murals

goddesses child

shucked corn
dries out by the cages

to the dogs who will only
back away from my father’s
fist,

the buckled red gate
a five pointed star
bowed to the ground

inside nothing
but dead peach trees,
a barn, a howling mouth

from the north side
of the mountain
my mother guides my hand

this is what we
used to own
she says, before
we leave
to sweep out
the temple floor

 

 

untitled

Never stood in gardens
nor walked stone bridges,

we rode the subway
but always apart.

a decorated apartment,
kept animals we
didn’t want.

ate separate at
the same table
closest
when we fought.

Back of a taxi
on route to a hospital
Thought that you
were dying

I believe now you knew
who was already gone

 

 

Homesick

I have been a stranger
to this place for so long
each grain, seems lonesome.

thought that men
through traveling grew,
living abroad I shrank.
tore great sections
of myself away.

walking once more
along the beach, as I
can breathe again.

I’ve laid roots
in another time zone,
a continent alien
to my own.

a home
in a land that’s poison.
when will it demand across the ocean,
I must return again

 

 

Murals

outdoors before
it’s seven in Melbourne.
I am masked
like a trooper, spray paint
scent in the air.

dazzle rain of
multifarious hues
across an easterly wall.
a community swimming pool.

I paint as children
walk on, held by
their mothers
eyes caught
copperheads curl under
kookaburra wings.

I remove
reveal a crystalline sky
turn solid mass
to firmament.

it is not I,
have never been,
Australia,
nor would know
where to find
community pool.

I have only seen
a photograph, that a
third party mailed me.

you are not in it,
I know the artist to be you.
you are my brother,
my younger soul.

it has been
so long since
we’ve been together.

I wonder how it is
apart we’ve grown so old.

 

Oliveira10

umbrella

on a Hong Kong
island, I met
Jackie Chan
he insisted that
I call him Sing Long.

I found him hiding
in amongst a clump
of mangrove trees

he looked afraid,
asked I tell no one
he was there.

his son had been
arrested because
of drugs. he was waiting for all
the protests to
blow over,

I promised I would keep
his secret.
instead of posting
on social media
I had found Jackie Chan
in amongst the mangroves.

I bought a fifth
of Indian whisky
and drank with
Sing Long.

until Jackie got
too drunk,
and broke my arm.

Sparrows

buys birds
the street
sold in wooden cages.

my father does,
every time he’s away.

birds are born sickly
my mother tells him.

he buys them
all the same.

Use those little
wooden cages
to store pencils
once the birds have died.

I wish
my father would stop buying them.
burying them makes me sad.

but at least the sound
of birdsong tells me,
that he’s home.

 

 

Featured artist: Richelly Olivira https://www.booooooom.com/2017/07/17/artist-spotlight-ritchelly-oliveira/

talking with strangers

shore leave 

what couldn’t be sold
we left for the landlord,
clothes spilling over
the kitchen ransacked.

a suitcase, nothing
else to check in
feeling quietly superior
in the knowledge of that

suit on my back
already rain scared
leaving books unfinished

perhaps there was
reason in that

 

 

invitation

would you come
for the waters the air,
that’s bitter but clean.

the Victorian brickwork
on which people slaved.
just like they still do,
back home in your country.

could I entice you
with the promise
of fresh produce.
of mangoes and dates
that I cannot afford.

would you submit.
yourself to the rules,
of immigration that seems
shameless. Complex
and simply obtuse.

and would you stay
if given the above,
the man that you’d meet
was that self-same flawed child

the one that you’d left
behind

 

 

talking with strangers

a decade spent, oriental sea
with languages sound like spun sugar
sweet and ephemeral.

returning at last.

this confounded hack,
conversations with strangers,
trying to explain

that there is a reason
why I’m so terribly behind

many things
haven’t turned out
similar to my peers

in an explanation,
my absent, un-mortgaged house.
no more a career,

family for which the foundations
were never built.

please listen.
to the stories
I can tell

because they convince me
right now, that it all might be
worth Something
somehow.

