Louis Armand

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Four Poems

Goethe in Venice

Strange the things that happen out of
the blue. A roof-tile plunging, its graceless
ricochet. Why strange?
talk fills the arcades
vying with abstraction for a vacant place.
the lido at midday, vaporettos,
rubbish piled on the shore. Sleep
comes garlanded in sedatives, rewinding
the brain’s unwitting documentary.
Indescribable rattlings and scrapings.

Years pass. Lying awake one april night
amazed, you calculate the odds,
each wrong step confronted with a
sense of ending. it has no name.
expecting any day now to find a skull
on a beach to enlighten us.
Others also. In the ingenuous photograph
they are all still smiling, as though
they’d simply misplaced something
that sooner or later is bound to turn up.

Santa Maria dei Monte

Broken ground, potshards, a grid plan worked out
with austere lengths of measuring-tape arrayed across
a muddy complexity. What’s known? A theme
emerges, develops, suffers its dénouement each time
we go beyond the surface of the problem.
“A lifetime seeking to take the tail into one’s mouth.”
Men and women lived here once, staked their
fortune on a landscape of degraded artefacts. Their
ceremony was merely a ceremony, like their god,
their sex, their system of economy: the wrested meeting point
of provenance and things acquired by accident.
How would they have imagined us to be? Sifting
their bone-ash: old television shapes wrestle
in the stalking house at the end of the mind. each
conjunction, each fragment leads us further and further
astray – who can say if we will ever complete the task or know
what its purpose was meant to be?

Une danseuse ne pleure pas sur scène

In the herebefore, playing to dismantled houses:
the Bora in Trieste, mist in Venice, in sienna
rain. i go down to the beach and watch
seagulls, empty bottles washed up and empty
messages inside. the desire of others for mass
communication. And have the fittest survived?
We rehearsed our grudge on the long dreary
mid-winter ride to Far Rockaway, refining and
paring down. “Man is not born free or good.”
So you say. Shedding the years of unreality –
untidy, inefficient, obscure years performing our
one safe act under cover of publicity. A blank
slate of sky behind glass and the sublime and
idiotic crowd turned to face us. Crab eyes glittering
under ledges; a carcass washed up on the last tide.

On Henrik Galeen’s Student of Prague

The aliens had just invaded, it was the soundtrack
from Les Misérables. We were leaving the airport,

wind full of sub-zero static. A woman with black
and white skin in the shadow of the moon, reappears

from a John Cassavetes film or reminds of Hapsburgs
and Mitteleuropa. It is in the nature of mirrors

to strike a bargain before the fact, without witnesses.
Last night I dreamt about you, you were completely

real – grasping at the idea you lived and that it was
necessary. Cried, then, at the first star above the roof-

tops to fade. It was that very same Étoile of the
unknown soldier, the Star Hotel, where I’m sitting

and writing this because it’s cheaper with better rooms.
Outside, floodlights over the sidings and freight yards,

a suit coat hanging on a wire fence in rain. Dreaming
of a cellist in a charcoal blouse, bruised inner thighs –

saying it was found out “from consciousness,” being
seen, heard, felt, smelt or tasted. Or staring and

listening in a bed in nowhere. Is it easier being dead
for a reason? Memory by imagined navigation.

Their eyes were open like ours, it was impossible to tell.
Reversing the roles. Behind everything a simple

yet remote promise hangs. It is a ghostly music we are
always waiting to be soothed by, that never comes.

Matvei Yankelevich

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Two Poems

excerpt from “After Time” (a work in process)

The shrine is simple: a
few photographs, some
personal effects. Who
was the deceased – no
one really knows. Was
love returned by him
to those that felt it due,
or wasted on the few
who wouldn’t know, on fields
of snow, mutts that walked
with him, woods through which
they walked, the fat bend
of flat rivers.
The poem’s hungry:
dark reflection on the snow –
how hawks plate the wind
over a field in winter, empty
now that it’s written out, now
that a rhythm’s begun: Sky
troubling the toes, singing
those songs. To work
with language and not
mean. Elegy are you a mono-
logue, leggy or conversant
in shadows? I have my
suspicions that the word
enough is not enough.
“Come back to me,” first
encounter – would be nice
to see you again. It’s funny,
you haven’t changed a bit.
The curls are slacker or
the time runs faster, flashing
coming away from the shingled
roof. There’s the tree it has
treeness, a kind of woody quality
as it belongs to forest words.
The trace of a bird’s beak on
the snow embarrassing the bark.
Crossed out graffiti: Education
for all. Our nation has native
blood. I’m stuck on a dime
a tenth of whole, a moment
in the stocking on your leg
snagled trellis, of peripheral
glance. I look around. He says:
I look around and around.
The mouse mounts a retreat.
The ashtray begs to differ from
every other. I drop a little mess
of distracted matter. Headless
flight. Christmas ornaments
make do. The policeman
looks around – everything’s winter.
He’d like to communicate his
tragedy in a parking ticket:
Club against windshield – internal
error of the soul. Trains
depart, never touching
the rail they loved. Chairs
for tables pine. Tissue paper
collaborates willingly softening
the fall, warming up a blank
note – a comma forming
on the cat’s forehead, a comma
hangs over us. We are dying to
know ourselves. When’ll the fake
fox enter the real life
of underwater foxes. A sock on
the wrong foot, golden buttons
in the distant future like flares
in a bowl of night. Tomorrow
I can pick up a piece
of the pieces and place them
in a flux machine, turned
inside out to relax
science, to solace the
policemen on the corner
of my cloak of indivisibility.
Trim me, light, trick me
away from a triple trace
so that the fly-shit on the
windowpane might gleam
in the rays of divine hydrogen:
Thus the world believes itself
whole – but faith is nesting
on a green bough. Tell it to fly.


I had the best little caramel fudge
in Novy Sad with my espresso.
A good cappuccino later in the square.
Belgrade: several good coffees a day
not spectacular always, but good.
I feel fat from the whole bottle
of buttermilk and the horn of bread
and the banana I had at noon.

Writing is, as you can see, rather
superfluous to my situation. It’s
a last resort to see if something
singular is going on in the cafe,
in the square, on the pedestrian
street in the middle of Belgrade.
One can’t begin to imagine that

other cities are out of bed and
doing things all over the place.
And the villages… the towns…
Someone gestures – a kind of
yawn, a sip of coffee – not hot
enough – a drag on a cigarette.
Not to mention work… Well, who
knows. That’s not saying enough.

There’s no tension, except
for every move – secondary –
and self-conscious. Tension
between action & idea, between
thought & expression. Tension
between shoulder blades. Fingers
holding the pen. Repetition.

