Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "America" by Claude McKay

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

by Claude McKay

For more information on the poet, Claude McKay, see:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Down the back of the chair" by Margaret Mahy

Our car is slow to start and go. We can’t afford a new one.
Now if you please, Dad’s lost the keys. We’re facing rack and ruin.
No car, no work! No work no pay!
We’re getting poorer day by day.
No wonder Dad is turning grey.
The morning is a blue one.

Nothing but dockets in his pockets.
Raging with despair
Dad acts appalled! Though nearly bald
He tries to tear his hair.
But Mary who is barely two
Said Dad should do what I would do
I lose a lot, but I find a few
Down the back of the chair.

He’s patted himself, and searched the shelf. He’s hunted here and there,
So now he’ll kneel and try to feel right down the back of the chair.
Oh it seemed to grin as his hand went in.
He felt a tingling in his skin.
What will a troubled father win
From down the back of the chair?

Some hairy string and a diamond ring
Were down the back of the chair,
Pineapple peel and a conger eel
Were down the back of the chair
A sip, a sup, a sop, a song. A spider seven inches long,
No wonder that it smells so strong
Down the back of the chair.

A packet of pins and one of the twins
Down the back of the chair.
A pan, a fan that belonged to Gran
Down the back of the chair …
A crumb, a comb, a clown, a cap
A pirate with a treasure map,
A dragon trying to take a nap
Down the back of the chair.

A cake, a drake, a smiling snake,
Down the back of the chair
A string of pearls, a lion with curls
Down the back of the chair
A skink, a skunk, a skate, a ski,
A couple of elephants drinking tea
The bandersnatch and the bumblebee
Down the back of the chair.

But what is this? Oh bliss! Oh bliss!
(Down the back of the chair).
The long lost will of Uncle Bill
(Down the back of the chair).
His money box all crammed with cash
Tangled up in a scarlet sash
There’s pleasure, treasure, toys and trash
Down the back of the chair.

I've found my dreams, our father beams.
(Down the back of the chair).
At last I see how life can be.
(Down the back of the chair).
Forget the keys! We're poor no more
Just call a taxi to the door.
A taxi shot out with a roar
From down the back of the chair.

The chair, the chair, the challenging chair,
The champion chair, the cheerful chair,
The charming chair, the children’s chair,
The chopped and chipped but chosen chair
To think our fortune waited there
Down the back of the chair.

by Margaret Mahy

For more information on poet and author, Margaret Mahy, see:


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Identity" by Håkan Sandell

His identity was always wandering, and though it
was as a lackadaisical dandy that we knew him first,
the old bottles filled with new wine:
then he was an actor, then half a poet,
later on a mechanic, in a motorcycle gang,
though only a minor cog in its design,
then a businessman, then with a (thinning) ponytail again,
appearing in constantly changing shapes.
But when drunk he very precisely with his knife
would carve into his arm his beloved’s name,
so that repeatedly, over two decades, it came
dripping onto the table, always the same,
the living letters a blood-red flame
welling from themselves, from the scar of her name.

     -- Håkan Sandell (translated from the Swedish by Bill Coyle)

For more information about the poet, Hokan Sandell, see:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "An Arrangement for Seeing Children" by Edwin Brock

You were born in the front room
of a house behind the police station
and because I was a policeman
the midwife let me stay to watch.

You were not much trouble or so it seemed to me.
She groaned only intermittently
and the lady let me hold her hand.
At the moment of delivery

you managed to get your navel cord caught
like a silk strand around your throat
and this was a symbol I could understand
having done the same thing all my life.

I was not much interested in you then,
you looked as if you had been crudely carved in marble,
but I helped give you your names,
hoping you would fit them as you grew.

When you grew we pointed cameras at you
we stopped you playing, badgered you to stand still,
clicked the little button at the side
and then went on with what we had been doing.

That was all that parenthood required –
you fixed inside a cardboard box.
Thus you would not be forgotten
no matter how faulty our two memories.

And we two? We had reasons and excuses of our own.
We had our lives to lead, each other to enjoy
and a theory about not pampering our children.
We fed you, clothed you and used you by the names that we had chosen.

Now as you know we have broken - I live in one house
and you in another where I call on Saturdays.
I will never be able to explain why this is so
never having understood it for myself.

I know only that your red and freckled head
which waves out of our window points at me –
half way to the bus stop I hear your shutter click
as the road's curve covers me.

And I pray the picture you have taken
will be fogged and faulty
and that you will go on happily
with the things you had been doing.

by Edwin Brock

Photo Credit: Enitharmon Press

For more information on the poet, Edwin Brock, see:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "My Blue Piano" by Else Lasker-Schüler

At home I have a blue piano.
But I can't play a note.

It's been in the shadow of the cellar door
Ever since the world went rotten.

Four starry hands play harmonies.
The Woman in the Moon sang in her boat.

Now only rats dance to the clanks.
The keyboard is in bits.

