Saturday, October 24, 2020

secretly posting here


secretly posting here


where no one will think to find


run out of weather


the spontaneous overflow

(everlasting glory)


no one will know

we’re all escaping too

please plaintive



this is where I dreamt of sleep

must breathe


in the other mirror find me


a tribe inside


surely they would say if they did


find me

in the footnotes of the rain


let wisdom it’s distance

we come unnumbered now  


green blaze yet rising

still to rise

where no one comes to read

Sunday, October 18, 2020


 for the record -- 


for the record --- it was like this --- I was looking at Kerri's new poem and I said, and I believe this is VERBATIM -- 'that line in the middle is the title ... and there's five lines either side, so it's symmetrical... why not make the middle line the title? there's no reason why not... eleven lines, let's call it an elevensie' ... and I am proud to say that though my efforts with this form have been fairly miserable, Kerri has taken the ball and is still running two books later ... so I believe I feel some justifiable pride in this matter!


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Kit Kelen #1024 - let the yarn repair (for Kerri)

let the yarn repair

a tribute poem for Kerri’s elevensies

the middle line’s the title!

like a poem you wear

and listen for flowers here
(you could be deafened!)

in the sunshine of it
of a midmorning

snout deep
in a cuppa

lollop of cow
once dozy
set sail

now a truce with daylight!
(that’s how bright the future is)

listen to and through the chatter
this is Kerri’s hand-to-hand combat

it can go all kinds of ways...
best deadly

woman on porch
jibe, quip and
(she is a humorist of note
and keen at repartee...

like my mother-in-law’s fridge magnet –
‘age and cunning will always defeat youth and good looks’

but Kerri and me – we’ve got the lot!
it’s chronic!

we had this epiph together

and it was simply this –
the middle line’s the title

or, to be truthful,
it might have been
the title’s the middle line

anyway, why shouldn’t it be?
the title in the midst
the name of the thing
for an either-end balance

in media res

why should the eye be governed?
and follow this to a logical conclusion
… read in any direction you like

start midst-most though

I had a crack
but she is doing it every day

Kerri found the hexagram seesaw and sat
I feel like I’m still up in the air
held there by medical mysteries

and she keeps us reading

she keeps a room of wool
I keep it all between my ears

she keeps a shed of stuff
I have stuffed my shed as well

elevensies philanthropy!
that’s better than religion

heaven’s above
and don’t look down

Kerri is a woman of the big picture
– wiggy prophet of the Next Testament!
there isn’t a picture big enough for her

you fall into a poem like hers
expecting a clock to sneak up
like something deliciously due
another pot of tea too

a windmill never sleeps
but mumbles on the nothings

both epic
and gastric
in her own prism
(of cuticle dawn-light)

in skin
let’s not forget – embodied!
all those years of it… it’s almost as if in

blackfulla chinawoman
welcomes us

and once you know the middle is it
streets are cryptic with find-a-way

think of a first prime minister
it’s everything mnemonics
else how are we here?

you know the waves ride out from this house
reverberate? that’s what they’re calling it these days

Green library
taste me

there’s nothing that we can’t discuss

the corpus asserts

a body of words
words of the body

and the stranger graces
trouble in mind

how differently we choose
all equally far from/ by sensation
the sky ...
of Mayfield!
Mayfield of the settled dust
suburb the city approaches
(with caution...

where substance of us is a poem
hence this form of words

or fall into rhyme, like error

all vanish in one so

then here’s the kiss returned

I ramble out formlessly
I am myself being rolled out
although I know

snout deep’s how to go

a kind of a jumpsuit this poem –
a discipline
matinee jacket for a grassy knoll

so seldom smile
and curl up warm

bring your own apology
(sorry trumps guilt every time)

poems come from the remains of poems
how sad would you like to be with the fact?

it’s must be tea time again
in Near Miss mansion
views expand the shrink wrapped world

long strides taken
hidden from the air until the moment comes

to breathe all
on our cul-de-sac safari
(reminds you of Jules Verne, that does
and down in the volcano…

[no bracket ever finally closed...

