Wednesday, June 12, 2019

New Poetry by Nathanael O'Reilly

Running II *

At the end of the lane, turn right
onto Coolamon Road and right again
at Farrer Road. Return past the new
housing estates, cramped embodiments
of the Australian Dream. Run through
thick autumn fog as water drips from limbs,
boughs and leaves. Run down Pine Gully
Road through Estella and Boorooma.
Dig deep in the uphill homestretch
climbing Mambarra Drive to Booranga
past the RAF memorial, sheep-strewn
paddocks and the winery. Set lambs
bleating, mistake rocks for rabbits,
disturb many murders of crows.


Heat up a can of beef and vegie
soup for lunch. Make four pieces
of toast and spread Western Star
butter generously. Add Saxa
salt and pepper to the soup,
open a longneck of Sheaf Stout
and pour a tall glass. Eat and drink
while gazing out the window
at a bloke on a motorbike herding
a mob of sheep along the road,
pushing stragglers out of the olive
grove while the black cat meows
and scratches the fly-screen,
seeking entry from the verandah.


Brew your afternoon coffee
then step through the kitchen
doorway onto the verandah.
Watch the black cat dash down
the steps heading for home
beneath the house. Sit still
on a chair sipping in the autumn
sunshine. Stare at the rabbit
on the hillside until it turns
into a small grey rock then back
into a rabbit. Finish your coffee
and go inside. Iron trousers
and a long-sleeved shirt. Shave
in preparation for the evening.

- Nathanael O'Reilly 2019

* Three poems from the Booranga sequence

Nathanael O’Reilly is an Irish-Australian residing in Texas. His books include Preparations for Departure, Distance, Cult, Suburban Exile and Symptoms of Homesickness. His poetry has appeared in publications from twelve countries, including Antipodes, Bluepepper, Cordite, Headstuff, Mascara, Skylight 47, Snorkel, Verity La and The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2017.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Who let the dogs out?

As a platform for open and constructive expression and engagement, Bluepepper shares the international community's grave concerns for the future of Australian democracy in light of the recent AFP raids on the home of a Murdoch journalist and the headquarters of the ABC. That there seems to be an element of vindictiveness in the actions of the AFP is highlighted by the fact that the raids weren't conducted for more than a year after the "offending" stories were published and broadcast. If either story posed such a threat to national security and our standing in the Five Eyes, then why not greater urgency in executing the warrants? Peter Dutton, the Federal Home Affairs Minister, ducked and weaved when this question was put to him, leaving Bluepepper with the distinct impression that the law sits very low on his list of priorities. You would think this a strange attitude from an ex-member of the Queensland Police Force, but perhaps some of our colleagues north of the Tweed could cure us of our misconceptions.

One positive result of the AFP raids was to bring the Murdoch Press and the ABC together in a united voice of outrage and despair at this judicial overreach. Both organisations have justified cause for concern, especially after the acting AFP Director, Neil Gaughan, mooted possible custodial sentences for the journalists involved. This is a worrying precedent, and one against which Australian journalists and media organisations are almost powerless to act without urgent legislation or an amendment to the constitution. As things stand, freedom of the press is merely "implied" as a pillar of this country's free and functioning democracy.

It cannot be stressed enough at this juncture that Australia is the ONLY modern liberal democracy where such actions as last week's AFP raid are legally permitted. All people everywhere who believe in a free and open democracy should take a moment to reflect on this fact. Laws matter. The laws that our parliaments enact matter and can have enduring and largely unforseen consequences down the track without due diligence by said lawmakers, not to mention rigorous scrutiny by the Fourth Estate. 

It may, therefore, be appropriate at this point to highlight the fact that for more than a decade the Murdoch press has been a vocal critic of attempts to introduce a Bill of Rights in this country. Their arguments against such change strike Bluepepper as rather opaque, but in essence the Murdoch argument has been that a Bill of Rights would represent a vote of no confidence in Australia's parliaments and the traditions in which individual rights (so they argued until last week) are enshrined. The AFP raids show such faith to be on very shaky ground indeed. Custom is not law, and in the face of the kind of judicial over reach the world has just witnessed in Australia this point also cannot be stressed enough. Arguments that a Bill of Rights would politicise our judiciary also appear moot in the light of recent events.