 

 

beach fragments

I can see the ocean
from my window

shores that are bloodless,
stripped clean

I want the body
of a whale washed ashore

I might as well live
on the beach

and the climate is temperate
and dull

people on islands are supposed
to eat mangoes, develop new skills

I eat salad for one
and wait by the ocean

promise when you fly over
you’ll drop a paper cup

we can talk while you’re delayed
through immigration

I will be the savage, dressed
in ordinary clothes.

 

I left a note on the fridge for you

if there was a heart
to this moment
I would want to cut it out
and perhaps feed you some
but not have any myself
because I’m a vegan now
snd feel righteously better
since making that decision

 

 

 
dog poem

you accuse me
of killing the dog

but the sounds last night
you heard where
just fireworks

I murdered the dog
long ago.

Buying Fish in Southern China: New Poems

Buying fish in Southern China

Tanked, dull green
Bellied up, eyes like autumn
Window panes, water thick
With mud

A Romanic cosh
You gasp in the bag
Thrash amongst selected
Fruit

The chosen wine
Dying only moments later.
Held steady between my feet
Waiting for the bus
To arrive

 

18th floor in Jinan 

Sulphuric air
Where below us
Towers peak
From clouds

Neon revolving
Like circuses of color

Turning to the bathroom
You wash the soot
From off your hands

 

Spring Festival 

My neighbor bleeds out
A duck in his yard

Wings beat
Like cymbals

Then nothing
But the sound
Of water on the ground

 
Chungking

Waking in the Mansions
For breakfast you
Ordered dahl

In our room
An electric painting
Of a rainbow
No natural light

Last night,
I cannot remember

You turn your head
Away from the world,

And already I know
The damage that
I’ve caused

 

Lotus in the August

Can we for a moment be sincere
And sit and share a coffee as so many
Seem willing and able to do,

The skies now have become richer,
More than expected, and never quite enough
For august to settle in.

The town remains clear and uncomplicated,
I’d like to tell you that my palpitations have all stopped
I am still as reckless as ever, growing
Ever more indifferent to my recovery.

Awash with color
I hoped to paint the lotus ponds
In Beijing where we strolled,
I have quite forgotten
How to bloom, it’s true.

I drink less in the evenings
The reason remains unsure,
I could always smell an oncoming storm
I’m tired of these baptisms
Alone in empty rooms.
This morning I travelled further
Than before, with the sleet still gifted
On the air, though if it rains
At least we might plant lotuses
In the cities lower gardens
And I may go walking
Once more along with you there.

 
Early 

Lean your weight
Against the door
It warps in the rain,

Lights come on
Disturb the room,
Nothing more
Than the faint sound of traffic.

In the bowl is yesterday’s fruit
Instant coffee by the side

I pour a glass of water,
Sit by my desk
Not waiting
For the day to become
Chaotic,
Relentless and so eager
To continue

When is it
That you might consider
Coming home again

Just as others arrive
Opening the door

Bring the scent of tempered wilderness
Back into the room

Honesty: August poems

Honesty
And that’s all you have
To say after all this time,
You said as you managed
To pack everything you own
Into suitcases and polyester bags,
Ones that I had never
Seen you buy, nor knew
That you owned

And I nodded and stayed silent
Dumb to most of the world,
I seem to recall that there was
The sound of distant traffic
Of heavy, turning machinery
Out there, working the road
But I can never be sure
If this is something
That I’ve added later on,

A detail, stolen from someplace else,
Plucked from another time
That I have no right to impose
Upon you

I could never be honest with you
And here still I can’t,
Each poem bastardises
The memory of you

Sure there’s a poem by the end
But there’s a little less
In the world that’s honest
And true and uniquely you

Always in writing these words
I’m stealing from you,
Please forgive me for this
But I’m not sure that I
Could stop now, even if I tired

And I could say the first time,
The only time that I remember
Us dancing, was on that morning
When you managed to compact
Your life into polyester bags,
When you folded your clothes
So neatly, so full of care

