Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Barry Dickins Poem

The Million Australias

You gaze into a wintry silver pond and what do you see there?
Well, your nose to begin with. Possibly an outline of frosty air
And breath, let’s not forget your breath. And your old friends the trees
The outline of something you were thinking aloud: An interrupting breeze
A word or two that say winter in English
Or tell you how cold and sharp it is today in Portuguese
A library pond and pages of wintry words
Now an incredibly important meeting between birds
Who can remember Captain Cook and Mrs. Cook two hundred years ago
When he first saw student dolphins and librarians from Atlantis
Dreamt long ago of Aboriginals inventing short stories in ashes
Years go by taxi and now there are a million Australias all reading
Translations from wintry silver ponds and talking about dreaming
Walking The Long Narrow Road to The North by Basho the Chinese mystic
He is reading his early morning poem to rain that’s almost crystal
Pioneers in the raindrops turning over favourite marked passages of sun
Flemington is tracing the murmured lettering of The Songs of Solomon
Teachers are listening very carefully to their teachers the children
The topics are endless, like glee, mystery, secret access to incredible buildings
Spanish singing overheard from unknown windowpanes
Cranes and sparrows - are they Australians? Oh let us arrange our dreams
Once more in the old design of openness and the one language of dreams
Is it still a hundred years ago or more? This is the Blessed Door
Time to get up and go to work: And what’s the work but writing for God
Up those ancient seawave steps again to write for the poor and give more
Lines of dreaming to the captive schoolchildren in their desks of hope
My Grandmother is getting up to go to work in 1900 did you know her?
A factory job where she worked her brains out to put bread upon the waves
Of sea tables where dolphins memorized their morning prayer and saved
A Fragment of her laughter to share with a thousand other pioneers
The old lady, Australia, shakes the toy world of learning now
Holds it upside down and smiles as meaning tumbles down into snow
Every single person is sitting up nice and straight in classrooms of brightness
Each old story tumbles down in the printed snowflake of brightness
What you said to me a hundred years ago: What I said back just then
What herons said to pigeons and teachers dreamt of in rooms like beacons
All possible and all beautiful because we bothered to record stories.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

POEM: "Ordinary Bizarro"

Ordinary Bizarro

At dinner tonight I overheard
Someone say, this crummy planet

I turn around – of course the table's Chinese
They're discussing an unrelated matter
Money or some other delicate relationship

Us do opposite all Earthly things
Now I hope I’m not in for this again
Plain speech drifting into strangeness
Confucian lessons in fluent acrimony

How me protector no one here protect?
When you see how it functions
When it goes around in your head
When it comes out different.

© 2013 Rob Schackne

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Les Murray Poem (2)

The International Terminal

Some comb oil, some blow air,
some shave trenchlines in their hair
but the common joint thump, the heart's spondee
kicks off in its rose-lit inner sea
like an echo, at first, of the one above
it on the dodgy ladder of love —
and my mate who's driving says I never
found one yet worth staying with forever.

In this our poems do not align.
Surely most are if you are, answers mine,
and I am living proof of it,
I gloom, missing you from the cornering outset —
and hearts beat mostly as if they weren't there,
rocking horse to rocking chair,
most audible dubbed on the tracks of movies
or as we approach where our special groove is
or our special fear. The autumn-vast
parking-lot-bitumen overcast
now switches on pumpkin-flower lights
all over dark green garden sites
and a wall of car-bodies, stacked by blokes,
obscures suburban signs and smokes.
Like coughs, cries, all such unlearned effects
the heartbeat has no dialects
but what this or anything may mean
depends on what poem we're living in.
Now a jet engine, huge child of a gun,
shudders with haze and begins to run.
Over Mount Fuji and the North Pole
I'm bound for Europe in a reading role
and a poem long ago that was coming for me
had Fuji-san as its axle-tree.
Cities shower and rattle over the gates
as I enter that limbo between states
but I think of the heart swarmed around by poems
like an egg besieged by chromosomes
and how out of that our world is bred
through the back of a mirror, with clouds in its head
— and airborne, with a bang, this five-hundred-seat
theatre folds up its ponderous feet.