Marcus Slease

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Two Poems

Milk Bar
(Elblag, Poland August 9th 2009)

ladies are
into my gulasz
’ello ’ello
spiegel in
history is just
a big H
my house is not
on the rocks
my little dog
eats me
chop up
the momentary
this is the tender
the barter the human
meatloaf I didn’t
want trans-
mission Hercules
upriver with
a spoon and the salt
shaker is missing
from my table


my frugal heart is on ur
kneecaps I’m ur sweet
hussy with twitching brows &
fingerbones ur throat captain
AHOY! this yeast infection
irrigates ur thighs beguiling u
with loose eyes

Are you still in Poland . . . is Poland still . . .  completely naked . . . my body is. . . coffee. . . is electric . . .  eel . . . I want . . .  to get . . .  off on yr . . .  dried . . . leg . . . bits . . .

Are you . . . you . . . beguiling . . . bridge . . .  over . . . troubled . . . yeast. . . infections . . . ahoy . . . thighs & eyes . . . beguile . . . (Sssss) he . . . ahoy I . . . twitching . . . brows . . . and fingerbones . . .

thinking what . . . first . . . du dat . . . all over . . . all over . . . christ god . . . dried peach . . . bit . . . ur. . . angel. . . ski . . . tak dali dali . . .  mini . . . jako . . . my toesha . . .dupa . . . speer . . . dali dali dali . . . spooooooko. . . dobra. . . allergee . . . no . . .vina . . .no . . . vina . . .n(yeah) . . .toe . . . dobe . . .sha . . .toe . . .samo . . .no . . .no . . .do quad . . . n
(yeah) . . . few . . . few . . .

dugger . . .shall . . .ee . . .dugger . . .shall . . .ee . . .
duggar . . .shar . . .ra . . .e . . .go . . .dupa . . .sha . . .chee . . .a . . .shy . . .chee . . .a . .
.dupa . . .

Anne Elizabeth Moore

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Toward an Understanding of the Expat


For several years, I have carried around business cards emblazoned with a cheery but imposing American flag under which is written the job title: patriot. I started carrying them because the rate at which I was being stopped and questioned by police officers—most famously at American Girl Place in Chicago, but also at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, and once in my own apartment building—had made it clear that the political purpose of my actions were under some dispute by peacekeeping authorities.
When I live somewhere overseas, however, my business cards say “writer.” Patriotism, when exhibited extranationally, is disingenuous and unseemly. Also, potentially not funny.


When considering patriotism, it is wise to consider also it’s fictional opposite, matriotism, particularly as defined in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22:

Dunbar sat up like a shot. “That’s it,” he cried excitedly. “There was something missing – and now I know what it is.” He banged his first down into his palm. „No patriotism,“ he declared.
“You’re right,” Yossarian shouted back. “You’re right, you’re right, you’re right. The hot dog, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mom’s apple pie. That’s what everyone’s fighting for. But who’s fighting for the decent folk? Who’s fighting for more votes for the decent folk? There’s no patriotism, that’s what it is. And no matriotism, either.”

It’s a throw-away joke in the text, meaning that no elaboration of matriotism is ever supplied, but an exact definition isn’t necessary. We know instinctually that matriotism is a feminine love for one’s country, a vision of one’s homeland more as home than as land: a place where citizens are cared for, nurtured, given sustenance. It implies spiritual support, physical care, endless meals, and a warm place to stay, every night you choose to be there. It is comfortable and accepting.
A nation that does not offer health care, retains a vigorous bigotry toward certain spiritual practices, and has not increased but instead defunded temporary shelters and food aid programs during an economic recession cannot inspire matriotism among its citizenry. It must rely on the more aggressive, masculine, love of the land in homeland known as patriotism.

Artist: Lee Greenwood
Song: Proud To Be An American 1

If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life 2
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife 3
I’d thank my lucky stars 4 to be livin’ here today 5
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away. 6


From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee
Across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea.
From Detroit down to Houston, and New York to LA 7
Well there’s pride in every American heart 8 and its time we stand and say:

CHORUS (2x) I’m proud to be an American where at least 9 I know I’m free 10
And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up next to you and defend her 11 still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land. 12 God bless the USA. 13

1 The song is titled “God Bless the USA,” but is more commonly known as “Proud to be an American” for its tenacious, booming chorus. Although released in 1983, the song first achieved popularity when it was played heavily during Operation: Desert Storm in 1991. It was revived ten years later as a song commemorating September 11, 2001, at which time it hit #16 on the Billboard Hot 100.
2 Born October 27, 1942, country music singer Lee Greenwood was raised on a poultry farm in California, where he learned to express himself musically not with the fiddle or banjo, but with the saxophone. His first band played pop music in casinos around Las Vegas, and when it broke up he worked as a blackjack dealer until his musical rediscovery in 1979 by the Nashville division of record label MCA. He’s had several top hits in his career since, multiple internationally recognized awards, traveled the world over several times, and was appointed to a six-year term in the National Council on the Arts by President George W. Bush in 2008. This council advises the National Endowment for the Arts on granting procedures, honorees, and funding priorities. The full scope of what Greenwood has “worked for all [his] life” includes cultural and artistic honors, financial wealth, and significant input into the cultural policy and funding procedures of the US Government.
3 Greenwood has six children and is currently married to former Miss Tennessee USA, Kimberly Payne, although the lyric must originally have referred to his second marriage, to Melanie Cronk. The couple divorced sometime after this song was written, and Greenwood wed Cronk, his third wife, in 1992.
4 “To thank one’s lucky stars” is a platitude that originated in British playwright Ben Jonson’s 1599 play, Every Man Out of his Humor. The play is a slightly Anglicized version of a traditional Greek New Comedic farce, and a follow-up to Jonson’s more successful Every Man in his Humor. Although stars do appear on the American flag, the stars to which this phrase refers are those read by mystics during the Greco-Roman Era.
5 Greenwood lives in Nashville. When he wrote this song he most likely lived in Los Angeles.
6 It is unclear to which “they” Greenwood is referring, although the current version of the American flag, first flown on July 4, 1960 following Hawaii’s induction into the union, makes use of the following symbology: White signifies purity and innocence; Red stands for valor and bravery; Blue means vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The stars are considered a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun. The meanings of these symbols are determined by Executive Order from the President of the United States, who is the only body in the world granted power to change them. It is unlikely, however, that Greenwood intended antagonism toward the Executive branch of the US Government or President Ronald Reagan in particular when the song first appeared in 1983. It is more likely that his antagonism was reserved for military enemies of the US at that time, the most notable of which remains the Caribbean island Grenada, invaded under Operation Urgent Fury in October of that year. This action, purportedly conducted at the behest of American citizens there in medical school under duress during a local military coups—a claim since disproven—was considered a “flagrant violation of international law” by the United Nations. Nineteen American soldiers lost their lives and 116 were wounded; 45 Grenadan military people lost their lives and 358 were wounded; nearby Cuba lost 25 and saw 59 wounded, and 24 Grenadan non-military personnel were killed in the internationally condemned invasion that led to the establishment of 118 offshore banks—1 for every 64 citizens—eight years later. One journalist referred to the capital, St. George, as “a fast-growing haven for money laundering, tax evasion, and assorted financial fraud.” Thus it becomes clear that the enemies seemingly intent to change the meaning of the American flag’s stand for “freedom” are, in Greenwood’s mind, those who might stand in the way of the accrual of financial wealth through either legal or illegal means.
7 Greenwood frequently travels by private jet between tour stops.
8 When he wrote the song, Greenwood admits he had no idea how much it would impact people. “One of the reasons I wrote the lyric ‘I’m proud to be an American,’ is I really wanted to instill the pride back in America. The song represents my family, my community and all the Americans who are proud of who they are.”
9 The use of the doubting phrase “at least” here would seem to set the rampant poverty, genocide, and human, labor and women’s rights violations that form a significant force in US history against Greenwood’s individualist appreciation of his own freedom, but if one listens to the song one gets the sense that, in fact, he sort of means that he wishes there weren’t so many queers, girls, and brown people constantly testing his liberation.
10 The Chipmunks’ YouTube version of “God Bless the USA” notes, repeatedly, that the intention behind their song is patriotic, and not mocking. This is done partially to combat YouTube’s notorious take-down policy regarding songs that violate copywritten works, but is also likely a defensive maneuver against YouTube commenters, who are known for vociferous homophobic, misogynist, racist and xenophobic screeds. The supposed freedom guaranteed Americans by Greenwood’s song clearly does not allow for total creative freedom, but does preserve a freedom to denigrate.
11 The tradition of using feminine pronouns to refer to the United States of America goes back to the so-called Founding Fathers.
12 The singer often displays his love of this land with a leather, American flag-themed jacket that he wears on stage during the performance of this song, thought by many to be the unofficial anthem of contemporary American patriotism. The wearing of the flag is usually not considered defilement in this case, primarily because the definition of defilement under US law includes the intent to denigrate the symbolism of the flag. For this reason, it is also not considered defilement when attractive women wear American flag bikinis, in any context, although it must be noted that it is considered defilement when men wear American flag-themed clothing in the region of their anus.
13 Greenwood denies dodging the draft into the Vietnam War, claiming that because he had young children, he was never called. He vigorously defends the notion that if he were called to perform, he would certainly “fight and die if necessary for my country,” but has not, in fact, joined of his own accord.


