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from a distance

April 21, 2019

looking down through time
from a giddy height now
some sheer cliffs
some pastoral terraces where
local saints and devils frolic

from a distance it’s hard to tell them apart

looking down through time
where the dead ends are obvious now
and the path of clarity
just as tortuous
from where it can be seen
which dialogues where monologues
and vice versa

and who was standing invisible in what I thought
were private conversations

looking down through time
at receding degrees of importance
and unexpected resolutions
smiling indulgently at my shortness of sight
that wrapped around my suspension of sense

I thought you were my ancient enemy
but now I reassess, my friend, now I reassess

from a distance it’s hard to tell them apart


standing still

April 20, 2019

after the month
that has now changed
its stripes

after the even mornings and odd afternoons
not to mention the disruptive nights

after the weeks of shaving with
a blunt razor

after the the goddess of the salt water
and the goddess of the fresh water
have made their thoughts known

after the conjuring up
of an earned peacefulness

after the reminders
of the limits
that are everpresent
and oftignored

standing still ~
in the quiet ~
it’s there to be felt ~

it’s a fresh breeze ~
it’s a change in the wind ~

it’s a new year, after all

melbourne in a minor key

April 9, 2019

from a distance I can see
it was never home

it was searching, and drowning,
but it was never home

I never did put down roots
no wonder I was always leaving

the city gave me hints and clues
but I usually took the wrong ones

strapping on my armour suit, blinkers and concrete shoes
in pursuit of rent and dreary suburban consolations

now I’m retracing my steps with the gifts of distance and hindsight
following the ghosts of the life that I failed to learn to live

seething competition just below the surface
the grim cool of the salary monkeys

the big change is there are 67.3% fewer ties,
offset by 53.5% more beards or attempts thereat, and 39% more tattoos

streets and trams full of walkertalkers
echolalia of private and business conversations
can’t you wait until you get there?  or am I the perverse one?

I give thanks to two Italian women that I stand next to
who speak in a language I cannot understand
it’s tiring knowing what everyone is saying all the time

I wonder what’s different/I wonder what’s the same/
I wonder what places have changed their name/yeah, for sure

unrecognisable intersections that fail to point the way to
lost haunts and long departed sanctuaries that once provided
spiritual lunchtime refuge

try our new spiced turmeric latte!
no thanks

on a positive note
I haven’t heard Hotel California even once

it’s like visiting an ex-lover – warily, many years down the track –
silently: you see, you should have taken my advice
and you wouldn’t have wound up here like this;
to their silent response: what’s wrong with where I’ve wound up?

John Brack still lives on Collins Street
sometimes bluestone, sometimes just blues

and what’s this thing about
seeing the same strangers twice in a day in different places?

some thanks, though, to the deathless blue of the sky
this morning between giant trees

[coda: slip into big major gospel chords with a choir to match]

o great spirit
help me to try
to fit less into
every day

to hurry less
to be more still
to be



o great spirit
help me to
not need to
reward myself
for such hard work
and thereby waste
the quieter times

save me from
and its
brother sins
that scar the soul
and stretch us thin

save me from
the eternal now
assist my relax
into viewing
the past, present and
as an intertwing spiral



April 1, 2019

falls elegantly 
like evening
and bolsters resilience
by slowing the surroundings
to a syrupy crawl

corrosion of the soul
peeps from undercover
in the strangest places
and so digital first aid kits
fly back and forth

we are all lashed to this pendulum
after all
whether we acknowledge it or not

the clam before the strom?
the one behind the other?
the zig or the zag?
but we are not good at asking
the right questions,
the ones that encourage


March 22, 2019

what is the word for continually forgetting someone’s name
because you only ever see their online alias

what is the word for progressing through a book with a
growing delight at the prospect of re-reading it

what is the word for green lit by sunlight

what is the word for making stabbing guesses at an electronic word
to remove the red line underneath it

what is the word for the invocation by a shocked or surprised atheist
of the name of someone else’s Lord and saviour

what is the word for thinking it’s Thursday
when it’s Wednesday

what is the word for looking up from a certain focus and
noticing a light breeze ruffling nearby leaves and branches

what is the word for particular words becoming meaningless
through overuse

what is the word for having a thought and following it through
until you realise that you wrote it down already before

firsts and lasts

March 20, 2019

the urge to make
lists and pilgrimages
weaving between
significant moments
of lost historical time
as if plotting points
could lead to a grasp
of the incalculable

(a geographic or
geometric or

(without meaning)

of how one human life
glances against another
rubs up against another
sometimes leaving a mark

at first it may appear
to be a bruise
or a scar

it heals into a beauty spot


March 9, 2019

soundcheck hour is here
our tribe gathers
in variable clumps
the constant form and reform
amidst regrets at not
seeing each other’s shows
last week
and the week before
and so on
and the beat goes on

sound check hour is here
separating the punctual
from the others
the traffic delayed and the
the pedals are unveiled
polished and primed
the drummers tinker and thud
while singers wait with
or without
patience as
guitars are strung and tuned
and basses do their bass universe thing
and guitars are tuned again
and knobs are twiddled and tweaked
and the beat goes on

soundcheck hour is here
sound personnel creep and twist
and twiddle and tweak
in buddha calm while cat herding
alternating with barked commands
we chug through anorexic facsimiles
of songs that will burst into
multicolour soon enough
just add audience
and the beat goes on

soundcheck hour is here
it starts in the light
and ends in the dark
and some go to change
and some go to eat
and some grip the bar
and the beat goes on