Monday, August 31, 2020

New Poetry by Dan Raphael

Blank Slate      Blank Clock

As if a satellite in an invisible sky
observing from another time
oxygen slowly evolving
a quantum sunrise
before we can duck or get on the freeway
negotiating the tide, setting the moon free
when people without worry or clockwork
with an appetite for other light, drunken sun
regular as dogs needing attention
a drummer with more hearts than hands

We learned to make light with heat an unexpected by-product
soon as trees got dead enough
the story of an erupting volcano handed down like a zen koan
i only let this stream step on me once
that spring the soupweed didn’t grow
we learned to eat coyotes so more rabbits for us

When we realized the mountain had another side
a splash    a stain    scars without wounds
bruises without falls or collision 
talking with someone who knew my great great grandmother
figures in moist smoke
a deer turned inside out
a rock with my face in it

- © Dan Raphael 2020

Dan Raphael's poetry collection Moving with Every was published this June by Flowstone Press. More recent poems appear in Caliban, Unlikely Stories, Pangolin, Mad Swirl and Rabid Oak. Most Wednesdays Dan writes and records a current event poem for the KBOO Evening News

Friday, August 21, 2020

New Poetry by Les Wicks

Harbour Town 

In this season I can only aspire to make trouble. 
Wearing all my clearance clothes 
I loiter at this bum-hole of winter 
await any ending. 
Constantly constant this 
isn’t peace or retreat, just almost. 

Wind rifles up the coast 
an indigenous flag falters  
beside an invader’s tomb of frigid marble. 
The decommissioned sun joins the other homeless drifters. 

Then September is ablaze. 
Down on the docks trouble is brewing tea. 
The union refuses to concede 
while I sail by in my excuse thimble 
& count money. 

This drags on as all things do 
the season rots the fingers… 
they’d held on through nasty months,  
now to compost beside 
eucalypt leaves & nest-fallen chicks. 

City beaches abrade our pert decisions. 
Drinking all the salt we craze about in lethargic elegance 
until the drum solo  
when DNA wakes the lovers up to tweak & rustle. 
Silver eyes watch, reflect on water. 

- © Les Wicks 2020

Les Wicks is a Sydney poet.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

New Poetry by Jane Downing

Black Forest

The road is lined with
carnivorous trees
the kind that beckon you
in deeper
amongst their kin
promising fairy tales
delivering nightmares

It rides the line
through the forest up
onto a snowy ridge, a ramping
sweep around a bend
beyond the reach of witches

Where you are in full view
of the horizon

Those who go into the forest
seldom come out
the Grimm heroines who
may or may not be content
with their rewards – us
parked with other metal steeds
on the gravel drive
engines ticking down
to rest

Let loose from the car
the curse is put on ice

Gluhwein is served in mugs
thrown on a potter’s wheel
It warms welcome
hints at cloves
a smell memory of kretek
cigarettes there’s no time to

- © Jane Downing 2020

Jane Downing has poems published around Australia including in Cordite, Rabbit, The Canberra Times, Eureka Street and Best Australian Poems (2004 & 2015). A collection, ‘When Figs Fly,’ was published by Close-Up Books in 2019. She can be found at

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

New Poetry by Andrew Leggett

For Joseph Coleman, 1810-1833

As the sun goes behind the hill above Glebe Gully,
I think of you, Joseph and wonder, where did you go,
after they hanged you by the neck at Old Banks 
on the Paterson River? Are you here, at Maitland, 
under this ground, where they dumped the remains
of convicts in anonymous holes—no more dishonour 
for you than Greenway, the forger, whose best
designs would not spare this plot, where he came 
through cholera, five years after you? He dissolved 
in your mould, that of you and your neighbours, 
whose bones were scattered and mingled with others 
as earth shifted with the Hunter’s quakes and floods.
Whether your bones lie in this ground, or not,
has your spirit flown past the sun, back to London? 

