and away trying to defy gravity.

The rest of our shift arrive. Nobody has anything worth repeating and do their best not to notice the arrival. I am changed and getting my ear bent by my opposite number coming off nights. “Old lady,” they call him because he never stops worrying. He showed me the ropes when I came here, and helped get me made up to chargehand in record time, so I still take the time to listen.

The shift room is divided into aisles by rows of old, steel lockers and benches that turn into beds at every chance. At one end there is a counter, behind which during day-shift some old leftover passes the time until his pension, with the inappropriate title of “attendant”. I’m sitting on this counter trying to find the space for a word and keeping an eye on our new star. He is down to his underwear and you can not help but notice what a bad shape he is in. A once big man shrunken on the inside only. He is wearing these baggy, white long johns and string vest. We have got a load of old soldiers on this rota, and some of the sights you see when they get undressed make him look pretty respectable — so that is not the reason the two lads sitting near are giggling away.

These two are in love. In this place, doing what we do, you have to stay friends. Each man could just be your savior. No enemies are allowed. Any sign of friction and the players get moved to different rotas. So this pair have decided to go all the way. They ignore everyone else and spend all their time whispering and staring at each other’s every move. We’ve taken to splitting them up on the plant. But shift room and canteen nobody gives a damn.

The reason they are having hysterics is because of the kit. We are not allowed to have any zips or buttons on anything in case they make a spark or drop off and get into the chemicals. Everything is fastened with loops of cloth. And there is a knack to using them: one this man hasn’t got. Worse than that, he’s coming up with his own way of doing it which rings a warning bell somewhere deep in my survival. I can’t bear to watch.

“Excuse me,” I say to the Old Lady and go over.

“I’ll show you,” I say. I undo his mess and loop him up properly. He is going a little redder in the face and I can feel the boys making gestures behind my back. And there is something about him that makes me wish I had left it alone. “Thank you,” he goes, in a too loud, posh voice that turns heads and makes me move away quickly in case there is more to follow.


Chargehands are issued with bicycles. So I am sitting in the foreman’s office with the other two getting the day’s instructions before our crews arrive on foot. When they finally do, the new man is not with them. He will be lost. New men are not trusted or wanted: no one wants to risk getting stuck with someone careless or who may turn out to be a coward. At first they are left to look out for themselves and prove their worth. The trouble is this place is spread out over a vast area. All the buildings are hidden in the middle of huge earth mounds to make sure in the event that their insides will only go upwards. They are reached through blast reducing, zigzagging tunnels that are full of the most uninviting darkness and sounds. From the outside everywhere looks just about the same. It takes the few that stay about a year to understand the layout and even then it is easy to go wrong.

They will have enjoyed losing him. He is probably wandering around the maze of clean ways that are used to move chemicals from one plant to another. The foreman makes a few perfunctory enquiries about him and then lets it drop. His name, it turns out, is Harry. When Harry turns up, says the foreman, you can take him along with your crew. He says this without daring to look up from his register. I don’t bother to reply as I had already known that I was going to get stuck with him. The other chargehands have been here decades and would create hell if he had tried it on with them. Some of my crew start to mutter and everyone else is grinning.

New men are bad news.

Harry arrives just before tea-break. One of the day workers leads him along like a donkey on a rope. This day worker is riding a bike at a pace only they can manage and Harry is taking half-steps so as not to leave his rescuer behind. Even so he looks out of breath and beat. I put him on loading with my one of the lovers — a pay back for their earlier fun — and watch to see how Harry is carrying the scars of his week’s induction to the place.

A part of the training is to be taken out to the ‘Burning Ground’ and given a demonstration of what some of this stuff would do if it was given its freedom. Coloured Plasticine that can suddenly scream like a banshee and burn brighter than a star is a great lesson — especially as it is from only a small handful of the stuff, viewed for a distance, and soon you are to buried in a mountain of it. I recognize none of the usual fears in him — and it makes me grow cold.


The canteen probably had more rules of etiquette than any of those great old manor houses you are always being allowed to step inside via the TV these days. All of them unwritten; all of them rigid. Each long table belonged to a certain section of the factory. Each area on that table belonged to a group of men joined either by their conversation or silence or newspaper. At the ends of every table sat the card schools. Virtually every seat in the place carried its invisible name tag and purpose. It was impossible to know where to go at first and you were sure to get moved time after time. If you had nothing better to do you could watch the new arrival, standing out in his gleaming kit and bobbing up and down like a player in a game of solitary musical chairs.

But there was one area that no one strayed. A place so obviously out of bounds that it might as well have had a warning barrier flashing around it. In the far corner of the canteen and on a different size and coloured table sat the owners of this territory. Small and huddled, with white hair, white skin, silent movements and a speech of whispers, playing a game of cards with its own rules and a mystery to any distant onlooker.

The Nitro Men. They had arrived fourteen months back to commission the new great experiment. To them this place must have seemed like a rest home. Their usual beast would have stood for none of the indignities dished out here. Nitroglycerine was made on a hill so that gravity could inch it slowly and gently to its birth. It did not take kindly to company’s greed or country’s necessity. One of the old guard here told us of a nitro explosion during the war years. How the blast had shot upwards, then gathered itself into a ball and came fisting down, riding the earth for revenge at its creation. It had reached the gun-cotton cathedral and presented the nimble-fingered beauties inside with a fire bath and glass shower in payment for their patriotic service and prayers.

These men were left alone in their silent dream existence. We gave them peace and hoped never to be in their presence when the awakening came. Harry though recognized none of this and leapt next to them, crashing his tea-tray down with a noise louder than they could have ever expected to really hear. Everyone in the place looks at him, and then at us, as if it is our responsibility. I manage to catch his eye and, hoping that no one else notices, beckon him to an empty space at our table.

“Nearly ended up with the OAP’s,” he yells. Which to be fair is what they do look like — and I am not about to explain that most of them are young enough to be his sons.

He watches us eating our sandwiches and packed lunches as though he is witnessing some tribal ritual for the first time, while he chain smokes his way through a pile of cigarettes — which you have to buy individually at the counter — and drinks black coffee. He holds the cigarettes in a delicate, exaggerated way and appears to drift away with each breath of smoke to some distant, more refined, place. One of the passing men gives him a nudge for a light. Harry looks puzzled for a second and then catches on, but instead of holding the thing out he drops it on the table for the man to pick up and use. Matches are not allowed in this place and there is a safety lighter on the wall — which means a slight walk. Once you are lighted you attract every tired moth in the place. I watch Harry go through the same routine a few times before I realize that his hand is shaking too much to be able to hold it out for anyone to use. Why, would be hard to guess. You are never certain how people will react to being here. Most of those that arrive like heroes don’t make the first week. We’ve often had them run on the first day.

Food is finished and dirty packs of cards and the money bags we wear strung around our necks and tucked out of sight start to appear. Gambling is not officially allowed — but what is any game worth without a few stakes ? The school I’m in plays euchre. They say about this game that the only way to learn it is to play it. It is so deceptively simple that no amount of watching or reading will get you there. We are down to three players and you need four. It is cut-throat with three and most of the subtlety goes out of it. Harry watches us for a time and then says,

“You need a fourth.”

I have this theory about cards: You can tell a lot about the deeper side of a person by the way they play their hands. I told this to my wife one day after we had been playing whist with some friends and getting trounced. She said it was all down to the stars and, that she never knew what the hell I was going on about anyway these days and, that next time she was going to partner someone else — if she ever played again. So it is only my theory.

Harry is my partner but he plays like I don’t exist. He keeps trumping my ace leads. I’ll explain: If the other side are going to win an ace lead then they will have to be unable to follow suit and need to trump it. If when it reaches your partner he is unable to follow and it is still winning there is no point in him wasting a trump and offering the chance to the last player to take both trump and ace — not unless there is a good reason or no choice. Harry does it three times and for nothing. So I tell him. It makes no difference. And if he wins, even though I would have done so without his waste, he grins and chuckles as if it were the greatest thing ever. The pair we are playing against love it as they are starting to creep into the lead. Then one of the onlookers who liked nothing better than to sit watching and offering free advice, starts calling him Trumpy — and it sticks.

At the end of that first day he walked up the long road and through the gate like a regular member of the crew. Then as we stood waiting for the green, ex. prison service factory buses, he roared off in a sleek-looking sports car without giving us a second glance. The tales began: he was a bankrupt drinker, a compulsive gambler, someone that had fallen and been sent here to disappear. Any amount of reasons as to why a man of his class could end up here, and at his time of life.

Whatever. He had come, and he stayed. Pretty soon his ways became another part of the tedium that existed in this secret world locked inside its security dome. But there were a few things that only I seemed to observe — a few things that were odd about the parts that made up the whole. Maybe it was just that since coming to work here I had began to take a special interest in the manner that certain elements combined, and the end result of that combination. Explosions, implosions, the coming togethers and partings dreamt up as we deny what we are really doing. But I know what I saw.

The main thing being, that though he tackled everything with complete confidence, he was unreliable. No matter what job you gave him he would mess it up. In some way, like that first day with those straps, he would go about it in his own manner and never bother to ask. By rights it is up to the chargehand to report anyone that he considers to be a risk. In high explosive buildings the chargehand’s word is law regarding members of his crew and safety of running. It is really just another way of passing the buck, ready for when something goes wrong. For when the TV crews are gathering at the gates and there are widows and the only way of finding the remains of the dead is through the hunger of birds flocking to carrion.

I should have had him moved but did not the heart for it. What made it worse was the fact that you couldn’t tell him anything. He had it firmly locked in his mind that he was right and that you were just too dumb to follow. Trumpy also liked to argue the point. Not in that loud, blustering manner that would have appeared to fit his character and told you the message had struck home, but in a convincing salesman fashion, nearly managing to sell you on the idea. I would try and explain that this wasn’t the best stuff to start getting experimental with and walk away before I really let him have it. I always ended up visualizing my father in his position getting bollocked by someone of my age and it shut me up.

