Nettles

It’s not that I thought it would all be perfect. Hand in hand with you under the morton bay fig. Stepping over roots like the backs of sea monsters pushing up through the wet earth. You pressed me up against the cool bark and ran your hands along the inside of my dress.

I didn’t know how it would be but I knew that your eyes like a glacial river held me.

We walked soaking through the storm, my leather pockets filled with water. Stealing softening cigarettes from each other’s mouths and blowing smoke between the plummeting hail stones.

Your favored question has been, ‘if you’d known all, would you have still said yes?’ And I can’t say for certain. For these lonely cold nights sitting with my nails clenching the cushions, a snoring little body tucked beside me and another smaller than a lamington tucked inside, have held me aching and battered over the edge. The pace of my heart is a touch slower, and I don’t expect magnificent invincible love.

Nights of ash and beer and lighter wallets, ragged weeping in the doorframe. I couldn’t look at you, couldn’t hold you, as you cried enough to break your own heart. I can’t save you: these pale arms and freckled cheeks no match for the shards you use to tear up your own face. 

Yet something tells me that these thistles notwithstanding, your hands would still have pulled me as the moon pulls the tides. Your salty knuckles gripping me firm. 

Shadows by my side

misty callum rock

A manic magnification of all that’s good and peaceful.
Lame goats are tight-ropin’ through treetops with one hoof a-dangle
as I lay tangled in the tundra almost frozen – still – crystallised
then Ol’ Meg roar roar roaaars again,
shaking me from my cocoon with smokestack cataracts
fogging past as coal cool cold won’t let go and my toes wander off
to some other place and I chase through the red-nosed glow
of Lake Gunn’s fur-strapped soldiers, seizing and stretching
until my chest is one large canopy of snapping twigs and forest grunts,
offered up to something beyond the shadows of the treetops and
– can we stop? I really need to pee –
can’t you see that I’m running on empty? and no alpine racketeering
can steer my soul from the toilet bowl of a glacial troll under the very next bridge and
[I can’t breathe]
nor believe the price of petrol or the pecked at entrails
of some poor possum – a villain – a fiend
with the sheen of a seven-foot mustache-twirling man with a plan:
ideally not to have it’s innards raised to unfathomable altitudes,
their path to choose and theirs alone, flown here
in their great canoe like you or me, or half of these 1080 poisoned trees,
but there’s something here beneath the seeds of endless
Polaroids and Hollywood hemorrhoids,
a whisper, a bark, maybe even a command:

Come hither to the mountain-top
and bask in my embrace.

A woeful sound like a drug-ballooned clown
rattling his chains and – one last honk – before
the showtunes stop and he must join his possum pals
in the land of self-determination, but I feel something there
and I stop.

That voice, a familiar air, the tongue of Christmas pudding
and home-sliced ham, no man but a sweet feline soul,
slinking off the mountain, curling and purring in my steam-engine core,
she saw me those last little moments, I know it,
when her mind did go but the animal remained, trained in its old tricks;
and, “I know it’s her,” some lone quiet ape chirps in my rib-cage,
crashing its cymbals for not much applause, so I go
to the mountain and climb through star-spangled spinifex
and motor-cross cows and I find a rocky crop
where I sit and stare – but where? – there is only postcards and empty jars
of what appeared to have been some fine recipe, now
broken and bare (I stare and I stare), but all I receive
is a breeze through the trees with intent to impale
my frail limbs in some great crucifixion, and those soft mountain brooks burn sweet
down my cheeks and – you don’t get this view every day of the week! – but I do
find you there, my old broken mare; your hair falls over the pine trees bare,
frozen and gleaming in some silver splendour – “no, do not speak,
conserve oxygen” [but I’m not sure if I can stand to wait
another day, watching your eternal decay decay decay] –
with a rockslide, an avalanche, my kin’s tree with a fallen branch
crushing that tiny hillside shack where all that is
lacking is oil fracking, if not now then soon –
there is always more that could be pruned, like a bald-cap,
a paddywack, give Uncle Death a bone for soon he’ll roam
down the trail, across the tree, those pale fingers combing
the seaside glances of my mother’s salted face.