Did your brother know? Did Townshend send Henry
from Gresford that day, to stand with the chaplain 
and ask would he write something home to your mother?
Did Henry speak regret for the way he taught you
to pick a gent’s pocket and he’d always remember
you held him and fed him when taken with fever
during the lay-up when the ship drove to Spithead
before that long journey on the Marquis of Huntley?
Did they send Edward Cory to let you say sorry
you lifted that shovel to strike his head and to pray
for forgiveness, (though I’ve read that you said
you’d sooner hang than work for him another day)?
And when it was done and you were dead, did
Henry’s tears wash before they took you away?

- © Andrew Leggett 2020

Andrew Leggett is an author and editor of poetry, fiction, song lyrics and interdisciplinary academic papers. Andrew has resided at various places in three Australian states, but now lives at Port Macquarie, New South Wales, with his wife, Linda Kaarina. They collaborate musically to record as the Blood Moon Wailers. Andrew’s writing is widely published in Australia and internationally. In addition to medical degrees and postgraduate qualifications in psychiatry and psychotherapy, he holds a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Queensland and a PhD from Griffith University. His two previously published collections of poetry Old Time Religion and Other Poems (1998) and Dark Husk of Beauty (2006) were published by Interactive Press. He was editor of the Australasian Journal of Psychotherapy from 2006-2011. He is the current prose editor for StylusLit.

Monday, August 17, 2020

New Poetry by C S Hughes

Aberdeen Street

On Aberdeen street
   the steps go up
       and back in time
                      steep work
                              for a man
           with a knotwood walking stick
      snail-bent and watching
the calligraphy of foot-worn stone

                  In the morning dark
a cat shape disappears
                    a sawtooth fear
                          leaves wittering
       a whine in the ears
               a shadow sinters
as quickly gone

                  words muttering
a shawl of beetled wings
       stretched against the burgeoning resistance
  of day’s upward climb
            they take a stymied flight

           You sour apples
                      he says to her
   all crowcraw bright
             forgetting she is gone and bittersweet
       as burnt sugar and cinnamon

        She swallows proffered morsels
                      head tossed back
  then bird-replies, replete

                   You know a crow
    is just a songbird
            if you listen past the laughter
with a broken heart

- © C S Hughes 2020

C S Hughes grew up by Sydney’s beaches, and Tamworth’s cattle yards. He attended schools for a penance, was duly martyred. He worked for a short while, selling books and spices, hit several roads quite hard, dropped out of numerous institutions, got lost inside a book, occasionally emerges to write a poem or photograph long past days. He now lives with a cat and an historian in south east Gippsland, Victoria, where he sometimes publishes books, but mostly just watches how the green green hills mirror jealously passing clouds.

New Poetry by Linda Sacco


In the pursuit of the sun, the moon and the stars, I took a magnifying glass. 
For so long, you went about your day, unaware of my warm gaze. 
Seasons changed, and like a tree losing its leaves in autumn, I got to know your colours.
Wind took the pieces, casualties of nature, and blew them out of my reach, 
rendering you bare and cold. 
No matter which angle I tried with my magnifying glass,
I was camouflaged between the distractions of the day,
the regrets of yesterday and the promise of tomorrow.
Finally, like a soldier without a commander,
my volcanic temper erupted, cooled to melted rock, and never reached you.
I remained camouflaged. 

- © Linda Sacco 2020

Linda Sacco is a teacher and writer living in Melbourne, Australia. Her qualifications include Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing) from Victoria University and Master of Teaching (Primary) from The University of Melbourne. Her poetry has been published in Poetry Quarterly, Dual Coast Magazine, Three Line Poetry, Inwood Indiana, 50 Haikus, Haiku Journal, Tanka Journal, Track + Signal Magazine and Dead Snakes. She is the author of the Which Is Your Perfect Pet? ebook series with titles on Dog Breeds, Designer Dogs, Cat Breeds and Birds.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

New Poetry by Yash Seyedbagheri

Fleeting Dusk

sky is washed in tangerine and pale blue
silver shrouds swirl 
country roads and cathedral pines
shimmer in shadows
a butter-colored lamp glows 
from a hill
but all too soon
they’re consumed by gray
why do things disappear so fast?

