We crucified the whale

We made the shape in bowsprits 
Dovetailed, bolted tight
Scrimmed and windlassed in the ink
Of all our oceanly delights
Fifty-six ells long, and the upright 
Measured twice, a golden mean
Embedded in the earth
To a sepulchre’s joist
This world and the next
In right-angled tandem
Justice uttered on our lips
Harpooned the beast
With that pneumatic fleeing snake
Watched it vomit up
Ambergris like sacrament
I think perhaps, the drowned preserved within
Found at last release
Drew it up in hawsers
Netted in those snarling knots
That shrink until the rope begins to cut
Block and tackle an ugly face
Double tongued, the bronze
Gone to the verdigris
Of brute seas
In the ichor deep
I am not sure
If the heart
Or time slows
As the weight
Of slumping water 
Only that
The swelling aortic arch
Is a bell
Where the silence
Of the god echoes
Under the excruciating beat
Of a slow approaching hammer
Pierced the pale side
For a crown, a strangler’s kelp
The gulls in swooped laments 
We will eat this lord alive
Rendered fat in slick fat slabs
from jigsawed hide
That stinking lard
To light the blue-green evening
With a flame’s slight harem dance
Caught in the Salome writhe
Of Antipas’s demand
To keep the god at bay
Watched the monster
Burning bright
For three days and three nights
All came to see, and revel
In his Vitas revelries 
After, almost completely gone
Charred vines of rope
Hung from the spars
Still half asleep
The waves in serry knelt
A king tide about the crucifix
The rigs of carnival drowned or gone
I ash blind
Augured, anvilled, awled 
On the creature’s back
A sun-gilt morning road
To another sea

Still running from the echo of your voice

Still air breaks
A folded shout
An echo, a chase
A half familiar shape
Always (almost) always catches up

Your mouth is proud flesh
I know you speak yellow flowers
Chrysanthemums, daisies, cicatrix
All sun coloured glowering

Scratched, pierced through, rolling
A grin sunset wide
Chest hard beaten cloth
Entangled scant vehemence

I am that field, over there
The prone face of the hill
Reaped in mown straw
Left to jigsaw the sun
In hard razored angles

Obtuse, oblique
Enough to jangle
The sunburned nape
Footsteps strafing
The clod turned earth
A hole will break you
If you do not
Keep lightly running

Still I am creased
Turned and bent
Crumpled, dismade, thrown and rent
By the origami of your voice

A bird inside

There are birds inside the calliope 
I said, when we ran away
To see if the sea
Breaks like glasshouses
Throwing stones
With that sideways trebuchet
Skipped, skipped, subsumed
You bent, bird-quizzically
In your throat 
That inchoate swallowing
Of disbelief
I said; look there
Above the rising
Brass of morning
Pipes rayed like the sun
If you turn, just one step away
Let go my hand
The stone still falling
See them fly

Mother to owls

I will take calcium from your teeth
Until they are milk and opal strange
Too soft to eat me with
An accusation borne with a bird-bark laugh
My birdsong replies as raw as warnings
Sometimes I feel the mask beneath the skin
Descended from the stranger world
An owlet that you carefully kissed
If I all reasonless wept
Hands against my neck and chin
As if they were his unfurled wings
Here now, away from all such childhood familiarity
Your hands have the eyes of wear
Pulling roots and weeds from raucous beds
Of judas penny and rhododendrons 
How with a wringing love
In this embrace they watch
Measuring pale skin with callouses
I do not remember lullabies 
Only a lost and dreamful sleep
Your morning voice still echoing
Insistent as a sunrise


Days slip by
I didn’t know
Your face was mired
Til I saw
An animal’s mask
Of rivulets through ochre
When you wept
The women talking
Over wire fences
Hair tied up for war
Rattan, acrylic, linoleum
Didn’t see your fall
Staccato cattle grid voices
The dye fading
The death truck’s passing roar
Of furious evening birds
Leaving, staying
I don’t know which way fled
Just reed-boned silhouettes
Gone in the almost dark
Grit cast in the footpaths of our faces
The washing line creaks warning
In the aftermathing silence
Cries and sunsets
Thin as guttered water

The semaphore in your chest

Washed my clothes

Lemon, verbena 

Eucalypt, a medicinal sting

Of bleach and comfort

Surprised you are still there

In the fibres, furred

In the burgeoning way

Of new growth after fire

While you breathe

 (I wonder why

we never breath

as if life were always in

that past imperfect tense)

The parallax of your chest

Shrinks and swells

Swells and shrinks

The curved shape of the world

I hear the semaphore

The wind-torn page a violation 

That I can never read

Hum a see-saw song


At least

I’m not growling

You are the poem I failed to understand

I nonchalantly threw your coat
From the couch to the floor

Thought how the trace
Of wilted flowers and old books
Crumpled like a poem

Picked it up again
Carefully smoothing sleeve against lapel
The faded ring around the fold of cuff
Snarkly whispering
Into your secret hand

As if you wore your dog-eared pages
And I in your almost unknown thoughts
Still lost

In the corner of my mouth, the long road from forever

A bit overdressed
I thought, it would be cold up here
Green parrots and pink galahs 

On the lawn, amongst bare-shouldered trees 
Each fossicked seed a new returning soul
Borne into uncanny blue
In startled opal fire

Coins in my pocket (for you know who)
The weight of unpaid debts
That lock of hair the colour of the dead
Swollen gums we used to hide behind

Full of street cornered threats and invocations

Some broke sticks of chalk to write
On the footpaths and the walls
Nothing particularly legible 
Sad and lost and proud held lines
With that difficult kind of joy
You get in wreaths of disarranged native flowers

Coming down, high and desolate ways
A cattle truck swagger
The blind menace of hungry chrome
Eating every crow-crookèd road
The hills old dog dun and brindle backed
Swaying like a mercy

Scythed my mourning face
In another town
Nowhere to the sea

Through the rust stained eye
(Thought of) hurricanes and
Carelessly dropped ice-creams
Fragments laved away

A new day’s shining face 
An endless broken promise
Never going back

Got those old commissure scars again
From too much hard smiling

In the gentling morning

The cherry blossoms bloom earlier each year
As if the efflorescence bright as the wind
Were not a fixéd point in history
But brief, new burgeoned summer
That burnt our shadows into the bitumen 
Mistaking prayer for a boxer’s curled up fists
The bell ringing out
The hollowed temple of the skull 
Marble blacked and cavern eyed
Emptied of all but desperate, whorling signs
In concrete, a mocking, splayed-tooth smile
Still, we only require paper walls
The ink so thin as to be, almost invisible
Except in the slaloming golden light
Of a lantern’s flinting shadow
Gaining purchase
In the intaglio
The way that desperate fingernails
Hold, and hold and hold and slip
We only need through morning’s paper walls
A slower, gentling sun
To read this warning over and over

War Poem 99

Aeroplane aeroplane where have you been?
I’ve been to Dresden to hunt for the King
Aeroplane aeroplane what did you there?
I broke the china blue as despair

Cattle truck cattle truck where do you go?
I go to Belsen for the kino show
Cattle truck cattle truck what see you there?
I saw your mother in her easy chair 

Soldier boy soldier boy who did you kill?
I don’t know their names, their faces are still
Shapeless and sharp and crying and burnt
Undoing my days with the mouthed shape of hurt

Lonely boy lonely boy where did you go?
I went to Hades far down below
Lonely boy lonely boy why do you stare?
Too old for for rhyming, too young to care