———————

Is it never enough? Forever followed by this bloated baboon,
dragging their knuckles, shoulders spasming with
that dopey look of orgasmic euphoria stretched along
their cosmic snout – leave her alone – Please, she is all I have.
I’ve grown and I can no longer count the number of times
I was deaf to those old wooden chimes that ran to grab
a band-aid or closed inside my lunchbox – handmade
from that leathered smile above with those [growing] creases –
but I could never outrun the love that she sends; that permeates
my dreams and ends with me sobbing to that
childhood vigil, holding fast to her sigil and praying
in a tongue of my past to that sturdy mast I’ll never outgrow, that she gave
to the mountainside-mare, up there, her old mother bear,
echoing past old narcissism – shining through
this lonesome prism which bends and refracts until nothing is kind
but, am I certain it is you?

Is this not some gruesome mockingbird I heard,
that projected through my spectral form? Shorn
of that song, that old sweet melody – how ARE you DARling? –
the beats and the rhythm, a common chord progression and a gasp-
ing incantation that lowered one into that nice warm bath,
a half-sought interpretation that brought me here…
where there is no laughter, no waterbirds or cattle-herds,
just that nibbling on my thigh that wanders up
my torso, a siren dragshow, luring me in – for who? – or – for what?

Nibble turns to bite, my chest becomes tight – a romance – trapped
beneath its foresight, it’s alright – all bright snowy shores
lapping at my ankle – or so it was, as those dark brooding shackles
float in just over the pines, those last signs of life – and where is my friend? –
or where did I leave him? – it all blurs together
and I no longer hear anything, no song or no rhythm,
just the chatter of teeth pounding like small ivory jackhammers, drilling
a hole through my skull – and is this my time? I guess she
would not have to bury me, but the uncertainty – her leather turned
dark and pruned – too soon? I’m not sure – but there lies the door,
swinging through those booming black sheep with sinister baaaaaaaaa –
hanging from something fine, some old string – perhaps it’s mine –
in one final pendulum as I lie fettered with three bags full,

It’s time.
It’s time.

You cruel harlequin, you foul fisherman, you tapered me in through the hairs on my chin I’m yours I suppose, but before it swings close, I must know – why here? why now?

I’m sorry child, I did
not stitch your
string,
You form a demon
where
an old man has
been.

I feel your pain, I
feel
it all, I’m an
unending
phone-line that
nobody called.

That was not my
bait,
but your
own,
I am just a harvest
of the seeds you’ve
sown.

Tell me, where is
your friend?
Where does he lie?
Why didn’t you
weep
when that old lady died?

You made this
mountain,
you bore this weight.
You’ll see her smiling
when I seal her fate.

Now, come hold to
me,
and hold fast, for it is
not
my line, but your
line cast.

You will find
what you have
sought,
An eternity of
answers,
An eternity of
naught.

 

My Voice (Our)

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This was partially inspired by Hannah Gadsby’s latest “comedy” special.

Where is my place in all of this? When I was brought up, I was taught that the merit of my position was earned purely through my existence; I owed nobody anything and I could live untethered and free to burn my own trail. I feel that is the upbringing of almost all straight white men in the western world, this idea of a free cheque and an unbridled inheritance to the world, whether explicitly or implicitly.

I grew up reading books, watching movies, and listening to music created by a predominately white-male demographic and my romantic dreams began to emerge. This was my place: amongst the artistic pantheon of humanity. I would strive to join their ranks, following Frost or Cummings or Kubrick or Hitchcock, in the grand line of artistic excellence. Well, male artistic excellence, but in my western culture the addendum has been fairly redundant.

Everywhere I looked I saw statuesque figures of men looking down at me, beckoning out for me to take their hand and form my own man-shaped legacy in an artistic sphere. To an ignorant adolescent that seemed like a godsend. They wrote like magic and made my heart thump and my mind wander and I wanted to do the same.

Yeats has always been one of my favourite poets. I used to identify with his pathetic, insecure romanticisms and his seemingly endless heartbreak. I felt empowered by that; that these things I saw as character flaws could become tools in a veritable utility belt of creative potential.

Unfortunately, Yeats and the ideas that he has presented to me in the past have begun to feel further and further dated when it comes to my updated understanding of the harmful attitudes of masculinity. The narrative of the majority of Yeats’ life is told through a very sympathetic lens of a man hopelessly in love with his muse, Maud Gonne, who consistently refused his advances. His endless marriage proposals rejected by her, as well as her young daughter who Yeats sought to exert his stature in the cultural landscape over. He felt entitled by his abilities and his widespread acclaim to the romance of the only people that would not submit to him.

Now, I’m not ignorant to historical relativism, and I still see Yeats as a very valuable artistic influence. But I’ve learnt that I cannot hide my ambitions behind the silhouettes of misogynistic men. Those character flaws that I found in him should not have been left in his mould. The world must change and the idea that you can chase women and assault them with endless proposals and pleas because you can’t take “no” for an answer is disgusting.