As a direct relationship with one’s homeland, the notion of expatriotism is as fictional as the notion of matriotism. Expatriotism, as it does exist, is defined only by the activities of a tangible community of people who identify as expats. One does not, and cannot, feel a sense of expatriotism for one’s nation of birth. One can, however, feel disgusted, rejected, frustrated, angered, saddened, or elated by same.
In the countries where I spend the most time, Cambodia and, lately, Germany, I do travel in expat communities. But even when I crave a group of people around whom I can just say what I want to say without double-checking my ever-struggling language skills—I am never quite comfortable assuming the expat identity.
Part of my reasoning is linguistic: I consider myself a patriot. That I redefine this term drastically to suit my own particular style of aggressive love of nation notwithstanding, my American heritage and all its deeply flawed if not downright fucked-up elements is important to me. I do not want to disavow it.
But mostly, I don’t want to identify as an expat because I don’t like expats. Most I know travel in packs—bubbles, they’re called in Cambodia. Social groups arranged by cultural interests, job title, economic class, and favorite pastimes. Many have left their original countries to pursue greater freedoms—the freedom to purchase sex with underage girls, for example. The freedom to establish oneself as an artist, an entrepreneur, a maven in some arena already dominated by them back home. The freedom to start over with a clean slate. Sure, they identify with our more romantically minded expat forebears—Beckett, Greer, Joyce, Hughes—but most arrive not prepared to create new worlds: Most desire to dominate new worlds.
In practice, expatriotism looks suspiciously like colonialism.

Patriotism II

“A thoughtful mind, when it sees a nation’s flag, sees not the flag, but the nation itself. And whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag, the government, the principles, the truths, the history that belongs to the nation that sets it forth. The American flag has been a symbol of Liberty and men rejoiced in it.” —Henry Ward Beecher

It is significant that many of the terms addressed in this essay do not have the strict definitions we believe a vocabulary based on national borders might demand. It is even more significant that the definition of patriotism does not include the militaristic aggression we know, in fact, to be hidden within it. So it becomes clear that what we understand about patriotism—and matriotism, and expatriotism—is largely unprovable.
Patriotism, in fact, functions quite a bit like the nation in Beecher’s statements: The nation itself need never appear to inspire the feelings described. Its symbols, its insignia, its slogans—its brand—this is all we need for rejoicing. Patriotism, too, doesn’t rely on facts, events, or policies: it relies on emotion. It is intangible, and flexible.
Patriotism even allows for your anger, your frustrations, your abandonment.
This is why the expat is such an elusive creature, so clearly rooted in a certain love of nation that, in more proximous circumstances, we would call patriotism.

David Miller

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Spiritual Letters (Series 5, #5)