-©Yash Seyedbagheri 2020

Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University's MFA program in fiction. A native of Idaho, Yash’s work is forthcoming or has been published in WestWard Quarterly, Café Lit, and Ariel Chart, among others.

New Poetry by John Bartlett


The house is built on a slope
the water here is very good
in the bathtub the water looks light blue
yesterday, like every day
we went for a walk til teatime
the sun was very warm
it penetrated the windows of the second floor

I write to you in semi darkness
the windows have been whitewashed
the white colour is unpleasant
it’s  bad for mama’s headaches

Today seems colder
but the thermometer is indecipherable
if you want to write to me
my address is Ekaterinburg,
the Regional Committee, To the chairman,
to be given to me
we don’t think they will send us
to another place.

(from the letters of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna - aged 19)

- © John Bartlett 2020

John Bartlett is the author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  In 2019 his first Chapbook The Arms of Men was published and Songs of the Godforsaken in June 2020. His full collection Awake at 3am will be released by Ginninderra Press later in 2020.  He was the winner of the 2020 Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize. He lives on the southern coast of Australia.

New Poetry by Allan Lake

Reconnaissance from Lockdown

Could do a deep clean
but there’s so much time for that 
when every day’s a daze. Books, magazines, 
illicit second walk in the park after dark. 
Who’s counting? Besides fun police neighbours 
and perhaps underfunded upper case WHO.
Out-of-date news : Two eye-catching Rosellas 
bathed in a puddle yesterday. Neither cared 
if this mammal stared. Took my mind off spiking 
death rate, related vacuum. Wasn’t easy to gear 
this far down. Initial novelty, once in century thing. 
History no longer voluminous, mouldy past. 

Old films, sometimes starring the dusty dead, 
on TV then in dreams that flow into half-sleep
monotony, the lack of colour that is Lockdown 
despite oil spill rainbows, the odd tarty parrot. 
For your own lack lustre performance – atrophy
despite dumb dumbbell routine, brisk walk 
which slows to stroll minus good intentions. 
Should I exchange mismatch pyjamas for 
track suit, wash clothes or dishes, have toast 
and a tin of beans for lunch? Maybe, while 
making up my idling mind, lie on unmade
bed and read or get back in and just wait.

- ©Allan Lake 2020

Originally from Saskatchewan, Allan Lake has lived in Vancouver, Cape Breton Island, Ibiza, Tasmania, Perth & Melbourne. Poetry Collection: Sand in the Sole (Xlibris, 2014). Lake won Lost Tower Publications (UK) Comp 2017 & Melbourne Spoken Word Poetry Fest/The Dan 2018. Poetry Chapbook (Ginninderra Press, 2020): My Photos of Sicily. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

New Poetry by Denise O'Hagan

Rosedale, New Year’s Eve

I saw my memories burn up
On the seven o’clock news last night
In a confluence of heat and wind
And swept away in a wall of red.

In the thick, dirty-laundry light
Swathes of metal, dull as mustard
Lie draped like outsize sheets
Over an ashen ground.

The heavy silence stretches,
Hemming me in a world in waiting,
The kookaburra’s cry a memory,
The goanna in the garden gone.

The corner of a protruding brick
Anchors me, in seconds, to
My awkward ten-year old self,
Apartment-reared, cramped by old-world ways.

Squinting in the early morning light,
Tentative in the face of so much space,
I slipped and stubbed my toe against a brick:
A sharp intake of breath decades ago.

Shards of childhood curl in on themselves
Huddling in corrugated contortions
And nestling between clumps of rubble
Like frightened puppies.

Politicians parry, prance and pirouette
Walking the tightrope of their ambition,
Clownish in their ineptitude:
No one’s taken in any more.

The bush burns, the tide turns
And the world holds its breath.

- © Denise O'Hagan 2020

(Written in the aftermath of the burning up of the poet's cousins’ family home in Bateman’s Bay, 2019.)