But here I return to my initial enquiry: where is my place in all of this? Those male figures that I was raised to value biblically, historically, and throughout literature, have grown decrepit and faulty in any modern light as the cracks of traditional masculinity have been expanded into ravines that are very difficult to avoid. My romantic fantasies of sitting around in circles, such as the Inklings or the Beat writers, have deteriorated by my increasing awareness of the inherent faults in each of these. That being representation and platform.

I no longer strive for a seat in this neo-Olympic circle of white powerful men, I want to lend my hand to the process of its final deconstruction. Perhaps that is why I decided to start this blog with my sister, Chloe. Because I felt that my voice was not needed in the traditional solo-artistic field and would be better served as a partner to a voice that I loved and cared about with all of my heart, that I knew would not get as much attention as me, purely through a disregarding of her talents based on attributes of womanhood and motherhood.

I know that my sister is more than a mommy blogger, a slave to the life that she’s sacrificed so much for. And when she does “mommy blog,” she does it better than almost anyone I’ve ever seen. Yet young mothers are constantly robbed of any identity of their own, recognised only for their supporting roles in a story that is not their own. Chloe is one of the strongest people I know and the way she produces her writing while fighting battles that I could not even comprehend facing is inspirational. And there it is, she is my inspiration.

I do not seek to mirror her or emulate her beliefs or methodologies, but the power that I know she wields in her well-worn soul has pushed me into being the man and the artist that I am today. This, I believe, has been much better than any traditional male role model. She has shown me, simply through perseverance, that my voice is best-suited in the propulsion of the voices of others. The unheard and the muted. The stereotyped and the delegitimized.

A lot of my poems and pieces often still slip into the ideas of male entitlement or of an alienated masculinity or traditional romance, but I hope that still, in these attempts, I can shed light on those endless ravines so that some may view down those chasms and see the incredible and powerful perspectives of those that have been brushed over in our goals of Eurocentric heteronormativity.

Ultimately, I’ve discovered that as a white man with a voice, I can no longer bare to live for me and me alone. The livelihood of those less privileged than me deserve just as much, perhaps even more of a platform than I do, and my one hope is that I can shift any attitudes towards that more compassionate goal. I would ask that any fellow straight white men who may be reading this to please support our brothers and sisters (or others) who have not been granted such a secure and enfranchised position in the world around us, and to not act in defence to any criticisms or challenges. We must grow, and it is up to us to ensure that the violence and hatred spread by those among our ranks becomes isolated and finally, extinguished entirely.

This world is changing, but the answers to the confused masculinity dilemma are in the people all around us, including the women and the non-gender-conforming. I have found my inspiration, my voice, and I know you can find yours too.

Pasta in Paradise

The ocean rushed up under my skirts, softening that line of pink between my skin and the cooling, grey stones. The sun was receding fast, the water still holding some lingering warmth. I pulled off the damp fabric of my dress and checked back to see Luca and his papa feeding veggie chips to a fat brown bulldog, before diving into the salted clear. I swam out past the line of rocks and wondered how the day had surged out from under us, vanishing in a spray of sweat and foam. We had to be on the ferry in twenty minutes. My eyes looked directly up at the outline of the island following the lemon slicked walls and the lush green above the cliffs where we had sped hours before on a blue bus that had seemed to wobble right over that deep space of nothing before finding tracks on the bitumen and rushing forward back onto solid land, the passengers’ collective stomachs somersaulting as we made peace with early deaths.

Off the bus a young man had seen Luca trying with those inelegant fat fists to reach for a shiny pink pomegranate high above both our heads and had climbed up to gift it to him. Every day a hundred kindnesses from strangers. Did I miss these moments back home, or were people less pleasant? Less mellowed out by the insistent carbs and house wines to smile at the mother with food in her teeth, wrestling a dimpled bald baby.

When I was fourteen my uncle who had traveled the world many times over had told me of this cavern you could swim off the coast in southern Italy. The blue grotto. How the water was a colour you couldn’t imagine.

