The Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize of $10,000 was won by Anthony Lawrence, presently of Tasmania, who sojourned here for several years. There is no other information available about the prize.
Tom Collins Poetry Prize Results
Western Writers WA writers centres programme.
The World Congress of Poets - Sydney
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I COULDN'T RESIST SHOWING OFF FRAN'S BAY, WHICH LOOKS DOWN THE NARROWS TO THE CITY OF PERTH. UNTIL RECENTLY IT HOSTED PROFESSIONAL FISHERMEN WHO WORKED THEIR NETS AND LINES AT NIGHT.
IT IS NOTABLE, ESPECIALLY FOR U.S VIEWERS, AS THE WORLD WAR 11 BASE FOR A CATALINA SQUADRON AND A LONE QANTAS FLYING BOAT THAT WAS AUSTRALIA'S ONLY LINK TO THE REST OF THE WORLD FOR SOME TIME. PERTH'S MILLION OR SO INHABITANTS MAY EAT FISH, CRABS AND PRAWNS CAUGHT AT THE CITY'S DOORSTEP.
At eight I want it to be morning once again
for in the morning when the light
makes shadow patterns on my bedroom wall
I revel in the heat and for the day
to go as planned: to finish
the piece I started to sew;
to walk by the river and watch
white sails bend and bow
their elegant curtsy
to the summer days.
Swan river, our river
where dolphins leap;
the shore where gentle mothers tend
the tiny children and where young
fathers keep watch, or inflate kayaks
for small boys.
No ghetto blasters on this family shore, we smell
barbecues grandfathers tend.
Girls in bikinis and hard hats
ride bikes along the pathway.
At the far end we buy
prawns for our supper from the lad
who brings his van each day.
You hold my hand.
I wear a wide straw hat.
We walk, your hand keeps
my faltering tread as steady
as it can in these late years.
There is a wedding party at the far end,
the bride in white, a long white satin
frock and veil that twists
in the off-river wind. A trio, one
a cellist, plays a classic strain
and I am glad that there is still
a place to picnic
by a river
a ghetto blaster.
Poem waiting for a title
Wherefore the dream in the night that takes me back to the
remembered and that which is not?
The song's forgotten:
Long ago I knew a tune
that rang in my head
and was my choice
There is no rhythm here except
of my fingers
I cannot find a key,
a key that can unlock
the forbidden door.
The door has been closed for
a very long time.
It is made of heavy timber
but the lock has not corroded.
Did you lock it?
If you did where did you
hide the key?
Who did you tell?
Where is the story here?
Is this a story untold or merely one
that no one heard?
I keep trying to find
the place again.
There is no index to a mind
that wanders where it will.
There is no tune to dance
and the lyrics are
in a strange language.
You were a stranger once.
I wonder are you still?
The itinerant rover has no
place in these farmlands.
There is no smiling face
to welcome him home in the morning
or when he comes for lunch.
There are no warm beds in a house
These linen sheets are cold.
I would hold him close and
warm him if I could but I must go now.
I go to the mountain
for from the mountain top
I see the ocean
and a thousand islands
not yet visited.
The birch canoe has been fashioned.
My carved wood bowls are in place.
I have roots and seeds.
I have taken the green timber.
I have changed into new garments.
I wait for the maker.
He brings my paddle.
I am gone now while the tide
The mountains are distant
It is another spring.
In the valley the poplars begin
The pale green leaves
diamond against the sun.
The first anemones pry forth
from snowed banks.
It is time to go.
Wind whips whitecaps
against my craft.
My paddle dips.
"They came to the island shore
and from a strange place
He told it to me."
I hold the story but there is no one.
no one here to listen.
Is my song sung
against the wind
the western wind
the wind that throws my voice
back from the sea.
Frances Arnett Sbrocchi
(for Penne Gillies)
Father Glugg knew the devil
when he gathered round
we were out to raid the pay phones
....... lift / smoke those fags
and throughout England's green land.......not
one.......lolly machine could be accounted safe
His children's talks - never once
deviated from the highly instructive
We had the will but - he had the how-to
Then one cooling November
he decided on some deep sea fishing
to go beyond the grey surface of our souls
down into those dark dark depths
where the big ones rose and fell
In church that Sunday
he displayed his catch to one and all
schemes of such hellish subtlety
as spiders secreted in library books
Mrs Pippen collapsing with terror ... and then
he brought to the light
his catch of the day ... fire
crackers laid in an exhaust
Our faces fell
we'd let him down
our image was in danger
it might crack - show a little light
By next Sunday
our resources had been pooled
Heedless of the cost.....we
were determined on reform
drove off that day.......with
his car farting vividly
smoke rising straight.......from hell's fires
Pinching their noses the demons danced
....... choking on success
A childhood spent
with jigsaw puzzles should
have equipped me to deal with life
my mother always said.......do the edges first
make a frame then.......with what is left
just ....... fill in the empty space
a plethora of corners
an absence of straight pieces..............it must
be...... .......one of those new-style puzzles
I try a little firmness
logically one must join another
too many projections / nowhere to go
I've forced a few together.............you'd think
they almost fitted.............if the light
didn't catch the gaps
To be honest there may be a problem
as I came without a cover
and what I have made
is a mockery of what ought to be............no image
can I conjure of what is beyond
my mind to conceive
I throw the pieces at the winds
and they fall into the hands
of a lover whose voice is
sheer silence luring me
to dwell in the darkest night
where all my words are broken
Strange Happenings at Saunders' Beach
Without a worry, without a care
Onto the sandy bank I stroll
"What a perfect spot!", I enthuse
As the lazy waters gently roll.