Late one night, he began wandering unfamiliar back streets: and continued on and on, travelling enormous distances, even crossing oceans; though he only ever remembered walking. Far distant family and old friends met him on his way. Suddenly, a flock of ducks flew directly over my head, quacking loudly, as they swooped down towards the lake. Sitting outside a café, we talked about his child: four years old, she still couldn’t talk, nor walk – small for her age, she was carried, or wheeled in a pram. They’d arrived at Giza in the evening, going straight to the pyramids from their hotel; but the noise of the crowd, then the bright images, lights and amplified voices made the child scream, over and again. Forced out of art school for his small, highly realistic images of buildings when large abstract paintings were obligatory, he later studied the history of architecture. – I survived my exams with the aid of a water flask filled with vodka, he told me. Printed on your postcard, with a schematic drawing of a person: I’m lost. After driving through the desert for a day, we stayed at a Navajo hotel, the only non-Indians there, with stray dogs roaming outside and a scorpion in our bathroom. The following afternoon we reached a lake with snow, water running over rocks, and trees in leaf. A diamond setter in the daytime, he played violin at night in the clubs along Eighth Avenue, amongst other expatriates. This night, the door’s left open: for the passer-by, the wanderer, the erring traveller. After she’d taken me on a brief tour of the neighbourhood, we went back to her house, where I met her husband; but something, it struck me, seemed wrong between them. She went out to smoke a small cigar; I took a walk and then a taxi ride, slowly realising how large and strange the city was… and I wondered about leaving. Fountains and pools, even a man-made lake, had been incorporated into the architectural complexes. Stone dragons, red and dark blue railings, trees in blossom. Within the temple, three rooms full of stacked small wooden tablets, recording in Chinese the names of the dead, their districts and villages. She knew so much of the plants and birds and beasts around her, and loved the beautiful views over the sea of blue forest and real sea beyond… Falling ill at a friend’s, he stayed for a few days to recuperate. One afternoon they took a walk together, with one of his friend’s daughters and the family dog: up a muddy hillside, then past frangipanis, ferns, eucalyptus trees. – Sister, let’s go in, he said; they’d gone for a walk, and had been drawn by the sight of the basilica’s spires. Years later, he could recall the ascension window’s blues and reds, but not the cathedral gold windows; what she remembered, he would never know. He was taken aback during a sermon when his minister claimed she’d once glimpsed a ghost. As we left the station, we were caught up in a crowd surging towards the fireworks; even after the display, it was impossible for some while to disentangle ourselves. Two of the bridges had been closed off, and when we eventually reached a third and found it open, we were separated by the crowd and forced to go different ways. I often wonder if you miss your clarinet. Sometimes I see young people in Bourke Street playing and think of you; there are a lot of buskers in the city these days, sometimes so close together that it is just a meaningless din. I found myself staying back at the old family home, now my sister’s, and sinking into despondency at the windows that were falling in, the front door not locking, and she refusing to do anything to fix them. Dear adopted sister… thy history would furnish materials for one of the most interesting pernicious novels. You accused her of bribing a surgeon to operate on you as a child, so that you’d be left with a cleft palate. Doors in the floor and ceiling, or opening onto blank walls; a reservoir of water over a fireplace; a staircase ending at the ceiling.  When we were children, we had a cockatoo, a rosella and a crow, as well as dogs, cats and budgerigars. The cockatoo terrified us, and seemed to delight in it, chasing us around the yard while we screamed. Hearing me leave my room during the night, he covered himself in a sheet and hid in a closet to wait for my return. When he heard my footsteps, he opened the closet door, lifted his arms and walked towards me. …she is just outside the door raving at me. Unfortunately she is involving other people… she is making me out to be a monster. Returning from the hospital, she found that her daughter had taken all her cats to a shelter for strays. The journey led through a mountainous region where a dragon lived near a lake; if it was not propitiated, it would cause storms of snow, hail, wind. His efforts at proselytising were hindered by the interpreter appointed to him, alcoholic and uncooperative. There were two monastery buildings, but no monks lived in them. If a guest monk attempted to stay, the native people would drive him out with fire. A hospital famous for its eye clinic: in a place where blind pilgrims once prayed to be cured. You wrote about the quality of the white in her paintings, which she brought back from distant travels: to Japan, Egypt, India, Java, Australia… But it was her predilection for red – for painting red flowers – that I noticed. …then we went on, and soon entered the region of the doum palm. Birds also became more common, we had seen troops of pelicans, ibex, storks, and ducks, and now we had abundance of larks and water-wagtails, and lovely long-tailed green birds almost like parakeets, but smaller. She’d boiled water in an old black saucepan, and we drank tea together at a table made from a door. Across the street, my neighbours take turns sitting by the window, and smoking; their room’s dark, apart from the bright, shifting colours of the TV screen. Let the country with barbarous customs and smoking blood change into one where the people eat vegetables; and let the state where men kill be transformed into a kingdom where good works are encouraged. Many of the vagrants he went to interview had never seen anything like his bulky tape recorder and often mistook it for a musical instrument, thinking at first he was a busker. …he took my hand, and we began to go through rugged and winding places. At last with much breathing hard we came to the amphitheatre, and he led me into the midst of the arena. – Ah, you extraordinary illusionist! What have you come to show us this time with your occult arts? Then out came an Egyptian against me, of vicious appearance, together with his seconds, to fight with me. But another beautiful troop of young men declared for me, and anointed me with oil for the combat. He told his students that there were some things seemingly impossible to write about, such as his recurring dream of a mysterious route by which he travelled to see his mother, after meeting dear, long absent friends again. He would wake elated, and then remember that those he’d found once more in the dream were all dead.  In some cases a laurel crown in gilt, symbolizing their future happy state, has been added to portraits of both men and women… The composer said that birdsong was “God’s language”; he also affirmed the resurrection of the dead. The philosopher praised birdsong for its beauty, nothing more; while his religious philosophy, with its God who was forever in a state of becoming, had no room for any afterlife. With these Eyes the cathedral’s face is on the watch for the candelabra of heaven and the darkness of Lethe. – Lines from your writing have been appearing in my dreams. Often when I can’t sleep at night I wonder what you are doing, trying to picture you and your pursuits. Vespers are said here, and sung; Bach is played, jazz, too. Suffice to say there has been taken out of our limited garden one of the most perfect plants that ever was planted in mutability… Long after her death, he depicted his granddaughter in his final painting – a little girl amongst the animals of the Peaceable Kingdom, leopard, lion, sheep, wolf and ox. We played music, recited, sang to my mother’s memory.  – I like your shirt, I said, conscious that I’d never seen him wear one before; he admitted that it was his girlfriend’s, worn specially for the occasion. Walking by the lake, the trees illumined from below by yellow lights in the grass, he listened to the calls of the terns, cormorants, teals, mallards and grebes. Thy rose bush is very pretty and thy geranium will be beautiful. From the rooftop or windows, we enjoy every fleeting glimpse of spring growing in the park, or a grey sheet of rain advancing over the trees. For flowers are good both for the living, he wrote, and the dead. Beneath their feet: sun, moon and stars, and the signs of the zodiac, in the mosaic pavement. She wanted to go to the riverside to view the fireworks, and I went along to keep her company. The exploding lights that seemed to fall towards me and the booming noises brought on a panic attack, and I tried to leave; but the display ended, and I was caught in a dense, slowly moving crowd in the near-dark, and kept thinking I’d fall down. He smashed at the door of the synagogue with an axe until they let him in; taking a scroll from the Ark in his arms, he sang an ancient Castilian love song. At midnight, he rose from his bed and walked down to the sea, where he immersed himself according to a ritual. You sat every day by your dying friend’s bedside, in accord with his wish. It was,you wrote, a painful, a difficult death. We were ordered into the sea by the sports master, and I was swept beyond my depth in no time; he called to me to swim back; andI called out that I couldn’t, and then went under. I’d gone under three times, into a black tunnel of water, before two of the boys reached me. He collapsed in a tube train and was taken on a stretcher to street level; but he claimed to be all right and attempted to get up, and died of a heart attack. You walked to the hospital in a winter evening’s severe wind; and then lost yourself in the mostly deserted corridors, before eventually finding the ward. Your friend was sitting on the side of the bed, and you sat down beside him and listened to his obsessive recital of mistakes and missed opportunities. – I am praying to God, he said, but not to yours: to Osiris, Osiris. Every evening he prepared a meal, and always insisted, much later, on making a pudding – often after a good deal to drink. He would reject each one after a single taste, and throw it into the garden: for the birds to eat, he’d say. It had been a half-hearted, absurd attempt at suicide, an outburst of adolescent despair in which you’d forced yourself to drink disinfectant as if poison; however, the doctor insisted your mother should have you hospitalised. She asked you what you wanted, and then accordingly told him: No. Having spent the afternoon writing in cafés and searching amongst bookstalls, he headed towards home; reaching it, he realised it was no longer where he resided, but his home of many years ago. Confused, increasingly desperate, he asked passers-by to help him: for he no longer knew at all where he lived. After eating and drinking on the beach with friends at night, he decided, against their advice, to swim along the coast and cast a long string of fishing hooks. He never returned; his corpse was discovered the next morning. A forest of ancient chestnut trees, brooks everywhere, and wild goats gazing intensely at you. He enjoyed the company of sponge divers, the poorest of all – but he was also friends with the captains of the boats. He had to be carried from the ship and taken to an abbey where he was known to the monks, who nursed him until he was strong enough to continue the journey. From the harbour, yellow lights shine in the distance; fishing-tackle hanging from a white T-frame where he stops to rest, and white boats in the water. Muffled voices and faint music from a larger boat, in an otherwise still night. When it began raining, I turned to follow the path back again; the estuary and the island out in the distance were only dimly visible through the rainy mist. When he switched on the kitchen light, something darted across the worktop and ran towards the wall: it turned around, finding itself cornered; and he found himself looking at a field mouse, which sat looking back at him. Another night, he stayed up reading in the lounge and listening to the storm outside; the mouse suddenly scooted across the floor in front of him and dove under the gas fire. Testing for a detached retina, the doctor put drops into my eyes to dilate the pupils. Afterwards, I attempted to walk home, but had to keep to the shadows to avoid being blinded by the sunlight, even then struggling to see, and having to stop. He could hear the rivers protest as they were soiled by dirt washed into them, and could see blood seeping from the flesh of freshly cut fruits and vegetables. Late in the evening, heavy rain beats and pours at the windowpanes, while I sit drinking wine. Earlier: a helicopter circling overhead repeatedly; and the sound of breaking glass in the street. The raft went in out of the bright moonlight to pitch darkness, the roof of the cave so low that it seemed to be touching the top of the mast. Then, in the blackness, the rain and wind struck.