Then there was the way he was with the younger men on the plant. They would run around after him, fetching his fags and drinks at break time, taking over any of the really dirty jobs as though they were below him, letting him have a bike if ever there was one to spare. And never once did I hear him say thank you or see him do a single thing to help any of them get their work done. It was as though he expected nothing less and it was your privilege to serve.

The last thing was the strangest and creepiest. This one time we had a woman come on to the shift as part of a team carrying out a study for some new body of the government. Most of the men always spent a lot of time talking “dirty” and staring at porno books. Making out that women were only good for one thing and that they wished we had a few to pass around on nights. But the moment one actually intruded into this all male environment, everything changed.

Swearing and farting stopped, the books went back to their hiding places. It was “dear wife this” , and “let me get the door for you” with clean kits and shirts tucked in. One time when they were all in a building and I was out in the remote control room watching them bumbling about on the video link, I yelled down the intercom for them to hurry it up, throwing in as many swear words as I could muster. I knew she was in there with them and did it for the crack. They came out blushing like a bunch of school boys and making faces at me to let me know the terrible mistake I’d just made.

Trumpy though was the opposite. Usually, he never joined in any of the talk or stared at any of the magazines and used to make out that it was all disgusting and low. Now, he seemed to resent the way the men were behaving. You could feel that something was eating away at him and that he hated her presence. He would say disgusting things about women every chance he got when she could hear him, or else tell vile and obvious jokes that even normally would have made no one smile. It was as if he had to keep her uncomfortable or blinded by throwing handfuls of sand in her eyes in case she saw something we had not. After she was gone, he told one of the youngsters who said she had been beautiful: that she was, and good in bed, but a true gentleman never discussed a lady behind her back and winked. And of course the idiot believed him.

Time moved on and Trumpy plodded along. Never unnoticeable: never really noticed. His attendance was good and his private life remained a secret, which in this place was a minor miracle. Sometimes one of the jumped-up shift chemists would ignore the rest of us and chat away to Trumpy like he was an old friend. And maybe he was.

When the end came it came like this.

We were on a slack period. Perhaps there was even peace in the world ! So we’re trying to kill time and look busy. Sweeping floors and sweeping floors. I decide to have a little fun with our tractor driver. He was a real candidate for what I had in mind.

Every few months we have to give urine samples, which along with the blood tests, helped them keep tabs on how much poison we were ingesting. The sample bottles are picked up by anyone that is available and left in the shift room with our numbers written on them. Rumors abound about what has been put in the bottles without ever being detected — but I for one still do it properly. I wait for the tractor driver to visit me on his rounds. I tell him the foreman has been looking for him and wants the sample bottles collected. This driver is still a bit green and I can see that he is all excited about the idea of getting off the plant and going to the surgery, so I add: “Tell nurse it is for Rota Two, and remind her to include a couple of the large jam jars. She knows why.” He drives off, full of the job.

Now the sister on duty this week is called “Bloody Mary” on account of the fact that she is one of the ‘old school’. No messing or idling tolerated. The only possible reason for being admitted to her surgery is that you are dead. Once, someone dropped a rocket on their foot and was carried into her. Bruising, she said, and taped a piece of polystyrene to his hoof and sent him back to loading the train. The next day his own doctor found that he had broken it in two places and would probably hobble for the rest of his life. So as it is nowhere near the time for samples and he is gullible enough to give her the wisecrack about the jam jars, there ought to be a lot of tape and polystyrene flying around shortly.

Trumpy had taken himself off to the foreman’s office sometime back on a private matter. He comes back grinning like Humpty-dumpty. I have to go to the tailor’s shop, he says, waving a chit in the air. The shoes we wear are heavy leather with steel toecaps and they cripple you. If you can swing it you can get excused wearing them and get issued with a pair of lightweight, officer’s brogues. This is what Trumpy has gone and done. I am pleased for him. One of the old guard must have shown him the dodge. None of the youngsters know how to work it — including me. If they have decided to take to him, his passage will be pretty smooth.

The rest of my crew have gone for tea and I am falling asleep at the stand-up desk trying to invent something to put into the logbook. For company I have a rack full of rocket motors that have enough power to send me so far with just the smallest encouragement it is almost too alluring. Like a sleeping dragon that may or may not decided to wake. One time we lifted one of them for inspection and managed to get the ‘slinging’ wrong. The chains below the crane slipped and shards of red hot steel sprayed down past the open ends of the rocket. According to all the available science it should have ignited and Catherine-wheeled us into atoms and ash. Good luck: bad luck — that is the only equation you have sometimes. I hear another roar as the tractor arrives back.

It is really a big, sophisticated forklift, but as some concession to the countryside that we are contaminating for centuries to come it is called after what should really be working here.

I imagine that after his brush with Bloody Mary he is going to be spoiling for a little revenge. I pick up one of the fire buckets ready to cool him down — he is a fat swine and probably intends to disregard my rank. He comes in through the door and looks shattered — all white and drained. He is hardly inside when he says: “Trumpy’s dead”.

I think there is more to this guy than meets the eye. I was expecting a brawl and he is going in for the psychological approach.

“Sure,” I say, “so is Buck Rogers but he’ll be back next week, don’t you worry.”

Then I can see that he is not joking. If he is he deserves an Oscar because there are tears streaming down his bloated face. He had called into the canteen on his way to the surgery and Trumpy had arrived on his way back from the tailor’s. He just dropped down dead, he blurts it out over and over as if I ought to order him back to life or something.

And that was it. Trumpy was dead. With all the magnificent ends dreamed up in this place, he had gone standing at a counter waiting for coffee — his new shoes not even laced. All anyone seemed to recall about it was the noise his head had made as it hit the floor, I guess no one had thought it that hard.

Now the funny thing was that instead of this being the end it was the true beginning. All the realities came rushing to fill those shoes. One of the day workers went out to his house to make a bid for the car. He had learnt that Trumpy’s wife did not drive and thought there might be a bargain in the offing. As it turned out the car was like its former owner — an illusion. All worn out and rotting, just holding together for appearance’s sake.

Anyway, I’m not going to tell you all the stuff this creep managed to carry back to the knowing nods and winks of the factory. But I know this now: there is no place you can hide. Even here. Even dead. Someone always finds you out.

I suppose that is what Trumpy knew but preferred to take what he could while it was going. Laying his cards out of turn and enjoying each trick for what it was worth. While we go on walking down tunnels and opening doors. Never sure what is waiting and always afraid.

Yvette Walker

Dinner Companion Poems


Your resemblance to Odysseus
Becomes horrible and horrible.
You acquire the sea length beard
And the ship bones, the old dog
And the promise of a bent bow.
I haven’t bothered with tapestries
For months now. I have no words
To say to you. I write you like
A lyric, like some god awful
Disabled poem and you can only
Stand there at the entrance
To my doorway like you will
Never leave and never return.

Your breath walks the tightrope
Of something ominous.
Memory beckons.
Your throat hooks
Onto something unspeakable.
You say a single word
But I cannot hear it,
You grasp at it with a closing fist
But all you manage to keep are your
Own fingerprints.

Time bites like a flea
And I scream at you,
To leave, to stay, even to remember,
But you don’t, you drag
Your fatal gender
Out of your mouth,

And as that rough old man’s
Flesh and bones begin to fall,
I see there is a woman’s body
Under the case of Odysseus,
A mother’s map
Drawn but not made, specific
But indeterminate, fully frightening.


We lie back to back,
The ashes of our love
Fall onto your eyelids
Like metal dust,
Arranging your sight
Like soldiers against
A wall – what you see
Is the absence of me.

The barcode of my spine
Morphs into yours, reading
Names, dates and histories,
Sucking the information
Out of you as you sleep –
The hum of my humanity
Keeps me awake.

Let us be grateful that we
Do love, love, that time
And sweat and space
Don’t crush us like test
Room dummies. Let us
Know that what we do
Is not fallout or famine;
But revered resistance
To the physics of bodies.

100 things I hate about writers and their lives

Shakespeare’s cadences/ Allen Ginsberg’s ravings/ Sylvia Plath’s oven/ Virginia Woolf’s river/ Tennessee William’s closet/Andy Warhol’s fame/Lou Reed’s three chords/Nick Cave’s third testament /Leonard Cohen’s curbs/ Charles Bukowski’s fridge/Kafka’s writing block/Elizabeth Bishop’s alcoholism/Theodore Roethke’s schizophrenia/Leo Tolstoy’s misogyny /Kit Marlowe’s stabbing/Beautiful snow that hurts your head/Writing that is written that is already dead/JRR Tolkien’s gold ring/William Burrough’s walking stick/William Wordsworth’s dog/William Faulkner’s one thousand word sentences/Don Delillo’s baseball/Alexander Pope’s perfect meter/Marion Halligan’s oranges/Alice Walker’s muffins/Kathy Acker’s blood/Oscar Wilde’s loneliness/Les Murray’s insurance policy/Peter Porter’s chair/Elizabeth Jolley’s cricket bat/Caryl Phillip’s beauty/Craig Raine’s typewriter/A sky ahead of itself/A diary alone on a shelf/Ben Jonson’s teddy bear/Tori Amos’ ruby red slippers/Bjork’s cello/Jane Austen’s cheerful teacups/Germane Greer’s x-ray/Bryce Courtney’s dust jacket/JD Salinger’s deer hat/John Lennon’s copy of Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell/Will Self’s kettle/Sam Shepard’s cowboy hat/Bob Dylan’s steering wheel/Toni Morrison’s pen/Paul Simon’s America/Helen Garner’s nails/John Pilger’s night light/Clive James’ balloon/Ruby Wax’s candy red lipstick/Michelangelo’s sonnets/Salman Rushdie’s beard/Joyce Carol Oates wastepaper basket/Peter Hoeg’s icepick/Ernest Hemmingway’s mini-series/T.S. Eliot’s crumpet/Janet Frame’s chocolate Easter bunny/Jeanette Winterson’s compass/ Dorothy Hewitt’s kitchen table/Archie Weller’s commodore/A paper full of ciphers/A rat amongst pied pipers//The jealousy of writers/

Michael Crane

24 Postcards
From the End of the World


Dear citizens of Earth,

We are the defeated and the betrayed. We are the vagabonds begging forgiveness. We are the crippled and the maimed. We are alone and unloved. We are the aged and the weary. There is no happiness or joy. There is no depression or tears. When we venture to your town, you walk past us as though we were invisible. We exist only in the memory of stray cats and trees. Here at the end of the world there is no light and the nights are never-ending. Strange things happen here. Failed businessmen jump off tall buildings and keep falling, never to hit the ground. Beautiful women beg on the street for kisses and hugs. Politicians donate their wages to the poor. When a young girl cries, saxophones wail in the streets. Salesmen give their merchandise away for free. When it hails, yellow and red tulips fall from the sky. There is no wealth here because money does not exist. There is no crime. Policemen sing in karaoke bars: songs about love and loss. Music is the only currency. Inside every heart there is a song waiting to be sung: songs of bitterness and confusion; songs of life and death; songs of salvation and redemption. These postcards are songs too, strange songs sung by soft whispering voices echoing at the end of the world.