"This is the life, I have it made
Down South they live a hectic race
Ha ha!, they're not as lucky as me
They haven't got this easy pace!"
But, is it just I'm a little weary
Or is this place a trifle eerie?
"What stupid thoughts are these", I say
"Am I becoming paranoid?
Look - a vivid sunset, a pristine beach
These negative thoughts I must avoid!"
Yet, what is that log half-submerged
Gliding up the creek?
Why does it move against the current?
This mystery has a very strong reek.
There's two knobs on its front end
And why does its course towards me, bend?
Jumpin' Jiminy! Holy cow!
The truth struck ultra quick!
The gaping jaws made their lunge
I froze as solid as a brick.
"Arrrgh yuk!", complained the crocodile
"This freezing trick is not very nice
You inconsiderate human twit
Do you expect me to eat a lump of ice?"
Nothing could I say in my solid state
But his fishy halitosis, I sure did hate.
He stomped around for quite a while
He wailed, he cussed, he swore
"I know" he cried, "I'll call up the Bunyip
Why didn't I think of that before?"
He burrowed his snout into the sand
Uncovering a strange pink stone
Upon which he huffed and puffed
From the depths came a muffled moan.
And, my friends, from that ordinary creek
Arose what surely is the world's greatest freak.
A great blubber-like blob of slimy green
Oozed upwards to a house-like size
Consisting of indeterminate folds and hair
And a neckless head sporting spook-like eyes.
"O gracious Bunyip", implored the Croc
"So scarce is food, my hunger is real
I found this stupid human stray
But it froze solid, so I've lost my meal."
Meanwhile I spied along the beach
Many animals who emerged within easy reach.
"Don't bother me with trivia"
Mumbled Bunyip through his folds of fat
"Your bad breath sure makes me sick
You uncouth reptilian brat."
"He's offended our beloved Bunyip"
Boomed a kangaroo standing by
"So according to the laws of the bush
This whingeing crocodile, we must now try."
No notice they paid to me standing still
In my frozen state, I was feeling the chill.
A chorus sprang up from the creatures all gathered
They clamoured for the crocodile's hide
A dingo howled, the cockatoos squawked
A fruit bat performed a somersault glide.
Croc parted his jaws to fight
A pungent cloud escaped from his hatch
"Oh phewww!" exclaimed a lizard squatting near
"That breath is lethal, don't strike a match!"
Without relief from that stench very soon
I knew I was going to completely swoon.
"Enough!" bellowed Bunyip in rising anger
"I didn't ask for this kangaroo court
Never have I seen such frivolous behaviour
Have you all forgotten the manners you're taught?"
"And get that noxious breath out of here"
Like a dragon was Bunyip's roar
A spurt of flame shot out of his mouth
And hit the Crocodile's breath full bore.
And you'll never believe what happened next
It's almost impossible to put into text.
Croc's murky cloud instantly ignited
In a glittering display of incandescence
Like a row of sparklers on bonfire night
His teeth were the pivot of his glowing presence.
Croc exploded in a shower of sparks
The animals squawked and scattered in fright
"I've missed my sleep" grumbled Bunyip......
And slid into the creek; silence settled the night.
How I thawed out, I don't recall
And you might think my story's a bit tall
But one thing of you I beseech
Don't ever linger on Saunders' Beach.
"It's the baby" she complained,
listening to the pad, pad, pad
coming from the dark hallway.
He arose from their bed,
picked up the child
and returned him
to his cot in the adjoining room.
the little boy rejoiced
as the hammer thumped nails into slats
across the top of the cot.
Never had his own cage before.
Later he discovered
he could no longer
climb over the side of the cot
and seek warmth in his parents' bed.
Forty years on
the little boy is still crying.
The Sickie that Wasn't
The night before you dismiss
soreness in your throat,
focus on your truant plan.
The morning insinuates through the venetians,
bends, ferrets under the doona.
As your mind grapples the intrusion
you become aware of the rasp
which was once your throat.
Having conquered the expedition to the phone
you stumble back to bed
that woman at work
doesn't believe you're sick.
Dammit. Can't she see the river
streaming from your nostrils.
Cursing the empty tissue box
you rummage the drawer
for elusive handkerchiefs.
Just as you reclaim the doona's canopy
your neighbour fires up his whipper-snipper.
Hours of stupor from
bathroom cabinet doses
doesn't cease his rampage, from paths
to shrubs, trees, fences, blinds, eaves, houses,
Your failure to dry your nostrils
in the Great Sandy Desert
has the cynics from work
groveling apologies at your feet
and the next door dimwit
as you flog his twisting torso
with his trimmer.
The whip catches,
anchors in his flesh
zaps the spin to you
your head a lathe in overdrive,
fuses with the swirl, blur,
punctured by bumps, raps, thumps
getting loud, louder
popping open your eyes
to a now darkened room,
the clock rebukes with its 6pm digits
as you absorb
on the front door.
Gardening hat still rammed on his ears.
Oblivious to your dressing gown
"Trimmed the garden today.
Paths, lawns, shrubs, even the trees.
Feels great doesn't it.
A good day's work.
Picked you some lemons, Mate.