from Spiritual Letters (Series 1-5), forthcoming with Chax Press.

Jaki McCarrick

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Three Poems

The Ghost Ship
after Dorothy Cross

the lights of the city
surround the ship
coming to Dun Laoghaire
it has passed the eye

I am nearly eight
I feel her joy
in coming home
it is after midnight

we pull into harbour
the ship sounds
a heavy horn
men haul planks

I am so happy
we are all of us home
before the dawn
from the rough voyage

we slept some
on leather chairs
and on the floor
and in the bar

with the other Irish
getting sick
with swaying beer
with black anticipation

the big ship
green-lit and white
quiet in the water
blood-rusting metal

she has pulled in
we gather our cases
dad has changed
his suit is black

the hunter-moon greets us
but no family comes

Shoe Story

How did the ground feel, father,
in London, concrete under your feet,
after the green lanes to the house,
the deep, slow meadows to the crocus-rimmed pond?
And when you returned home in July
did the rhythm of hill-walking cradle your insteps?
Mine knew the difference and they told the earth.

Late-Summer Sonnet

What is that in the field there,
glinting in the corner of my eye
and ahead punctuating the green?
It is too tall for hay, and these stalks
are thick and cut into like a quarry;
it’s not a gold mine though this seam is wide
and whenever I see the swathes of this thing,
especially from a train or car on a late-summer’s
day, the only movement is on the surface
where it seems lighter, like coral in seawater,
or a profound heart that is never given away.
And then I remember. This is barley.
My father talked about it. Walking across it cut,
he said, was like walking through fire.

Shelby Matthews

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Border Dispute

(Ceci n’est pas Là-Bas)

synaptic doxology mysterial bunker

butts bends pellets & pith
licked till
security bonds

invisible radiance
odd tree


and a very sky eye

above all
tips stalk swerves hook
spit spat vomit & shit
cobbled hellslope to swill town prototype
aft daze
of twat knights
Muggenhoek Grubbenvorst Kumtich


behind bars Binkum Winkum
ma split polypa earwigs leavened to teevee luv bleat twixt panfluit
fantômas en buckets of kwakkel


lips raving
once upon a fagknoll

lung’s oven



Erps-Kwerps ear scum Grubbenvorst
sour bread shamed washing worm skin flamma tinge geuze geule
gaz beak
gobbedly bonk gobbedly bonk

so long
boot year
in pleat


high hoof stutter brassica sprouts
dun dumpels tops
bla bla mange
sucking crispels wit pippels
(probably suffice those Ostrozen biccies)



scar beck aft carnal carvery
cockside barbarous corn unsacked hip on spek
for Acute Abuse

crane him

grabbing sausage in teen lots


damsels & dutsels
duke dwong saxy
split tarts
Knokke & Schriek


dance slop


gem gon Gouvy


in heather

or gal op pop
tits mozart
for night cherries
prime evil’n kwikki



portals open
in pins
virgin lampante

“Hoot Le Wastia”

louche lilt lanking plank


Pose        lâché               Pose        lâché

a s’well




geese in the undergoods
dipstick mayonnaise
& hope
on a lope




ambly fockant

poppen burrs







Binkum Winkum friterie weed woundwort
jabbeke jabbeke Lippeloos chide & peek
one nun’s water melon another dry apaché
brust stem POUT




del dude

income LOCHRISTI born loterie von noble scaffold

mâle melée heart fondler
and thud modish whippet


frivoli tikkles and a pocketful of ear
forelick & fizzy

the brung tongue slides wide
lips aspen
wild furze pelt
leg strew hip & hoe

s p i n




mol – lusC

le petit point


blud flud dolce
stucc it
paper over



cat cool
ordering fur




gens d’armes
gens d’âmes
roz sky tutti


O belle gigue

(de l’autre côté Un Shore)

A collision of Dutch, English, French and German.  Or ‘plus d’une langue’.  Places may also be sighted.

Kent MacCarter

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

The Burmese Option

In my best dream I have crossed the border
and my coins are wrong. Without the tongue
I gesture, sweat and wake aboard this boat
Richard Hugo, The Anacortes-Sydney Run


New Zealand served itself for breakfast, although not rudely so. The freight ship I was cargo on loomed through the Bay of Plenty into the maw of Tauranga’s port. I yawned every bit as wide as the shipping lane appeared to be doing to accommodate the 800 feet of us: both events stank. Yet, everything – this thing, that thing, every thing – was brilliant. My virgin step in a new hemisphere had arrived.