Hello and goodbye,
from the man
with the invisible limp.


Dear supermodel with the bucked-tooth lisp,

I am a history professor. Last night I had a strange dream. The government had invented a time machine, but there was a problem – it could not bring people back to the present: a one-way ticket to the past. The world was on the brink of World War Three and oblivion. The plan was to send me back to the garden of Eden and to tell Adam and Eve of the horrors of the world so they could warn future generations. A few seconds later I appeared in Eden standing next to Eve. She was beautiful and perfectly formed, but Adam was a few feet away and hadn’t fully evolved. He was half ape, half man, and had not learned to speak. I took Eve aside and told her of humanity’s dark future. I told her of Jesus and the crucifixion, and of the murder and pillage in the centuries to follow. I told her of the reign of Mussolini, and the destruction caused by the atom bomb. She listened carefully and a worried frown appeared on her brow. She looked so beautiful I asked her to be mine. Eve thought long and hard, and every second felt like an eternity. She looked up at me and told me she couldn’t because I was from the future, and mixing our blood might cause problems with our children. She put her arm around my shoulder and said that she knew Adam was a bit dumb but that she liked dark and silent men anyway. She told me we could still be friends, it wasn’t the end of the world. I woke up with the feeling of an intense and unbearable longing.

Cordially yours,
the organ grinder from hell.


Dear Pontius the red-necked parrot,

I’m miserable when I shouldn’t be. Any man would die for my job. I’m paid by my boss to make love to all the secretaries in his company. It is my duty to keep them sexually satisfied so they can keep their minds focussed on the job, and not get distracted by life outside of work chasing boyfriends. I have sex three times a night, six days a week, and each time is with a different girl. They are all beautiful and could easily find work as models. I am a lucky man, yet I feel so empty. There is one condition. I am not allowed to talk to the girls or kiss them, because the boss does not want them to get emotionally attached to me and lose concentration at work. I am there for their physical needs only. At first it was heaven, but soon I began to miss the little things I hadn’t thought important before. I miss the laughter of the one you care about when you tell them a funny joke. I miss the proud smile on their faces when you are introduced to their friends and family. I miss the intense look on their faces as they squeeze a pimple on your chin. I miss their wisdom when they give you advice on a dilemma you thought could not be solved. But most of all I miss smelling the scent from their bodies the first time you kiss them. I feel as lonely and forsaken as Christ on the cross. I’m in heaven but it feels like hell.

Kind regards,
from the sad hunchback
from a place too far to care.


Dear Genghis Khan and his seven dwarves,

A friend of mine told me a story about her twin sister Mary, who was overweight. She went to see her family doctor. He told her she had to exercise more and gave her the address of a bicycle shop. He said it was important that she told the owner that he had sent her. She was given a blue bicycle with wooden wheels. She decided she would ride it home and then lock it in the garage forever. But when she arrived home, she couldn’t get off the bicycle because her feet were stuck to the pedals. She rode through the afternoon and into the night. When she wanted to sleep she closed her eyes and the bicycle steered itself, the pedals working on their own. Every morning at seven-thirty a.m. and every night at seven-thirty p.m. no matter where she was, the same man would be waiting on the roadside to hand her special dietary food in a brown paper bag as she rode past. She rode non-stop for exactly one year until she came to a glistening blue river. The pedals on the bicycle seized up and it came to a stop. Mary got off and sat on the bank to rest, and noticed her reflection in the clear water. She was slim and her hair had grown down her back. Someone tapped her on the shoulder. It was the man who had always given her food. He stroked her hair and told her she looked beautiful although he’d quite liked her the way she was before. A deep sound rumbled in her throat for a long time, almost like the sound of a cat purring.

Hooray for Hollywood,
from Sally, when I say goodbye
I only mean for ever.


Dear Sasha the princess of pain,

It is our wedding next week and I feel that it is vital that I share my thoughts with you before we exchange rings. I know that you are beautiful. You are sex on a stick. You are wealthy and move in the same circles as many well-known celebrities. Fashion gurus seek your advice. Children smile when you walk into a room. But I don’t love you for these reasons. I want to marry you because you crack me up every time you open your mouth, and I laugh so much I almost wet myself. I laugh when you are in the bath and fart, and there is a shy mischievous grin on your face as the bubbles rise to the surface. I laugh when we are at the beach and you rip my shirt off and kiss me with a passion centuries old. I laugh when you belch so loud in public that people stop in their tracks. I laugh at when we were at the gift shop and you picked up a candle in the shape and colour of a banana and took a bite. You are not afraid of anyone, and tall strong men with tattoos tremble at your feet and it makes me laugh. Most of all I laugh when you have an orgasm and raise your fists to the sky, shouting “Eureka, thar she blows!” I know that if I marry you I will be laughing till the day I die and will go to the grave a happy man. This postcard is my wedding vow to you.

from the corpse with
the foolish grin.


Dear waitress with the haughty walk,

I was going to kill myself. I had planned it for months. I had withdrawn my savings from the bank and donated them to the local cat’s home. Had written farewell letters to my friends, which I gave to a stranger to post after my death. Had decided which bridge to jump from. I went to the local McDonald’s as I usually do to read the morning paper. Then it happened. Two white stretch limousines stopped outside. It was a wedding party. The bride and groom entered McDonald’s followed by seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen. The bridesmaids wore long orange gowns. They ordered their Big Macs and french fries and sat a few feet opposite me. When they had finished eating the youngest bridesmaid, who was about fifteen years old, caught me staring at them and smiled. She got up and walked to my table. She asked my why I was sad. I told her that life is difficult. She said “Yet it is a sad and beautiful world”. She put her left hand on my forehead and told me not to worry, and that things would get better. Then she walked back to the wedding party, which got up to leave. I called out to her as she was leaving that maybe we’d meet again one day. She turned around, smiled, and said “yes – if you play your cards right”. I forgave her coyness and arrogance because I knew I had been blessed by a silver winged wraith. Maybe I won’t go to that bridge tonight. Perhaps I’ll jump on a plane and travel the world for awhile and come back to this restaurant in a few years and be blessed by some other dark-skinned angel.

Remember me
When there is
no-one to call your name.


Dear Bearded Lady with the great hairy sideburns,

I read an article today about a famous photographer who was holding an exhibition in a museum. I walked amongst the crowds who spoke in awe of his camerawork and use of shade and light in black and white stills. I listened to a speaker recount the photographer’s glittering career. I looked at the many famous celebrities smiling at the camera. I then remembered a photograph in one of my mother’s many albums. It was taken when I was three years old and sitting with four other children in my family’s suburban back yard. My sister (who was twelve months younger than me) sat to my left and was looking down at a ragged doll in her lap. To my right were three friends. Gary, my closest friend for many years, was staring hard at the camera. His brother Paul was sitting next to him, looking to his right at Leanne, my next-door neighbour. Even at age two she was a rare beauty. She stared straight at the camera with a Mona Lisa smile. Thirty-five years later I am standing in a crowded museum. I look at the famous celebrities but they mean nothing to me. My sister and I drifted apart and I haven’t seen her for years. I don’t know what happened to Gary, Paul or Leanne. They may be married, in jail, junkies or dead. But that photograph will never fade away in my mind, and I will carry it with me till I die. It may seem strange, but I would trade all the successful lives of those celebrities at the exhibition if I could go back in time to that day when five children sat in the back yard, unafraid and oblivious to the world.

With deepest sympathy
from the solemn bastard
you always see at funerals.


Dear Sword-swallower of great renown,

My life felt empty. I couldn’t get out of bed no matter how blue the sky. Love and happiness seemed an impossible dream. There was no light at the end of my tunnel. I had to do something. I went to see a guru. He wore a long pale orange robe and had gold earrings in both ears. His head was shaven and he wore a finely trimmed grey goatee. His skin was well-tanned and he walked with a silver-plated cane. He gave me a high quality coloured brochure detailing the many courses on offer. There was rebirthing, meditation and breathing classes, and also monthly retreats. He claimed that there was nothing he could not teach so long as I was prepared to learn. I left his studio and walked down the street. A woman with a pram and her two-year old son were walking towards me. As I walked past her a black purse fell from the pram onto the ground. I picked up the purse and called out to her. She was so surprised that a stranger would help her she hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. I looked down at her son who was smiling at me because I had made his mother happy. He gave me a smile of unconditional trust. Now I visit his mother once a week and baby-sit her son. I now have a new guru. He only has ten teeth and needs to have his nappy changed twice a day but he teaches me everything I need to know.

All the best …
the fool on the hill
who can’t stop laughing.