Might come in handy
if you get the flu".
the tenuosity of ankles
the iced flannel of sea sucks
warmth from my feet,
reminding me of
the tenuosity of ankles.
gulls to the left,
now moving right, plunder peace,
reminding me of purpose
and the place for peace.
once wet with
a thousand stories,
reminds me of the fictions
in scent and skin.
and the wind -
not breeze or zephyr today
for there is no romance in wind -
in my mad little corner
from my mad little corner
to my mad little corner
weatherboard - warped,
but ever the inviting host. flecked -
paint gone to bark.
uneven extensions found need for a
step-up ensuite. wheezing -
more holes than a harmonica
thrumming - the chimney thrums to
broken pickets as they
catch and spit. rattles -
at quarter past midnight
as the last train to Fremantle
hums by. wakes -
just past five,
doing the same.
sur la plage
sparkling waters you said to me as on an obol
inscribed let alone my taffy salt water
taffy mangeons mangeons mangeons let us
dine où dort le manège des tiroirs oh
some golden fears
the painful course you have led my meaning here
whithersoever the balance listed
overall wistfully wandered the fay
and sparking jealousies above the maid
in the gay players' almanac today
I behold the frumps there
in the supermarket
where Allen Ginsberg saw Walt Whitman
so be it
here is trouble and if you want it
lots of trouble (hee hee hee hee hee)
let's look on it this way
the mechanism you fancy
in the doldrums groveling
a total dupe
here is the analogies
anal lys Sis
nothing doing no matter what they say (!)
oho here no is this so nay no
regard me this
all around the block
the bassman plays a serene fiddle
for (tee hee hee hee) union scale
in a state of suspended animation
where else some other state maybe
like Tom Peters who turned out to be Steve Forbes
Jesus CEO what would he do
the clucks among girls' butts and butts
what a fake the mind of men conceived this
o hopeless toady with a finger on the pulse
of the nation's anus
(and it is a political appointment mark that
it is a sinecure) the points are well taken
and for all that let me say this to you
ah forget it let's get drunk
pray for the President and the Congress
they need it a dubious semblance
not much difference but maybe it is
"...if only one were not so periodical." - Hölderlin
The whole field of vision mimics
the collision of light and water, and everything
appears and moves with a feeling like
a watering mouth. The air, unmixed
and innocent, is heavy as campfire smoke.
"Does the sky still look the same to you?"
"It's lighter now and clearer than before."
"Have the wing-beats in your mind died down?"
"I'm in myself. My thoughts have changed."
The smell of rigorous cleanliness holds out
its hands refusing anything you'd ask.
The prosaic colours of the walls and machines
dismiss the poetry of outlaw senses.
So there's no choice but to mourn the body
of the world, already broken when the senses
ignorantly dreamed that it was whole,
and let the words of a complaint and celebration
fall from the mouth like the hands of dancers
in a wandering dance, recoiling on itself,
and mimicking the collision of light and water,
mimicking the water in your mouth.
The Circles on Eclipse Day
We both dreamed of pictures from the east. Yours
were sunset-coloured lotuses, and mine
were drawn from Rumi's words in thick shades
of grief for the disappeared Shamsi
Tabriz. The sadness of our pictures found
in sleep was the sun-shapes scattered in the shade,
and shrinking on eclipse-day through circle,
semicircle to vanishing and back.
Like east wraps into west continuously
the dawn was sunset, and sun merged into shade.
THE OFFICE OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA or
THE HIDEOUS ADVENTURES OF CROOKED MICK
At a time when a day like yesterday leaned its elbows on a night like tomorrow
and in a place where water was in the puddles and the wind was in the sky
Crooked Mick held down a job chasing mosquitoes from a buffalo
and he gathered the cow shit that made the road from Port Hedland to the south.
Crooked Mick had feet you could park a bus beside
He couldn't find shoes to fit, so he wore trucks
He ate sandwiches of fencing wood and bit holes out of crocodiles
He fucked men, women and cattle, whichever was the most willing
He had a bulldozer for a pillow and a lugger for a blanket
and he never woke up moaning or with a crick inside his neck.
Dalangal was Crooked Mick's best mate and they worked either end of the state
and once in every half a year they met in the middle for a drink
Dalangal rubbed waves together to bring the tuna to the fleet
and he put an iron bar in every farm from Esperance going north.
Dalangal had arms you could drive along
He combed his hair with turpentine and the smell could knock down scrub
He bothered God every morning because he was terrified of ghosts
He tied up his flies with fencing wire and put a chain around his waist
He had bollard rope for a fishing line and he flattened a tug for an oar
and the only day he didn't work was the day that he was drunk.
The word went out that they were coming from Newman down to Magnet
and all the publicans made a huddle and hid in Marble Bar.
Crooked Mick was the first to arrive and went straight down to the keg room
and got in a couple of barrels before Dalangal pulled up.
And after the first truckload of beer had been drunk
their beards were barbed wire like fences and their hair was standing up
but the country was in their gullets and they couldn't swallow fast enough
so they tipped the next down their throats and poured it up their arse.
And after the second truckload of beer had been drunk
they went out like a couple of camels and shouted in the town
and they rattled the trains from the tracks and tied them in a knot
and no one north of the parallel got supplies for more than a month.
And after the third truckload of beer had been drunk
they woke the townspeople and they chased them from their bedrooms
and they took pennies from the cemetery and they started a two-up school
and won the ground from under their feet and the wind from in their eyes.
And after the fourth truckload of beer had been drunk
they caught the galahs that had been sleeping on the oval
and they tied them by their feet and played them like a banjo
and sang a song that split gravel from Xanthus to Carnarvon and the coast.
And after the last truckload of beer had been drunk
their shoes melted away from under them
and the roof fell down upon their heads
and they settled among the rubble
and Crooked Mick was noisy but fell instantly asleep,
but Dalangal resented Crooked Mick though why he couldn't say
and so instead of sleeping he set up rubber and a siphon
and pumped Crooked Mick full of petrol till his guts were twice their size,
but before he had a moment to operate his lighter
the fumes had overcome him and he fell to his face in a daze.
The morning stuck a finger up its nostril and blew upon the earth
and Crooked Mick woke up well and happy and looked forward to the day.
