welcoming teeth

In the glass-shielded propaganda frame
mounted on the bulkhead
of the driver’s
compartment

a carefully-chosen chubby bloke-next-door
is white     in a uniform     straight     smile

I can almost smell his
cheap aftershave

Someone else
has risked the cameras
to rim his welcoming teeth
with crimsonned lips

First published in Uneven Floor

Bricks

The art will have to wait
The art will have to wait
There’s a child who needs to be fed
There’s someone screaming
in your head

The art will have to wait
The art will have to wait
No time to read or be read
There’s a child weeping
in your head

But you can take another pill, another pill, another pill
Take another pill, another little happy pill
take another… it’s alright you can just take another
pill

There’s someone screaming…
There’s a child weeping…

Take another pill, another pill, another pill…

The art will have to wait
The art will have to wait
You’ve got bricks holding down your wings
but do not be afraid this little kid sings

The art will have to wait she said
The art will have to wait they said
You’ve got bricks holding down your wings but
please don’t be afraid
this little kid sings

The light

The light has to get somewhere, touch something, to exist
You take acid as we’re sitting in the air
The old woman pours whitewash over her husband’s head
We’re on the left
There’s no box, no comfort zone
Anything but raw paper is a compromise
Two girls with acne and stringy bleached hair
Occupy Wall Street
A month in the hole
In solitary
The way to connect is to work together
I had a clear vision
Looming orange clouds, an apocalyptic sunset
Something that makes you smaller or channels your movement

The light has to get somewhere
A curve through spacetime
A function
A journey, transmission, idea
In the dream we’re on a plane, rows of seats, going somewhere
We don’t know what we want but it isn’t this
People keep pets
The husband is grey and decrepit
If your mother couldn’t hold you while you cried
hold yourself now
Try to hide yourself
If you throw up the next morning
does that mean you’ve poisoned yourself?
When you look for yourself as a thing
there is nothing there

The light has to get somewhere, touch something
Is that the same t-shirt?
Occupy Breastfeeding
Howl, keen, be the banshee of yourself, announcing your death
I take scissors out of your hand
You’re taking acid
Seeing the nothing inside yourself
A curve through spacetime
A function
A journey, transmission, idea
In touching something, the light
is not destroyed, but changed
In the dream
the husband is grey and decrepit
The woman pours whitewash
Anything but raw paper is a compromise
The noises when I cried and cried frightened me

The light has to get somewhere, touch something, to exist
People keep pets instead
Curl into a ball, try to hide yourself
We don’t know what we want but it isn’t this
Fenced in, fenced out
You in the aisle seat
I in the middle
Light is nothing, only
potential
When you look for yourself as a thing
there is nothing
The way to connect is to work
against each other
In touching something, the light
is not destroyed, but changed
Reflected, absorbed, refracted
Tear at your clothes and hair, bite yourself

The light has to get somewhere
I smile a little
Acid, you’re taking acid
Light is nothing, only
potential, just
an idea
Occupy Everything
Looming orange clouds
The window seat free
No-one looking out
This is not conditional
A month in the hole
Two months
Give you time to think
What if the neighbours come
and try to cheer me up?
Not depressed
Not ill
Don’t need anything
In full control
of self, life, responses
An adult
Tear at your clothes and hair, bite yourself
I don’t know what I want
If your father couldn’t hold you while you cried
hold yourself now
In touching something, the light
is not destroyed, but changed
Polarised, amplified, focussed
There’s no box
This is not
conditional
You don’t have to be
a good boy, a good girl
I had a clear vision
The light
has to touch something

(First published in Uneven Floor)

Australians

She said ‘They put me
in a prison, took away
my name, gave me a number
instead. For a year
I was there, called by a number,
answering to a number,
giving a number
when they asked my
identity.’

My eyes were wet
as she bravely made her speech.
A young woman. I can’t remember
whether she was Tamil, Afghan,
or what. I can’t remember
whether it was her who spoke
about travelling on a boat
across the open sea, with people
getting sick
and dying.

I came here on a ‘boat’, too.
A luxury liner.

One rainy English day
my parents saw a billboard.
Come to Australia! Sunshine, opportunity!
Ten pounds passage—the government
paid the rest.

We stayed one week
in a migrant hostel. The photo shows a cabin
with curtains at the windows.
My mother shy on the wooden steps,
sunshine on her pale cheek,
babies on her lap.

The shire of Bunbury needed a labourer.
For three months we lived in lodgings
on the main street, near the beach.

The next job came with a house.
A front garden, a backyard.
My dad heaved logs into the boilers
of the last steam pump
on the Goldfields water scheme.
The photo shows him shirtless,
all taut muscle.
There were shit jobs then, too

but in the pub
the blokes called him ‘mate’
and the local families
invited us to their parties.

‘They locked me
in a prison, took away
my name, gave me
a number.’

I’m old enough to have gone to school
in an all-white class.
At uni the white students hardly mixed
with the ones from South-East Asia.
We called them ‘choges’.
We said it to name
what we couldn’t speak:
the newness, the fascination,

the fear.

Even now, whenever I meet
a person whose language
is different to mine, whose idea of fashion
is different to mine, whose idea of God
might be different to mine, whose idea of breakfast
might be different to mine, whose manners
are different to the ones my mother showed me

I’m afraid. The stupid reptile
at the base of my brain
is scared that this
unfamiliar creature
might want my eyes
as a snack

but that day, they were wet
as the gentle young woman spoke.

‘They locked me up.
They took away my name.
They gave me a number
instead, for a year.’

She didn’t give this ‘they’ a name.

She was talking about
Australians.

(First published in Uneven Floor)