Of course, there is a risk with any legislation that it will in fact limit rights in the very act of guaranteeing them. This strikes Bluepepper as a legitimate concern, but we believe the only way to mitigate such failures is to open a full and frank discussion now on the subject with input from all Australians in every corner of the country. We pride ourselves that as a nation we are always able to pull together in a crisis. Well, Bluepepper suggests we are facing a crisis of the first magnitude right here right now. It is an existential crisis with the same generational implications as the crisis of climate change, and we find ourselves in both these cases at a juncture in the modern history of this country. Bluepepper believes we will be judged by our actions (or lack thereof) by future generations. The status quo has proved itself manifestly inadequate. People should not be deterred by arcane matters of law. The issues, we believe, are fundamental and fairly straightforward. Certain rights that are currently only implied in our constitution need to be enshrined as a matter of urgency in order to prevent such incidents as last week's raids ever taking place again. Power must be open to scrutiny or all the laws of the land are a dead letter.

Bluepepper accepts that in penning this editorial there could be consequences down the track. We accept this in the spirit of one largely flying blind. However, we implore anyone commenting on recent events to choose their words carefully until we all have a clearer idea of where exactly we stand in the eyes of the law. Bluepepper believes that all the journalists and editors involved in this sorry episode acted in good faith and in the best interests of their readers and of their country. If the Prime Minister and his Cabinet believe they govern in the interests of their much-touted "silent majority", then they have won this fight. Bluepepper cannot in all good conscience sit back silently and let that happen.

New Poetry by Doug Holder

Harbor Walk, South Boston

It was the smell
that briny
elemental sweat
of wizened hard rock
tangled up in green seaweed
the white waterfall
abandoning its load
in the placid canal.

I had to stop
the moment I smelled it.
It was something
that my father was drawn to
it righted his round shoulders
made his face crinkle with laughter.

That smell.
Emerging from the vaginal portals
that spray of light
slapping him with the doctor.
That smell
on his pleasuring hands
the troop ship
heading to the coast of France
the salt adding speckled white
and fright to
his stubble.

The smell. The sea.
His beginning.
The expansive horizon,
and the narrowing

We spread his ashes
far up the Hudson
but we knew they would travel
to the seminal sea
and someday
that's where
I am 
to be.

- Doug Holder 2019

Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, MA. He has recently collaborated with playwright Lawrence Kessenich on a new play based on a short story he wrote "The Patient." It is going to be published by the Presa Press, and  has had a staged reading at the Playwright's Platform in the Boston area. Holder's poem " Oh Don't She Said, It's Cold" adapted into a song by singer/songwriter Jennifer Matthews, will be preformed by the dance company "text moves" in the fall at various venues in the area. Holder is the arts editor of The Somerville Times, and teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, and Endicott College in Beverly, MA. He holds an MLA in literature from Harvard University.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

New Poetry by James Walton

Mallacoota guesthouse, between States

We slept in Henry Lawson’s bed
in the days when the world was wide
at a place where pelicans and kangaroos
gambolled on a horizon of lawn
sloping to the inlet jetty
all those years ago
the road to Conran closed by forbidding rains
You ate shortbreads telling me the crumbs
could never forget us
the way they disappeared in the sheets
like fish diving to or away from bait
a forever slight of need
At smuggler’s cove we rescued a penguin
the one station copper laughed
telling us to just put it back
giving us bandaids for our fingers
A long stretch of days bent our way
the veranda smell of ozone and bracken
pipe and shirt sleeves held up with elastic guards
the owner trying to find a place in the world
a Checkpoint Charlie the eye of the needle
You went through without me
just as I looked down to validate our passes

- James Walton 2019

James Walton is published in many anthologies, journals, and newspapers. His collections include 'The Leviathan's Apprentice', 'Walking Through Fences', and 'Unstill Mosaics'.

