Monthly Archives: October 2010

Paul Squires piece in Extempore

There are more than two reasons to go out and pick yourself up a copy of Extempore, but the first two that come to mind are:

1. Paul Squires’ piece, Teardrop Tattoo appears (and an article by Gabrielle Bryden, in memory of Paul); and

2. It is the final issue of the magazine.

It is sad that Squires is not with us to share the joy of seeing his words in print, but I know for sure he is smiling down on us somewhere, wit and pencil, sharp as ever.

Long may the gingatao narrative live!

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Bob Dylan Exclusive: The Witmark Demos

For many, the release of the legendary Witmark Demos is something of a goldmine… 47 tracks from a fledgling Dylan (1962 – 1964) that until now, have been the stuff of scrappy sounding bootlegs or legend.

To celebrate the release, Rolling Stone are featuring a track from the album, with an accompanying video. Watch Bob singing, Guess I’m Doing Fine

This is Bob in full ‘mono’ glory.

For more information on the release (and it looks like it’s going to be a cracker), head to the Bob Dylan Website.


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The Church inducted into Aria Hall of Fame

On Wednesday night, The Church were inducted into the Aria Hall of Fame and I must say, never has a band been more deserving. The Church are one of those all too rare bands, that have remained vital over a 30 year period of writing, touring and recording. During this time they have released more than 25 albums and a vast number of eps, singles and other oddities, all to critical acclaim. Marty Willson-Piper & Peter Koppes’ spaced out, chiming guitars, Tim Powles’ driving rhythms combined with the rich mystery of Kilbey’s vocals and snaking basslines, have provided me (and countless others) with some of the musical highlights of my existence.

The enigmatic Mr. Kilbey took the stage with gusto on Wednesday night, delivering a sermon that I am most certain, the Aria’s will never see the likes of again. His razor wit and linguistic brilliance charmed the audience crazy…

So while you can, check out Kilbey’s acceptance speech in all its glory:

And following that (and it’s a hard act to follow), why not check out what it is The Church do best… play live.



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Beat Films at BIFF + Wholly Communion

The Brisbane International Film Festival program has now been released and it features two of the films I have been hotly anticipating for some time.

Howl, starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, which has been receiving rave reviews worldwide and William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, a feature length documentary featuring never before seen footage of Burroughs and interviews with Laurie Anderson, John Waters, David Cronenberg, Amiri Baraka, Anne Waldman, Diane DiPrima and a soundtrack by Patti Smith and Sonci Youth.

Definitely two great reasons to get along to this year’s festival… sadly, I will be away for the duration of the festival, so if like me, you can’t get along and catch these films, here’s a treat for you…

I recently came across the film Wholly Communion, Peter Whitehead’s documentary of the legendary Beat reading at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1965. It was described as an evening of near-hallucinatory revelry and featured readings by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Alexander Trocchi, Adrian Mitchell & many others.

 Here are the links to watch (the majority of) the film, so get yourself comfortable (drinks, nibbles, whatever takes you…) and take in a slice of literary history!





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Ani Lin: The Journey of a Chinese Buddhist Nun, Pip Griffin – Reviewed by Patricia Prime

Ani Lin: The Journey of a Chinese Buddhist Nun, Pip Griffin.  Pohutukawa Press, Leichhardt, N.S.W. 2040, Australia.  2010.  144 pp.  ISBN 9780980318425 (pbk).  AUD20.00 + postage from the author.  AUD27.95 + postage from gleebooks  49 Glebe Point Rd., Glebe, N.S.W. 2037, Australia.  Overseas orders through gleebooks, please.

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

 For the poet, the credo or doctrine is not the point of arrival but is, on the  contrary, the point of departure for the metaphysical journey.

            — Joseph Brodsky

An odd choice to introduce a review of the poem novel Ani Lin: The Journey of a Chinese Buddhist Nun, by Pip Griffin?  Perhaps; perhaps not?  The collection is about explorations and discoveries which are as much cerebral and metaphysical as geographical and physical.  The path readers are taken on by Griffin has origins that are intriguing and transits that are stimulating.