Monday, January 14, 2013

An Alexandra Teague Poem

Adjectives of Order

That summer, she had a student who was obsessed
with the order of adjectives. A soldier in the South
Vietnamese army, he had been taken prisoner when

Saigon fell. He wanted to know why the order
could not be altered. The sweltering city streets shook
with rockets and helicopters. The city sweltering

streets. On the dusty brown field of the chalkboard,
she wrote: The mother took warm homemade bread
from the oven. City is essential to streets as homemade

is essential to bread. He copied this down, but
he wanted to know if his brothers were lost before
older, if he worked security at a twenty-story modern

downtown bank or downtown twenty-story modern.
When he first arrived, he did not know enough English
to order a sandwich. He asked her to explain each part

of Lovely big rectangular old red English Catholic
leather Bible. Evaluation before size. Age before color.
Nationality before religion. Time before length. Adding

and, one could determine if two adjectives were equal.
After Saigon fell, he had survived nine long years
of torture. Nine and long. He knew no other way to say this.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Adam Fell Poem (2)

Coffin Tree

Somewhere in the national forest,
there is a coffin tree for each of us,
chosen at birth, containing us
completely, even in its youngest seedling.
If we keep no one left to love, to love us,
to cut it down, to afford it
carved to order, we will wander,
the flower bridge, the light-rail route,
the geopark lot, unclean ghosts
the clouded blue of our deepening cataracts.
What’s left of us, children moved to city,
smudged air of our once bodies, is holding,
exhausted, the village brinkline of trees
from the road, disappearing as the mist
that beads us shape burns off at dawn.
There is a difference between fire shaped
like a horse and a horse made of fire.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

POEM: "Hope Is The Mutt"

Hope Is The Mutt

The little things that Emily said –

hope is like the leaves on that thing
feathers are on the bird a word a bone
I'll just say if you were truly of the outside
then you might've explained to me
the vagaries of human commerce
(your hope really is as shabby as a mutt)
goodbye & thanks for the ton of food
I'll think of you occasionally
but if I don’t please know
that it's probably all OK.

© 2013 Rob Schackne 

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Dennis O'Driscoll Poem

Weather Permitting


The August day you wake to takes you by surprise.
Its bitterness. Black sullen clouds. Brackish downpour.
A drift-net of wetness enmeshes the rented cottage,
towels and children’s swimwear sodden on the line.

Dry-gulleted drains gulp down neat rain.
Drops bounce from a leaking gutter with hard,
uncompromising slaps: and, like resignation
in the face of death, you contemplate winter

with something close to tenderness, the sprint
from fuel shed to back door, the leisurely
ascent of peat smoke, even the suburban haze
of boiler flues when thermostats are set.

You warm to those thoughts as you sit there,
brainstorming ways to keep the family amused,
plans abandoned for barefoot games on dry sand.
Handcraft shops? Slot-machine arcades? Hotel grills?

In truth - manipulating toast crumbs backwards,
forwards at the unsteady table’s edge - you’d prefer
to return to your bed as if with some mild
ailment, pampered by duvet, whiskey, cloves.


Let it rain.
Let the clouds discharge their contents like reserve tanks.
Let the worms burrow their way to the topsoil
from whatever dank Sargasso they were spawned in.
Let dampness rot the coffin-boards of the summer house.
Let the shrubs lose their foothold in the wind,
the nettles lose their edge, the drenched rat
with slicked-back hair scuttle to its sewage pipe.
Let the tropical expanses of the rhubarb leaves
serve as an artificial pond, a reservoir.
Let the downpour’s impact on the toolshed be akin
to the dull applause on an archive recording of a love duet.
Let the bricklayers at the building site wrap
pathetic sheets of polythene around doomed foundations.
Let the limb ripped from the tree’s socket
hover fleetingly in the air, an olive branch.
Let a rainbow’s fantail unfurl like a bird of paradise.
Let a covenant be sealed, its wording watertight.
Let the floods recede.
Let there be light.


                        (after Giacomo Leopardi)

The storm runs out of wind; nature, which
abhors a silence, fills the vacancy with birdsong.
Deserting the airless, low-ceilinged coop,
the hen repeats herself ad infinitum. Replenished
like the rain-barrels, hearts grow sanguine.

Hammering resumes. Humming. Gossip. Croons.
Sun strides down lanes that grass has repossessed,
takes a shine to the brasses at the hotel where,
by the window she thrust open, the chambermaid
is marvelling at the cleansed freshness, calm.

Balm of mind and body. Will we ever feel
more reconciled to life than now, ever
know a moment more conducive to new hopes,
eager beginnings, auspicious starts?
How easily pleased we are. Rescind

the threat of torment for the briefest
second and we blot out dark nights of the soul
when lightning flashes fanned by wind
ignited fire and brimstone visions.
Sorrow is perennial; happiness, a rare

bloom, perfumes the air - so that we breathe
with the ease of a camphor-scented chest
from which congestion has just lifted.
Lack of woe equates with rapture then,
though not till death will pain take full leave

of our senses, grant us permanent relief.