Denise O’Hagan was born in Rome and lives in Sydney. She has a background in commercial book publishing, works as an editor through her own imprint Black Quill Press, and is Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib. Her poetry is published widely and has received numerous awards. Her debut poetry collection The Beating Heart is published by Ginninderra Press (August 2020).  

New Poetry by James Walton

Semi naked by Winter late
I have had to prune the tree magnolia
those dinner plate china flowers
swamping shade over everything

and the calligraphy of sun on my back
mixes the air to a fine point exotica

by the incessant call of relentless waves
behind the big dunes now puffed up
those wedges of agent’s fists and knuckles

holding close for the Southern Ocean
correspond secrets of salt and lemon juice

unnatural oil used to loosen secateurs 
and saw teeth herringbones filed for birth 
short and long instruments to scribe

mission flybys of honeyeater bursts
where the saw shavings drift to settle 

within this picture frame day
a snapshot of life by August random
over a butter toast and jam relay

shaken grains a short litter for doves
midriff afternoon of Spring near revelation

a shirt off for the first time in 30 years

- © James Walton 2020

James Walton is published in many anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. His four collections of poetry are widely acclaimed. A fifth volume is in production. He can be found at

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

New Poetry by Marilyn Humbert


The Wall  

I look beyond the place

where darkness folds and refolds 

like cloth off a loom

to sunlight pleats against the wall.

The air is unsullied by fumes 

and glorious red leaves helix

nhindered beneath brooms and feet

gathering autumn’s wind.

But I’m within this isolation-place

my Berlin Wall is the garden fence.

I watch cockatoos flock overhead

lorikeets lazily sway from grevillea bells

and café coffee with friends

is a misty wish.

I wait for my family to Zoom

gift their virtual hugs.

- © Marilyn Humbert 2020

Marilyn Humbert lives in Sydney Australia.

New Fiction by Anthony Ward

 Son in Low

Joe watched the Bentley draw up the drive and come to a halt. The chrome looked so pristine that the light reflecting off it made it look dinted. He’d been fighting with his words since the moment he first popped the question:

 "Will he accept me?" he’d asked her imploringly.

 "Of course," Nicole replied, "why wouldn’t he?"

 "Well I’m not exactly part of the same world."

'It’ll be alright,’ he kept telling himself as her father emerged from the gleam. His glasses caught the sun and flared in Joe’s direction causing him to step back into the shadows.

He listened to the front door career effortlessly on its hinges before being put firmly in place. There framed in the entrance stood a man of towering stature. 

Joe had stature, but his was bulked rather than stretched. 

 “You must be Joe?” he said loftily offering his hand, “pleased to meet you.”

 "You too,” said Joe grasping his hand firmly.

 “I’ve heard a lot about you,” said the father motioning Joe to the chair.

Joe was about to repeat the phrase but thought better of it, looking about the room towards the window as if ushering his soul to escape. “Quite a day isn’t it?”

 “Yes.” replied the father sternly before delivering the question like a balling ball at the carefully placed pins. The question Joe had been dreading. The question that demeaned him. Diminished him. And to those who didn’t know him—defined him. 

 “What is it you do?”

 “Well, I’m working full time trying to find a job,” laughed Joe nervously.

 “I see,” replied the father, his glasses opaque from the light.

 “It’s hard out there at the moment.”

 “Hard,” repeated the father as if trying to empathise without himself knowing it. 

 “It’s even harder when people look down on you for not having a job when those same people won’t give you one.”

 “I see.”

 “They act as if we got our thumbs up our ass while they got their heads up theirs. They don’t think. They think they think because they don’t think about it. But they don’t think things through. They’re too preoccupied by their lives so that they react rather than think. It’s those kinds of reactions that leave the have nots more vulnerable so that those that have, have more and more opportunities than those who have not.

At this point Joe saw the father’s eyes for the first time, drooping, like a basset hound, with scepticism. 

 “All I want is a chance to prove myself and make some bread.”

 “The proofs in the pudding,” replied the father cramming his eyes back into his glasses.

