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