Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New Poetry by David Lander


Night. The wind frets.

Squeezed close in your sitting room we
discuss our cousin. We love him but
is he that cuddly eccentric he appears or
does he strangle children?

‘Course not. We laugh and read his work and laugh again
and paint the picture of his life.
We pause again and think again, concerned
by his rural isolation. How
the world folds in on him, on us,
how we have become what we were not.

We read again and laugh again but
close the curtains, stoke up the fire,
listen as your house shifts in the wind
and talk of something else,

return again to what we would prefer not to;
his life, circumstance, our lives,
what we were, might have been and have become,
what we knew and what we guessed,
what he saw in that small town, that road to nowhere.

We hold his life up like a torch seeing ours.
in stark relief. Shadows deepen.
Your house is quiet. The fire settles.
The wind has gone elsewhere
fretting done for now.

- David Lander 2017

David  has previously published in The Australian, The Age, Overland, Tirra Lirra and Australian Poetry. He has had careers in education and theater. He now lives with his partner in Hobart, Tasmania.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

New Poetry by Caroline Reid

The Gift

The fine white ceramic face  
of the Japanese teacup
is wrinkled, as if it already lived a life
before it came here to grow old.

I drink from the side
where a single magnolia petal
folds over the lip.
I hold the marmalade flower
in my mouth
without spilling a drop.

When I proclaimed that I could no longer stand
drinking coffee out of thick-lipped mugs
you went off quietly to Little Tokyo
at the Central Markets and came home
with the teacup wrapped in turquoise tissue
slumbering in your palms.

We sat opposite each other 
in our usual spots at the table,
me facing the fridge
you the fireplace,
to unwrap the gift,
me with sprinting fingers
you with your eyes.

I like to think the teacup was hand-painted
by some Japanese master
the colours carefully selected
marmalade magnolia instead of orange
stamens of candle-glow yellow and gold
leaves mottled lapis, copper and bronze
but I know that no-one could have crafted this cup
with the same reverence in which you gave it.

You are in every teacup of coffee I drink.
You, who listen calmly to my daily proclamations
as if they were poetry
before you rub sleep from your eyes
and in the evenings, unlacing dusty boots
at our back door.

- Caroline Reid 2017

A writer of poetry, short stories and plays, Caroline Reid regularly performs her work and was a state finalist in South Australia's State Poetry Slam in 2016 and 2017. Her work has been published in journals and anthologies including Bath Flash Fiction Award, Verity La, 4W, Indigo, Seizures and Review of Australian Fiction. Last year she was emerging writer in residence at the SA Writers Centre where she completed a draft of her novel in progress, No Place for Children.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

New Poetry by Christine Brandel

The Blood Stones

Some green stones had been left by the daffodils
at your grave. Little green stones, not black, not hearts.
I fingered everything there, the flowers, the mirror,
your name and his. The stones were green and I wanted one,
but didn’t think that right. I am not like the others,
believe me (I think you would). I stopped at a nearby shop
and bought two blood stones. Their green was darker.
I left one on your headstone (for the Jewish blood in us both)
and kept one in my pocket. It’s there now. Like you are.

- Christine Brandel 2017

Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. Her book A Wife is a Hope Chest was released on Halloween 2017 as the first full-length collection in the Mineral Point Poetry Series from Brain Mill Press. She also writes a column on comedy for PopMatters and rights the world's wrongs via her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss) at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. More of her work can be found at

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Poetry by John Grey

Holy Week

A giant papier-mâché Diablo
totters down the street,
arms thrashing,
head spitting out fireworks -

the children are afraid -
their parent's laugh

except for the deeply religious -
with them it's the other way around

the saints
are less gaudy,
quieter -
piety doesn't do
sparks and flames -

then comes the skeleton,
black and white -
he was human -
he can go either way.

- John Grey 2017

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Tau, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Examined Life Journal and Midwest Quarterly.  

Thursday, November 09, 2017

New Poetry by Mark O'Flynn

Quiet Decibels

Next door’s radio mumbles to itself.
A sudden bird flees another across the roof,
a donkey on tip-toes brays in the evening distance.
Not everyone can say as much
of the afternoon’s quiet wealth,
how its serenade knits the various
ages of the day together,
the gleam of spider web clinging to the air
like a floating fibre of lung, a tightrope
of light between two porch posts, the dew
settling for the night on tomorrow’s raw dawn.
These esoteric signs are everywhere
if signs they are, the future tropes
unguaranteed. Things might
contradict themselves, I hope.
Such simplicity is finite – the natural
bedfellows of harmony and discord.          
That pebble in my shoe
will make itself eventually known.
Not everyone can say as much.

- Mark O'Flynn 2017

Mark O'Flynn's most recent novel The Last Days of Ava Langdon was a finalist in the 2017 Miles Franklin Award. His latest collection of poems is Shared Breath published by Hope Street Press.

Monday, November 06, 2017

This Oval of Light

I am taking this rare opportunity to editorialise for the sake of Bluepepper's readers north of the line who may be wondering whatever became of "the wonder downunder".

One of the few advanced economies to have survived the GFC relatively intact, through a combination of sheer luck and some wise and timely policy initiatives. A nation prepared to say sorry to its original inhabitants for the many injustices inflicted on them, to walk across a bridge, and then for some reason stop and turn around. A nation that was once one of the great immigration success stories of the post-war era, but that now appears to have become the unwitting prototype for heartless, short-sighted immigration policy the world over. A nation that provided more than its fair share of overseas aid, a nation that reached out rather than folded its arms at the spectacle of a world in crisis. A nation that once stood at the vanguard of innovation but that now languishes way way back of the pack. The same for its stance on climate change, an area of public policy that seems to have become a graveyard for any kind of political visionary in this country. 