 “But I can’t get a starter.” Joes attempts at humour weren’t getting the rise he was hoping for. Falling as flat as the bread he wished to make.

 “I see.” 

To Joe he saw about as much as his Eleventh grade English Teacher, Mr. Hellebore. He could see him now, shimmering with ugliness. His face taken by his head to be almost two dimensional, tilted to the left as if that hemisphere were weighed down with knowledge. He was so stagnant he could only act on impulse. Tiptoeing around something before frog marching himself into it. Moving like a fly in incremental spasms, then strutting, like a capercaillie, head plunging towards the ceiling, his brain clacking like it were being dragged behind him. ‘You’re a scatter brain. He would tell Joe, “I can’t see you amounting to much if you don’t settle down.’

Those words repeated on Joe like pastry. He could hear the father thinking those very same words as he merged into him. His cirrus-like hair sauntering aimlessly about his head. His eyebrows taking exception to his countenance. Taking flight whenever it surged. Which wasn’t very often. 

Now Joe was speaking directly to Mr. Hellebore. “It’s not that I don’t have the brains, it’s just I can’t keep them in one place.” 

 “I see.” 

 “Do you?” releasing the frustration he’d kept for Mr. Hellebore these past few years.

 “I beg your pardon.”

 “You’ll have to beg for it.”

 “Excuse me.”

 “Excuse is right. Those who’re good with words have an excuse for everything. They know how to talk the talk. While us illiterates have to answer for everything, you have an answer for everything. You can get out of paying what we have to pay over the odds for even though you’ve got the money. While those who don’t have to pay and pay again. Those who have, have it all, while those who don’t have, have nothing.”

 “People who have, have generally worked for it.”

 “Worked it out more like. There’s work and there’s work. My father worked his fingers to the bone. People like you ought to think yourselves fortunate, not deserving.”  

 “Just who do you think you are, talking to me like that?”

 “Who do I think I am? Who do you think you are, that my opinion can’t be contrary to yours? You speak down to me and expect me to speak up to you, and you ask who I think I am. I’m speaking against you, not down to you, you prick.”

 “Would you please mind your language.”  

 “Mind my language! I’m practically looking after it. It’s all words, words, words with people like you isn’t it? The right words in the right place. Telling people exactly what they want to hear and pretending to laugh at their jokes. Laughter is meant to be a reflex not a response. I prefer to laugh from the heart, not from the head. That intellectual wit makes me want to gag”

 “It’s how we get on in life.”

 “It’s how you get off on each other. Parading your superiority, looking down your extended noses at people who have no chance because they aren’t given one. At least when you’re on your ass you aren’t up your own ass. survival of the fittest with those who have the advantage advancing further.”

 “Then it’s evolution. Progress,” replied the father with a grand Beethovian gesture. Like a gasp from a silent movie.

 “Our survival’s based on numbers not supremacy.”

 “Numbers! The rising world’s population is going to starve us to death if we carry on the way we are.”

 “Make you all the hungrier you mean. Your idea of profit is to make more than you made previously. You put people out of jobs from losses of profit rather than actual losses. It’s all accumulation for those at the top. Those at the top could feed the entire world no matter how populated.”

 “People ought to feed themselves. It’s not up to those who’ve done well for themselves to feed them.”

 “You’re not giving them a chance to feed themselves.”

 “You’ve got to make your own chances by taking a chance.”

 “You need to be given a chance to make your chances.”

 “That’s just your problem. You’ve got to be given! Given your chances! You need to take a chance”

 “Take implies stealing.”

 “It’s not stealing. We take our chances.”

 “Take...” snapped Joe, nodding his head with dismay. “It’s not stealing because you’re taking what you consider to be yours. You’ve got it made mate.”

 “I’ve never heard so much drivel. If you came here to ask if I will give you my daughters hand you can forget it. You’ll never marry my daughter as long as I can help it.”

 “But you can’t help it,” replied Joe hanging up the sentence with a tone. “Nicole wants to marry me and that’s all there is to it.”

 “We’ll see about that. You’ll never have my consent.”

