Brett Dionysius

Five Poems

January 10th

The hearing aid dog was well-trained
& shuffled backwards with everyone else
to the rear of the lift, as if it had been taught
good hospital manners too.
Its tail wagged for the human company,
begging for the reward to come,
as they made room for the elderly cancer patient.
A ginger furred metronome that beat out
its silent tattoo in the stainless steel box
where it was its own master’s voice,
& just listened.

Thirty-four years had passed to the day,
as he guided his daughter into the Mater’s
oncology unit, but he didn’t tell her about
her grandfather’s betrayal by his own blood;
how his mid-forties body had ratted him out
in the solicitor’s waiting room. How, after his
comment on how nice the air-con was, he’d
sunk into his chair like a poor naval rating on
the Atlantic run, glued to his drowning post;
limbs gunmetal heavy. His skin collapsing
in flimsy pockets like the silk of a deflated
barrage balloon whose strength is only found
under pressure. She didn’t need the extra shit,
so he kept mum about it, as she saddled up
with the other antibody expats & the much
asked for Josh inserted his carbon-enriched
needle & let flow her grandfather’s blood.

This gulf was someone else’s lifetime,
or a long prison sentence from the old days.
Her appointment, the same day as Wigginton
was let out, media tagged; the lesbian vampire
killer ahead of her time, bemused by the sexiness
of Stoker’s undead culture two decades on.
This evilladies.com centrefold who lapped
a man’s vitals like a mangrove aerial root,
absorbing the Brisbane river’s tidal ooze.
Moreton Bay figs threw a long shadow
where her mouth should have been;
red lipstick smudged on night’s collar.
How different the desire for blood.

The only anniversary he discussed
was last year’s flood.
How the Ipswich mental poor lined up
to be fed & housed in his elite school;
how the mattresses were tossed out afterwards.
How now was a good time to buy,
as flood-damaged houses sold for 1990s prices.
How investors were taking a hit.
How they couldn’t find the right family home;
how they were thinking of investing.
How tragic the situation was, one year on.

For the rest of the intragam
he talked her ear off about Tolkien.
Tales of blood & love from the First Age
of Middle-Earth; how the fires of revenge
were stoked in the hearts of the Noldor
after the theft of the Silmarils.
How Feanor who crafted them,
was so filled with fiery rage
that after he died his body burnt up,
as if it were space junk re-entering the atmosphere.
& how the mortal man, Beren
had to prise one of these gemstones
from a sleeping dark god’s iron crown
to win the hand of the Elvish princess Luthien,
like a diver flensing a glitzy pearl
from an oyster’s muscly band of flesh.

Then, before he was finished, it was over;
her monthly anniversary numbed by storytelling.
Like an assassin, Josh slipped out the needle
& vanished; blankets were withdrawn
& thrown into bins. Lunch betrayed.
They collected their gear;
somewhere between the cancer ward
& the ground floor,
a small dog growled as they passed.
Downstairs they passed a darkened chapel;
the rest of the day was theirs to celebrate.

Omphalus
For John Acutt

The shape is roughly circular, as though some child
Has stuck their finger into an orange’s crinkly skin
& pulled it open, but the edges are swollen & wild;
Like lava frozen by the sea or stoneware fired in a kiln.
It is a new edifice of the soul, with its unique entrance
& exit, an omphalus that his generations humbly touch,
His grandfather’s ancestral close shave. In an instance,
The navel of their world was founded by only this much;
A thumb & forefinger spread less than a millimetre apart.
Like a split lip, destiny arrived in a second; the rock of ages.
A tobacco tin in his breast pocket saved their sacred heart.
The others fell; fine actors who exited their muddy stages.

When he is thirsty, there are many stories that he can tell:
He drinks not from life’s full river, but from a family well.

Anterior Dispersion Segment Disorder

What better language than a child’s eyes
a head of wheat plaited cascades down the back
of a blond hill. Everything’s central to someone.
This hill’s a barrow, a skull of remembrance,
say Marathon’s blistered skin. Trees point like children
embracing their mother tongue, isn’t bark just hieroglyph?
Something scratched, something won.
Six eyes that I love look back at me;
One the eyes of a wolf, yellow sun-bursts around them,
The other bejeweled, a star sapphire, blue fire fun.
& the one I’ll take with me, green dryad
goddess concealed by mystery’s perfection.
When the Chinese lantern is shuttered
All light leaves, our vision interrupted.