I’d traversed the breadth of the Pacific Ocean aboard the MV Direct Tui – a container freighter 265m in length and 12 storeys tall. After a fortnight of liquid, reverberating machinery and an endless spigot of fish soup, I was welcomed back to firm soil by Mt. Maunganui lolling upright in its coastal bed of greenery. Kiwi FM began leaking into a boom box that was bolted onto the wall in my quarters about 24 hours before we arrived. The extended weather was declared to be glorious by accents that had magnificent diphthongs and slopes to my ear. I’d regained topography.

Sol and I were corralled in the ship’s state room for an hour to clear NZ customs. Sol was a freckled, Texas farm kid who had so far made his wages by drifting from dealership to dealership selling cars all around North America. “Time to expand, time to expand …” he repeated to me daily throughout our crossing. If he could clear a few hundred dollars on a hatchback, that would eek him through until the next sedan. The constellation his freckles formed was a distinct S shape, placed prominently on his right cheek. It did not require much imagination to draw parallel bars bisecting the figure to make it a dollar sign. Sol and I were two of the four paying passengers on the ship. A retired couple from Brisbane, Ruth and Lyle, completed the quartet of human cargo.

Leaving Chicago for a new life as far away as possible was a breeze. Locating a buyer for my sizable aquarium beforehand wasn’t. You’d think in a city that size it wouldn’t be much of an ask. So much time and effort I sunk into that tank. My trio of clown loaches colonised the upper reaches of that universe, sharing space with a loner of a fish. A pink-tailed chalceus. That fish was mesmerised by the constant orange and black juggle of those loaches playing in the water jetting out from the tank’s filtration flume. Maybe it hated them … or its confined situation. At any rate of fish conjecture, it wanted out of that tank badly. Two iridescent sharks prowled like a screen saver on the bottom left. Another two cichlids guarded the bottom right while a red-tailed shark oftentimes wove in and out of the other’s turf whenever it pleased. They only formed a unified school when I plopped frozen cubes of blood worms and brine shrimp into the tank for fish dinner. But only then. Now, there was nothing to do but give the aquarium away or sell on the cheap. It was on my penultimate day in Chicago that I managed to unload that whole fishy universe to a quiet woman from Wales for a couple hundred dollars. That was enough money to drive West with my parents until I reached the vast Intermodal Shipping Terminal in Long Beach, California.

A stevedore finishing up his graveyard shift was kind enough to drive Sol and I into Tauranga’s centre. It, too, still waking and yawning. We banged our van doors shut, entering our new world as if two helium balloons unclenched from the fist of a child. Our paths have not crossed since.


Emil announced to me that the Direct Tui would soon slice into the northern edge of the Doldrums, an unthinkably huge area of South Pacific current that swirls in leisurely perpetuity. He explained that jetsam bobs out here for years if buoyant enough, never to wash ashore, as if in orbit around the centre of nothing at all.

I consulted our sailing trajectory on maps scattered atop a drafting table in the ship’s bridge. I’m a map harlot. And a shameless one at that. I’ll navigate the angles of maps for hours be they the most rudimentary of metro transit pictograms or what lay before me here in crisp, bell-peeling hosannas: time zones upon time zones of map to fritz out on. All of it a new medium. Ocean water. We’d recently slid into the boundaries of Micronesia. My lifelong fear of vortices niggled at me and I tried not to think of tornadoes, whirlpools and digitised galaxies in sci-fi flicks that spooked me so as a boy … or anything else that one might become permanently stuck in. Like the Doldrums.

All up, a fortnight of ocean water occurred in front, behind and to either side of me. Turbidity varied. Flying fish arched out and back into waves the entire distance. The first few days off the Californian coast featured gulls and terns curlicuing around the ship’s crane and forest of antennae sprouting off the numerous decks. Those birds were the only company external to the ship, its crew, the passengers and the containers.

No other liners’ stacks appeared chuffing down the horizon line. Not an overboard crate, cooler lid, flip-flop or jettisoned rag. No errant chunks of Styrofoam.  Not a single jet’s contrail chalking up sky the entire distance across the Pacific.

Zippo. Nothing. Nothing except … a basketball. A basketball, way out here in the Doldrums, seven days in on my crossing and bobbing right then and there just as orange as its first day of inflation. Dribbling through team after team of waves. Its orange and black colours rotated without pattern as it passed from crest to crest. My eyes locked onto that ball in the sea for as long as I could make it out in the ship’s wake.

I’d discovered that gazing out across swells of ocean surface was a quick hike into autohypnosis. My waking thoughts had calmed and settled from the mass exodus of Chicago, content to casually ‘be’ in the vacuous limbo that is day-and-night-and-into-day ocean crossing. But this was not a hokey Zen or quackery collapse. I did think of things, people and emotions. I checked the time on my wristwatch out of habit and was reassured to learn each occasion that time was progressing, even if slowed to a mosey. I stubbed my toe on a mooring cleat and it hurt. Badly. My head hadn’t been vacuumed out. I had geared-down into a cerebral crawl.

But that basketball jarred.

“Shitfuckdamn!” A triple-expletive of wonder.
“A basketball!” I bellowed, jabbing my finger out into points at the passing object like a spaniel. Not another soul to witness such a eureka. I slid through days when spying a floating basketball was the top anecdote. The ball came within metres of the ship before it caromed off the waves carved up from the prow. Landing back into its habit.

That basketball was a full-stop. A full-stop trailing the unclosed ellipsis that was my departure from Chicago. From America. And from a life there that was leading only into an eddy, not in any knowable direction. That evening, I informed Emil that I’d seen a basketball floating off the starboard side and how exciting that was for me. He replied with a protracted gulp of tea. And nothing else.


Emil Buca didn’t exist.
He wasn’t in charge but he was, resolutely, the man in charge on the freight ship. This is as clear as I can capture and write about his presence on the Tui. Officially, his rank was directly south of the Captain and north of all the other officers. He had access to all doors, locked and unlocked, whenever he felt the whim to strut through them. Even the Captain was not awarded such privileged access to the ship’s bowels. Emil was skilled at emerging through doorways, commanding them and the rooms he plowed  into with his cutwater of bravado and polished boots. His was the first gaping palm I absorbed with my own, smaller version after entering my first room aboard the Tui. Quite the welcome-aboard handshake. Me, sitting timidly on a folding chair in a control room that resembled a Khrushchev-era fission reactor. Emil’s duties were countless. One was to brief new human cargo. His nostrils belched Marlboro smoke. ‘Do’s and ‘do not’s on the ship followed. Etiquette at large. Very large.

