Friday, December 14, 2018

Impossible Gift

This is not the smoke of colonial rod
of scarred encampments, the prodding stick,
of the fires where infants were tossed.

This is not the smoke of the gift of grog
of paternal authority, of children stolen
of lubras raped, of smug denigration.

This is not the gift of denied genocide
of suicide in the white washed cell
of herding and terror and shrieking mothers.

No! This is the gift of purification
This is the gift of cleansing the spirit
This is a blessing, an impossible gift.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Clean Hands

Clean Hands

They hover, tentative at first, these hooded
birds pecking for sustenance on the shore
of the South China Sea.

Massahh papa? Foot massahh? Pedicure papa?
You buy? They show me their beads and bangles
their packets of crinkles, chips, their cold drinks,

their pineapples on sticks. They carry their hopes
across their shoulders, these slight pecking
Vietnamese ladies.

Massahh mama? Foot massahh? Pedicure mama?
Just over there a plump golden dame from WA
is showing pictures of her grand house,

with gilded bathroom taps, her awesome garden
and swimming pool to these slight creatures.
A lot of work from hubby and more than a little

luck honey, if you get my drift? She winks.
How much is your massahh for an hour sweetie?
You have to be kidding me. I'll pay you half.
I hope your hands are clean.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Before The Buds Break Through

On this hill we stand like phantoms staring
into the ghostly shell, where
at night a slide of the focal eye
slips a moment into millennia.

On this hill the three white domes stand
like tombs now stripped clean by sand
the light which sought the nature of things
is risen again in the turn of time.

On this hill the light has turned to darkness
for such is the nature of things in Winter
we shift and sway from hope to dismay
until the buds break through again.

On this hill we're careful not to look down
and gaze upon our shadowy selves
our faces and our palms upturned,
lest we burn before the buds break through.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Cats of the Forum Romanum

There were strange lights in the sky in the early
hours of fifteenth of March, 44BC,
flashes of crimson, hues of blues and yellows,
they had been seen before, when Rome was the prey.

The temple cats stirred and became restless
looking upwards then quickly darting down
to vanish beneath the sacred buildings,
hierarchies and animosities forgotten.

In the chill of morning they watched the sixty
senators stride past led by Brutus and
Cassius. The black tom, known as Magnus
Lux, the Great Light, was heard to remark

'Yon Cassius, hear his slack bones clack,
methinks he needs a good feed and fuck.' The cats
of Rome, like the plebeians, were known for their
vulgarity. They watched as Julius Caesar passed

and heard his taunt to Spurinna the Haruspex
that 'The Ides of March are come.' The Haruspex,
a seer in entrails, had divined danger for Caesar
and so replied 'Aye Caesar, but not gone...'

The cats, a clowder of mewling and yowling
orphans, a ragbag of feline protestation
sensing assassination in the ribbed
and clacking air, followed the gathering

'By the bollocks of Jupiter' said Magnus Lux
'This day will be marked in metal and bone.'
And when Brutus thrust his weapon up high
into his father to forge one of the

twenty seven wounds, to ensure he would
not rise again, the general and god had spat
with blood 'And you child?' And so the deed
was surely done and gods, and cats, all slinked away.

In the ensuing centuries the cats witnessed
the wars and fires, the murderous retributions,
the excesses, and secret assignations;
the screech and the scream of metal on bone,

all of the triumphs and trials, processions
and condemnations, the memorials, the shrines
the arches and the grandeur. More strange lights,
the raw vermilion of war, and the cats

cowered among smokey ruins. Roman gods
were thus deposed and history rewritten.
Yeshua, a Jewish mystic who was
executed by the state became the god

Jesu Christus, and the masonry of
forum temples was used to build churches
in his honour. The twelve guilded deities
of the forum and the myriad minor gods

were replaced by statues of apostles,
angels and saints. Some said Yeshua
would awake in horror at his deification
and return to cast the new temples asunder.