Dear Morticia the ice queen,

I’ve known you for a long time and I care for you dearly. I don’t mind that you cheated on me and had sex with a bouncer while I was in the lounge room watching the Greco-Roman wrestling event from the Olympic Games. It’s okay that you hate cats and keep a python in a large fishtank and feed it live kittens. I didn’t think twice when I heard you were the prime suspect in a serial murder investigation involving the death of seven nubile young men (although seven has always been your lucky number.) I wasn’t angry when I found out that you had sabotaged every relationship I had since we broke up by telling my girlfriends that I had AIDS I just shrugged my shoulders and smiled. The fact that you modelled your philosophy of life on the teachings of Charles Manson didn’t shock me. I was a little concerned that your last three boyfriends had died from the same mystery illness and that you were the sole beneficiary of their wills, but I put it down as a strange coincidence. But today I heard the most shocking news yet. I heard that you think Kylie Minogue is a goddess, and that Ricky Martin is the new Elvis. Really, Morticia – that is too much. May God have mercy on you. There are some things I can’t forgive and I think we had better not see each other any more.

All my love,
from Harry Houdini
and his magic sword.


Dear Matilda the walking and talking mannequin,

I said goodbye to my mother today or should I say she said goodbye to me. We had been on the road together for the last five years. I remember that first night together in the car when we left my father’s house. It was my twelfth birthday and they were arguing late at night. They were swearing at each other and then I heard a loud slapping sound from the kitchen and my mother soon came up the stairs and took me by the hand and led me out of the house and into the station wagon. I remember that first night in the car when we left the city and drove through the countryside and sitting in the back seat looking up at the thousands of stars in the cloudless night sky. We drove from one town to the next staying long enough for mum to take countless photographs of people and the town buildings. I remember driving over tall bridges high above the coastal rivers and looking at the mangrove swamps and the whit ibis fossicking in the mud. I remember looking up at the galahs perched high above the power lines on the side of the roads. I remember the many overnight caravans we stayed and meeting one of the owners Jim for the first time and how mum laughed at his strange stories of people who had stayed in his caravan park. Mum always sent him a postcard from each town we stopped at. One night we came to the town where my aunt lived and mum told me that she wanted me to stay there from now on. She told me she loved me and gave me two large boxes filled with many photographs taken during our five years on the road. She said she was going to live with Jim. I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, but looking at those photographs now, won’t stop me from missing her.

A warm hello
from the inspector
of broken dreams.


Dear Shirley temple with the pot-plant-pilfering eyes,

You know that I have been a nurse at the hospital for many years and I never talk about my work, but one of our patients had been admitted for severe constipation and for two weeks we tried every medication and technique to get his bowels moving but nothing worked. One morning he read a letter to me from his girlfriend Cynthia telling him that she was leaving him for a man who has perfect bowel movement. She added that he even had total control of his bladder as well. Then it happened. He said that he needed to go to the toilet but all the cubicles were busy so I gave him a bed pan and closed the curtain around him, A few seconds later he let out a long, loud grunt. I went to pick up the bed pan from him and he had a smile on his face. I looked inside and there in the pan was a perfectly formed faeces in the shape of the letter D. The same thing happened for the next 60 days. Every morning at exactly ten a.m. he would leave a letter from the alphabet in his bedpan. Soon every one was talking about it because he seemed to be leaving a message for the world to see. TV crews appeared and interviewed him. Newspaper journalists wrote daily articles announcing the arrival of each new letter. A movie producer offered him lot of money to make a film about his life. And then on the sixtieth day it stopped. From then on his bowels were normal and left no faeces in the shape of a letter. He discharged himself from the hospital. He had arrived as just another patient and left a national celebrity. That afternoon the newspaper printed his message in full and I couldn’t stop laughing. “Dear Cynthia, you whore you broke my heart, but nothing beats a good purge.”

From Florence Nightingale
and her three Burmese cats.


Dear Albert Einstein and your love machine,

I met a man with a golden voice tonight. I am a literary agent and one of my clients was getting married. Theirs was an unconventional wedding. They had hired a restaurant beside the river and had prepared a stage for the band to play after dinner. They had hired a celebrant and after they exchanged their vows a friend of theirs read a poem by Gregory Corso proclaiming that lovers should denounce tradition and rebel together against the world. He had a deep husky voice and I noticed every single woman in the room watching him intently. Later I walked to his table and talked to him and he said he was a writer but didn’t want to talk shop and he asked me to dance. When we got to the dance floor, several other women got up to dance close to us and were all looking at him. They were all beautiful. I knew I couldn’t compete with them and I walked out into the cool night and sat on the pier. I could smell the water below and looked at the lights from the city buildings reflecting on the water. I felt someone tap me on the shoulder and he sat down beside me. We spoke for a little while and he told me how his father used to take him swimming in a river when he was a young child. It reminded me when we lived on the bank of the Clarence River and when I was young my father would row my mother and I across to the other side. We kissed for a moment and I let him take me home and as we left the wedding and walked to the car I could hear the music from the band echo through the night.

Cordially yours,
the independent woman
with the need for love.


Dear Sir, madam and all potential members,

So you want to join our club. The fact that you want to be one of us makes you automatically eligible. No fees apply here at the Losers Club. We pride ourselves that our dreams are small and attainable. Our visions are of the everyday. We don’t crave wealth and power. A friendly greeting from a stranger is money in our vaults. We go to gambling houses and when playing black jack always buy a card when sitting on twenty. We don’t go to the races to gamble but to listen to the hooves pound on the turf when they approach the home turn. We wait in bars and hand red carnations to single women and then leave without asking them anything in return. We go to mental hospitals and visit each new admission telling them we know they are not mad and to just go along for the ride. We go to cemeteries and mourn the dead and forgotten. Our only mission in life is to wander silently through the streets at the end of the world and listen patiently to the stories of the broken hearted. Every night at twelve o’clock we meet in an empty café and recount those stories to each other listening with the ears of hearts and souls. It’s a strange club we run here friend. Money won’t buy you entry. Fast cars and big houses do not impress us But if you can tell us of your sorrow, if you can tell us of your despair, if you get knocked down by life and get up smiling then you are a member of our club because friend sooner or later you will win and your courage and humility will shine like a beacon over the murky waters here at the end of the world.

From the man
with the voice
of seven drunken angels.


Dear Hopalong Cassidy and his silver maned palomino,

When I first saw Tammara, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She was almost six feet tall with blonde hair and nice sized breasts. She wore a tight fitting silver dress and was dancing alone in the night club. I noticed other men watching her from the bar so I decided to take a chance and walked up to her. I didn’t say a word, I just smiled at her and began to dance keeping my body in time with the rhythm of her dancing. I didn’t try to talk to her but after twenty minutes, I took her hand and led her to a dark part of the nightclub and kissed her. Her lips were full and sensual and no one had ever kissed me like her before. It was always a dream of mine to be with someone like her. I took her to my place and we drank wine and I found out that we many things in common: the same taste in music and literature. We had similar heroes and we even liked the same sports. I knew that I had to make love to her there and then. She stopped me before I could take things further by telling me that her secret fantasy was to feel what it was like to kill someone, to have that power over life and death. I don’t know if she was recruiting me to fulfil her fantasy but I knew then no matter how much I desired her I had to leave. A few weeks later I saw a report on the news of two suspects in a murder case. Tamara was standing beside her new boyfriend smiling at the camera denying any involvement in the murder and blaming her boyfriend. He looked at her crushed and defeated. I studied that smiling killer with the face and body of a Goddess and I thought of her that night dancing alone in the nightclub wearing that glittering silver dress.

Yours in pain,
from the man
who no one loved.


Dear Samantha the wandering temptress with the serpent eyes,

I hate you because you are so arrogant that you think the world was created for you alone. I hate you because when you think you are scorned, your rage is cruel and merciless. I hate you because you know you are beautiful but don’t realise that this gift is not everlasting and is temporary like a full moon. I hate you because you cannot see that your friends are parasites who feed off your beauty and power. I hate you because your need to be desired is all consuming and is the reason that you breathe. I hate you because you give the secrets of your heart to your friends but deny them to the one who loves you. I hate your delusions that mystery equates to romance. For all your wisdom and experience you don’t realise that to your suitors you are merely a trophy. I hate you because you are prone to fits of rage that could be silenced simply by an honest conversation. I hate your coyness. I hate your vanity and ego. Most of all I hate you because you are the only woman I have ever loved but my desire for you can never be returned. I see the reflection of your cold hard eyes stare at me every day in the mirror and my heart is dying a slow and miserable death. I hate you because I love you.

With fond regrets
from Fabio
the moustache twirler.


Dear pretty perfect Priscilla with the enormous beehive,

I didn’t know Paul that well. He was an actor and theatre producer and there were so many people at his funeral it was like an opening night for one of his plays. There were two different generations of people there standing outside the funeral parlour as the coffin was carried into a grey limousine. Elvis Presley was singing “American trilogy” over the loudspeaker and I saw a couple of people smiling at Paul’s final joke. Paul had jumped onto the rails of an oncoming train. I had never looked down into an open grave before and I dropped flowers petal down into the dark pit. I felt guilty that I was probably there more for my own experience of having never been to a funeral rather than to mourn Paul. A fleck of dust flew into my eyes and brought a tear which I tried to wipe away. One of his aunts saw me and grabbed my elbow and said that I must have really loved Paul. She walked away before I could reply and I guess my silent lie was my gift for Paul. I heard he had written a thirty page suicide letter and that he had many dangerous addictions. I never read the letter and would have been too critical anyway. I’ve never liked long speeches. Really Paul, Elvis singing “American” as your coffin left the building that grey winters morning said more to me than any letter could have.

Happiness is a warm gun
from the man who could
not stop laughing.