armadillo plates overlap
how the planet goes round

there isn’t shit to save you from the job you’ve left undone

sweet trees
sweet sea
sweet sky


bug impervious
launcher of little fur missiles

can’t have too many autopsies
as long as yr alive

tending to what needs we heal
and stretch to be
keeps ya goin’
it does

curtain eyerolls
handcuffed pulse

Wiradjuri wordworker
a pleasure to jam with
to riff on
to honour

great enabler
and listener too, teller of truth
I salute you
and I launch you
once more into community
into the breach!

and struth!

if you can’t hear me
even if...
sing out
will ya?

there’s no smile sweeter than now!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

solar dog



solar dog and so on 


for Daniel Ionita


I sing the whim electric

quod erat demonstrandum


today I am inventing the mobile solar collector

(with personality, with attitude)…

practically you may think of it as a battery on wheels


like the lawnmower, like the vacuum cleaner

it scoots about nobly questing

(garden or conservatory)

and this one gathers the sun

(may hunt in a pack, herd or coven)

nights come together

roost in a bank

and power our every whim


begin with the silent servant idea

it mows, it sweeps, it cleans

it sings


by little wheels like feet dash

hither and yon

and why not legs?

and lift them?

why not a tail?


I’m making mine a dog

(choose any breed or mongrel)

comes when called

or you could whistle

all self powered

self drive of course

no remote required

… it knows

by sniff


and why stop there?

the solar bird’s perfect for cloudy days

soars high

and later homes


a multitude perhaps

(batteries like the one in your watch)


economies of scale!

consider the solar beetle

(oops goes over)

consider the ant

(thermal power too!)


unfortunately our prototype dog

takes its genes too seriously

will run at pond or mire and roll

(might as well have a solar pig)


this may cloud the panels

then you’ll have to get them licked

or wait for what comes down

in the next shower


still the solar dog

can bury all the bones and dig

and with the right programming

could fetch in the paper

turn things on by nose

draw your sledge across the Antarctic summer


tomorrow I’ll be inventing

a cat

(start from scratch)


it may yet chase the solar birds

but they’re a later rollout

anyway we can make them faster

or taste bad or spiky


solar cat can do your nails

take off rough skin

licks itself clean

makes fur balls


but can’t be bothered storing


it uses all of the power in the sun

just to lap up the freshest of cream

Friday, April 24, 2020

Tug Dumbly - Morning Thoughts of a Sentimental Sociopath

Morning Thoughts of a Sentimental Sociopath

When did you last sleep
without your phone, 
in its viral halo?

You wake from a dream
of a greasy old steam engine
named the Orson Welles.
A cheerful dirty faced
woman engineer
pulls you aboard.

What can it all mean?
Everything and nothing.  

Your acts of Microheroism 
have earned a badge -
loving puppies and flowers,
not stepping on ants,
as selflessly brave  
as saving a kid from a shark.

But then you go and razz it all
by cutting a stranger on the street,
for the arrogant cock of the cunt’s head.

Where’s the consistency?
So much petty you can’t rise above.
What’s a psychopathic saint to do?

Pull prayer beads from the arse
like ben wa balls?

Sing a song of pity?:
‘I don’t wish to suffer
so I suffer proper and good
just turn and turn like a threaded screw
in a rotten piece of wood’.

You medicate on melancholy,
sauce yourself in black bile.
Fuck this rancid menu.

The sun’s a fried egg to be
spatulaed onto the plate of the day.
Just have some breakfast, son.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Tug Dumbly - Still Life

Still Life

The straightaway sad      
of a just vacated room   

the meekly crook’d neck
of the desk lamp, absolving

the collapsed grey veins        
of the carpet

the tired rape of the curtain     
ripped back over again

Mongol face of the power socket
starving to receive

light switch grimed 
with the history of a sticky fingered 

race to be leaving the scene  
with the burgled goods 

of last nights, last rites. Just a swag
of textured emptiness dumped behind.

They praise a good entrance.
A good exit is not so easily designed 

so say the little floating bananas
of motes, knifed in a sunlit slit

falling to communion,
a glutenless eucharist      

a patina of departure
in which to trace yourself at last   

this was my body, this my blood
offering up a plate of dust.

Tug Dumbly - How Many the Dead?

How Many the Dead?

Quantify them, like numbers matter.
The more pneumatic the better.
Or the worse.
Or at least the more impressively bankable.    
Think big and give the sad whistle 
a death camp train: six million!   