His recollection of this magic propelled us today to wait in the sweaty queues and skip the beaches to trek down the far side of the island where we read we would be met with unceasing lines and unforeseen expenses. But it had been all but empty when we’d arrived with a sleeping toddler pressed into Jordan’s chest, just waking as we descended the rough stone steps, the Mediterranean slapping the steep rock walls that surrounded us. A wooden row boat waited at the bottom catching our weight as first I, then Luca, then Jordan wobbled aboard. All we could see was a dark, yawning mouth in the wet stone that looked impossibly small to row through. A big sign declared that it was illegal to swim in the grotto and if it wasn’t for a dripping lady in a passing boat we wouldn’t have known what an extra ten euros could buy. Jordan slipped the note into the sun-browned hands of our guide and he tucked it into the pocket of his blue jeans and began to sing in a deep growl that echoed around as we disappeared into the mouth. The tunnel opened up into a large cavern lit only by the sapphire below. The sea gently lapped at the sides of the boat and we continued in suspended silence to the far side of the cave in awe of this blue unlike anything we had ever seen. Nothing but blue in my eyes and an Italian folk song in my ears. The deep, bright blue of an iris pooling around us and buoying us in its cool luminosity. Our guide paused mid-melody, breaking the silent spell even Luca had fallen under, to ask Jordan, “You swim? Yes?”

He dove in seamlessly, only a small splash disturbing the water around us, but couldn’t resist a small woop of delight. I grinned over the edge at him, his wet fingers touching my cheek. He swam deep, his white frame cutting through the rich blueberry of the water, before softly slipping back onto the seat behind Luca and I. Thin rivulets of water coursing onto my back and arms.

We lunched on mounds of linguine piled high with a fat fresh crab. The little restaurant sat out over the blue ocean just around the headland from the little white boats and their chorusing oarsmen. Jordan’s face still hadn’t receded from it’s wide-split grin and we inexpertly cracked the shell from the meat, interrupted only by Luca tossing his dinosaurs onto the deck by our feet and demanding more calamari.

We found a suitable place for me to dive in too, just beneath the restaurant, Luca climbing the rocks with his papa’s help and I floated like a starfish out into the golden sunlight.

Our journey back to the harbor was slow and filled with circumstances that somewhere else would have been termed frustrating. But we crunched on sour citrus granita and had our hair swept around us in the salty breath of wind, leaning back in our convertible taxi imagining this was our home on the steep cliffs of Capri. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

And now emerging into the sunset I held my warm son against my breasts, prickling with the cool. The horn from the ferry calling us home.

Half-Woman

The shame that I felt when I found that telltale pink in the seat of my underwear for the first time was overwhelming. I was the first of my friends and didn’t have an ounce of the confidence that was required to traverse that milestone solo. I had spent the previous  six months trying fruitlessly to suppress this womanhood that inflicted my body like a disease, shaving the little brown hairs in the bath that sprung up while I slept and trying to flatten the soft pink puffs of breast that rose away from my smooth skin in obstinance. I was twelve and this body didn’t feel like mine anymore, the firm, effortless muscle of childhood that had let me not only keep up with, but overtake, the boys, was softening into curves that required me to undo my jeans before pulling them up.

I remember my last moment of unselfconsciousness, walking the sunlit hall from my bedroom to the bathroom topless only to have my younger sister come to her door and laugh, ‘why are your nipples sticking out like that?’ I’d immediately crossed my arms over my chest, the first, but not the last time I thought to hide my body.

The blood was unmistakeable. I wasn’t ignorant of biology. To my great embarrassment I had scored 100% on the sex education quiz the week before. I snuck into my mother’s bathroom while she cooked dinner and sifted through her drawers until I found the plastic package I required, clenching my short, dirt-filled nails into my palm to hold back tears. I didn’t tell a soul that night, scrubbing my blue underwear in the sink while my family slept, hoping that if I erased all traces, I too could forget.

By the morning I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer and I went crying to my mother, my voice all but disappearing as I whispered the dreaded words ‘my period’.

I wish I could have celebrated these changes like I watched some of my friends do. One in particular who excitedly mentioned ‘discharge’ and wore pads under her blue denim mini-skirt simply in anticipation and hope that she would get her period soon. Somehow in adolescence more comfortable with her body, with her sexuality, than I would be for the next ten years. Looking in the mirror all I saw was angry skin and chubby little-girl cheeks that no longer fit on this awkward half-woman, half-child body. I felt like Frankenstein, stitched together, ugliness embodied.

Get me away from here, I’m dying… (or Never Fucking Happy Pt. 2)

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Missed messages and sidewalk stalemates;
This sideways city confuses me.
An urban infestation, there’s no assimilation,
Just an old man with his foot on my throat.
A colonial boot, a well-pressed suit,
With the rag-clad clinging to the edges.