Dear he who chants Mantras while feeding his goldfish,

The twelve men of the Body Corporate sat around the long table waiting for the director to address them. He had entered the room looking sad and dejected. He sat there for a long time before he took a thick manilla folder from his briefcase. After a few minutes of stroking his blonde beard, he finally spoke. He told them that things looked grim and that the apartment building wasn’t attracting high bids on the markets and might have to be knocked down so they could at least sell the land. He looked at them and said there are at least a couple of opportunities out there and they just had to have patience and faith. Thomas was the only one who didn’t seemed convinced. He told the director that it would need a miracle to save them The director replied that he had never failed them before and sometimes miracles did occur. Thomas, said no one could get them out of this mess this time. The directors replied that he had heard on the grapevine that Japanese investors had read the prospectus and were interested and that real estate prices would jump back to the normal level soon. Thomas was quiet this time. The director looked thoughtfully at the group. He knew that one of them in the group would deny that they had this meeting and would leave them to go to another organisation and forsake them. He knew that one of them would betray them and take a lesser offer and sell the property beneath them. He knew that nothing would resurrect their company but he liked his companions and they ordered pizzas and drank red wine and toasted to the success of their venture.

Love from the blue-eyed,
blonde haired surfer
of your dreams.


Dear Albert Schweitzer and his harem of pygmy women,

I’ve never considered myself lucky. In fact the opposite. Never won a prize in a lottery. Never married or fathered a child. I have a few friends but don’t see them often. I tried to promote music and poetry to a wider audience but never made any money. Today however I was reflecting that sometimes luck isn’t equated to love or money, or success. I remembered five years ago being taken to a mental hospital and I appealed. My case was reviewed by ten doctors in a large room. They said that I was depressed and I replied that I was a writer and led a depressing life. They told me that if I was a writer, to recite them a poem. I was unaware that it was reported that I might be dangerous and a threat to the community. I recited an allegorical poem about how I gave up a life of violence to become an artist. I could have chosen to recite any number of poems but I chose that one and was released from the hospital the next day. Recently I was admitted into a hospital suffering from burns caused by a cooking accident. The ambulance officer said that I had a mental illness and the admissions clerk did not check my wounds and I was allocated a place far down in the queue. I was in great pain and a nurse walking past saw me grimacing and complained to the clerk. She administered me morphine. Nothing can take away the pain of a lonely life. For a while my burns stopped hurting. Luck sometimes comes in many forms and always when you least expect it.

With respect
from the captain who sailed
out to sea on a ship made from hope.


Dear psychotic, philandering prick,

You bastard. You horrible, heinous, hypocrite. You liar. You malicious, manipulating maggot. You. You. You corrupt, conniving con artist. Torturer of innocent victims. Twisted and cruel. Mean and vicious. You architect of the world’s pain. You with the blood of the losers on your hands. You with the head of the dreamer impaled on your sword. You. You who rapes his own muse. You sly scheming, swindling, rattle snake. Hitler’s got nothing on you. You would sell your own children down the river. Traitor. You would make a cannibal eat his own flesh. Fraud. You. You demon. You Machiavellian Prince with the integrity of a serial killer. You Dorian Gray with the heart so black your own reflection in the mirror is turned to stone. You. You. You slut whose soul lights the fire of hell. You untalented, unscrupulous, unoriginal un-poet. You whore. Death stalks you in the dark shadows. You mind fucker. You pompous, pretentious, pontificating ponce. You. You are not my enemy, you are an emema, you lifeless shit. You. You. You. Aghhh. Now I’ve gone and wasted a postcard on you. You. You… You win again.

Die and dance
with the worms
forever you fiend.


Dear ferocious, unforgiving, femme fatale with the filigree earrings,

I had an idea to write my first poem tonight. I’ve never written even a single line before. Yesterday I broke up with my girlfriend Michelle. We always argued and have broken up many times before but I know it is over now. She always wore opportunity shop clothes, that no matter how ragged they were, looked sexy on her. She was a kleptomaniac and every moment I had to be her lookout as she stole groceries, televisions, ornamental vases. She was the only woman who could satisfy me when giving oral sex and she loved swallowing my semen but it’s all over now. Tonight I felt like an emotional volcano and started writing a poem. I wrote how her smile was like the sun. How her tears were made of moonbeams. How her hair cascaded down like a waterfall. I had almost finished the poem when a vision of her appeared in the candle light. She seemed to be real to me. She looked at me with contempt and took my poem and ripped it up. She told me to stop writing this sentimental crap. She told me to write from my soul not with the syrupy juices of my hallmark card heart. She slapped me on the face and told me to shape up and then she was gone. I then wrote a poem about how I once saw her hanging all her newly dyed black clothes on the line and how they looked like bats hanging from a tree. I wrote how my lust for her was an untamed thing and I must never forget that although she is my muse, she is not some mythological Goddess but a woman made of flesh and blood living forever in my memory.

From the dazed
and confused man
standing on the deck
of the Manly Ferry.


Dear pious, self righteous, smug archangel,

My God cannot perform miracles. He doesn’t have silvery hair and wear a long white robe. He doesn’t have a deep resonant voice. He never listens to my prayers. My God doesn’t live in a palace high above the rolling clouds. He could be a she but that doesn’t worry me. He speaks to everyone but nobody listens. He guides me through treachery by giving me a memory that reminds me of the lessons of the past. My God is an anarchist who cares not to be worshipped. He has the flaws and frailty of a normal human being. There are those that worship their Gods to give them high standing among others. There are those who would kill those who do not believe in their God’s teachings. My God is a hairy arm pitted womanising drunk who does not care if people believe in him or not. My God did not create the universe yet he gives me the vision to see through the lies of world. I never blame my god or ask for his help, because my God does not exist yet I know that he is always there. He is there when a child cries. He is there when the suicides leap. He is there at the end of the world. He is that bird on the bough, the hill in the distance, that long legged woman who trips over her high heels, that dried up river bed, that cold winter’s rain.

God Bless you
from the choir boy
with the slingshot
in his hands.


To the hero who lies dying in the seaweed,

My mother and I have just returned from Bali. She paid for my trip to help me get over my divorce with Gary. One of our days there we were in a remote village and one of the old ladies saw the small tattoo of a snake on my wrist and she grabbed my arm and made me sit down with her. She told me of the Serpent Woman who terrorised the village for two centuries. She had the body of a gigantic snake and the torso of a beautiful woman with long black hair and green eyes that put you in a trance. Spears or fire could not kill her. She came to the village twice a year to kill and eat one of the young men. Women and children did not interest her. The old lady told me that she had three sons and was worried that she would lose them. Her anguished tears worried her oldest son and one night when the Serpent woman was due to come to the village he went to the beach to wait for her. A few hours later he saw her form in the waves a few yards away. He began to sing a song as she got closer and when he was only a few feet away he looked into her deep green eyes and told her that he loved her. He walked up to her and put his hands under her chin and kissed her and he heard her give out a long sigh. He got on her back and began to sing again as she returned back into the ocean and carried her lover to her island far away never to return. I don’t know why but for the first time I stopped thinking of Gary with a feeling of regret and sorrow.

From the girl
with the blue
pick up truck.


Dear Goldilocks and the three muscle builders,

I am the wicked witch the most hated being in the kingdom, but lately I’ve grown tired of evil. You can only make so many poisoned apples. You get weary of eating children and turning princes into frogs. I want to get my long fingernails cut and painted and plastic surgery done to straighten my crooked nose. I arranged a meeting with Cinderella and snow white to let them know of my decision to be nice. I sent them my book of spells to let them know it wasn’t a trap. The two beauties came to my castle and I thought they would be pleased but they were both angry. They told me that I was ruining everything. It seemed that me being wicked and ugly made them look good and admired in the land and they were afraid they would stop getting dates. They told me that there was a whole industry based on me and that I would put a lot of princes rescuing damsels in distress out of work. Also because I was bad and always failing, a lot of witches decided to take the path of being good and the whole kingdom was getting their wishes granted and doing rather nicely. They pleaded with me not to change. For the first time in my life I felt wanted and I agreed to their wish and decided to wave my wand and give them a bag of gold. But I’m not good at doing good deed and I turned them into roasts chickens. It was a bit of a shame but I was hungry and they tasted so sweet. It seems even when I’m good, I end up being bad.

From Broomhilda
the good time gal
in a room filled with mirrors.


Dear happy hooker with the degree in fine arts,

Sometimes you need to dig deep in your memory to find out more about yourself. Last night I was thinking about my childhood. I remember one of my aunts telling me stories about Mickey Mouse living underneath my bed and how sailors when they drowned turned into dolphins. I remember when I turned eighteen my father taking me aside and warning me to never get married and end up with a shrew for the rest of my life. This morning I broke up with my fiancée Karen. We had been together for five years and she always wanted a white wedding. I told her that the problem was me, that everyday when I walk the streets I see beautiful women and fall in love ten times a day. She screamed and ran out the house and I heard her start her car and drive off. I didn’t want it to end this way so I got into my car and tried to follow. She drove well above the speed limit and it was hard keeping up with her. An hour later she stopped at the beach and was walking into the water when I had arrived. I ran onto the beach and took off my shoes and jacket and was about to swim after but when I looked up she was gone. I waited for a couple of minutes desperately hoping that she would surface. Forty yards out a sleek black dolphin leapt out of the waves and somersaulted. It appeared again and it raised its body above the water an stood there for a few seconds in the air waving its fin and then it too was gone. I waited for a few minutes more staring into the ocean and then I walked back to my car.

From the man
who sings like a
drunken weary angel.

Thomas Reichl


Der Aufseher betrat den ihm zugeteilten Bereich, kümmerte sich jeden Tag neu um die Ordnung im Kugellager, verschob bei Bedarf einige Kugeln, die über Nacht von ihrer Stelle gerollt waren und neu eingerichtet werden mußten. Wenn die Langeweile zuschlug, nahm er sich eine Handvoll Kugeln und jonglierte so lange, bis ihm eine der Kugeln aus dem Spiel kam und zu Boden fiel. Dann nahm er die nötigen Utensilien, um die zerplatzte Kugel zu beseitigen. Die jungen platzten immer gleich. Doch es gab auch alte, die, die schon lange im Geschäft — also im Kugellager — waren, sie hatten eine dicke Haut, all die Erfahrungen, die sie im Laufe der Zeit machten, mussten doch zutage treten, und so verdickte sich ihre Haut. Sie platzten nicht, wenn der Aufseher mit ihnen jonglierte und sie dabei fallen ließ.