Numbers matter. Until they don’t.
Lear’s bitch daughters to the king:
what need you 100 knights?
what need you 50?
What need 25?
What 1?

Armenia, Nanking, still whoppers.     
Though Dresden’s quarter million
has simmered down to 25,000.
Does it cool the enormity?

Who’s telling the story here?
Whose interests served?
Police estimates of demonstration numbers
versus protester figures. Such disparity.

Xerxes Persian army half a million!
But beware of Greeks bearing grifts.
We wishful thinkers, we liars to a cause.
How many saw your band / exhibition / play …?
Yeah, right! 

How many in the blitzed town?
How many taken by the wave?
(‘no Australians are believed hurt …’).

Body counts read like pedometers.
Mall shooters try and outskeet each other
in competitive massacres, atrocity tallies,
crack new records in school / office / disco turkey spree.

How many gone in the Roman arena, in Pompeii?
The lotto winning corpse counts of Stalin and Mao?
These tallies, these trembling figures,                        
these rubbery dead. It matters 
until it stops mattering.  
After the first few dozen you scoop them out  
like slurry, weigh them by the pound. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Tug Dumbly - Without Mystery

Without mystery the heart a husk

a piece of dull percussion
rattling with dried peas
metronomically beating a span
of desert sureties. 

A land lies beyond
sunk in undiscovery,
pristine, virginal, primordial,
a continent containing a flower, 
a plant, an animal, a lifeform,
to set an elkhorn
sprouting from the heart.     

Imagine it enough
to know that somewhere lies
a beauty unprized  
that we can never touch. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Reasons to Quit # 117 - Tug Dumbly

Reasons to Quit # 117

Take drugs and go to a cemetery.  
Who hasn’t seen Easy Rider?  

Fresh waves of Goth fledgers
night picnic on the grave
of another harbour drowner.    
An ice pipe by the light
of the silvery goon.
Tag a headstone, kick a cross,
pull the wings off angels.
All those quaint old rituals.

Kids these days …

In my millennium it was simple:
booze, pot, acid and speed.
Know your limits. Apart from that time
I crowned a New York triumph 
with a return to town
straight into the arms
of Grievous Bodily Harm,
Oxblood amphetamine
and a litre of off-duty Smirnoff.

It put the grin on, then wiped it off.

They could have dropped me
         from the plane straight
                 into the cemetery
                     over Newtown.

I taxied home
and woke the Sunday corpses
of my house with demands that
we instantly feast my return from Troy.

I wear the wounds still
from that psychotic picnic
bounding about the boneyard.
Though the memory’s just a sunlit gash 
of playing Lizard King reanimator,
bescreeching the dead,
rutting on slabs, getting impaled
on a rusty grave railing
but neither knowing nor feeling the spear
in my side till coming to in a bloody sheet
in Holt Street, like Christ three days dead
in the tomb
                 waking to piece together
the blackout
                 of his crucifixion party.

Ah, the hijinx of youth.
I think I was forty.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Canis Minor - Tug Dumbly

Canis Minor

Comes the phonecall
in the dead of night
that can mean only limited things –
wrong number, prank
another country
or death.

The phone it rings.

Death don’t wipe no muddy shoes.
Kicks in the door
spits on the floor
shoves to the front of the queue.

Someday the call will come
to break you harder
than any other.

And who will make the call?

This call wasn’t caught in time
as I tumbled from bed
with a headful of fog.

But when the news came later,
recalling the call, I knew
it must have been the dog.

Beanbag - Tug Dumbly


She said 'my heart’s a beanbag
people crash into for a while
before getting up, rested
in the cosy dent they leave behind.
But you’, she said, ‘you I like.
You’ll never fully disappoint me.
You’re like something good
that constantly fails to arrive'.