He combed his fingers through his beard and wiped his shirt across his eyeballs
and went out onto the minefields to have a piss.
Dalangal went behind him prowling very softly
and resentment put the acid to him and he hid amongst the mullock
and watched for another chance to lay the other low.
Crooked Mick's cock hung forward from his trousers
and draped upon the ground and made a furrow through the gibbers
and when the final drop was dripping and he'd filled a second mineshaft
Crooked Mick closed his eyes and he breathed out very slow.
Dalangal saw his chance and he bent over like a staple
and he ran with his kneecaps like a tappet by his eardrums
and he opened a door in Crooked Mick's cock and he disappeared inside.
And when he was inside he stretched out like an eagle
and the bones in his back grew lighter
and the lines of his hands grew bolder
and he shuffled in a two-step and he made himself at home.
There were pot plants all around him in iron jardinieres
and mouldings on the ceiling in a pattern of grapes and goats,
the carpets were woolly and they did not reach the walls
and the windows were painted over and the light built no shadows on the floor.
When Dalangal scratched the paint away
he saw that the country outside was the same that he was used to
and it was only the room that didn't suit his taste.
He broke the glass and wriggled out and went exploring
and found a bulldozer and when he'd fuelled it up
he began to knock the building down.
Crooked Mick was driven mad by Dalangal's renovations
and he rolled upon the ground and he put rocks between his teeth
and when he couldn't stand it any longer, he followed Dalangal inside.
Crooked Mick was heavy and he stopped the bulldozer with a single fist
but Dalangal wouldn't get down and he wouldn't give up his plans.
And the hand of a minute tickled on their wrist bones
and the sky swept a feather through the dust along their thighs
and all the time that they had known each other
knocked between them like a piston
and all the times that they had been drunk together
stood like a sculpture with its spines upon their chests
and all the times they had been side by side and watching the back of the desert
became a moment like drowning and put a nail in their eyes.
Crooked Mick took Dalangal by the beard and tried to pull him down
but Dalangal locked his knees on the bulldozer's engine
and held onto Crooked Mick's arms and tried to break his friend in two
and although the sweat was a mud inside their armpits
and they bit through their teeth and grunted in their foreheads
and their faces were folded and like mallee on a fire
and their knuckles split the skin of their fingers
and their breath was harder than the machinery over which they struggled
neither one of them could scribble defeat on the other
and they both surrendered and they licked the blood from the backs of their hands.
"Tomorrow I'll meet you on even ground," Dalangal said,
"and we'll wrestle, and the winner will throw the other out,"
and Crooked Mick agreed and they both lay down to sleep.
In the morning they pushed away the rubble
and Crooked Mick drank a mountain
and Crooked Mick put a mosquito on his head
and Crooked Mick put a boulder in his pocket
and Dalangal threw Crooked Mick down and tried to hold him to the ground
but before the moment had come when he could crush the daylight between them,
Crooked Mick split the earth with his elbows
and he flipped Dalangal over, but he couldn't pin him flat.
And then they met with their chests pressed one against the other
and the muscles in their forearms broke the wind from the air
and the muscles in their backs broke the clouds from the sky
and the muscles in their legs broke the earth where they were standing
and they caught each other like a mangrove in a headlock
and they held each other like a cable in a nelson
and there was blood in their eyes and dust down the road of their throats
and they had their knees on the ground and neither one could beat the other
and that was the evening of the first of the days.
"Tomorrow I will race you," Crooked Mick said,
"and whoever has run the furthest by nightfall will throw the other out,"
and Dalangal agreed and they both lay down to sleep.
In the morning they turned to face the equator
and Crooked Mick opened a sandstorm
and Crooked Mick hung a goanna from his knee
and Crooked Mick nailed his trousers to his thigh
and while the light was like ice and even on the ground
they called out time together and started on the stroke
and within three strides they had crossed the line of the horizon
and within four strides they had passed the length of distance
and within five strides they had gone twice around the world
and each ran ahead of the shadow of the other
and each ran in time with the breath of the other
and each ran with their thighs equal to the grace of the other
and when they came to where the nightfall lay scattered about their shoulders
they rested leaning one against the weight of the other
and there was spittle on their faces and no moisture in their eyes
and they had reached the same place and neither one could beat the other
and that was the evening of the next of the days.
"Tomorrow I will meet you in the valley," Dalangal said,
"and we'll play football, and the winner will throw the other out,"
and Crooked Mick agreed and they both lay down to sleep.
And in the morning they stood at opposite ends with the hills close beside them
and Crooked Mick split a river
and Crooked Mick wiped his eyebrow with a fish
and Crooked Mick rolled a bottle round his cheek
and Crooked Mick was the first to the kick, but Dalangal smothered
and had the ball to himself and was both ruckman and rover
till Crooked Mick brought him down with a knee in the back
and made a continuous run and baulked to the left
but Dalangal was quick to the tackle and punted for the goal
and Crooked Mick marked to the chest and evaded the bump
and on they played till the sun was a ghost in the dust.
And every handball was a picture of thunder
and every mark overhead hit like lightning on the hand
and every kick was a stab and a meteorite
and their breath was in their pockets and their heartbeat was on their thumbs
and they scored neither goals nor points and neither one could beat the other
and that was the evening of the third of the days.
And in the starlight they gathered their sweat and they saw
that for three days they had cut the ground apart
with the ridges of their heels and the edges of their toes.
The ball that Crooked Mick was holding fell from his hands
and rolled around three times and fell into the deepest of the holes.
"Now we can settle things for good," Dalangal said,
"the first to reach the ball and the one to bring it back will be the winner,"
and Crooked Mick agreed and side by side they stood at the edge of the hole.