The old girl in front growls at the beeps
Of some renegade opal machine,
Engaging tunnel-vision in 3…2…1…
But she looks so fine, vanguard of the woeful,
With her twine-secured zippers and off-pink crocs;
Where is she going and why does she growl?

Parramatta Road flies past the frosted glass
In some stereoscopic blur; that strange, empty street,
Lined with junk and endless alleys,
Boasting flawless wedding gowns and lighting displays
For no-one in particular,
Like a shy parakeet or a toothless monk.

Soon I’m home to the sound of endless sirens
As something flies past the window;
The one with the corner rotted off
And the frost creeping in like a hiccup.
Probably one of the local cockroaches,
Looking for his mate, or maybe just an explanation,

Smeared against the underside of that well-shined boot,
I look out at the lemon slice lick up high,
Hanging low like a Cheshire smile,
Peaking out from the smog and light-pollution
That conceal the constellations that once
Danced upon my diorama.

Everyone seems to know someone
Who knows exactly how I feel,
That this land of opportunity
Is a collective sigh into the cold concrete
Of our own confused creation;
A land suffocating and sputtering,
But at least there’s good coffee.

Ode to the Suburbs (or Never Fucking Happy Pt. 1)

I sit now watching a couple through the split in their yellow-lit curtains, in the dance of domesticity 

Ironed tracksuits and morning smiles sunny-side-up

All the words unspoken, feelings unfelt, lips unkissed 

Didn’t they learn that life is not a Christmas list?

 

 

Reality in monochrome; all these grey-cladded whites

A hundred whiskered men with their socks matching the pavement 

I’ve never felt so lonely so far from alone

Doors closed, shutters drawn, a double-glaze that’s keeping out more than just the cold

Out of nowhere; Out of my thoughts

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The framing’s set, the ribbon tied,
A soft sweet portrait in my mind,
Like sandy strawberries, gritted teeth,
An anxious knot, a salted cheek.

I see it now; colours coalesce,
The Virgin bare between your breasts
As tulips tumble off your tongue,
Into my ear – not to hear – just for fun.

My monolingualed monotony,
A spirit dull and hard to see
Beneath the layers of privileged youth,
Of all-white towns and God’s Own Truth.

You’d strike my prose like a gentle harpoon,
Or an open window amidst a monsoon,
Then out you’d hop without a word,
No reply: A romance blurred.

I’d crystallise, deep in my den,
A banana waiting to ripen,
Then you’d snatch the crop and toss the fruit
To a height no rocket from earth could shoot;

My interstellar ecstasy,
An astronaut with a VB,
I’ll show you mine if you show yours,
We’ll row this stream with cosmic oars.

The poetry came quick and easy,
Sipping soy caps at Panizzi,
Stupid rhymes and joyful tunes
Spread across our afternoons,

Until that jagged love fled
And paced above us overhead,
Cloaked in those stars we thought we knew
[Not we – just me – there is no you]

As I melt I make no noise,
But for the scribble of these foils,
My soul desire, an empty chest,
A stroke of my neck, sorely missed.

Floating with the stars’ alignment,
Grappling with this last assignment;
I know no French, I’m sure it shows,
But for you I’ll try so here I go:

Alors que,
Les larmes peut-être ruissellent
Contre notre toile de millefleur,
Dans l’ombre de votre toucher
J’entendais “Tu vas me manquer.”

Surrender

This disembodied self

Was I always empty and waiting to be filled?

With your milk cries and more cries and mam mama won’t shut your eyes cries

A blunt heel taunts the inside of my ribcage

And you never stop your pink finger prodding, pinching, punishing

A scream has aged long in the basement of my throat

It’s threats to come out have grown feeble

I feel my muscles soften, my bones deteriorate

As you seize the tenderest parts of me

My moon-white flesh here for your eating, drinking, sleeping, soothing consumption

My skin run ragged

I have receded and in the hollow my form has left lies you,

My health and vigour your inheritance

Rainbow Dreams and Golden Soil

Skeleton trees hang earnest above
And roos hop over the grassy lake,
Magpies stop to pay their respects
As I lie in my Mitsubishi escape.

The bush mice waltz to Matilda’s tune
As sun sets over the billy’s boil,
But hearts and hands have lost their way
To the pregnant fields where I once toiled.

Arthur’s pastels melt up above my mind
And over the silent turbine dreams,
Metal beasts riding high, cast
Stolen shadows on whitewashed streams.

Ancient sanctity swapped for our
Anticipatory emptiness,
Our standard may wave in the metal claw,
But we’ll never outpace the serpent’s hiss.