Monday, June 03, 2019

New Poetry by Claire Roberts


Every library is a pile of seasonal leaves;
amber-coloured pages crack
like twigs underfoot

and scent the air around my cubicle
with the arms of a young maple tree:
a crimson sentry leaning on the windowsill,

my favourite book clear as a name.
I have one life and poetry another.

- Claire Roberts 2015

Friday, May 31, 2019

New Poetry by Brian Rihlmann

Owen's Water Chimes

The rain spatters against the window
and I am taken back to his dingy room
in that old flophouse on the north coast,

where we sat 20 years ago 
chatting about books and drinking whiskey
during a winter rainstorm,

and he occasionally held up a finger,
interrupting me,
and saying, "Listen!"

He called them his "water chimes,"
the beer cans and bottles
he tossed out the window into the alley,

and heard melodies
in the plinking and plopping sounds
of raindrops on their hollow shells.

I was 25 then, he was 50 years older,
and I thought he was drunk,
or just a crazy old bastard.

Now I sit, listening to the rain,
windblown against the glass
drumming like tiny insistent fingers,

like someone waiting for me
when I'm running late,
but I'm not sure just what for.

- Brian Rihlmann 2019

Brian Rihlmann was born in NJ, and currently lives in Reno, NV. He writes mostly semi autobiographical, confessional free verse. Folk poetry...for folks. He has been published in Constellate Magazine, Poppy Road Review, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review and has an upcoming piece in The American Journal Of Poetry.

Monday, May 27, 2019

New Poetry by Margaret Holley


Have I written enough poems for one lifetime?
Do I really need to search for words for this

breath they breathe out and I breathe in,
pulling the sprig in close to my face, this scent 

I have loved since childhood when it taught me 
what spring is?  Richard Wilbur called it

“the pure power of this perfume,” and no one 
has lent it a finer bouquet. So now I can simply 

be silent, close my eyes, and breathe it in. I can 
sit in my room in the oncoming dusk reading 

“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” 
slowly all the way through, weeping shamelessly

for the heart-shaped leaves, the hermit thrush,
and Whitman’s love for Lincoln — and for us, 

crowds of us all across America who gathered 
as the funeral train with the coffin traveled west,

town by town, toward Springfield for burial, 
just as our nation itself very nearly died.

Instead of going to bed, I’d rather go back out
into the dark to lie down in the ivy and myrtle 

under the lilac bush and let my thoughts 
rise up wordlessly around its sturdy twigs, 

its clouds of tiny, opening, four-pointed stars.
I’d rather be a painter, a dancer, a singer,

a dreamer wondering if I’m asleep or if I’m 
waking, oh please, waking at last.

- Margaret Holley 2019

Margaret Holley’s fifth book of poems is Walking Through the Horizon(University of Arkansas Press,  Newer poems have appeared in online at Algebra of Owls, Bluepepper, Eclectica, Gnarled Oak, The Tower Journal, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.  She currently she lives with her husband in Wilmington, DE, and serves as a docent at Winterthur Museum and Gardens.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

New Poetry by Jonathan Beale

The first blue spring days 

The Magnolia dawns!
Misting over the sultry fields… 
That Chagallian mood bleeds
Through to the idyllic
Blissful, dreamy and then mellow.

Until another god divines:
Wisteria, majestic! Regal!
As the chimes of St Marks Basilica.
They hang observing 
As the gods and angels. 

The Ceanothus sitting on the corner. 
Standing bereft of purpose,
Other than its own beauty,
Its own meaning - 
There is nothing bluer.  

Lavender: bridging springs finale.  
Springs new birth rite, Lavenders meaning.  
Killing springs winter -
Brushing away the charm
Into another day, another season.