But just as they were about to jump, Dalangal shoved Crooked Mick aside
and so he was the first into the hole, and when Crooked Mick followed
he was knocked unconscious by the air rushing on his face.
When he awoke, the dust of his descent had settled on his eyelids
and the breath that had fallen from his body was a scarf around his feet.
He was on the line in the centre of a street wide enough to turn a road train
and Dalangal was sprawling and dizzy and only an arm's length away.
And when the hour was past and when the bones of their backs were stiff with shadow
and when each felt the taste of his beard crawling across his lips
they drew their hands out from beneath them and they helped each other to rise
and they crossed and they recrossed the street but they couldn't find the football
nor even a pattern where it might have landed in the dust.
They stood together in the centre of their clothes
and all around them the dimensions hung from a single string.
On one side of the street there were barbershops and assayists
and on the other there were emporia and banks
and all the buildings were made with angles but they were curved
and they were deep with room upon room but they were flat
and they were unsheltered and they were raw but they leaned like shadows
and they were low and they were wide but the points of their roofs hid above the sky.
There were people in the buildings carving designs onto eggshells
and at the far end of the street there was a train
and beside the train the eggs that had been finished lay out in rows and in rows upon rows.
The designs on the eggs showed the faces of people that were nearly familiar
and showed landscapes that were close to being remembered
and showed figures making actions that it was almost possible to name
and colours that might be found when the sun is shaded by a hand.
When the Carvers touched their instruments their fingers glued around the iron,
and this was the shape of them: they were cut like men and women
but the skin was on the inside of their bodies and the blood was on the outside
and some showed the diseases that had been born with them
and some showed the injuries that had fallen on them in their youth
and some showed the coming of death written over their skulls
and some had the gristle of rebirth hanging from their bones
and they came out to Dalangal and Crooked Mick
and they gathered close around them
and they tested them with their hands
and they wrapped them in the vapours of their breathing
and when they spoke the colour of their voices was a bruise.
When the evening came it came with the cry of a clock
and the Carvers led Dalangal and Crooked Mick to a house on the edge of the town
and they opened up the curtains and they swept out the cupboards
and they showed them where to sleep.
Crooked Mick and Dalangal lay down at either end of the room
but while they were asleep, the floorboards fell away
and the room was filled with scorpions and they scratched beneath the blankets
and both men woke up howling with their tongues outside their mouths
and Dalangal lit his lighter and the scorpions were burned away.
They went into the next room and lay down in the centre
but while they were asleep, the window glass melted out
and the room was filled with owls and they fell upon the blankets
and both men woke up choking with their beards inside their throats
and Dalangal lit his lighter and the owls were burned away.
They went into the next room and they lay down close beside each other
but while they were asleep, the roof was blown apart
and the room was filled with moths and they landed in their eyes
and both men woke up sweatless with their hands about their face
and Dalangal lit his lighter and the moths were burned away.
They went into the last of the rooms and they went to the farthest corner
and they sat shoulder pressed against shoulder and thigh upon thigh
but they did not sleep but sat each holding the other's hand
and they counted the rumble of their heartbeat against the pulse in the other's wrist
and they breathed with the breath of the other and they waited for the day.
In the morning they left the house and they went out the back door so
they could sneak away
but there was a valley ahead of them between two hills
and the floor of the valley was covered with the dust from the eggshells
and on one of the hills the ravens had come and wrapped it round with the rings of Saturn
so that darkness shone off the hill and spread throughout the sky,
and on the other the spiders had made webs and caught the orbit of Mercury
so that light fell off the hill and scattered on the ground,
and the light and the darkness met so there was no light and no darkness
and everything was shadowless and featureless and lay close against the eye.
And the football was in the middle of the valley
and on the other side of it the Carvers were waiting for the moment to play.
They pulled out the fat from around Dalangal's kidneys
and they drew the fifty-metre lines and the kick-off lines
and they marked out the boundary line and the centre
and a square around the centre.
And they pulled apart the teeth from each side of Crooked Mick's jaw
and they put up the goals and they put up the behind posts
and when everything was ready and the goal squares were established
each of the Carvers had their positions and they bounced off
and at the bounce the ball became the head of a man
and the eyes of it were blank and the eyelids were broken
and the ears of it were torn and the cheeks were cut
and sometimes the expression beneath the beard was the shape
of Dalangal's face when the sharks were in the ocean and the moon was going down
and sometimes the howl in its voice was the howl
that Crooked Mick cried when the road was past his fingernails and there was no water on the ground,
and the Carvers' centre was the first to the kick and a torpedo scored them six.
After that the rovers had it from back pocket to forward pocket and halfway back again
but Dalangal marked it on the chest
and it bit a hole beside his heart and tore the nipple away
and the blood fell deep around his ankles and splashed against his thighs.
And the centreline passed, one over to the other,
and then from centre half to centre half
till Crooked Mick intercepted a handball
but when he dropped it to the kick it tore the muscle from his leg
and the bone brushed the half-light away.
Twelve times the Carvers had put it through the big ones
and Dalangal and Crooked Mick had not yet had the play
but now they had a run from halfway on the back flank
and they kept it through the centre to the square
then the Carvers' ruckmen came to iron them out
and they tackled Dalangal on suspicion
and caught Crooked Mick round the chest and broke his ribs apart,
but Dalangal and Crooked Mick threw them aside
so they left craters in the eggshells where they fell.
Dalangal and Crooked Mick went back to the ball
but the craters opened deeper and the scorpions came out
and their claws were on Dalangal and they tore the beard from his face
and their tails were on Crooked Mick and they cut his scalp away
and both were blinded with poison in their eyes
and they could not help each other and neither man could speak.