As the dust jacket informs its readers: “In 1892, 18 year old Lin enters a mountain nunnery, where she begins a journey that will take her on a difficult spiritual and physical path.  Her dream is to work for equality for women in the Buddhist world.”  In her Afterword Griffin announces that this is an imaginary tale: “In 1874, my imaginary nun, Lin, was born in a village near Yunnanfu (capital of Yunnan Province and renamed Kunming in the 1920s).  She died in 1939, the year I was born.  Her story was conceived in 1985 when I first travelled to Guilin (Guangxi Province) and experienced feelings of déjà vu in the spectacular karst landscape.”

Griffin’s opening poem “Coming home from the market” exemplifies the ethos behind the poem novel as she introduces the young girl to her readers:

 I ride my bicycle
 on the bumpy road
 through hazy landscape
 patchwork gardens illuminated
 by the setting sun

 stacked mountains layered
 against orange sky

This is a work laden with possibilities that result out of an engagement with people, places and landscape, real but also mythically-charged.  Take the poem, “Life in the nunnery.”  Here the reader is taken through a ‘rite of passage’ as the young woman enters the novitiate:

 Rising before dawn
 a splash of cold water
 clears my mind

 my body
 will soon learn
 to ignore discomfort

 the big drum
 calls us to the Shrine

The experience may not be familiar to many readers and yet it is subjective, a combination that ensures that our view of the unrecognizable and the intimate coalesce with one another.

The girl’s transformation hinges upon her memories – upon whether what is remembered is truthful, an accurate recollection of her experiences.  In “An audience with the Abbess,” for example, her meditations reveal

 that in another life
 my husband was
 a wealthy merchant.

 Though privileged,
 I was a second wife,
 of value merely
 by belonging to a man.

In “Ordination,” an evocation of taking her vows, Lin’s life is transformed into a meditation on the way in which she will live her life from now on:

 I will respect all life
 not take things not for me
 keep chaste
 neither speak untruth
 nor become intoxicated
 will never eat from noon
 until the sunrise of the next new day

In “Leaving the nunnery,” meanwhile, it is time for her to begin her travels over the remote and mountainous Horse Tea Road that leads to Tibet, where she will teach in a village for six years.    Her only possessions are her bamboo flute and the scrolls that Reverend Mother gives her:  “precious texts on / scrolls of silk” with the prayer

 Lord Buddha’s words
 will guide you
 and the girls
 that you will teach

The journey is beautifully evoked by Griffin as the girl traverses rivers, mountains, sacred peaks, sanctuaries and a visit to the Mu household where, in the poem “Visiting the Mu household” “Prince Mu has asked us / to take tea with him.”

Griffin’s poem novel is activated by small moments unfolding from the fragments of daily minutiae: a sense of miracle, bliss is localized, transcendence is brief and raw, insight comes from focusing on the elements of Lin’s journey, the playing of her flute, wandering in the lamasery garden, meditating, eating and drinking.  Noticing, honoring, entering the most ordinary experience is urged on us throughout the volume.  For Griffin, the moment suffuses and suffices.  For example, she concludes the poem “Dance of the Dongba.” 

 next  morning
 at the little shrine I’ve made
 my flute sings
 my prayers fly
 to Kuan Yin:

 Oh my Lady – you who
 hears the cries of all the world –
 my spirit has a home here.
 It does not want to leave!

In another poem, “The courtship dance,” she takes us right into the midst of the dance:

 In firelight
 Zhema whirls
 while men and women
 dance a double circle

 her many-coloured belts
 swing wildly from her waist

The tension in many of the poems making up the poem novel is between the travelling and experiences, arising thoughts and meditation.  In “Travelling the Horse Tea Road” Lin treads “with care on fallen / rhododendron petals”; turns “golden prayer wheels / with devout Tibetans” and shares a meal with monks.  Lin is loaded with awareness, how at her journey’s end she will make “the village women happy / with my teaching.”  Griffin paints delightful pictures of those met along the journey: the man at the border hut, the weary merchant, the boatman:  “The Bhakor” evokes the sights and sounds of the market place in Lhasa:

 yak bells   goat bells
 sing calling notes
 dust rises
 whirrs clangs bangs
 shouts cries squawks
 squeals bleats
 hurt my head