 “I don’t need your consent. I know I’ll never be perfect for your daughter. Not that anyone’s perfect. It’s that they should stop pretending they are.”  

 “If she marries you, I’ll disown her.”

 “Own. That’s your problem right there. You think you own everything. You may own all of this,” Joe gesticulated towards the walls as if throwing confetti, “but you can’t own people. You can’t own anybody.”

 “Get out,” shouted the father stretching his neck sternly. 

 “My pleasure,” replied Joe pushing out his shoulders as he left the room.

 “So, how did it go?” asked Nicole soothing her arm as she swayed it across the surface of the cool pond.

 “It went rather well,” he replied, bearing the satisfaction of a burp that brings back the taste of a relished meal with a pinch of revulsion.

- © Anthony Ward 2020

Anthony Ward writes in order to rid himself and lay his thoughts to rest. He derives most of his inspiration from listening to Classical Music and Jazz since it is often the mood which invokes him. He has recently been published in Streetcake, Shot Glass Journal and Mad Swirl after a hiatus in writing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

New Poetry by David Adès

Imaginings 3

When Angel Ivo Garcia
pointed to the girl sitting alone
at a table across the square
on the island of Samos
and said to me, she could be the one 
and you will never know,
I stood up, left him
with his bottle of retsina,
his tales of loss and grief,
his unquenched lust,
and walked over to her, 
hand in hand with destiny,
never looking back.

- © David Adès 2020

David Adès is the author of Mapping the World, the chapbook Only the Questions Are Eternal and most recently Afloat in Light ( In association with Mascara Literary Review, David is a recipient of the 2020 Don Bank Writing Residence together with Michelle Cahill, Debbie Lim and Michelle Hamadache 

Monday, August 10, 2020

A "Coo-ee" to all Aussie Poets (and maybe some Kiwis in the spirit of ANZAC)


Bluepepper simply does not see enough Australian poetry in our inbox. Why this is perhaps someone out there in Ozlit land could help (politely, please!) enlighten us. In the meantime, however, and at the risk of appearing both needy and parochial in these testing times, Bluepepper is issuing a call to all Australian poets to submit. Come on, let's see your work side by side with the best the northern hemisphere can produce! All we ask in return is that you consult the fairly clear and simple submissions guidelines before submitting.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

New Poetry by Ian Ganassi

Test Pattern

Watching the cold brittle mountains devolve into memory,
It wasn’t much of a leap from one side to the other.

The other was significant in making two,
And then a third was on the way. 
It was a miracle, breathing in

And out. Up and down. The song went on from there.

The sky flinging rain around like confetti
Was better than a downright deluge.

I had just called the anxiety taxi,
And there it sat,
Waiting for the time to break down.

Daylight savings:
We lost an hour, but before long
We didn’t even miss it.

I’ll pick you up in 20 minutes he said. 

“Ever do much boondoggling?”
Check your racing form. 

“There’s something dashing about it.”
Dashing to the hospital. Dashing to the morgue.

“Which way to Sloan Kettering?” asked
The Marlboro man, from the saddle.

But let’s not break our arms
Patting ourselves on the back. 

“I’ll say,” she used to say, “I’ll say.”

- © Ian Ganassi 2020

Ian Ganassi's work has appeared recently or will appear soon in numerous literary magazines, such as New American Writing; BlazeVox; Twisted Vine, Manhattanville Review, Visitant, and The American Journal of Poetry, among many others. My poetry collection Mean Numbers was published in 2016. My new collection, True for the Moment, is forthcoming from MadHat Press. Selections from an ongoing collaboration with a painter can be found at

Monday, August 03, 2020

A New Appreciation of Craig Powell's "Music and Women's Bodies"

Craig Powell, Music and Women’s Bodies

Five Islands Press, Wollongong, 2002, 68pp
ISBN 0 864187769
RRP $26.