In this time, the Carvers had taken another seventy two
and Dalangal and Crooked Mick had not yet joined the play.
The Carvers' wingman had the ball and ran from the back through the right flank onto forward
and the rest of his team was around him
and they kept pace and they called out his heartbeat
and the breathing of each was equal and each matched the movements of the other.
Although they had left Crooked Mick and Dalangal behind them in the back square
by the time they came to the centre the two of them had passed them
and were waiting in the forward square with their lips beneath their teeth
and they tackled with their fists, but the hills opened their doors
and the owls came out like pellets and fell around their necks
and their talons were on Dalangal and they slashed his nose and cheeks
and their beaks were on Crooked Mick and they cut his eyelids out
and both were deafened with wing beats in their ears
and they could not help each other and their breath was a knife in the throat.
And in this time, the Carvers had scored another twelve
and Dalangal and Crooked Mick had not yet made the play
The Carvers had it from the bounce and the ruckman set it for the punt
but Dalangal smothered from behind and passed to Crooked Mick.
and it was still the morning and this was the day of minerals,
the day of dust through the air and the day of stones,
and on either side of the hills the sand was watchful
and in the centre of the hills the rocks had opened their throats.
Crooked Mick was in a good position and the torpedo cut a furrow in the sky
but when the ball came down the moths came down behind it
and they went direct to Dalangal and Crooked Mick
and direct to the moisture wrapped around their eyes
and they covered their faces and they flew through their mouths
and they filled their gullets and broke a way outward through their spines,
and neither man could help each other and the sweat was a bubble on their skin.
And in this time, the Carvers had put another dozen through
and the eighty minutes were over and the game was at an end.
The Carvers took out the bones from Crooked Mick's left foot
and they took out the bones from around Dalangal's ear
and they spread in them in a circle on the ground.
And the sands from either side of the hills came forward and covered them
and the rocks in the centre of the hills opened their mouths and swallowed them
and the Carvers carried the men and threw them in the dust beneath the house.
When they returned, the valley was filled with eggs
and they took them back to town and began to carve.
After the fevers had passed and when time came back into the place where they lay
Dalangal and Crooked Mick heard their bodies turn aside like animals
and they covered their shoulders with the word that this was the long line of dying
and they pressed their cheeks against the word that they would hurt forever,
and the blood ran out from their mouths and sank beside the stumps
and the blood ran out from their bowels and hardened in the dust
and all that day the minutes dripped down upon them from the floorboards
and the spiders watched them from the hill on the right
and the ravens from the hill on the left.
The Carvers sat on their stools and pressed their fingers on their instruments
but the eggshells distorted the shape of the drawing tools
and they bit away the edges of the cutting tools
and the designs arose as though strangled by a thumb.
And the Carvers grew frightened of what they had done
and they left their workshops and went out into the street
and they held a consultation one with the other
and they agreed that they should break the eggs and that they should grind up the fragments
and that when this was done they should assemble the grindings beside the house
and that they should gather there and set fire to the house
and that the fire should be equal on the corpses and the eggs.
Dalangal and Crooked Mick heard the consultation and they waited in the silence of their death.
A mosquito came out from the crown of Crooked Mick's head
and went down amongst the blood and separated it
so that Dalangal's blood was on the one side and Crooked Mick's was on the other
and it lay down upon the blood and it put out its mouthparts and it made two mannequins.
And it drew Dalangal's face on one and Crooked Mick's face upon the other,
and on each of them it drew the beards that covered their faces,
and the hair that climbed down their necks and ran a circle round their nipples
and it drew their fingerprints and the pattern of the soles of their feet,
and when it was finished it was a shadow in the dirt.
A goanna came out from the bone of Crooked Mick's knee
and it breathed upon the mannequins and it opened the foreheads of each
and with the long claw of its right hand it wrote the names of their fathers
and it wrote the names of streets and the co-ordinates of towns
and the sequences of birthdays and pleasure and disease,
and with the long claw of its left hand it wrote the names of their mothers
and it wrote the names of animals and plants and formations in the ground
and all the histories and the skills of relationships and work
and it wrote in the depth of the wounds and it sealed them with its tongue
and when it was finished it was a rag and a shred of scales in the dark.
A fish came out from the fold of Crooked Mick's eyebrow
and from each man it rolled away the voice with which he called his name
and it held each clear of the dust and it pressed each into his mannequin
and when it was finished and when death was no longer under the house
and when Dalangal and Crooked Mick had been made again and were strong
they came out from amongst the dust holding their fingers out ahead of them
and they were loud and they looked upward and they licked the sky
and they held each other by the hand and ran around the horizon
and when they returned the house was on fire and the smoke lay on the valley
and the Carvers were standing around it with silence in their mouths.
And when the fire was over and the ash was falling down
Dalangal and Crooked Mick sat in the middle of the street
and they kicked against the bitumen and they sang a song
and the song made a crack through the road and reached as far as the Carvers
and roused them from their gathering and brought them back into town.
When they saw that Dalangal and Crooked Mick were noisy and alive
the Carvers held an argument amongst themselves
and where there was agreement amongst some, they said,
"We should kill them again and we should take their bones again and make eggs,"
and where there was agreement amongst others, they said,
"We cannot kill them and so we should surrender to them and make them eat us,"
but instead, Dalangal and Crooked Mick said that they should go into an alley
and play two-up and they would bet their lives against the town.