Anfangs wollte ich mir nur folgendes vorstellen: einen Kreis, das Innere bin ich selbst, das eigentliche Ich, Gedanken, Gefühle und was sonst noch anfällt. Die Kreislinie selbst stellt alle Ereignisse in meinem Leben dar, aber natürlich auch im Zusammenhang mit anderen Menschen, durch die ich erst so handle, wie ich es dann auch tue. Außerhalb des Kreises befinden sich diese Leute, Freunde, Eltern, der Bruder, die Gesamtheit, die mir bekannt ist, ob flüchtig, oder nur oberflächlich läßt sich daran ersehen, wie weit sie von der Kreislinie entfernt sind. Manche, die nur kurz in mein Leben treten, also fast in meinen Kreis eindringen, werden sogleich wieder abgestoßen, oder flüchten selbst, halten ihren Platz ganz weit draußen, weder ich noch sie haben ihre Anwesenheit nötig. Außerhalb des Kreises gibt es keine Begrenzung. Die, die unmittelbar in das Geschehen eingebettet sind, drücken oft die Kreislinie nach innen, eine Delle entsteht, die mir je nach Gemütslage angenehm erscheint, oder aufreibend um Aufmerksamkeit hechelnd nur eine unliebsame Störung. Ich und mein Leben, wir beide laufen auf der Kreislinie, beizeiten ziehe ich mich nach Innen zurück, dann gehe ich wieder außerhalb des Kreises spazieren, um mir ein Bild machen zu können. Ich darf keinen Bezirk vernachlässigen.

Schnell wird mir klar, dass ein Kreismodell nicht genügt, um mir alles zu erklären, die Steigerung finde ich dann natürlich in der Kugel, quasi ein Kreis plus eine Dimension, die alles faßbar und begreiflich macht, manchmal. Der Innenraum bin wiederum ich, außerhalb der Kugel tummeln sich die Zeitgenossen. Die Fortbewegung erfolgt durch das Rollen der Kugel. Dabei stellte ich mir vor: ich als Insasse meiner Kugel, die zugleich Fortbewegungsmittel als auch Lebensraum und Obdach darstellt. Ich brauche nur ein paar Schritte in meiner Kugel zu gehen, und schon rollt sie weiter, in die gewünschte Richtung (falls eine solche von mir beabsichtigt ist). Zusammenstöße sind unvermeidbar und ab und zu auch durchaus erwünscht. Ich kann es mir halt nicht aussuchen. Wenn es kracht, muß ich mich damit abfinden. Es kommt immer auf die andere Kugel an, mit der ich zusammenstoße, ob das eine Freude oder ein Ärgernis bedeutet. Sehen kann ich übrigens nichts, das nennen wohl die meisten einen Nachtteil. Ich will mich da nicht festlegen. Spannend ist es allemal, wenn du nicht siehst, was vor dir vor sich geht.

Beim Kontrollgang im Kugellager mußte der Aufseher feststellen, dass es viel zu viele Kugelpaare gab, die einander berührten. Ihm wurde von hoher Stelle her aufgetragen, er solle gut darauf achten, dass alle Kugeln ihren Platz hatten, sich nicht aneinander drängten. Das sollte er verhindern, mit welchen Mitteln sei ihm überlassen. Er mußte Ordnung bewahren, und Ruhe noch dazu, mußte das System und seine Forderungen penibel erfüllen. Fatal wäre es, wenn zwei Kugeln sich nicht nur in einem Punkt berührten (das könnte ja auch unbeabsichtigt passieren), sondern sich regelrecht ineinander drückten, wenn bei diesen Verformungen auftraten, die fürchten ließen, dass die Insassen sich austauschen könnten, wie und worüber auch immer. Weiters mußte er beachten, dass die Zahl der Kugeln in seinem Lager immer möglichst konstant bliebe, Schwankungen steigerten nur das Erregungspotential, das glücklicherweise kaum jemand bemerkte und nutzte. Kurz: Ordnung, um jeden Preis. Er mußte wissen: wenn die Kugeln sich rasant vermehren, würde kein Platz mehr für ihn bleiben.

Er nahm also ein Werkzeug zur Hand und trennte die beiden Kugeln, die allzu nahe nebeneinander lagen. Oft war es bisher nicht vorgekommen, dass sich die Kugeln zusammentaten.

Ich rolle, wohin ich will, suche nach anderen, obwohl ich das keine Suche an sich nennen kann, denn ohne Ausblick kann ich nur hoffen, dass ich bald erschüttert werde, gezielt drauf los steuern, das geht nicht. Viele Zusammenstöße sind enttäuschend, Zeitgenossen, die eigentlich Ruhe wollen und mich nur böse ansehen, sobald sie meine dünne Haut durchdrungen haben (oder ich die ihre). Doch auch sie können es sich nicht aussuchen. Oft erwischt es mich auch im Schlaf und ich frage mich oft, ob das eine richtiggehende Überwachung ist, die mir da aufgezwungen wird, dabei fehlt mir jeglicher Durchblick, kein System ist daraus zu lesen, als würden sie, wer immer sie auch sein sollen, alles durch Zufall geregelt haben wollen, dabei aber der Kontrolle sicher, wie sonst niemand.

Manchmal sehne ich mich nach Ruhe, lege mich hin und werde unweigerlich fort gestoßen, weil jemand, der ebenfalls schlafen wollte, von einem Abenteuerlustigen, einem, der keine Ruhe finden kann, gerammt wurde und in der Folge mich anstößt. Wenn es Berechnungen gibt, so sind sie mir absolut schleierhaft. Es passiert einfach und viele haben es bereits aufgegeben, dafür eine Erklärung zu finden, die ihnen, wenn nicht die Ruhe, dann wenigstens das Wissen geben würde, weshalb die Umstände so sind.

Heute schickten sie dem Aufseher eine neue Zentrifuge, mit deren Hilfe er die großen schweren, sowie die leichten kleinen Kugeln mühelos voneinander trennen konnte. Er stellte die Maschine auf und füllte sie sogleich mit Kugeln, folgte den Befehlen der Bedienungsanleitung (so wie er auch den Befehlen von oben folgte), wartete nur kurz, und das Ergebnis konnte sich sehen lassen: in fünf verschiedenen Größen wurden die Kugeln ausgeschieden, er legte nun alle in vorgesehene Behälter. Seit kurzem mußte er nicht nur darauf acht geben, dass niemand zu nahe an die anderen herankam, als Verschärfung der Ordnung kam noch dazu, dass die Kugeln in den bestimmten Behältern möglichst einheitliche Größe und Gewicht besaßen. Der Aufseher fragte nicht, wozu, er tat einfach, was man ihm auftrug. Immer noch besser als mit den Kugeln zu jonglieren.

Ich bin wieder einmal gierig darauf, jemanden zu sehen. Es geschieht ja sonst nicht viel und da kommt es schon vor, dass ich herum rolle, um einen Zusammenstoß zu provozieren. Es klappt auch bald, doch eine weitere Enttäuschung macht mich mutlos. Dann endlich Glück: meine Kugelhaut drückt sich nach innen und mich an die Wand. Zuerst ist es das unaufhaltsame Lachen, das mich festnagelt. Wir sitzen dann wohl irgendwo. Paulina heißt sie und wir reden über das Telefonieren an sich, dass wir keine Freunde dieser Verständigungsform sind, weil wir nicht das Gegenüber sehen können, nur hören, und es macht einen großen Unterschied, ob man jemanden mit einem Sinn wahrnimmt oder mit mehreren. Es dauert, einige Wochen, Monate vielleicht, wir stoßen noch des öfteren zusammen, und ich denke manchmal, das hat schon seine Ordnung so. Dann irgendwann mal (ich wüßte das Datum, doch es tut nichts zur Sache) der erste Kuß, und ich stelle mir heute vor: zwei Kugeln, die sich umschlungen halten, die eine hält sich bei der anderen fest, so unvorstellbar ist das. Dann der Kuß. Der erste ist zwar nicht gleich der beste, aber der, den man am wenigsten vergißt. Doch es dauert nicht lange und wir stoßen nicht mehr zusammen, ich weiß nicht, weshalb, sie stößt nun wohl mit anderen zusammen, ich liege und schlafe, soweit mir das erlaubt ist. Sehe manchmal — in meiner Vorstellung — zwei Kugeln, die sich soweit verformen, dass sie gemeinsam nur eine Kugel darstellen, jeder reduziert sich von der Kugel zur Halbkugel und dann passen sie zusammen. Daß da natürlich etwas entstehen muß, ergibt sich von selbst, denn es gibt im Kugellager keine Materialvernichtung. Ich weiß von Erzählungen anderer, dass es einen Aufseher gibt, der manchmal mit uns spielt, mich hat es noch nicht erwischt, bis jetzt, und wenn jemand runterfällt, kann man ihn nicht direkt beseitigen, weil der Aufseher selbst seine Kugel hat, vermute ich, eine bedeutend größere zwar, aber eben auch nur eine Kugel, die keine Öffnung hat, und so bleibt alles im System, abgeschlossen, wie ich denke.

Der Aufseher legte keine großen Entfernungen zurück, immer nur im Kugellager beschäftigt, konnte er die Grenzen seiner Kugel nicht ausloten. Er kam nie dazu, weiter zu gehen, als erforderlich. Außerdem war es ihm auch verboten worden, indirekt. Er hatte seine Arbeit zu verrichten, und ihm hatte niemand gesagt, dass er auch eine Kugel hatte, so kam ihm erst gar nicht der Gedanke, weiter zu gehen, er konnte nicht der Verführung des Verbotenen erliegen.