A review by Rebecca Kylie Law

 In admiration of Powell’s poetic oeuvre, I reached out to him recently via email unaware an accident of 2010 had left him brain-damaged and crippled.  My enquiry asked if he would consider contributing some comments towards my new, forthcoming collection of poetry with Wipf & Stock. He wrote back to express his regret at being unable to accomplish such a task but was flattered that he had been considered. Mortified by the news and the gall of my proposal, I quickly wrote back a letter of apology. Yet Powell persisted in making things well again, writing again and again with anecdotes of his poetic life, of insights into what was fast becoming a succinct biography of his life. We exchanged books and on receipt of Music and Women’s Bodies I was so stirred by its beauty that I approached Powell for the permission to write a review. It was granted and this is the product: for Powell and eternally, his readers.    

 There is something heavy, dark and immense in the early pages of this collection and like a world it shifts its weight to sleep with the moon or grow under the sun. True to its cover image “Artist and the Muse (Rembrandt)” by Gary Shead, Craig Powell’s Music and Women’s Bodies seems inspired by a wooden doll-like female marquette of a real women, shy to the light, sweet to the knowledge of touch and  brave to the new. Just as Shead’s doll comes forward out of the shadows, her hand touching the side of a supposed artist’s easel, Powell’s poems reveal truths of love that seem so honest they could be majestic – indeed, the doll’s dress is majestic in the silkiness of the fabric, the tones of lavender purples, smudged pastel pinks and moon dusted whites. Her silver drop earring adding class to her exposed shoulders and arms. The picture and the poetry collection speak of the same muse, that drifting presence of the beloved that is sometimes hiding but inexplicably devoted. This is the slowness that anchors Powell’s poems although the gaze is unapologetically male.

 Born in Wollongong, Powell’s male gaze finds its place in a rural landscape fraught with opposites, life versus death, pain versus happiness, the visible versus the invisible. So that, visiting his brother’s dairy farm in the first poem “The Calves”, Powell is witness to an experience he can never bodily know and the atmosphere is tense with pragmaticism and empathy. It is October and in “the paddocks one/by one the nubbly shadows stagger up from/ the soil” and calves are born of their “Ayreshire/ mothers”. Two days later, in the “wooden feeding pens”, there is a mess of life as the vigorous newborns clamour for the milk of “the whole herd, a blind blurring of mothers” poured out in buckets; whilst out of “the spring light”, on the “earthen floor of the barn”, his brother’s daughter “holds a bottle to a calf too frail to suck” and cradles it to its end. “She’ll keep cradling it”, announces Powell, asserting the maleness of his gaze and the marvel of the opposite sex. Yet the pain doesn’t stop there,  the mother cows in the closing stanza crying “noisily for the calves taken away” into the evening whilst inside the house, the human family share  “wine” and “a meal of male calf”. Powell’s gaze, pragmatic and empathetic empties itself into the landscape of his surrounds, gazing out at a moon rising behind a distant hill and drinking in its outpouring of light – “white as the ash of ancestors”. A communion of sorts, the timeline from birth to midnight and the end of the day is newly recognised by the late hour of their meal and the exaltation of the moon so that “they eat more slowly”. 