Though exactly my age at the time of twenty-nine years, he was twice my mass and triple the brawn. He strode only in the smudgy  liminal band of time that shuttled me from Chicago to Melbourne, in the space that spirited from a decent job in academic publishing to no job in academic poetry. I’d stepped into a fortnight intermission between one life and the foyer of another. Emil was the conductor orchestrating the vessel that escorted me across that vacuous space. His English was stern. Diagonal. Immaculate. Waterlogged with Balkan machismo. The stubble on his chin could sandpaper a petrified forest into your best piece of furniture. We never sang boozy songs together. Not like I did with the Burmese crewmen on many late nights. His ego wouldn’t allow it. I was doing this relocation because I could. Because I was not stuck. I’d evolved from stuck into unstuck, unlike that old fish that waited so patiently to escape my tank.

Emil wasn’t larger than life. He didn’t smoke cigarettes, he fellated them in a constant orgy. When it wasn’t spirits, wine, tea or coffee cooling his radiator, it was nothing at all. He spoke perfunctorily of a wife and two children back in Romania while devoting equal conversation to clandestine ‘ladyfriends’ in every Pacific port. Two fraus in Surabaya, a sheila in Manzanillo and a string of betty’s dotted like pearls along the East coast of America – a constellation of displaced sin in which he wilfully connected the dots to draft the shape of his ego. Corrosion will finish him in time; just like it got Detroit. Never did he say that the woman in Romania he spoke of was his wife.
That was Emil Buca.
These were his boom years. Up for promotion to captain after navigating one more circuit of all ports-of-call. A native of Bucharest, he’d cut his jib on the Caspian Sea, moving up fast in the shady ranks that hold the shipping industry together. Time to expand. Again.

The Burmese Option

The change was obvious and occurred during lunch. A difference, instantly distinguishable. The culprit? Soup. On the tenth day in, the Californian fruit and vegetables which replenished the galley’s larder when in port at Long Beach had been exhausted past dregs and their tinned understudies were pressed into service.

The five officers of various rank and the four passengers of equal non-rank all dined together in the Captain’s mess: three times per day, every day, mostly amidst a taciturn language barrier of silence. Scheduled mealtimes were the sole awkward angle of the voyage. All being of Eastern European heritage, the officers instructed the lone Burmese cook to prepare courses built from either pheasant, sausages, bouillabaisse, ham, onion, cheese, unidentified game birds, potatoes or any combo of the aforementioned. On Fridays we were served ice cream sundaes with hot fudge topping. The last of my three Fridays on the Tui saw the fudge downgraded to candy sprinkles.

A leaden air hung above every meal sitting, thickening into outright dread toward the end of my time on the ship. The steward, doubling as the head (and only) waiter, picked up on his radar my tempered grimace at the sight of another meal staring down undisclosed game bird. Another meal with a supporting cast of canned-pea performance and vacuum-sealed fruit-cup star power.

The steward bent over my shoulder. In controlled volume to prevent detection from the Captain, he enquired if I would prefer ‘The Burmese Option’.

I had assumed no choice was available. I had assumed I was stuck with the menu I was served or zip. I was white. Western. A paid passenger awarded the default privilege to dine with the officers in the officers’ mess. Without any questioning as to what The Burmese Option comprised of, I replied with an enthusiastic if muted affirmative.

I felt ashamed. Chokingly ashamed. It hadn’t dawned on me what, when and where the twenty-odd Burmese crew ate? The officers rarely interacted with them. When they did, it was theatre of barks and acquiescence. I smiled and greeted the Burmese crew on my meandering laps around the ship. It didn’t go unnoticed that they were never present for meals at the officer’s table, but I failed to process that base data any further. I did not extrapolate segregation further into its cancerous parts.

Emil’s first words to me during his initial briefing were, “You’re allowed to go into any area or room that’s not locked. If a door is locked, then you’re not allowed.” Why didn’t I stroll into the galley for a peek? It didn’t even have a door. His second words, after glowering through a few room-scans and gestating an affected pause were “and don’t touch any of these fucking instruments. Any.” And so I allowed that warning to guide my time on the ship more than it should have, missing the point instantly and diverging further from it as the days lapped past.

The Burmese Option presented itself to be an array of spicy curries and rice. Nothing froufrou or fusion. Simply proletarian grub from Asia. Sure, I delight in a pheasant dish as much as a Polish ship engineer does, but I demand entry levels of variety. Assumptions were made about me that angered. Assumptions that I flatly wouldn’t want to dive into a steamy bowl of Burmese Option. Wouldn’t want?! I felt a little better about my own shortcomings knowing that they’re universally possible. If you’re unaccustomed to a new newness, it’s likely you’ll fuck a few things up at the beginning without a stroke of malicious intent. Like I had done. Like the steward had.

Burmese Option came in many varieties and whims. My favourite, an orange and brown swirl of roast pumpkin and thick curry (borderline gravy) was knick-named The Tiger. It was almighty and arrestingly hot.


25 January 2004 pulled a runner on me. Perhaps it sank? I didn’t get to live it.

The Direct Tui was programmed to call in to a repeating itinerary of destinations: San Francisco to Long Beach, then Tauranga, New Zealand, on to Melbourne, then Sydney and, finally, back to San Francisco. Upon completing every other circuit, it would call in to either Suva, Fiji or Manzanillo, Mexico. I had boarded the express service.

The Tui had plied its unevenly shaped figure-eight for sixth months before I wandered aboard and would continue doing so for another six until the ship’s owners signed it up for a new career. Its registered home port was Monrovia, Liberia due to flimsy liability laws and similar fine print skulduggery.

The Tui had never once called in to its home port. It was built in South Korea.

At 30-hour intervals, the ship’s steward scuttled up the central stairwell in his pied, silken slippers to the officer’s deck and scribbled in what time of day it was on a dry-erase notice board. Never was it the same sequence of 24 hours for more than a day and a half. The steward was expert at erasing as were all the crew and officers. Some rued dearly this accidental skill in private moments of choppy conversation to me. They were homeless. Stateless. Erasing is ingrained in their lives. It’s an unsteady life to exist for a year in a constantly changing time calibration, never to return home for exhales and decompression. An experience cherry-on-topped with the hiccough that is the International Date Line – that technical allotment of ‘day’ added or subtracted like a tax or a rebate on existence.

This jumble of time occurred leisurely enough that it marooned the details of a modern, landlocked life upon an atoll of irrelevance. The frantic shackles of time, that horrid cliché, the mad rush of Chicagoan life and requirements to be ‘heres’, ‘theres’ or both in quick succession, all of which subsumed my days until now, jettisoned away like a rocket booster that had ignited me into a low orbit of passivity. Lunch was tidily served at noon every day, mirroring the swivel all the ship’s timepieces received in constant resetting. Noon got around, it did.


I asked Antony, the Polish First Engineer, what was in the containers. He shrugged and I believed him. I enquired every Burmese crewman who knew a dollop of English if he knew what – exactly or inexactly – was in the hundreds of shipping containers.

None knew. Some of the containers? Practiced silence. Any at all? Crickets.