I weep for what is blue. Is dead.
Sweet angels, I have eaten

Such bitter bread. Push open
The door of heaven. For me, for now --

Although I am still alive --
Although it is not allowed.

by Else Lasker-Schüler (translated from the German by Eavan Boland)

For more information about the poet, Else Lasker-Schuler, see:


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Poetry" by Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a
high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become unintelligible,
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under
a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician –
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and school-books’;
all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of the imagination-‘ above

insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them,’ shall we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness, and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

by Marianne Moore

For more information about poet, Marianne Moore, see:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday Poem (Actually Prose this time around): "Global Village" by Andrew M. Bell

“For my family very good, we no complain. Live Byron Street, got a few small tree, cut away all the old one. Boss, he's a open-a shop in 1954. I'm-a workin' for him since 1968.”
There are large Italian and Greek communities and smaller groups from Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Yugoslavia and South-East Asia.
“I tink it could be right if officials are right. Ve losink business 'cause of parking. I ring dem, ring dem, ring again. Shire don't care. I've been 17 years. New election, talk very sweet, but do nothink. Extremely unhappy.”
Quaint phraseology is one of the hallmarks of history.
This Foundation Stone of the Leederville Post Office was laid by The Hon. E.H. Wittenoom M.L.C. Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on the 3rd day of May 1897.
Leederville is one of Perth's oldest suburbs. It was named after an early settler, William Leeder, who obtained about 120 hectares of land bordering Lake Monger in the early 1830s.
“It is a four-minute drive from the city, 10 minutes from the beach and has easy access to Mitchell Freeway. And then there is Lake Monger. What more could anyone want?"
Before the white man came, the district had been called Galup. Natives camped there and one of their leaders was Yagan, who resisted the settlers.
“Old, established area. Uncle's 72, lived here since he was 15. Older type homes. Customers lived here a long time. Population's changing - young, trendy kids moving in and doing up old houses. "
It seems Leederville is about to become Perth's next Yuppie suburb. Already the young, trendy professionals are moving into an area, which, for many years has been considered an unfashionable backwater.
To enjoy sitting outside of an evening, free from "skeeters", we would place pieces of cow manure on shovels of live coals.
“It used to be a great shopping centre, but it's gone down. Terrific 20 years ago. Less business. More dead.”
CHIPPER AND SON – Caring Funeral Directors – 144 Railway Pde Leederville
Clean-up plan for the deadly Lake Monger
In 1974, the Mitchell Freeway hammered yet another nail in Leederville's coffin.
The car horns toll the knell of parting day,
The toxic fumes creep slowly o'er the park,
The traffic homeward plods its weary way,
And leaves the world to joggers and the dark.
Dusk on Lake Monger. The silhouettes of hundreds of black swans, ducks and other waterfowl move gracefully across the darkening waters rippled now by a cool evening breeze. It is quiet. Peaceful. Just the place to escape the tensions of a day at the office.
Once as a party of soldiers crept up on his camp, a flock of cockatoos took fright and flew off with deafening cries, warning him.
Lake Monger plan is for the birds
Leederville went into decline as the boom years faded.
Yagan was eventually caught and killed and the native resistance died down.
Recommended measures include:
* Commissioning a landscape concept plan, in consultation with Aboriginal groups;
* Removal of exotic fish and restocking with native species;
(Its chief beauty spot is Monger's Lake, a fine sheet of fresh water about 275 acres in extent, stocked with fish [chiefly English perch, tench, and carp] and provided with excellent boating facilities.)
NEW RELEASE – Magic Glow Friends or Puppy Surprise – Save $4
God’s Gift to you is Life – What you do with it is your Gift to God
Introduction to the Deaf Community and its Culture – A 6-week beginner’s course commencing 26th October 1992 at Leederville Campus.
"It's a little village town. The village atmosphere appeals to many overseas visitors. Doctor, shops, school, everything's so compact. Lot of other suburbs all stretched out, no appeal, no atmosphere. All the restaurants give it a touch of Northbridge, touch of multicultural."
Pearl River bridge – zhongshan specialty – ingredients: Green bean powder, sugar, almond powder, and edible vegetable oil. Packed by china national cereals, oils and foodstuffs imp. & Exp. Corp. guangdong china
Loftus Community Centre – French Speaking Playgroup
                              English for Migrants
“I work here and that's about it. It's a very, very Italian town. You go down to the shopping arcade and you feel like you're in Milan."
"Friendly, not fast-moving, seems to still be in the '60s. Attitudes, way people dress, no one stressed out. Always hunting 'round for a bargain, not very affluent."
Beware - bag and till snatchers are busy
"Don't talk to me about fuckin' Leederville! I got broken into last night and lost two thousand bucks worth of stock."
“Like a little country town. Lived here all my life. Gonna grow. It's gonna hit. Then it’ll change. Lose its charm."
Finally, who remembers catching gilgies in Smith's Lake, near the corner of Richmond and Loftus Streets long before houses appeared there?

Old Post Office, Leederville, WA (Copyright unknown)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I decided to post something a bit different this week. With all the global media coverage of the refugee issues, I thought I'd post this Found Text prose piece that I wrote while living and studying in Perth, Western Australia, in the early 1990s.

From 1988-1994, I lived in Leederville in a small cosmopolitan street not far from the main shopping village area. At that stage, Leederville wasn't a "discovered" trendy, inner-city suburb that it is now. I imagine the population demographic and the cost of housing has changed dramatically.

When I lived there, Leederville was a colourful, cosmopolitan suburb filled with people of many ethnic backgrounds and small shops that reflected that multiculturalism. I used to love wandering around and talking to people with all kinds of backgrounds and stories to tell.

I feel that Australia is doing itself a huge disservice with its recent refugee policy. It is denying itself a cultural diversity and richness and it has become blind to compassion.

This Found text was composed from interviews with local residents and shopkeepers, signs, graffiti, local histories and all manner of advertising pamphlets and other ephemera.