The Carvers agreed and they sent one to bring a picket
and Crooked Mick sharpened his fingernails and carved it into a kip;
and they sent another to bring two pennies
and when each of the players had inspected them
and the heads had been polished and the tails had been crossed
they were handed to Dalangal because he was the spinner,
but while the crowd was distracted
he dished each one with his thumb so they would only fall on their tails.
And on the first come-in the coins hit the floor two up
and Crooked Mick and Dalangal won the ground beneath the Carvers' feet.
And on the second come-in they landed skulls on the high
and Crooked Mick and Dalangal won the air from beside the Carvers' cheeks.
And on the third come-in it was swy
and Crooked Mick and Dalangal won all the buildings and their doors.
And on the fourth come-in the trot held true
and Crooked Mick and Dalangal won the train.
And now the Carvers had nothing left to bet and they let the men go on their way.
Dalangal and Crooked Mick took the train from its tracks
and tied knots along its length to make a ladder
and they threw the engine up until it caught the edge of the hole
and when they had swung the length of it over one to the other
and when they were sure it was secure
Dalangal went up it easy like a possum on a drain
and Crooked Mick came up fast behind arm over arm and swinging heels.
When they were clear they threw the train back down and sat on the edge
and dangled their feet and thought of a way to tell it for admiration and for laughs
but when Dalangal looked around him the resentment came on him again
and he caught Crooked Mick in a headlock and dragged him from the hole
and dragged him back past the bulldozer and into the room where they had both arrived
and he opened the door and he threw Crooked Mick back into the world outside.
After that he demolished the buildings and tipped the rubble down the hole
but all the while the voices of the Carvers rose up in a horror and a hurt
and although everything around had been flattened still Dalangal grew frightened
and he began to grade the ground into images of God to scare the sounds away.
And some were in the shape of women with scorpions in their mouths
and some were in the shape of men with owls on their neck
and some in the shape of cattle with moths inside their eyes
and each was as false as he could imagine it
and each was as crude as he could scratch it from his hands
and each was as bitter as he could find within his voice.
And when he had built his paddock full of lies
he carried offerings to each image
and he decorated each of them with the refreshment of lies
and at the end of every day he swept the lies into the hole
and there they fell upon the Carvers until they could no longer understand the designs that once they had made
and until they could no longer remember the reason for the eggs
and until at last they no longer saw the wreckage all around them
and after that Dalangal lived in silence and kept his hands across his eyes.
At night the sky is a reflection of the roads
and of the traffic travelling along the roads.
For two days Crooked Mick slept among the centipedes
and on the third day it began to rain.
Crooked Mick crawled back to town drinking the water from between his hands
and with the grief of his defeat as an umbrella on his back.
And when he had reached town and the rain ran like a wire in his beard
and when he saw that the people made business and sang songs and told jokes
he hid beneath the nearest of the houses
and wrapped his elbows round his middle and did not move until night.
All the time that he was asleep he had dreamed of echidnas and mountain devils
and now that he was hungry in the dark he began to smell the ants
and he crawled from house to house banging his shoulders on the stumps
and catching ants with his tongue until his teeth were stiff with juice
and from night to night he did not stand but went on his hands and knees with his head against the ground.
But when the people heard the noises beneath their houses they grew frightened
and some said, "we are under attack from outer space,"
and others that, "the monsters of the Dreamtime have come awake to find us,"
and others, "all the werewolves of our youth are real at last and watching,"
and they would not go outside after sunset but clung to each others' blankets around the lamp.
At the end of the year Crooked Mick could no longer bear the voice of Dalangal inside him
and wanting instead to hide amongst the cries and the mockery of people
he wiped the insects from his teeth and the spittle from his jaw
and he rolled upward on his feet and he came out after midnight
and he sat with his beard in his fingers in the middle of the street.
But the people heard the noises stop and when they looked in the morning
they cried, "Crooked Mick has killed all the monsters,"
and they gathered around him with flowers and with money
and they carried him on their shoulders and welcomed him to their homes
and when the time came round they elected him to Parliament and sent him down south in good will.
Crooked Mick reached the city on a day the seagulls wouldn't fly
and he knelt between the freeways and pressed his elbows on the hill
and his teeth were clean and he'd washed the dust from his shoes
and his hair was curled and his beard was brushed and pretty on his chest
and he held his head up steady at an angle to the sunset
and spat upon the clouds and wrote a riddle on the sky.
And when the people came and found they could not answer it
he led them one by one into the shadow of his armpit
and he touched the coins in their pockets and tidied the knots of their ties
and promised each of them he would protect them from the horrors below their house.
And they brought him cameras and questions
and he made the inexplicable sound popular and good
and they brought him Hansard and advertisements
and the obvious sounded plausible and true
and all the businesses came from the buildings and cuddled at his ankles
and the Unions came carrying titbits and held them to his mouth
till he stood up well and rested and ready for the day.
And so Crooked Mick twirled his fingers in the honey of the law
and was carried from the back-benches into the middle of the Cabinet
and became Premier and made a pyramid to commemorate his name.
Homestead Theatre for The WA Fringe presents Noël Christian's FAT NANCY AND THE SNAIL see Gigs.
The World Congress of Poets - Sydney
will meet for the XXI Congress in Sydney, Australia from 7-11 October 2001.
This is the first time the Congress has been held in the Southern Hemisphere.
Poets from Australia and the rest of the world will meet to
read their work, give/attend workshops, seminars and panels and
present papers on the Congress Themes.
Poetry for World Peace in the New Millennium
Aboriginal Voices of the Land and Sea
The Many Voices of Australian Poetry
Voices of the Future &endash; Young People and Poetry
Defining your Poetic Voice
Voice of the Earth &endash; many lands, many people.
The cost of the complete Congress is $500.