In “An audience with the Dalai Lama,” Griffin wires her tense imagery on taut, honed lines that vibrate with currents of feeling.  The potent tone of a meeting with the Dalai Lama in his beautiful palace is tenderly written.  The narrative traces Lin’s day, from waking with the sparrows, to climbing “the Sacred Steps / of the Red Palace” to the meeting with His Holiness”:

 a beautiful young man
 chrysanthemum and saffron robed
 he sits cross-legged
 on blue-gold brocaded cushions
 of his throne

Her life is now taken up with teaching the young women and the guidance of the young girl, Pema, whom she takes under her wing.  The poem “Teaching” is where we first meet Pema:

 her name is Pema Choki
 ‘lotus of the happy faith’
 child of an artisan Yishe
 whose wife is dead

 though only ten years old
 she cares for father
 and five brothers

The years pass under Lin’s guidance until she decides that Pema, although only an ordinary girl, is ready to be trained for ordination.  She consults the Rinpoche, who says:

 Ani, you speak with fancy’s tongue!
 There have been no female reincarnation
 Here for many centuries.  You know
 Our practice precludes women’s ordination

Lin convinces Pema’s father and Jigme Trungpa Rinpoche (head of the gompa) that Pema should be allowed to become a novice, as we see in “Pema is allowed to become a novice”:  “The Rinpoche is won over / Pema’s father yields.”  Now Lin’s guide Lobsang goes off to war.  The love and respect Lin feels for her guide Lobsang throughout her journey until his death in war is beautifully evoked.  In the poem “Attachment” we see how the news of Lobsang’s death affects her, as she cries out

 I have failed failed failed
 failed Lord Buddha
 failed to keep heart
 free from attachment                                                                                                          

In “Pema reveals esoteric knowledge,” the outstanding novice “has spoken / words she cannot know.”   The lama resumes her lessons “with far stricter rules / she must chant texts for hours / keep eyes downcast / pray with humility / must not presume / to gainsay learned elders”  and her story

 down steep hillside
 like a spring thaw stream
 Pema must be a Chosen One

 could she be reincarnated
 Princess Lhacham Pema Tsal
 astonishing yogini
 brought back to  life
 to Guru Rinpoche
 entrusted with his precious
 teachings centuries ago?

But gossip reaches the Rinpoche and it is decided that Pema must be sent far away to the Bekung Monastery.  This decision forces Lin and Pema to decide to leave Tibet.  In “Lin and Pema flee Lhato,” they find a young village man to guide them back to China.  In “Return to Fanchu Si” they reach their destination where

 these dear sisters
 faces wet with tears
 who hug first me
 then Pema
 take us to my old room
 that’s quite unchanged

The poem novel ends with “Lin’s poem for Lobsang”: 

 Here’s peace

  beneath our old azalea tree
  now to reflect
  to play my flute
  and write:

                       In mountain stream, your face
                       in bamboo stems, your voice
                       in lotus flowers, your life –
                       live on in flute’s sweet notes

The details which make Griffin’s verses so memorable are samples of scenes from a receptive life, formed by emotion; minimal, muted, they nevertheless brim with beauty.  Griffin’s poems are often spare, yet never neutral: there is heat and depth throughout.  Understated, quietly reflecting the protagonist’s journey towards her destiny.

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QLD Writer’s Week Feature #14 – Barbara Brown

It has been a real blast to bring so many exciting voices to a new readership… so I hope you enjoy the words and wisdom of feature #14, Barbara Brown.

What excites you about poetry?

The brilliance and madness which co-exist within us all.  Poetry sings outward, into & unto itself.  I find it fascinating how peoples’ minds work; subject matter, creative process, interpretations & unravelling it (reminding me of being a child playing pass the parcel).  I’m naturally drawn to mysteriousness, and poetry offers that to me.  Poetry is many things to many people and discovering those reasons can be just as exciting.  For me right now, it’s unleashing pent up ideas and attempting to create something magical that I can call my own, hopefully before they or I go rusty!

What are the themes that interest you / that you like to explore in your own writing?

I’m not sure if particular themes are making an appearance in my writing yet, because I’m experimenting with different themes, styles & settings as much as I can.  Having said that, I enjoy dark fantasy, reflective, wit & sarcasm, love/sexual and generally try to play with words/phrases/concepts.

Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can.’ How does a poem happen for you?

To some it may seem an unlikely candidate but I love to pull random words and sentences, which I hear internally and spoken aloud and attempt to craft them into something altogether different from their first intent & purposes.  Poetry can be extremely cathartic (when given the opportunity) – I sometimes find myself working through & reflecting on issues which may otherwise go unaddressed.



distant dreams stifled by swollen fears
plagued by city beasts, tall poppies and
walking under cas-
herded by roaming sheep no longer black.
grappling with pens as if they were guns
firing words to a page
paper bleeding fiercely
the only wound is my own in the form of rsi
coupled with not knowing
if these actions
a difference


About Barbara:

I love arty & funky stuff and have always dreamed of doing something creative/artistic.  Ideally, I would love to one day organise music festivals, art & theatre shows.  I feel like there has been a slow burn in my hearth.  But it needs more fuel.  With the encouragement and support of my partner I am currently exploring and building my poetry writing (having dabbled in it since childhood) – I walked away from the Queensland Poetry Festival refreshed and inspired, a proud participant in the QPF open mic (my first) and am really enjoying the offerings of Speedpoets each month.  As usual, my mind is busy contemplating ideas to hopefully put together a small performance, fundraising event and perhaps see what publishing opportunities lie ahead.

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Splice this: The Cassette Project

On Thursday night I went along to the second installment of the Cassette Project at The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, featuring Silver Screens, Ambrose Chapel & The Rational Academy. This would have to be one of the coolest live art experiences I have been to… the concept works something like this:

There is a stage, a mixing desk, a producer and a tape duplication centre. While each band is playing, the other two bands mix the set live then send it to the producer (Danny Ford), where he creates 2 x master tapes. Those masters are then taken over to the duplication site (it dubs at 1000x the live speed), where the audience hand over a blank tape (yep, you are issued with 3 x blank tapes on entry, how old school is that!) and ask for one of the mixes (eg. Silver Screens mixed by The Rational Academy) to take home.

Projects like this are incredibly inspirational as it is so much more than the live show. When I walked out the doors on Thursday night into the brisk Spring air, I was not only taking home a live music experience that was ear-splittingly good, I was taking home three different versions of the experience on tape and the feeling that I was part of the creative process.

I hope there are many future installments of Cassette Project. For more details you can check out their website here:

And to give you a taste of what I experienced, here is a clip of The Rational Academy performing Yellow Pony.

Rock on!


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QLD Writer’s Week Feature #13 – John Parke

Still a couple more features to round out my QLD Writer’s Week series… lucky #13 introduces John Parke.

What excites you about poetry?

I find it the best way to capture the essence and emotion of a story. Recently, I have started using poems as the basis for short films that incorporate footage, photos, animation, and music. There is plenty of scope to get the creative juices flowing in this approach.

What are the themes that interest you/ that you like to explore in your writing?

I am using poetry to capture the stories of the commercial fishermen of Wynnum Creek on Moreton Bay. They have fished from the creek for 150 years and were responsible for the second largest annual catch in Queensland. Around 150 fishermen worked from the creek in the 1950s. Today there are only 8 fishermen left and their stories haven’t previously been recorded.

Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can’. How does a poem happen for you?

I find a topic for a poem and let my subconscious ‘chew it over’ for a couple of weeks. I then often write the first and last lines for the poem. find a start and an end for the poem. Then I think through the journey the poem will take. Finally, I fill in the details. Often the first draft of a poem takes about half an hour to write and then I revise it over the few days.


The view from the front steps

Our homes have nestled here since 1900
on the creek bank, watching boys become men.
Watching boats crafted to master the waves, in search of mullet,
watching nets tarred and fish sorted.

You were part of our family.
We shared our lives together within your walls and around you.

Those first tentative steps in the nursery rejoiced with glee by all.
The familiar smell of the Sunday roast, the laughter of welcome guests.

The slipway now a relic
Our memories, rubble.

The menacing truck collects its load
our kitchen, lounge and our past bound for Coffs.

It will return tomorrow for our bedrooms
and the corridor where we once played.

My hand on my cheek
brings small comfort.

Our family homes are gone.
They now build duplexes that surround me.

The grief so heavy is not mine alone
but that of our forebears.