 There are four sections to Music and Women’s Bodies and the division considers the same landscape from different vantage points. In Section I, Powell is child and man, brother and grandson, son and nephew, husband with wife and in these guises is always the non-judgemental watcher, the human with feelings who suspects right and wrong but is never an outsider of a group experience. When a child, in “Die Zauberflote” for instance, he plays a tune about a “bird-man” wanting “a maiden or little wife” and announces only “grown-ups…/ knew about things like that”, deciding later in the verse, he wants “not to know”, for the world instead to be made up of fiction, of “stories”. Recognising difference, the “grown-ups” are still the same people that “take me home with them” and in this way, Powell unifies with the family unit. In Section II, Powell leaves the present landscape of his own birthing, youth and adulthood to visit the landscape of his father in c.1912 and 1922.. He describes the Australian landscape his father is born into, the disputes between Aboriginals, an Afro-American working for a “Chinese Market gardener AhSoon, known as ‘Smiler’  and police. There are violent mobbings and deaths not only racial but also territorial as Powell tells us in the end notes of the collection: “local aborigines were kept out of town and not allowed to camp on Crown land”. The two poems here, wedged between Section I and Section III become the understory of the first incarnation of Powell’s existence and the third incarnation of Powell’s existence as a poet and orator of difference, otherness and truths. Translating select poems of Sydney-based Russian migrant Yuriy Mikhailik, Powell fills the pages of Section III with a sense of a universal pastoral dreaming. So that the gaze of Milhailik across the Australian landscape meets the gaze of Australian born Powell and  nature, event and human sentiment are non-conflictual: “the moon glares in my eye, it scorches my heart,/ it chills memory”. There are “Hay-stacks… quiet/ where the sky’s edge is found” and “the evening star” dances “over the world’ as if it is “forever”. Section four becomes then, a celebration of “coming back” from the “world” to the place of childhood; and only then, being the adult with a past. Replete with memories of past girlfriends, the loss of a child, a rat surfacing to the sun from a basement, Music and Women’s Bodies is a child’s drawing of relationships between image, fact and music. Hearing music from the radio his Aunt tells him is Tchaikovsky, a boy peers out of her lap to better espy her newspaper and a “lingerie ad” of  “a woman in a petticoat” as “he’d once seen his mother”. Yet the adult Powell, imagining this scenario is smiling “at the boy” and his confusion and acknowledging what can be known is sometimes: “Just that, maybe. All he held against death./ Music and Women’s bodies. Just that.” 
 Concluding with the poem “Garden Spiders”, Powell’s journey across the vast landscape of his mind, heart and soul fixes on a garden time has left to grow wild, on a garden which “becomes truthful, a green/ wildness with no lawn or flower-beds”. And although Powell has told us earlier in “All you Know” that there is no God, the spiders in this honest garden are “angels” or “garden sprites” or even “the ghosts of ancestors” and that dark, heavy immensity of our world is given the breath to suppose it unfathomable. Which is, more exactly, Powell’s majestic muse, his opposite attraction; and that which brings the music of love but can never be known like the word. 

- © Rebecca Kylie Law 2020

Rebecca Kylie Law holds a PhD from UWS. She has published five collections of poetry with Picaro Press, Interactive Publications and Ginninderra Press and another is forthcoming with Wipf & Stock. Individual poems, reviews, interviews and articles have been published in numerous journals Australia and overseas. She works as a freelance writer and teacher.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

New Poetry by Patricia Carragon

Having a Party
Anna had a good time   grooving to Sam Cooke on the radio 
time-traveled back to when she   a teenager
teased her hair   wore pencil skirts   twisted to 45s 
put popcorn on the Formica table   drank Cokes from the Frigidaire
chatted to friends about Johnny   the bad boy from Glenwood Road
her American dream resided in expectation
the princess wedding gown   the white picket fence around a Flatbush Victorian 
the family genes to be passed on
no matter how hard she tried   Johnny left her for Sally
other men kept their distance   
& early menopause called her instead
her wedding dress burned   her unborn kids buried   
her Victorian house sold to developers 
for a lifetime of work   a meager social security check    EBT benefits
& a cramped one-bedroom apartment with her tabby    Jenny
a cracked mirror meant 7 more years of bad luck 
& further decline in her reflection
she lived in quarantine before it became mandatory   
held on to her past in boxes   shopping bags   & 45s
the song ended   & Anna felt dizzy 
on her torn sofa   she thought about Johnny   Sally   & what transpired
with eyes still open   her head rested on the frayed throw pillow
Jenny tapped Anna’s shoulder   sniffed under her nose & mouth
realized that she was not responding

- © Patricia Carragon 2020

Patricia Carragon is the author of several books of poetry and fiction.  Her most recent poetry collections are Meowku (Poets Wear Prada) and Innocence (Finishing Line Press). Her debut novel, Angel Fire, is forthcoming from Alien Buddha Press. Patricia hosts the Brownstone Poets reading in Brooklyn and publishes an associated anthology annually. She is also an executive editor for Home Planet News Online.