But this could be just another
Affectation, as insincere
As everything I’ve said
So far,

Chicken, Bread and Wine

We didn’t bother to clean the table
Not wanting to disturb the waiters
Who were on their own break too,
Standing outside, most of them smoking
Talking to one another under the shade
Of the old castle walls

We brought up food from the kitchen
Along with a few bottles of wine
That had been left unfinished,
One of which contained small islands of cork
Floating in it, like dulled constellations

There was bread and roast chicken
A bowl of salad leaves tossed with olive oil,
And we sat by the side of the balcony windows
In our dirty whites, our hands bloody
Always permanently stained

There was all the usual pain in familiar places,
Our backs hurt, our feet were sore
But for that moment we were contented
Out there, sitting on seats
That were soft and forgiving,
In the glow of the late afternoon
We sat with the best of them
Ate our meal and drank our wine

And nobody talked about the evening’s work
Nobody worried about all there was
That was still left to do
We existed for moment, as those free
From the suffering of ordinary life

Warmth

In that house
We lived under
The hounds of nature

We smoked and drank,
Were cruel and unkind
As we contemplated the paths
The first steps of which
We never had the talent to take

Though we had the glory
The falseness of it all,
And for a time you made it out there
As people came and realised
Your gift

I wonder, these days
If it still keeps you strong
Or are you just as alone
As the rest of us
Seem to have become

We Learn

Back then we lived
In a community called
The Second Interior Village
To the west of Beijing

And the buildings were old,
The walls wet with age
And with sound

We lived on the sixth floor
With a family below,
Who would lock their kid
Outside for hours on end

He would scream
I’m sorry
I’m sorry
Again and again

One day it all got to be too much,
I’m going down there I said
While you advised me
Not to get involved

You were usually right,
Yet I still went down there
All the same

Though when I got out the door
Down the steps to the fifth floor,
They had just let him
Back in at that precise moment

Those bastards, I thought
They knew, they knew all right
The perfect timing to let

All of their ugliness,
Their cruelty endure

 

Poems from the Pier

Walking at night with you

I go night walking
When I can’t sleep,
Thinking of you

Three, perhaps four
I walk down from my room
On the hill, past the bars
The bistros, the Turkish barber
With all of its window’s closed

Though more of the doors are alight
And still open than I expected them to be,
The seagulls are wild in the air
And sound like dogs

And though I am quiet
I do not feel alone,
I walk down the slope
Still thinking of you,
I close my eyes
And find you there.

 

The Pier

Are these the cruellest waters yet?
Or have we further out to swim,

Put on my boots
For they’ll weigh us down,
We’ll sink below those depths
That we’ve forever dread

What I thought was seaweed
Intertwined about my wrists,
Turns out they’re chains we wove in secret
Somewhere out there beyond the pier

I once believed in living things,
Drowning’s no fun when doing it alone

Come swimming with me tonight
Though I must admit,
The water’s very cold.

Adolescent poems that I’ll soon grow out of

Argentina

There is a young girl
Ten perhaps twelve,
Who never has the right change
For the machines in the Laundromat,
Though each time she brings
A fresh bag of newly worn clothes

One night, while I sat there
Too drunk to be out alone,
She asked me guess
Which country that she came from,
So I listened to the tone
Looked into her eyes,
Evaluated the colour of her hair

Portugal, I guessed and she
Said no, I followed with Brazil
And she shook her head,
Finally she caved
And said Argentina
And I smiled

I still see this young girl
In the Laundromat, though now
We pool our coppers together
To buy detergent, while I tell
Her stories that she says are never funny
And she translates TV shows
That I cannot understand

Life is not all bad, she said once to me,
As we watched our wet clothes
Turn before us, like a baker’s
Well worn hands kneading dough.