Teaching
For John Lyon

The tough plastic tidy trays that he once stacked
His students’ folders in, now coffin his old school
Technology. Stripped of its duty, the beige enamel
& chipboard desk stretches; Atlas shifting his weight.
It squats naked, but for his nikko-ed name tag; bare
Of the rows of Emily Dickinson & Death of a Salesman,
That bowed its metal for thirty years; like a job for life.
All boxed up; his signature pencilled on the inside covers
Like a tattoo of a child’s name on a tender shoulder blade.
Already his legacy has turned retro. His analogue counter
Stopped. Eighties audio cassettes hibernate in neat rows;
Tentacles of plastic film wrapped tightly around tiny
Starfish spindles; one says: Ego is Not a Dirty Word.
The Handbook of English rests on its broken spine.

Scorpion

At first she thought she’d jagged
Her finger on a bit of lost tackle,
A fishing hook still impaled through
The blue cheek of wet weather tarp.
This square of new sky patched onto
Their backyard’s dead brown frame;
A venomous banner swiftly run up
The maypole of his mother’s heart.
For, as she peeled back the fabric
Flexible as mandarin skin, there it
Sat, cocked black as a trigger. The
Juice of its poison catching the sun
Like a dark marqusite. The sting in
Its tail loaded like some primitive gun.

Julie Maclean

Two Australian Poems

Simpson dingo girl

safe inside your canvas dreaming
of the red track westward across the dunes

the lean shape-shifter   with toes of a dancer
foxtrots the fringe        camp follower
nose to the north   she takes the shape of
a desert grass    spinifex dry
same pale yellow    same drift as the wind

it’s then you daub the ochre   the black
white for the star in the eye   insinuate
a dark shadow   minimal    abstract perhaps

next morning the palette licked clean

Souvenir

Thank you for sending us Oprah,
We’re going to Australia!

Austria? Austria? They’d never heard of us
tucked away like a curling stamp in the corner of
a Dear John letter

What would Jimmy Cook have to say
in his crotch-tight pants, silk frock coat
his dandy wig, drinking coconut juice

out of a shell, gifting mirrors to women
with spears and stories to tell

so they could see their own souls,
while we looked the other way

Jo Langdon

Three Poems

Gösser Straße 79
for Michelle

Snow crowns the letterbox,
remakes every part of the street;

by day the sky is uncoloured,
skaters pattern the lake.

In the bluish-mauve dusk,
children whisper
by the window –

in the glass, a globe of light
beside their small faces –

‘We’ve got to tell Mama
the moon is half broken’,

& when you look, it is.

Postcard

She writes to tell him
that, staring into the dark,
mountains don’t change.

How in sleep she has
discovered she can
breathe oceans;

knows every star,
calling each one
by name.

From the reverse of
a gloss-paper
postcard

he learns that she
joins her letters
now.

Atlas

There was a night you dragged all the furniture out into the hallway,
lifted the carpet on your bedroom floor & coloured the ground beneath

with clay-thick paints, charting seas & landmasses, the world opening up
like a book across the flooring: emerald plant life & moon rock-glaciers;

coastlines cliffed & jagged, or bordered by clear blue shallows, treasured
with coral & pearls. Rivers breaking through the earth like veins,

& the band of equator splitting the picture in two. You painted yourself
into a corner & slept the night there, resting your head against the wall,

skin stained & hair matted with dye. Nights later we replaced the bed
& I found myself on my back with my head over Sweden & Botswana

somewhere beneath my feet. You soft-talking to me from your pillow,
hair spilled about Canada & feet dipped in the South Pacific Ocean.

Weeks after this you brought home white paint, thickened it with flour
& cornstarch, & raked a whirling white mass across your atlas.

You applied threads of rain & grey-leaded lightning bolts to the edges
of cumulonimbus formations, then thinned them with water & turps

letting expanses of Earth show through beneath wisps of cirrus. We made flocks
of paper birds with precise folds, wings & beaks sharp, & strung these from

the starred ceiling, migrating south into the stars. Your room was a wilderness
of space & Earth, disproportionate, & for a time we were the centre of it.

Jennifer Compton

Two Poems

How The Fuck Do You Say Termini!