Wieder einmal durch Nichtstun gelangweilt, stach er ohne naheliegende Gründe in einige Kugeln, es entwich Luft und er glaubte, leise Geräusche zu hören, als würde jemand versuchen, ihn davon abzuhalten, weiter die Kugeln anzustechen. Bei seiner Arbeit fiel ihm auf, dass es unmöglich war, in die ganz großen und schweren, also alten Kugeln einzudringen, als würde sich etwas dagegen stellen und ihn verhöhnen. Die Haut mußte es sein, die dicke, undurchdringliche Haut der alten Kugeln. Wie kam die nur zustande, fragte sich der Aufseher. Egal, sein Spiel wurde ihm auch schon langweilig und er hörte auf, die Kugeln zu traktieren..

Eine zeit lang tue ich gar nichts, versuche nicht einmal mutlos herum zu rollen, es hat doch keinen Sinn. Ich denke mir: besser, nichts tun und keine Enttäuschung fühlen und erleiden müssen. Doch es kracht ab und zu doch noch, auch wenn ich versuche, es den anderen zu verbieten, es nutzt nichts. Manche werden richtig aufdringlich, wollen sich austauschen, wollen, dass unsere beiden Kugeln zu einer zusammenwachsen, sie sagen mir: du mußt schon heute handeln, denn in ein paar Tagen wird deine Haut so dick geworden sein, dass du unfähig sein wirst, zu agieren, ja, auch unfähig, zu reagieren, du kannst dich dann nicht mehr austauschen, ich sehe es doch, du bist alt geworden, und müde.

Doch ich höre nicht auf die Stimmen, die Gesichter stoßen mich ab. Es nutzt auch nichts, dass sie mir erzählen, wie schön das sei, sich zu vereinigen. Ich lasse mich auf nichts ein, und bemerke immer öfter, dass meine Haut wirklich an Dicke zunimmt, mir ist das nur recht, denn so kommen nicht mehr so viele unerwünschte Besucher zu mir (erwünschte gibt es schon lange nicht mehr). Eine Kugel hat mir grade eben erzählt, dass die Anzahl der Kugeln steigt, weil sich viele bereit erklären, sich zu vereinigen, es ist fast so, dass jeder dazu bereit ist, sich sogar öfters am Tag anbietet. Nur du bist ein unwilliger Spielverderber, sagt die Kugel, und ich bleibe ruhig und warte darauf, dass sie geht. Sie sollen mich in Ruhe lassen, nicht weiter anbohren. Könnte ich aus meiner Kugel ganz heraus, würde ich außen ein Schild anbringen, um ihnen ein für allemal klarzumachen, dass ich nicht gestört werden will. Doch ich bin zuversichtlich, dass meine Haut bald dick genug ist, um sie alle abzuhalten. Das wird schön dann.

Er hatte viel zu tun, in den letzten Tagen, immer klarer wurde es ihm: sie werden mehr, und ich habe keine Möglichkeit, das zu ändern. Der Aufseher stand da und sah zu, wie sie mehr wurden, er sah es nicht direkt, doch kaum sah er mal nicht hin, kam es ihm vor, als wären sie schon mehr geworden. Niemand erteilte ihm Ratschläge, nicht von oben und sonst auch nirgends her. Es war ruhig geworden um sei Kugellager. Nur innen drinnen schien es rund zu gehen. Der Aufseher dachte: warum sind sie keine Würfel, ich könnte sie ordnen, ich täte mir leichter, ich staple sie. Doch die Kugeln: kaum treibe ich sie auf einen Haufen zusammen, reißen einige aus und niemals wird es mir gelingen, sie einzuschließen, womit auch? Ja, eine Lawine, alles rollt, nie regiert der Stillstand, alles kommt außer Kontrolle, wegen ihrer Kugelform, da ist keine Ordnung hineinzubringen, kein System durchziehbar.

Ich denke nach, will Gerätschaften erfinden, die mich daran hindern, weiter zu rollen. Es geht nicht. Wenn ich ruhig schlafe, schon, doch kaum stehe ich auf, muß ich einen Schritt tun, und dann rolle ich auch schon. Ein Würfel, fällt mir wie nebenbei ein, das wäre es! Ich müßte Anlauf nehmen und gegen eine der vier Seitenwände springen, um den Würfel umzukippen, und dann fiele er auch nur eine Seitenkante weit, damit läßt sich kein Weg zurücklegen. Aber kaum rolle ich ,ist das nicht mehr aufzuhalten. Ich muß in die Gegenrichtung, dann stoppe ich. Ein Würfel, ja, der würde mir Ruhe gewährleisten, Zusammenstöße auf ein erträgliches Minimum reduzieren, die anderen würden es der Mühe nicht wert finden, alle Anstrengungen daran zu setzen, weiter zu kommen. Doch was hilft es, es sind nun einmal Kugeln, keine Würfel. Manchmal sehne ich mich in die Zeit zurück, lange ist es her, als ich mich noch mit dem Kreis, also mit einer Scheibe, einer Fläche, begnügte. Doch sie nennen das point of no return, und den haben wir schon lange erreicht. Also bleibt nur die Akzeptanz.

Der Aufseher verstand es nicht so recht. Die toten Kugeln, die sich am Boden ansammelten, und seine Fortbewegung innerhalb des Lagers deutlich erschwerten, hatten dicke Häute, er stach auf sie ein, doch konnte einige gar nicht einmal aufspießen, er kam nicht durch. Warum hatten sie solche Schutzvorkehrungen, wenn sie schon tot dalagen, sie hatten doch keinen Schutz mehr nötig, sagte ihm seine Logik. Hingegen die jungen: dünnhäutig und höchst empfindlich rollten sie herum, es machte ihm zugegebenermaßen großen Spaß, sie anzustechen, denn die ganz jungen platzten und das war ein Ereignis, das gestand er sich ein. Er bekam ja sonst nicht viel zu sehen. Und er legte das Denken auch schnell wieder ab, denn Nachschub gab es ja genug an jungen Kugeln, die er, sofern er sie erwischte, voller Genuß aufstach. Die Flüssigkeit war interessant, farblos rann sie aus und bedeckte bereits den Boden, einige der Kugeln, die unteren, lagen in der Flüssigkeit. Doch sie stand noch nicht so hoch, dass er hätte austesten können, ob die Kugeln schwimmfähig waren.

Angenehm, niemand kommt mehr auf Besuch, ich spüre bloß noch die Erschütterung, wenn es kracht, doch das zaubert ein Lächeln auf mein Gesicht, es ist eine Genugtuung, dass sie es nicht mehr schaffen, in mich einzudringen. Zuerst ist da die Freude, ich weiß. Aber ich muß auch sagen, dass es eng wird hier drinnen, und da es mir ja nicht gegönnt ist, auszusteigen, muß ich bleiben, es geht noch, doch wenn meine Haut so weitermacht und weiter expandiert (nur nach innen versteht sich), dann könnte das böse enden. Nicht dass ich sehr viel Sinn darin sehe, wie ich hier lebe, ich unternehme ja nichts, mir fehlt niemand und ich fehle niemandem. Man erwartet nichts mehr von mir (früher war das auch nicht anders, nur blieb mir damals die Illusion, es gebe jemanden, dem ich fehle und umgekehrt). Also ist es vielleicht gar nicht so schlimm, wenn es hier eng ist. Möglicherweise stoppt meine Haut ja ihr nach innen gerichtetes Wachstum, wenn ich sie darum bitte (daran habe ich noch nicht gedacht), ich werde es auf jeden Fall versuchen.

Der Aufseher hatte eine Idee: er fertigte sich ein Bett, aus all den nutzlos herumliegenden Kugeln, mühsam war es schon, bis er all jene gefunden hatte, die augenscheinlich tot waren, die sammelte er ein und türmte sie so auf, dass ein bequemes Nachtlager in seinem Kugellager entstand. Tag oder Nacht, es war einerlei, doch irgendwann mußte er auch einmal zu seinem Schlaf finden. Das Bett war formlos und morgens fand er sich des öfteren am Boden liegend, die Kugeln rundherum, nur noch ein paar unter ihm, die ihm anscheinend die Treue hielten, so dachte er. Es kam auch vor, dass sich lebende zu ihm verirrten, die, während er schlief, in seinen Mund rollten, die als kleine Lawinen daherkamen und jene, welche ganz oben waren, schafften es in seine Körperöffnungen. Die spuckte er dann aus, wenn er erwachte. Immer noch wurden es mehr und mehr, und bald war es so, dass er gar nichts mehr unternehmen konnte, um sie zu ordnen, oder sich eine Schlafstatt herzurichten, sie umschlossen ihn zusehens, er watete in ihnen, sie standen ihm bis zum Hals, dann sah er bald nur noch diese runden Formen vor seinen Augen, wußte nicht, wo er sich befand in seiner Kugel, die er selbst nicht kannte. Er dachte dann nur noch, jetzt ist es aus, ich kann mir das Denken sparen. Und dann war es auch aus.

Gerry Gray died 16 November 2001

Somewhat Different Poems – a memorial


Talk, just talk.
It’s enough, it has to be,
A drought in all else.
Cruelty dictating to romance.
A wish, just a wish,
Human at any age.
Suppression reigns
As well it must.
A look, just a look,
Cat and king personified.
But, Oh! so green!
Costing nothing, giving much.
Dream, a heartbreak dream.
Temptation, fail your cruel purpose!
Leave well alone, let friendship triumph,
Not foolishness and offence.


Above the lip all masked,
When to imbibe he’s asked,
Though all partake, a simple nexus,
Left handers must be ambidextrous.
Uncommon now, by most unseen,
Less hirsuteness has set the scene.