While the rest of the world foundered after the crash of 2007/2008, the "wonder down under" racked up ridiculous amounts of household debt, turning wall-eyed and solipsistic in the process. While many (mostly older) Australians made obscene amounts of money in the real estate boom, just as many (mostly younger) Australians were lumped with stagnant wages and a steeply rising cost of living, student debts that their parents never had to worry about, a collective shrug at their understandable reservations about the direction the country was taking, particularly in regards to climate change, rising inequality, and the issue of marriage equality.

The latter has been the subject of a recent plebiscite, and now that the votes are in and only waiting to be counted, I feel free to express my disgust at the tactics employed by those on the right, their heartless scaremongering, the bald-faced lies and naked hypocrisy. It is too early to tell how much damage this clumsy and completely unnecessary process has caused. Sadly only time will tell, and perhaps by then it will be too late, even if, as predicted, the plebiscite returns a resounding YES to the proposition that all citizens of this country should be equal before the law. This matter should not even be up for debate in a modern liberal pluralistic democracy, but it is and those who assume to be society's moral guardians have exploited the fact to their undying shame. The wreckers in our federal parliament will have to answer to their consciences, if they can find them amongst the rubble of their many discarded promises.

 In short, this wonderful country is broken. Each day the disparity grows between the haves and the have-nots. A nation blessed with abundant resources is witnessing families unable to heat their homes or cook their children dinner because they simply cannot afford the exorbitant and steadily rising costs of gas and electricity. The fault for this is not theirs but of politicians at both the state and federal level who have lacked both the imagination and courage to face the challenges of climate change and the epochal shift in international attitudes to power generation. Now, while the Japanese government rakes in significant import revenue on OUR gas, our children shiver and go hungry to school.

And as though this were not enough, we witness the tragic farce of the citizenship fiasco that has already cut a swathe through the federal parliament and threatens to bring any semblance of governance in this country to a grinding halt. We can expect a raft of legal challenges by vested interests to bills passed by politicians who, by the fact of their undisclosed dual citizenship, were not entitled to be sitting in the parliament in the first place, let alone as part of the executive. And now they are busily denying the obvious need for a "citizenship audit" to ensure no further nasty surprises, while badgering the most vulnerable in our community to pay back welfare debts they simply do not owe. When, if ever, will we see an apology from those responsible for the so-called "robo-debt" fiasco for the many lives ruined and lost to despair? I suspect the answer is never.

This is what has become of "the wonder downunder" my northern friends, and it is a cautionary tale. When we turn our backs on the system, when we opt out, refuse to vote, shut our eyes and ears to what is happening around us, then we leave the running of affairs to vested interests who will plunder what they can, turn a tidy profit, and then move on. In this bright new shiny neo-liberal, post 9-11 world of ours, capital moves freely while the individual's freedom of movement grows ever more impeded. Public assets are sold off to often rather nefarious private interests with no visible gain to the public weal. Quite the opposite. Roads, rail, port facilities, utilities, in fact infrastructure of every kind now sits in private, largely unaccountable hands. My generation has not only let this happen, many of us have been willing participants. And for that I apologise wholeheartedly to those coming after me.

I will end this bleak scree with some words from an Australian poet from the generation immediately before mine, the infamous "Boomer" generation with which we X-ers have carried on a love-hate relationship for many years:

I believe this wick and this open book
in the light's oval, and I disbelieve

everything this generation has told me.

- Robert Harris "Isaiah by Kerosene Lantern Light" (1986)

I thank you for your time. And remember to always keep poetry in your lives.

New Poetry by John Bartlett


Night falls too early now
Birds fold themselves up
Like faded Christmas cards

Clocks speed up their complaining
Cars creep towards home
Fog like a smokers’ cough

Friends leave through the open door
Coats and scarves are left behind
The beach washed clear of footprints

We wait in darkened rooms
Voices calling in the distance
A choir of galloping angels

- John Bartlett 2017

John Bartlett‘s non-fiction and essays have been widely published and will be collated into an e-book entitled A Tiny and Brilliant Light to be released in November 2017. He is the author of two novels, Towards a Distant Sea and Estuary and a collection of short stories, All Mortal Flesh.He blogs regularly at:

Thursday, November 02, 2017

New Poetry by Holly Day

In the Waiting Room
He comes into the lobby holding the little plastic bag
knuckles white and tight
as though he doesn't ever want to let it go. 
He drops it on the receptionist's desk

like a lion dropping the broken body of its cub
after some horrible accident, some catastrophic mauling
face contorted in resolution and anger
dismay and confusion. From where I'm sitting
in the back of the room with the other happily fat, pregnant women
reading magazines about breastfeeding and diaper technology
I can see just enough of the tiny gray body inside the bag
the parts not wrapped in white tissue paper

one thin arm, impossibly small and delicate
a perfect little foot
no blood.

"The doctor asked me to bring this in, " he says loudly
challenging the look of dismay on the receptionist's face. 
"She didn't pass it until this morning." The receptionist takes the bag 
with one quick, practiced sweep, hiding it between her body and the wall
as she takes it in the back room for the doctor. 
As she leaves, the man stares us all down,
daring us to acknowledge his presence, his anguish, 
daring us to recognize 

the painful events that brought him here. 

- Holly Day 2017

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Tampa Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, and Ugly Girl.