What will tomorrow bring
to this place where we once built boats?


About John:

I live in Manly and am assisting approximately 60 unemployed people in the local area and Bay islands to establish their own business. My career has focussed on community development initiatives using a capacity building approach for both Indigenous and no-Indigenous communities. At present I am establishing an initiative called the Friends of the Fishermen of Wynnum Creek. The initiative involves collecting and making available stories (particularly through poetry) and images of the fishermen to the general public.


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Triptych Poets #1 (Blemish Books) reviewed by Patricia Prime

Here’s a review of the recently launched Triptych Poets #1 from new Australian Publisher, Blemish Books. A big thanks to Patricia Prime for sending this through.

Triptych Poets: Ray Liversidge, Hilaire & Mary Mageau.  Blemish Books, GPO Box 1803, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.  2010.  76 pp.  ISBN: 978-0-9807556-1-9   RRP: AUS$15

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

The poems in Triptych Poets are divided into three sections: Things to (and not to) do, Ray Liversidge, Things Mended, Hilaire and Moments in a Journey, Mary Mageau.

The poets of this collection show themselves impelled to experiment: the poems are vigorous and successfully innovative.  Ray Liversidge’s energetic poetry teases the reader’s receptiveness: not only momentarily: with a found poem, a poem punctuated by slashes and a lengthy poem, “The divorce papers,” which is divided into eight parts.  Here is part 4 “Envoi”:

          In thy beauty is the dilemma of flutes
         e e cummings

         There are no love poems;
         only lyrics on love gone,
         or going, wrong.  I know
         no sonnets written in
         celebrations of your beauty
         (just blank verses of cruelty);
         no lines to your eyes,
         limericks to your lips,
         similes to liken you to
         one thing or another.

         These days I find myself
         Lip syncing to songs about
         The days write themselves.

Hilaire inclines more than Liversidge to a frolic of words though.   As with Liversidge, the playfulness is perfectly capable of serious resonance, mingling, as in “Listen and Repeat” darker suggestions with the idyllic:

         Madame Fong ruled the language lab,
         doubly exotic in crepe de Chine
         and discreet jade jewellery.
         Cupping a hand expectantly
         around her petite and foreign ear,
         a coquettish tilt to her head,
         she trilled
         Ecoutez et repetez.
         Clunk of tape machine. 

Mary Mageau’s haibun and tanka prose presents patterns in prose and poetry which draw the reader into a reality in which nature, human nature, music, travel, history, Australia and convicts have their part to play.  In “Winter Magic,” for example, the focus is on a child peering through a window at hoar-frost:

 Ice shapes resembling small fir trees stretch across the glass, while delicate  snow flowers sparkle around them.  Lost in its beauty, I move through this crystal  garden as my warm fingers trace up and down, leaving a smudged pathway . . .

This is the kind of childhood scene in which many of us will have participated.

As well as poetry, Liversidge has published a verse novel The Barrier Range.  His poems in Triptych Poets are written in clear, narrative free-verse, and explore a corner store, relationships, a lawn mowing neighbour, a painting, familial faces and more.  His poems are muscular – unfailingly terse, disarmingly simple, often funny, as we see in “Goya’s dog”:

         You think is it swimming or sinking?
         You obey the dog blindly and mimic
         Its movements.  And you? You dust
         For animal prints, suggest the ‘lonely pooch’
         Sleep outside its frame of reference.

There are triumphs too, clearly observed, sharp and small – “Care for nothing except poetry” (“Things to (and not to) do”).  Liversidge is hungry for experience – “I’ll be poured out like used water.  Then, like water, / which always finds its level, settle, recycle.”   (“The baby and the bathwater”).  He is unafraid to serenade us with “You found your touch just once.  Once was enough, / Our paintings hang together – mine below, yours above.”  (“The painting”).  This is a poet who offers considerable honesty and a deal of expertise in his verse.  His subject matter is traditional in all its rampant, unmitigated strength.