Soft tread the flags,
Long since laid by those unfree
Except to use their strength.
Do these worn slabs still hold some warmth
From sweat-hot sun,
That shone when they were laid?
A solace to those builder’s souls,
But not the soles that since
Without remorse, have left
Their mark by stealing a small share,
Some, long crevice bound
Still more departed hence.
So, how can we gain by what is lost
From this worn flint, well trod
From then ‘til present times,
Where rain and boots still mete their toll
And eroded bulk yet grasps at memory’s store.
So, is less more when dumb beneath our feet
No tales are told?
Like dead king’s bones, their histories’ stays,
Unspoken, unremarked, and set in stone.


Formed as a question often asked,
Used against things you take to task.
In less serious mood, an old container
Used as target or a trainer
Can break, or simply wear a scar,
Depends how far away you are.
The more it’s pulled, the greater length
Is it’s sole purpose quickly sent.
Though often owned in early life,
Possession now a cause for strife.


No yawn’s companion, this stretch.
Promenade of bare, barred booths,
Bearing a finite time, donated
But unwillingly received.
Convictions edge toward finality
As through iron verticals we look
With pity or disgust. Those with shortened span
See justice deeming lawful a death for vices
Their way of life would scarce condemn.
So, a deed ill done leads twice to loss of life,
One mourned, one soon a vengeance.
That well mopped lane will bear their tread
‘Til that last shuffled walk
Here, where the rule of eye and tooth stands firm.


Another battering diatribe,
Left hanging,
Vibrating yet it’s stolen pocket of air,
Before dissipating.
This theft she keeps ever attendant,
Would it could splinter
And deliver smaller blasts.
Civility is my unwitting downfall,
Allowing false peace
Before tornadoes cringe, defeated.
My place in this?
A captive and imprudent victim
Timing hangs on my silence.
But nothing is limitless
Except the judgement I will wear with scorn
At my final surrender.


Not in recent history’s range,
Has force held power to rearrange
Long held grudges, deemed unfair,
Which unresolved led to despair.
Not since times long dead before,
Has terror led to evened score.
Now, for amends but one recourse
Diplomacy, not coward’s force.
Not piper’s call, nor hymn’s refrain
Makes coffin’s pall for those at blame.
Their willful death for held beliefs,
Shall never balance loss and grief.
Not martyrs, as by some they’re deemed,
Fruits of their death they never see
And countrymen with grudge the same,
Though innocent, still bear some blame.


What a thing, what a thought!
Playtime for the mind.
Step down from the wheel of life and self conduct.
Never harmful, light years from criticism,
A negation of outside influences.
Solitary, commode rather than communal effort,
More lasting result of course,
But seldom more useful.
Perhaps a form of execution,
Whether of lone fantasy or peer perception,
Begs the question.

John Kidd

Living in Proximity to the Tasman Bridge


From a window.
Colourlessly, ghosts of cars, trucks, buses,
relentlessly, into and out of the sight-line, cross the bridge.
Silent puffs of cloud, discreet molecules, almost real.
They are cloud, they come from cloud, go into cloud, elevated.
Beneath them is the grey insipid sky of the river
and above and beyond the slate rivers of the sky.
I know that they are peopled.
Muted against the whirring constant of the sound of the bridge,
some semblance to the music of the spheres.
From west to east, from east to west, circuitous,
humanity in motion, enclosed in nebulous vessels,
goes from shore to eternal shore.


Some years ago a man and a woman sat looking out this same window.
It was early evening. They noticed as a transformation
a pause in the music.
They wondered if they heard instead, or just prior to,
the sound of a heavy, urgent shudder,
as though steel and concrete were in pain.
They blinked and thought they saw the bridge itself pause.
What had happened was that the circle was broken.
In the gap, a black, bleak thought pre-empted the next
startling set of images that they saw.
Cars, some cars, flowed over the edge of the gap.
Their headlights tipped and projected long streaks of white light
down to locate a place of entry into the dark depths of the water.
Picking the spot, the cars drove down to drown.
One car, travelling at high speed, hurled up the rise and set off
magnificently to traverse the gap.
But the gap was great and the car, high octane propelled, albeit,
had no answer to the grave insistence of gravity.
But two cars slowed in time and had minds of their own,
one, called a GTS Monaro, with its two front wheels, spinning,
had tested the feel of the cold, dark gap, and then resisted,
hurting its underbelly, by scraping to a heavy halt.
(That car went on a world tour. Or, at least, its photo did,
shunted down the wires, to make many a front page.)
The man and woman saw all this, that night in 1975,
looking inexplicably up in time from ‘Some Came Running’, through the glass.
Time was, as it is sometimes, slowed, but eventually they slid open the glass door
and stepped out onto their treated pine balcony, to find in the January night
that the air was still bending, that the bridge was still humming,
that the two brave cars’ headlights were still crossing the gap.
They listened. They could hear their own heartbeats.
But otherwise all was still.
They could not hear the wailing, tearing agony of the suicidal vessel,
‘Lake Illawarra’, she that had interrupted the bridge of humanity.
In the blackness that was the river, there were no ripples they could see
and no visible upsurge or ebb of displaced water, as she quickly sank,
for even a drunken, humping lady of the oceans, of ten thousand tons,
can be inconsequential in deep estuarial waters.
So they went back inside their lounge room, shyly clutching each other
and clutching to the hope that their companionable TV would comfort them,
with strokes of Sinatra, Martin, Shirley MacLaine, bulwarks in the night,
and eventually with an interrupting, hush-inducing News Flash,
to confirm that what they had seemed to see was indeed so,
namely, that the city itself had had a stroke, a debilitating stroke,
and all up one side was paralysed.

Anna Hoffmann


schlag mich beiß mich gib mir tiernamen

eine endgültig abgesetzte serie von schauergeschichten oder das mutterprojekt das gescheiterte wollen: meine hypotenuse reagiert sauer und das feindbild scribbelt oberschenkel auf papierhorden. die gebrauchsanweisung eines toasters reicht heute zum erleiden also zur lyrik abgerubbelt von den weltneuheiten der schreibgeräte gerts und automaten ins netz gesetzte blutgruppen oder in schubladen gestoßene abartige entladungen das henkt von der konsequenz ab mit der alle wohin wollen woher sie keinesfalls kommen konnten: du fühlst es die zitate nahen schwanger

unschuld provoziert verbrechen da wo ich groß wurd wurd nix groß: spieln wir die situation im schlafzimmer meiner eltern nach diesem bereich vorbildlicher ordnung und disziplin: liebe ist auch nur hochgegriffen auch nur ein pawlowscher reflex im big basin lieg ich entmuttert im anschlag und werf noch ein weibliches so in die runde eins aus der palette kummer-ohne-murren

fundus uterus vulgärlatein den schlagstock genital in utes missionierter biomuschi: einfach kahl und düster zeug-nix duzende flöze stabilisierter sonnenabgänge die stechend argwöhnisch in die ästhetik des ingenieurs grätschen: ein gut informierter koitus gleicht einer yogakonstruktion im kritischen vakuum: die als kinderkrankheit zum anfassen den pipapopatienten konjugierte: es ist besser obst zu essen wo der tagesausbruch aufgerüstet aus der harndrüse gleitet: ein stunde für futuristische fülle: kalter-spalter-alter-falter in den fängen der syntaktischen dimension deiner unterwäsche bleibt nur ein invalides abfahren auf neubauten übrig

wahrheit ist freigegebene wahrheit ist immer rechtwinklig brauehoch gekippte nickende teetrinker finanziert von falschen afrikanern im wassily-sessel bedarf es trotz deckungs-lücke eines imagemäppchens. eingespeiste stille zur vermehrung des geldes über das wir noch reden müssen. gesprächsbedarf ist da und der schwerpunkt auf der weste: unaufdringlich ungebügelt denn das leben war hart und epileptisch und fand in den 80ern statt

berlin bad luck tantra totem
nacht die kein herz bricht in den sklaven-tanzplantagen der auf achse geschlagenen volksrevuen: das double monster lahme lenden strapazoid in deinen staaten ist dies eine infonation ist dies eine sexy dienststellung ist dies aller legenden anfang: der altwarenhändler praktizierte nichts als kollektivierte designlücken und vor der after work party war die erde der stillste bezirk — leise leise die katzen baumeln sacht im wind

die wärme kam und trug die welt mit den hörnern wir paarten uns ohne fleck und zu leiden bis in die toskana karezza und einst da waren wir uns sicher wie milch und nicht genug spiele im wein im kopf im auto entferntest du dich begossen wie ein pudel mit dem eau de toilette aus dem seitenfach als ich ging draufging betäubt gebräunt verreist in und auseinander verreist: zentrifugal in portugal oder spanischem wein angelegt jeder tag geht in seiden verschleppt von strohhutträumen grundieren schrille fragen weiß wie rotwein an der küste des denkens weißt du nicht alles emigriert zum solarplexus schlagwörter fremd die ganze gegend stinkt nach camelot wo die milch am platzen war die hübsche helix aufgehöllt und zu tisch getreten in einem eleganten schema sommer wars und halma auf den metaebenen weideten wir puppen aus vermißten eine halsschlagader und ließen uns vom wasser anziehn mein alphaschatten jetzt will ich dein wächter sein komm in meine sternhöhle und entsichere dein geschichte: ich bin ihr auf der spur mit meinen jungen elektrifizierten katzen alles sternbluter von geburt an festgestellt im kontrollverfahren b soweit ein herz verworfen muß das opfer brüllen und treten und hörbar sein dann erst geht das licht aus und die zeit weiter

communication loop zwischen laibung und laufendem hund eine heimsuchung vom balkon groß petunien zum béton brut elektrofick: ein mekelburger kabinettstück: du gehörst zu mir bis an die baunaht basta. ich akquirierte dich mit megatrends 2000 oben und meinem schlupfloch untenrum getreu dem satz von der radikalität im fusionierten elend — später “is anners reden as don” und im schein der agaven erkläre ich dich zum großen makulator

Erstveröffenlicht (in print) in perspektive 40