Late one night, I hit up Emil about the containers’ innards, hoping we might’ve bonded enough to loosen the slipknot on his lips. He claimed professionally rehearsed ignorance, though his reply was of the arms-akimbo sort. Indisputably, he was privy to the booty rollcall we hauled and was confident in me enough to fathom his bluff as bluff. Damned if he was going to pony up details though. I gave up and looked at the vessel’s speed gauge.

I realised minutes after this incident that I’d just cashed in my investment of four years in the Hyde Park neighbourhood of Chicago. Now, here I rode on a south-westerly aimed cargo ship pegged at 22.2 knots. This was the speed of my intermission.

I, along with the three other people logged as ‘passenger’ on the ship’s bill, was the answer to my own interrogation. People wishing voyage from shore A to shore B. Strictly transport, no nonsense. The reasons for going, irrelevant. Rent, meals, petrol, lodging, utility bills, the lot all taken care of in a singular presto-change-o voyage. The ship prowled the perimeter of a commercially-dictated polygon. I just needed the slow rope south it was to swing a ride on.

Six bits of freight were identifiable without question. Two bulldozers, two helicopters and, best of all observable cargo, two yachts. Each couple along for the ride in various states of dismantle, all too bulky for a shipping container, the yachts too puny to negotiate the distance on their own. One copter remembered its blade, the other’s was missing. Neither yacht had mounted boom or mast. Each dozer, having donned its plow as a hat, waited out the trip with heavy patience. I was afloat on a very choosy ark guided by a collectively evasive Noah. A Noah named Emil. Many of the containers had refrigeration units cooling the jets of whatever it was packaged inside. I wore long sleeves in my room because it, too, had an ambitious air-conditioning unit.

The Cut-Glass Bowl

I forget the name and title of the officer who claimed that he was a citizen of no country. He’d been mixed up in the shipping racket for so long that his native citizenship in an unnamed, virtually un-remembered Eastern Bloc nation had renounced him. Legally, on paper – whoever’s paper that might be – he didn’t exist at all. But he was as real as the rest of us way out there in the Pacific, having arms and legs and laughs and emotions. His game bird farts and outdated haircut were as fearsome as any other officer. He assisted me in stringing Christmas lights from the ship’s main exhaust stack to its monkey deck portico, an intimate space just big enough for all officers, crew and passengers to convene. He was here.

It is customary for a captain to ‘sponsor’ a celebration for his crew upon crossing the Equator in either direction. Steaks and seafood appeared out of nowhere on platters. I twinged upon realising that the steward must’ve held back sumptuous fare until this moment, seven days into the crossing. My gratitude that he did so cannot be captured in words.

At no point across the Pacific was there cloudless sky. The evening of our Equatorial crossing towered with cumulus and anvil-shaped billows ringing the full horizon hoop with spotless sky directly above the ship. Wine, beer and vodka occurred in spades. The Sun stooped lower, then lower still in the jagged clutch of clouds.

I witnessed a 360 degree sundown for the first and only time in my life. A sunset in technicolour. Colour not to be believed. Colour like you read about. In the east, wealthy blues and lavenders ran each other down. A glance to the west and the reds, oranges and yellows were loud as sinners in a pool-hall. I was thoroughly deafened by colour. My eyes, using all the short-term memory my body could boot up, hijacked perceptive energy from sound, taste, smell and touch to sustain this sightly Kapow! The slender umbilical of soot coiling upward into sky from the main exhaust stack was the only instance of black.
It was if it was the chain attached to a kaleidoscopic chandelier dangling from a ceiling I couldn’t discern. On occasion, booze talks wonders (if ineloquent ones), and I remember thinking exactly this description as it was happening before me then.

For much of the party, I drank with Antoni. He was an antique soul with a savoir-faire so avuncular that it felt like he’d helped me learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. Very comforting and not at all sinister in the ways an uncle trope can be spun. He was rounding his final oceanic lap before retirement to his cabin in Poland’s south. He sustained me in a barrage of booze shooters, ghastly in their heights of octane. Everybody got roaring pissed with everybody. Officers with crewmen. Estonians with Americans. Belarusians with Australians. Burmese with The Unspecified. Everybody aborad.

I jigged. The Burmese crew was in full-troupe force. Break-dancing, the limbo, souped-up waltzing, all manoeuvres from Rangoon proudly on display.

A boom-box throbbed. Ruth danced too. The only female on board unzipped her 82 years’ worth of life to reveal the coquettish pizzazz Lyle touted her to have exuded as teenager. And so here she was, the only dame in a sea of male, tearing it up in brown slacks, an orange blouse and with pearls bobbing just under her earlobes. Ruth had been a Queensland rodeo darling back in the day. A real pistolero. Acerbic of comment, she was. And was still being at the time. She tripped off a step during all the merriment, quite possibly breaking her ankle, but kept right on hoofing it up with all the drunken sailors and me.

We’d all converged from disparate haunts on the globe – way the goddamned hell out there – pointed somewhere in all that endless map.

Helen Lambert

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Literatures of Multiplicity

This issue of GANGAN Lit-Mag is devoted to the question of ‘expatriations’ – for whatever we might think about expats or the process of expatriation, it is a term that defies being reduced to the singular. Indeed, as the contributors to this edition show, expatriation constitutes a multiple relation to place, culture, language, history and nation.

Can multiplicity (of interpretation, of languages, of allegiances) make a difference to literature, to politics, to the world? In an age of increasing homogenization and commoditisation, where even poetry has a price (not a very good one), where even poets have CVs and career plans, literary expatriation seems to offer a site of resistance. This is not because expats are in some way excused from the marketplace (they are just as much a part of the system), but rather, expats, by insisting on the divide between languages and places, and by refusing to adhere to the mythology of ‘rootedness’, reveal the ways in which the market mistranslates the world, in its attempt to reduce the irreducible.

The contributors explore expatriations in multiple ways, whether using dialogue (Ken Edwards), or poetic essay (Vahni Capildeo), whether writing in their native language (José Kozer) or a bricolage of languages (Shelby Matthews), whether focusing on the place before one lands (Kent MacCarter), on the divide of two places (Tony Baker), on linguistic breakdown as critique of the commoditisation of place (Marcus Slease), on memory and history (Louis Armand), on writing and foreignness (Jim Goar), on the temporality of writing (Matvei Yankelevich), on spiritualism and despair (David Miller), the impossibility of return (Jaki McCarrick), on displacement, ethnicity and culture (Kristina Müntzing), on the critique of unity and empire (Anne Elizabeth Moore), on the ways of looking at many places (Laurie Duggan) or on the ambiguous, covert nature of expatriation (Catherine Hales).

In forms both innovative and traditional, this issue hopes to tease out, explore, critique, and engage on the question of expatriation/s. With thanks to Gerald Ganglbauer and A.H.

Dublin, June 2010