 

Shoes

I keep a pair of shoes, my only pair,
By the front door inside a cabinet,
Where there are indeed many others
Though none of them are mine

While I like these shoes
Their leather, their age
How it is that they carry me
Across the earth

I do not want to wear them

Let the day stay behind the curtain
Keep away the city, for one more silent hour,
For when I put them on, my feet
Treading the pavement unafraid,
Then it must mean that I
Am not here, alone with you

And that makes the world
So much more
Of an unwanted place

 

 

Will Adolescent Skin Keep Me Forever Young?

Over the past couple of years
I’ve lost many teeth,
They darken, implode
Curl up inside and hollow out
Like volcanoes depleted
And spent

Eventually, when the pain subsides
I pay lots of money to have them removed,
Leaving vacant spaces for rent

Yet still when I see you
I wish that I could smile
To show you what your presence
On this earth deserves, how it resonates
Your being here with me,

I’m afraid that one day
You’ll ask me to smile
When I no longer can,
Not while a smile at least
that I’d ever want to give you

So I hope for now at least,
This poem will suffice
That it will do

Let it smile for you.

 

 
Don’t You Ever Write About Me

I’ve used poetry
As a leash, to keep
Real life on the ropes,
To buffer experience at bay

I’ve watched things implode
And felt myself crumble,
While constantly thinking
This will make good writing one day

It has helped me to endure,
Given rise to terrible choices
And justified pain that I have knowingly
Caused, indifferently scaring others

One day, It’ll make
A good poem I said,
Its just research
Not permanent damage

Yet if I could take,
Could burn and erase
Every word that I’ve written
Each thought that I’ve ever amassed

And take but a second
Of the pain from your heart
Then this would be
The very last poem that I’d
Choose to never even start.

Smoke

IMG_20170317_195236

In Beijing, almost every male smokes
Some though more frequently than others,
In the more unchecked districts their flat, amber stubs
Cover the ground like the dried leaves of autumn

Men smoke while walking their dogs
In the evening, when taking their kids to school,
My neighbour unlocks the wire gate of his window
And leans out with his chest exposed

Their packs are nearly always peeking
From out of their shirt pockets,
They are usually of dark red or gold

The worst brand you can buy come in a white packet
They have the image of pandas decaled on the side
Though you never see panda cigarettes
Passed out at formal occasions,

Status is everything here

They each hold their cigarettes differently,
Some smoke the more conventional way
While others balance them between
Their index finger and thumb, held aloft
Like a tiny, burning caber

Some billow out their cheeks before inhaling
Like one does with a good cigar,
Though I have never seen anyone smoke those here,
Nor roll their own cigarettes for that matter

I have seen a cigarette poked intrusively through
A makeshift hole in an air-purifying mask,
And a plate of them stacked neatly in a pyramid
On a table at a wedding, in amongst
The cold dishes, the pickled oeuvres

Over the past few years many places
Have begun to follow the national ban,
Now the men stand outside in the rain
Just like anyplace else

Rooms smell less stale, less acrid and parched
The floors to most restaurants are usually clean
And hospitals seem that little bit safer somehow

But my neighbour still leans out of his window
The ban has done little, to change
His nightly routine

I wonder sometimes when I see him, if it
Is because his wife will not allow him
To smoke inside, or whether it is simply
That he prefers the view

There is, in truth, not that much to see
From our tower block out in Haidian,
The park has been cleared, the trees so severely cut down
That it seems they will never grow back

A blue, neon light from our local Wu-Mart
Obscures any chance of stars,
And the haze is so thick that at times
You can barely make out the ground

Yet there he is, out every night
His arms crossed loosely before him,
I should ask him why it is that he leans out so far
Is it to think or reflect or just to smoke?

But I have never seen him, away
From his window, never have we
Met one another in the hall

I do not know his name, nor how
To address him, and am confident that he
Does not know mine

What if I speak and he does not understand me
What if the question confuses or causes anger?

Is it rude or impolite to inquire
Why each night a man chooses
To lean out a window and for a moment
Be alone with the world?

I have not pursued it,
Nor think that I ever will

Though it does make me glad to know that tonight
When the day is finally exhausted and over,
I can go to the window and lean out
Almost certain to find him there

There is still, some comfort
In that.