All Greek to Me - Tug Dumbly

All Greek to Me

The unbearable sadness
of a novelty singing fish.
The wasted life in a rusted wok.
The surrendered hope                
in a dumped exercise bike.    
The cry in the cracked slime
of a kid’s clam shell pool. 
All that broken, copulating
shopping trolly army.
And this just the start.
There’s more, so much more
of this gentle grating raw
that Sophocles never saw,  
because there was no Aegean K-Mart.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Tug Dumbly - Dedicated


I’m an inscription reader. I can’t pass a plaque on a bench without stopping to read it. Or on a bubbler, or on a tree. Any plaque will do. That torch out there? That’s me, brailing the dedication on the BBQ in the darkening park. Any park, in any country town, while the rest of you, let’s say, warmly chow down on heritage sweet’n’sour at Lee Fongs, third best Chine-Stralian joint in the place, and surely worth a plaque in its own ancient right.  

Go on, off you all pop to Target to get the kid some roller shoes, or whatever. I’ll busy myself climbing the cannon, or inspecting the Bofors gun in the RSL rose garden, or reading the Boer War memorial, or scanning the cenotaph, looking at whole male lines wiped clean – ‘Johnson’+, ‘McClean’+ … father, brother, uncle, son, all crossed off the roll, Dead Without Leave.

My eye scrolls to ‘F’. I’ve never once, anywhere, in the whole country, found my family name etched on a war memorial. Brings a lump of porridge to the throat to think what a courageless breed we are. Or principled. Or smart. Take your pick – skin-saving guttos, or peaceniks before our time?

I read inscriptions of any kind – old trophies, school honour rolls … and don’t take me to the cemetery. Not unless you can outbore the dead. I soak in every crumbling stone, cram my melancholy craw with every name, date and maudlin quote. The more pathetic the better. Child graves get me most, and the drowned, and the consumptive young, they’re a deadset onion to the eye.

Or we can go to the gallery if you like. But set aside a week, because I’m that plaque-reading freak who’ll pore over every single spidery note, on paint style, brush stroke and plein air technique. The Louvre, lover? Do you really want to go there? Coz you know they’ll find my corpse centuries hence, walled up, like a Poe tale, down in the catacombs rating Rodin with the rats. 

Look, this is a lovely picnic … but before the sack race, do you mind if I just duck off and see the breed of that tree, and which dusty mayor planted it in 1903? I need to know which whiskered alderman opened that bandstand, like a tuna can, and how long ago, and imagine who was there, and how, and why. Yes, I need to picture the crowd, those bonced-up ladies with parasols, those gentlemen baking like potatoes in the heat, hearing the speech of some rummy-red walrus of Empire, dedicating this or that Arcadian drinking fountain, donated by some mummy-collecting Victorian fop …

I think I read these signs to take a tiny pulse, feel History’s breathe.      

I no longer hold my breath about other people. I’ve quit caring how blind most people are to public stuff. The depth of their incuriosity has ceased confusing me. I’m blind to plenty of things they like, so fair enough. I’m trying to quit the missionising aim in general. Still, when I’m gone I wouldn’t mind a mention on a bench, have my name shat on by the odd gull, my plaque gently buffed by the cardiganed backs of codgers, who might once in a while say ‘him?’ What’d he ever do to cop a plaque? What did he make? Who did he save? …’

‘ … Now dentists, they should get plaques, eh Charlie? … Charlie? …’
‘Huh? Wos that?’
‘Ah, shut up and watch the waves.’

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Tug Dumbly - Great Expectorations

Great Expectorations

I catch bits of sport in passing, like a virus, on screens in medical centre waiting rooms, or maybe while queuing to pay for petrol. And what I notice, from just that small exposure, is a blizzard of spitting – of hoiking, hacking and gobbing. There are flecks flying everywhere. It’s like downtown Beijing, where spitting’s a big thing and you have to do the dance of the pavement oyster.

I did voluntarily watch half of the last rugby league Grand Final, partly for anthropological research, and partly to try and fool my nephew and brother-in-law into thinking I’m a man of the people. And in that forty minutes I saw enough phlegm to fill a skip. The field was treacherous with foamy little patches of footballer mucus, like it had just been crossed by a crab army.

I got to wondering if spitting was a tactic encouraged by coaches to slipup the opposition. Then I got into it, and started admiring the style of the spits and the flair with which they were delivered, which I found more interesting than the match. These spits were no clumsy scatter-gun sprays, but tightly controlled missiles, shot with an insouciance that was thrilling.