But they were put to death for heresy.
Magnus Lux remarked that 'the new boss
smells like the old boss.' And the temple cats
slinked around and slept among the ruins.

They lived those millennia being fed
each day by the Gattara, a Crazy Cat
Lady, dressed in black and murmuring
in Latin, of news and scandals of papacy

and politics and the curse of inhumanity,
how the paupers had become princes
how the princes had become corrupt
and how nothing changes through the ages.

And how the rule of power and corruption
has persisted from age to age. And the black tom
Magnus Lux would reply 'Carpe noctem'
that 'We cats will always seize the night'.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Distorted Mirror?

The Distorted Mirror?

A pair of Pardalotes flew outside my window,
their black crowns sparkling with snow white dots
the female beaked hay from the hanging pot

while the cock flew at his reflection
thrusting his bright yellow breast against the glass
saying 'Look at me, look and see. What a buck I am!'

Then he glanced in the mirror on the courtyard wall
and spotted a rival - what a handsome chap
with his fine night head festooned with stars

and he said to the female, his new found mate
'Check out this boy, such an impudent fellow
to flutter so close with his looks and his charm

so utterly gauche when our deed is done,
sure his breast is brown where mine is yellow,
a golden sun to warm your nest, and the down

of our young.' Then the female she dropped the hay
from her beak and flew in the face of the mirror.
'Here's a fine looking gal, far better than I,

she will turn his head but I'll live with that.
I so want the cutie who appeared before
instead of Old Mate with his bangs at my door.'

And the pair of Pardalotes were up and away.
Was this a game that each year they play?
I really don't know. They are just birds.
I simply relate all I saw and I heard.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Lovely Creatures Box Set - 3 cds and 1 DVD. Superb!

I wrote this review for Amazon. But I can't post it because I haven't bought the required USD50 or GBP50 over the last 12 months. Postage is a killer. I bought it locally at JB Hi Fi for AUD37 (from memory) and it is well worth it. So, the review had to go somewhere and here it is. 

Well this really is an embarrassment of riches, 3CDs plus a DVD of prime Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. There are a couple of reviewer complaints that some fave tracks are excluded - Henry Lee I think was one mentioned - but it's an indication of the band's quality of output that this is so. I don't know any other band that has such a high quality in terms of rock, lyrics, and performance, given their longevity. Check out the alternative box set of 3CD B sides and Rarities, it's a treat! Ok, its all subjective but that's my view.

Nick Cave, a superb lyrist, vocalist and performer is really without peer IMHO. Dylan and the late lamented Leonard Cohen are on a par lyrically, maybe some of Paul Simon, Elvis Costello and Richard Thompson, but do they reach such heights as vocalists and performers in a rock sense?
Your decision. And The Bad Seeds who Nick regards as one equal unit, are beyond any other rock unit in terms of delivery and imaginative interpretation. Yes? No? Its all subjective, whatever pushes your buttons.

How do you choose a 'best of' for this band from an output that spans thirty years? Well, this excellent compilation was chosen by Cave and Mick Harvey with some input by the current Bad Seeds. To quote Nick from his website, This release is designed to be a way into three decades of music making. That’s a lot of songs. The songs we have chosen are the ones that have stuck around, for whatever reason. Some songs are those that demand to be played live. Others are lesser songs that are personal favourites of ours. Others are just too big and have too much history to leave out. And there are those that didn’t make it, poor things. They are the ones you must discover by yourselves.”

The tracks are in chronological order, a total of 45, from 15 albums with 3 session tracks included, the double Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus being counted as one album. I wasn't familiar with some of the earlier more manic rock tracks, 'The Carny', 'I'm Gonna Kill that Woman', and 'Up Jumped the Devil' but they provide a reflection of where the band was at, which was some liberating place of intense release, a cacophonous maelstrom of deliverance. Such purity, ha, is balanced by a sly dose of black humour and songs of beautiful melodious melancholic majesty.