- Jonathan Beale 2019

Jonathan Beale has had his work published in over sixty journals including Danse Macabre, Mad Swirl, Ygdrasil, Red Wolf Editions, Sheepshead Review, Poetry 24 et al.  He is also published in two anthologies ‘Drowning’ and ‘The Poet as Sociopath’ (Scar publications). And one to be published ‘Do not be afraid’ a small anthology dedicated to Seamus Heaney. His first book of poetry The Destinations of Raxiera (Hammer and Anvil) in November 2015. He lives Surrey U.K.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

New Poetry by Abigail George

The genius of the fish

(for the Dutch poet Joop Bersee)

My mother was a woman who cut a striking figure in 
blue jeans even well into her sixties. She was a 

woman half-formed by the green sea. You would find 
me after watching my favourite soap in the afternoon

weeping amongst the glaciers, catching the oyster-cloth
of my breath considering every forward lurch of my 

sin into hell. I will still remember and go on remembering.
A mother who was also a sister, a daughter who was now

an orphan. Touch me. I am flesh and bone like you,
chiseled into an aching, living, breathing thing. Into this

human body engineered for love and the psychology of 
it all, of most of all disability and I think of the genius 

of fish. How they move in water, gulping in air through
their gills. Supreme triumph after triumph. How perfect

they seem to be on the surface of things. They’ll never 
know what it is to dance in their bare feet or sadness or

electroshock therapy. I think of you with a kind of longing.
Sometimes in the same way I think of John Nash. I over-

think of this empty mirror. No reflection, no muse, no
nation there, no habitat, no cave dweller. I’m more or less

drone than bat. Seed is found there in the elements and 
dimensions of nature. People are found there in swimming 

pools in the same way they’re found numb after taking pain 
medication. Girls remind me of Updike. Faces that I have no 

longing to kiss. Boys remind me of Sartre and Beauvoir’s 
relationship. Their union erratic, unpredictable. With their 

faces that I have no longing to kiss. I long for you. How
I long for you. Your company, to sit next to, to understand

that there is only this love in the world and that nothing
divides us absolutely. You’re reflection projected, muse

interrupted, chaos and disorder exploding like bombs 
in my brain. I write to reach you. All I ask in return is that

you accept me high and low, crushing and numb, deaf  
to the burn wound of my soul, to the voiceless bone sticking-out.

You’re my girl, you’re my girl, you’re my girl. Reminding
me of Updike, Rilke, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Bambi.

- Abigail George 2019

Pushcart Prize-nominated Abigail George is a South African blogger, essayist, poet and short story writer. She briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg. Her latest book is The Scholarship Girl published by Zimbabwean Publishing company Mwanaka Media and Publishing and edited by Tendai Rinos Mwanaka. She is the recipient of two grants from the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, one from the Centre of the Book in Cape Town and ECPACC in East London.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

New Poetry by Terry Wheeler

hyde park

bugger all degrees
of separation for
cattle ticks and
the bush bred

wondering if don walker
ever ran across
great auntie evie
up at the cross

when hyde park winos
on the picnic tables
were the best
chess players

awol for a week while
on tour they found
thelonious monk there
asleep on a park bench

evie the black sheep
would’ve connected
with thelonious or don
outside the square

- Terry Wheeler 2019

Terry worked in the public service for decades and was inspired to write after seeing Michael Dransfield poems in The Australian newspaper when a teenager. Terry has been published in Australia and abroad since retiring. He lives in Brisbane when not travelling.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

New Poetry by John Rock

Moon Full

just each other’s night to sing
just each other’s warmth and elegance as if formed from moonlight
your nipples dark upon the raft of silver breath of silver earth
as coyotes sing wilder in the moon-stenciled forest you move
as Icarus through his love of life transformed his wings and dove into the sea
  over and over as the story is told I travel into you and look down to see
    the moonlight walking into the sea

- John Rock 2019

John Rock grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan in the United States and spent many years on the shores of Lake Superior writing poems among all the shimmering mosquitoes and frogs.  He presently lives in Northern New Mexico.  More poems and novels at