Spitting is generally not something you want that nice old lady on the street to see. For most public spitters there’s a degree of shameful concealment involved. But stick cameras and a television audience of millions into the mix and the picture changes. These majestic shaved apes were like garden sprinklers. Their spits were a touretteish part of some fluid physical continuum.

The camera would focus on a sweaty Cro Magnon head, its brow furrowed in concentration on the next crunch of bone, when phwit! it would eject another tight little wad, with the velocity and accuracy of a beautiful torpedo pass. It was all just so flowing and natural, unthinking as blinking, or opening a twist top with your foreskin before adding GBH to your date’s drink.

Most of us mere mortals can manage to swallow our spit. It’s already been in our mouth, after all. But maybe in sport, spitting’s a performative tough guy thing; a kind of animal kingdom survival mechanism, like the warning of a blown up puffer fish, or a jackal raising its hackles: ‘don’t fuck with me, eh bro’.

I’ve entered the age of the medical checkup, and have recently twice been to a medical centre for different glitches. The first time was to get my eyes properly tested. My gummy vision was still good enough to see the game on the waiting room screen. It was American baseball – just the thing, I thought, to entertain three legally blind Aussie pensioners and a sports phobic poet.

There was a lull in play, and the camera was focussing on some jock who was waiting to bat (think Tom Selleck, in Magnum P.I.). The commentators rattled off his stats and stud pedigree. I didn’t catch his name, but let’s call him Brick Whittler, of, say, the Amarillo Nutsacks. Brick was chewing gum like a bastard, but between every few chews – phwit! – he’d shoot a little gobbet of spit, like a sharply bunted baseball.

Chew chew chew – phwit! – chew chew chew – phwit! … Seamus Heaney couldn’t compete, and I had to put down my book of the master’s poems to watch. Brick had my full attention for the style and volume of his output. Patting your head and rubbing your tummy simultaneously had nothing on Brick’s cool mechanism: chew chew chew – phwit! …

It was the casual skill of Brick’s spitting which got me. It was well executed yet seemed so gloriously automatic, like he wasn’t even aware that he was doing it. I wished the commentators would stop faffing about Brick’s batting average and get down to dissecting his sputum trajectory, and all the honing that lay behind his seemingly throwaway style. This was spitting as iceberg principle. You only see the ten percent, not all the serious business supporting it.

I could only shamefully compare my own small spitting history with the elan of Brick’s beautiful game. I thought of the times I’d attempted a cool spit and misfired, to end up with a string of slag spider-webbed from my chin to a big oyster on my T-shirt. An embarrassing thing, especially on a first date at Bilsons.

A few weeks later I was back at the same medical centre. This time it was to get an MRI on a suspected frozen shoulder. I didn’t even bother taking Seamus Heaney from my bag, as my attention went straight to the waiting room screen. Today it was European football, or what I gormlessly called ‘soccer’ as a kid. (How quaint!) It was Utrecht versus Brussels, and I didn’t have long to wait before the glorious shower began.

While the Belgians put the phlegm in Flemish, it was the Utrecht striker Dirk Slotboom who rained supreme, with three exquisite on camera gobs, and lord knows how many off. He was almost matched by the Utrecht goalie Whim Landers who, during an injury time out, was shown nailing the goal mouth with a couple of beautiful white darts. I was annoyed when they called me in for my MRI. I could tell that Slotboom was working up a goodie.

I suppose spitting is a context thing. Bikinis and budgie smugglers don’t raise a brow at the beach, but a few blocks back from it they can start to look weird. Just so with major sports spitting. Even so, I wonder if spitting mightn’t extend to other sporting realms. Women’s netball, for instance. Or basketball, where spit could add some real frission to that polished wooden floor.

Or Wimbleton. Wouldn't it be a thrill to see Venus Williams hoik one up on court before the Queen? Or our dear Ash Barty cuss a flunked volley with a good hack. I know a bit of spitting could only pep up a game of chess between a couple of grand wizards. Checkmate … ah, hoik-tung!

Or extend spitting into other realms of public life. Parliament would be a buzz with Tanya Plibersek setting sail a golly across the chamber into the government benches. Perhaps spitting mightn’t be a good look for a kindy teacher. But can you doubt that a bit of a spit might have beautifully punctuated Seamus Heaney's poetry readings?