Hilaire hoes a different row.  Her poetry has been widely published; she has published short stories, a novel and was awarded an Emerging Writer’s grant by the Australia Council.  Her spare, delicately paced lyrics depict a poet with a vivid, exacting eye.  Her lyrical gifts are considerable.  Her poems linger in the mind and her images are tantalizing – “In truculent teenage, / ten bucks bribed us / to do less than our share, / saving the hankies till last.” (“Ironing for One”) and “stands padlocked and shuttered, / without a plaque, not for sale.” (“the house by the well”).

For me, the most successful of her poems “The Colonel’s Daughter’s House” epitomizes the inherent beauty of this poet’s work, a glimpse of the shifting unease she brings to her poetry:

         It is six months since the ambulance
         beat its slow retreat
         from the colonel’s daughter’s house –
         down the lane,
         along the B road,
         no siren just
         a faint pulse of blue light
         struggling against the sun.

Mary Mageau is an award-winning composer and writer.  Her writings in the Japanese verse forms of haiku, tanka and haibun are included in several anthologies and journals.

Mageau is even more ambitious than the other two poets.  Not just linguistically.  Her haibun and tanka prose play with prose and poetry.  She sees them as elements of equal force, recombining discourses from a myriad experiences and recollections. Life here is lived.  Landscape, history, personal experiences, memories are this poets’ themes.  All this is subsumed in her inventive approach to language, individual words, pacing and phrasing.

In “The Persistence of Memory” she recalls her father’s final words – “’take something before you leave, to remember us by.’”  In “Point, Counterpoint” she teaches us about music:

On my desk lies the music for a fugue.  Its opening line of single notes     threads  across the page.  Played first by one hand then the other, accompanied by a  variation of itself, multiple lines wave a texture of horizontal strands.

In the tanka prose piece “Home Again” she recollects a memory of childhood evoked by the familiar scent of jasmine:

         winter afternoon
         a grey washed sky
         on the wind
         the fragrance of jasmine
         from a woman’s perfume

Suddenly I’m in the bedroom of our family home standing at the window, enjoying  the heady scent of five star jasmine that grows over our back fence, admiring the  lace pattern of the curtains.  In the next breath, just as I expect to hear my  mother call, ‘It’s time for bed now,” I’m back in a bleak city fifty years away.

In “The Armistice Way (Parts 1 & 2)” the history of the “rugged Australian hinterlands” is explored.  In Part 1, for example, she tells us how returning servicemen named their settlements after battlefields:

The scenery of these rugged Australian hinterlands lures us to Amiens Road and  its string of villages.  Baupaume, Pozieres, Passchendaele and Messines became returning soldiers’ settlements, each bearing the name of a French battlefield.  Though these places were established in 1918, little remains of them  today.  Immigrants now cultivate the delicious stone fruit and grapes here for the  region’s wineries.

It is obvious that this is a wrier of impressive agility and insight.  You may delight in her juxtaposition of poetry and prose.  You may drift through the strength of history, nature and human nature tumbling through the work.  You may wonder where she is taking you on this journey.  Mageau might reply, on a

ginko walk
           ringing with resonance
   of bell birds

The day ends with a late afternoon meditation.  Time for our ‘walk about’ in nature to dream, touch, smell and capture a last haiku moment.  Armed with notebooks and pens we set out, as a sliver of pink and gold widens on the rim of  the horizon

setting sun
                each eucalypt wears
     a golden halo

 Our pace quickens as rich foliage deepens into shadow.  The bush suddenly falls  silent, the horizon flames into orange red, the open sky provides just enough light  to guide us back safely.

        (“A Poet’s Journey”)

All three poets in this collection beguile us with their insights.  There is, I think, a journey here for anyone – for everyone.  The paths are all clearly marked:  Liversidge’s lives, Hilaire’s sweet lyrics and Mageau’s marbled truths.


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Tidal Notes


drinking cask wine
and smiling at her
I inhale the warm summer perfume
of her dress

light purrs into the grass
on days like this
I see all men
as brief as birds

dusk feathers the day
into vague bits of dream
while the pulse in my neck taps
trouble          trouble

naked night swim
our drunken limbs
fumble over moons
of flesh

softening skin
our bodies
dance in time with
the river’s heartbeat

skipping stones
across a glass river
each bounce
shatters silence

bird song lost
in the air of morning
we drift home with
the outgoing tide


* this poem was written collaboratively with Cindy Keong. You can view more of Cindy’s work here:


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