But the cream on top for me is the DVD with 25 performances and 14 interviews approximate running time 2h 5m. Most of the interviews are short, providing song writing and performance background. Cave is a wordy songwriter, 'swallowed a dictionary' as they say here in Oz, and like similar songwriters, Cohen, Dylan, Shane McGowan, Elvis Costello, you wonder how they remember their lines. But he does, like a cinematic narration I guess, but it's his performances that are stunning. I've seen those artists mentioned above and they were all great, Cohen and Costello particularly, but I haven't seen Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds yet. On my bucket list. I have a number of their DVDs, top entertainment.

And this one will do it for you too. As Kirk Lake describes Cave in his insightful essay, 'ever the stick-thin, jack-knifing, marauding malcontent.' The DVD does not run chronologically which is a good thing. Most are excellent in terms of sound, photography and production but a couple look like Utube phone caught, and you're looking at the performances of course.

The book is cardboard bound, nicely designed, which includes the aforementioned literate insightful essay on the origin and development of Cave and the band, lots of rare photos, plus track and video information. It is superb!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Silence ANZAC Day 2018

My dad was silent about his place in the war

except to say that shells whizzed through the night

over El-Alamain seeking the army

of the Desert Fox. And that, sleeping on

those cold night sands, if you could, you would

wake to find a brace of scorpions

under your bedroll each morning. The tales of

my Uncle Don by contrast would enthral

us kids, how he'd dived behind a tank

with bullets ricocheting around his head...

No, my dad was mostly silent about

his place in the war. He had seen a Bedouin

carrying in a basket much prized eggs for sale

walk too close to the makeshift runway

and a Spitfire while landing had lopped his head

and everyone had jostled for those eggs.

I think that vision stayed; summed up war for him.

He did say that when the allies liberated

Rome he stood for hours in Saint Peter's Square

at a papal mass in celebration

of peace. Now, whether it was the fierce heat

or perhaps he was just overwhelmed,

he fainted and found himself inside the Vatican

where a kind and grateful priest gave him

a heavenly wine; scooped from the spring at Cana.

I recall that he and a fellow Airforce

mate were returning to base along a

valley track, maybe from a night out

in Perugia with those friendly effusive

Italian girls or maybe from a visit to Assisi,

'just us,' he said, 'not a soul to be seen'

and out of the sky swung a German fighter

with jackhammer canons raking the ground.

They dived in a ditch. 'What sort of human..?'

I recall as a young lad being on a hot

pebble beach at Deal where the Romans

had landed in 55BC. Granddad

had a handkerchief over his bald pate,

and a single engined plane zoomed over.

'Eee, exclaimed our Nan, 'I thought Gerry were back.'

We all laughed.

No, my dad never

celebrated ANZAC Day despite being

urged to do so by his boss.

In Dad's opinion

such marching and celebration

ratified the inhumanity of humanity.

Balloons, Sunday 18 March 2018

In the pre dawn half light the headlights
wash the road, and maybe the kangaroo
was mesmerised but knew where she had to go.
I swerved and almost collided with a cab

and the young one followed her mother as
she knew she must and slammed into my wing.
I braked hard, and she bounced off then bounded
and collapsed by the roadside, her tail

rising and falling, once, twice, three times
signalling the end before she'd barely begun.
I wondered whether the mother waited
dismayed like me, waited for her young one

to rise. There are those who would say
oh well, they're a pest, it's only one less...
And so, I drove slowly down to the lakeside
to await the gentle rise and drift

of the colourful balloon spectacle.
Down there the day was peaceful and still
with sunrising walkers and joggers,
and images mirrored upon the water,

which betrayed the image in my mind.
And I waited for the balloons to come
and play upon the placid lake.
And I waited for balloons to come.

Impossible Gift This is not the smoke of colonial rod of scarred encampments, the prodding stick, of the fires where infants ...