They stared at us in Trastevere
the taxi drivers who did not understand us
as I held you in my arms for the last time

we could not say Termini
we could not say Termini
but they could see the opera

and leaned back into their language
to fully appreciate how much it hurt
oh the delicate and human grief of it

then one stepped forward with grace
and understood how we said Termini
we pulled you out of your wheelchair

and stuffed you into the Roman taxi
the taxi drivers cheered to see  love
conquer inability to say Termini exact.

The Ambulance Begins To Wail

Death comes looking for me –
Screaming!
With a sharp sword.

With a soft word.
With a private and quiet
tap on the wrist.

Death comes looking for me
with an in-depth questionnaire
of peculiar interest.

Such particular questions.
What can I say to Death?
I will say Yes!

Jonathon Penny

Lit-Mag #42 – The Arabian World

Two Poems

Sila, Liwa, Bani Yas

They keep this up, there’ll be no desert left,
No space to wreck, no four-wheel desert cleft
To winnow down: no dry-heave, tinder bone
To let a man be lone.

The death-gasp of the culture that could tear
The banshee shriek of what is drawing near
Is such a modern thing it makes me grin
Like poison: sick of sin.

They keep this up, these mincing, drifting ghosts,
These zebra forms with all their Babel boasts,
They’ll blister from the artificial cold:
The center cannot hold,

The falcon cannot hear the falconer,
The tent is void, the women too demure,
And from the mosques a bitter incense fumes:
It’ll bring them to their tombs.

Lente, lente currite noctis equii (Allahu ackbar)

Given its head, the night runs faster than a man can breathe
Its nostrils pant, its dusky edges heave,
And I am pulled from sleep too soon:
The yellow tones of morning and the morning song
Too early crowed, but not in the cock’s throat.

The call to prayer comes early:
“Our alarm clock,” quipped a friend,
Indicating the humble mosque at his front door.
We have one, too. We all do in this garden city,
This oasis overrun but not yet ruined,

And the mosque with its staggered chorus
Of muezzin fairly owns us, night and day:
There’s hardly time to leave off praying my litany of regrets
From a day spent seeking more help than I had given
Before I’m called back to my knees.

I do not join the sweated worship of the immigrants,
But I think of prayer far more here than ever before,
For God is great indeed, and it is better to pray than sleep,
Even if all one does is pray to sleep a little more
Before the panting night is stabled, brushed, and fed,
And the mu’adhdhin clears his rooster throat.

Dennis Leavens

Lit-Mag #42 – The Arabian World

Two Poems

Desert Walk

Blue-headed agamas dart and pause, and little
Lizards curl their tails like scorpions.

Under the rock, the puff-adder hides in shade.
Donkey droppings dry in the sun.

Foraminifera lie loose on rock,
Their ardent, snake-like bodies now only time.

What is there to learn?  Stay out of the sun?
The many-venomed earth turns in time to stone?

Mosquito larvae squiggle in the mud pond
left from last month’s rain.  Donkey prints

mark where they have drunk the fetid water.
An Egyptian vulture soars above white rock and red sand.

Life is death is stone
That is what we can call our own.

An Answer from a Camel

Problem: how to see the pinched skin
And red-edged center of the apricot
Pulling back from its desiccating

Seed and hold in the eye the taut fuzz of
youth, juices rushing to the lightest touch?
And more: to feel back to the pale

Blossom’s strength pulsing through
Petal-thin veneer, its luminous beauty
already brown at the edges, while the

seed surges within, seed to seed,
wet to dry, platinum sun to russet loam.
So the face of the camel, the Arab

symbol of patience and strength: shovel
snout with plum-pit nostrils, level head
held disdainfully still above brush and dust,

soft coffee eyes wet in the tears of time,
winking to the slow chew of a
precautionary cud, recalling centuries

of burden and slaughter, foreseeing
centuries of burden and slaughter.
But just now in the stretch for a few

Leaves of a flowering ghaf tree,
dreaming of great brown ancestors
and sheath-wet calves in the sandy

wastes of a desert sun whose center
is only hot and hotter gas that
can only end in immolation.

Answer? See, suffer, dream, dry up.

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.

[untitled]

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)

plump
ladies are
sweating
into my gulasz
’ello ’ello
spiegel in
spiegel
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
paddles
upriver with
a spoon and the salt
shaker is missing
from my table

Homophonics

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 . . .

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.