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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bettongs and Potoroos

William Buckley, transported convict, escaped and lived in the bush among the Wathaurung people of Western Victoria (Australia) for thirty-two years. On re-entering white society at the splendidly named Indented Head he overcame by now severe difficulties with the English language to dictate an account of his adventures to a missionary, George Langthorne. Read more here.

From the notes to The Life and Adventures of William Buckley:
1. Probably pigface (Mesembryanthemum).
2. Probably the call of the yellow-bellied glider, a kind of possum which possesses one of the loudest calls of any marsupial.
3. The name literally means ‘returned from the dead’.
4. In fact, witchetty grubs are delicious at any time.
5. Bettongs and potoroos.
6. This is a rather garbled account of the koala.
7. Termites.
8. The identity of this red-spotted double-headed serpent remains a mystery.
9. Langhorne’s writing is indecipherable here.
10. This account confuses the echidna and the wombat.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More Pricks Than Kicks

Of the porcupine: ‘If under threat, it will attack by suddenly sprinting backwards’ (David Attenborough).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Big Ned, Glenrowan

For the Irish in Australia

Greetings comrades, Michael Collins writes in 1922 to the memorabilia collection on the wall of a pub in modern-day Perth; I have seen the letter myself. Its tone is warm and relaxed. He speaks of hard-won freedoms and of the struggles to come. His views, however, on Australian marsupials, on the welfare of the bilby and the pademelon go unrecorded, as though these creatures did not have to struggle too, in their way! The oversight is not to his credit. Where are the rallying cries for the ghost bat and the laughing kookaburra, the death or glory vows for the Spinifex hopping mouse?

It was the year of Collins’ death. Fifteen years later the constitution of the Irish Free State was born with not a mention of the war waged daily by Australian wildlife for the simplest dignity and self-respect. Irishmen and women, is their cause not ours too? The shame of it burns red on my brow, the same ochre-red of the sunset over our Perth suburb, the deep red of the Australian earth in which we burrow and raise our young, and whence we lift a quizzical head, thinking of Ireland, only of Ireland, when the rains pass, the all-too-brief and restorative rains.

Blister Pack

An excellent Australian poet: David McCooey. His Blister Pack from Salt is well worth a read:

Their green desires
rose between them

until one day a maze
appeared so thick

and tall neither one
of them could see or hear the other.


I would write more, but this post finds me in the goddamn launderette and my socks are nearly done.

Monday, July 21, 2008


of gallous

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Trailer Park Ghost

Brad Mehldau, you were
born a week after me

and have spent a lifetime

Your albums come in so fast
that buying the new one

I often get the unrecorded
one after that by mistake,

and am grateful. You name-check
Derrida in your sleeve notes

though he never once mentions you
on the back of his books.

Is it time to bid farewell
forever again to the past with

another suavely whispering standard?
Goodbye storyteller, sings

a wispy line four octaves up,
meaning, once more

round the contraflow,
my rakish chromatic uncle:

a remembered condom of fluff
on a needle, an umbrella hat

permanently expecting rain.
A trailer park ghost

dodges bass-lines in 7/8 time.
I’ve heard some rueful whistling

in strange hotels, but only you
have chased leaves round the porch

in all the places I’ve never been.
This venue not on the T-shirt.

There is no T-shirt.
Against what modulations,

what untold fallings away
should I steel myself,

remembered as they happen,
heard through arpeggio drizzle

and tipped from a lazy weekend’s
shopping, the door key passed

greedily over the shrink wrap ?
Too late the left hand sees

the turn off the freeway:
no bridge passage now

till New Jersey and no one but me
in the car to sing along.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Penguins, St Kilda

My angry brethren of the darkening ecliptic! Quaint little birds, fairy penguins would not seem to bear comparison with their sturdy Antarctic cousins. They are a backyard curiosity, a mere toy of a thing. They are excellent divers, let it be said in their defence. And better, as they come splashing among the rocks in the breakwind this mild winter evening, back from the sea and posing for photographs yards from the end-of-the-pier café, they prove themselves masters of an environment the emperor penguin would find sheer torture; in the same way that nipping across town to the supermarket in a sensible family car may be so far beneath the skill of your average sports car driver as to be almost beyond it. The comparison is hardly exact, but can stand. I say it can stand. The penguins did not stay long, and the evening turned cold. Still shivering, I found the Riesling in the café sweet to the point of sickening, and yet I drank it, grimacing, gladly.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Only Connect

One of the great things about this country is how Aussie Rules football seems to be on a rolling schedule, with games on all the time. This makes it technically impossible to walk into a bar or turn the television on without seeing someone punch someone else, live, as presumably enshrined in the Australian constitution.

Only connect, as Larkin said to someone at a particularly slow boxing match.


I can’t do

but I see
yesterday’s free

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Finches, Melbourne

finches at the
bakery window

above the dumpsters
and Adult Store
rear entrance

on stony ground yet
not one fallen seed
has been lost

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

On Rottnest Island

the existence
of a quoiquoiquoi-

of a vintage

untimorous beastie
placidest quaker
and but for this

offshore quag a

its snout scenting
you twitching

and the biscuit-dry
whip of its tail

(a real cracker)
serve only
to underscore

the queer care
this small town
in Greenland


pouch post
must put into being
a quokkquokkquokk-