However, in order to make the Congress accessible to as many Australian
poets as possible, the committee are offering Associate Membership to
Australian residents. For a fee of $15.00 prior to 1st April 2001, the
Congress Fee will be discounted by $50.00 to $450.00.
For those unable to attend the whole Congress, single session, whole day,
and evening (inc. dinner) discounted rates will be available.
All participants will have their photograph, a brief biography and a short
poem published in the program and will also be able to enter the poetry
competition (winners will be published in an anthology). Could you please
pass on this information to let poets and people in your area who are
interested in literature, know about the Congress.
An opportunity ia also available to join the post congress tour 12th-16th
October to three beautiful areas in Australia giving readings and visiting
sites of cultural and scenic interest.
I look forward to hearing from you
Our next fund raising event is 'A Centenary of Poetry' at the New South
Wales Writers' Centre
At 6.00 on Saturday 17th March. Poetry, music, food and camaraderie from
Australian and many
other cultures. Everybody welcome. $15 at the door includes refreshments.
Deputy Chair, Organising Committee
XXI World Congress of Poets, Sydney 2001
For additional information visit
(Contact Ann Davis <AnnD41@excite.com>)
Results of Tom Collins Poetry Prize 2000
336 Poems were received from all Australian States.
First: Light and Skin Judy Johnson NSW
Second: Ledge Point Jan Teagle-Kapetas WA
Third: Fog Brook Emery NSW
Fourth: City Eyes Kevin Gillam WA
Highly Commended (in no particular order)
Timor Demo Roger Vickery NSW
Random White Shark Walter Vivian WA
Salvage Paradigms Carmel MacDonald-Grahame WA
TOM COLLINS POETRY PRIZE 2000
Over 300 poems seemed a daunting task when I picked up the box of
this year's Tom Collins Poetry Prize entries from Tom Collins House.
After all, this is a competition with no set theme, no particular
restrictions - other than a maximum of sixty lines. Fortunately
there were none of those 'visual poems' which aren't arranged in
lines at all!
As every judge of a poetry competition knows, there are large numbers
of poems which eliminate themselves almost instantly by their titles:
'Thoughts' or 'In times long gone by' or 'Daffodils' - no, that one
has had some success! Most rejects offer the easy option to the
judge after a verse or two where cliches and poetic diction of 'times
long gone by' offer poor reward for the reader's attention (and
especially poor value for his money if he or she should have been so
incautious as to part with money for the poetry.) Another easy
excuse for rejection comes with almost all poems composed in regular
or 'classical' forms i.e. attempting to incorporate rhyme schemes or
regular metres. The almost universal lack of understanding of this
aspect of poetics on the part of the majority of entrants in poetry
competitions is both curious and depressing. Certainly there's no
shortage of books on versification but, unlike other people, poets
seem often to have little interest and less pride in learning even
the most basic skills of their profession.
Let me turn now to happier aspects of this competition. The 'real'
poets if we can call them that, were clearly a talented group. The
presentation of the poems is much better than I can remember from the
last time (more than a decade ago, probably) when I previously judged
the Tom Collins Poetry Prize. Since then it has become, through the
generosity of the Shepparton branch of the Furphy family, one of the
richer poetry prizes offered annually in Australia. It would seem
that most entrants were aware of the need to send a clear, clean copy
of their work. Only one poet sent in a handwritten version.
This better group of poems (about two-thirds of the entries) offered
a wide range of topics and acceptable competency in their submission.
Subjects were quite variable although grandparents and the millenium
(not necessarily both in the same poem, thank goodness) seemed
especially popular this year. Celebratory love poems can be
appropriate for a major competition such as the Tom Collins Poetry
Prize but intimate details of the relationship can appear to be mere
exhibitionism to readers not actually affiliated with the
I reduced the 300 or so poems to about 100 I thought worth
re-visiting for a closer reading. I then reduced this group to about
30, looking all the time for clear signs of out-standing skills in
creating not only lines of poetry but whole poems. I wasn't looking
for a particular style but just that the poetic form chosen by the
poet was well executed. I wanted to see language that was fresh,
full of imagery of actual places, people or things, if possible, yet
which challenged the reader to extend the suggestions set down on the
page into more complete ideas and experiences through the act of
reading and responding the poetry. Humour or at least some use of
irony, was rare enough in most poems to be keenly sought by me in the
dwindling group of better poems.
The more I searched for the final dozen or so potential prize winners
the more I found myself looking for unique metaphors and similes or
other figurative uses of language to express vividly and with
originality. I also looked for topics that seemed to me to suggest
some commitment to caring about our contemporary world, whether the
poems brought up social concerns of Australia or of other countries.
Prominently, of course, were matters such as: conservation, women's
issues, depressive illness, specific world conflicts, AIDS and shark
The final seven poems I have decided are deserving of awards include
two for higher commendation: 'A Random Great White' (Walter Vivian)
and 'Salvage Paradigms' (Carmel MacDonald-Grahame). The one in fifth
place was titled 'Timor Demo under Government Windows' (Roger
Vickery). It appealed to me because it married a recent war (in
Timor) and an earlier one, the Vietnam War in a clever twin narrative
form - ironically linking the two wars through the two generations of
an office staff united by the street demonstrations outside. But
through the mention of a conscription lottery it raised the question
of the obligation of young men, in particular, to be forced to
develop some part of their lives to defending somebody else's country
- a not uncommon predicament in human history. The gamble of
survival in such conflicts is equally historic but also pertinent to
the gambling dependency which seems our natural inheritance. This
poem was well-researched, well constructed with passion and a message
and the wordsmithing was always well wrought.
The fourth placed poem was 'City Eyes' (Kevin Gillam. This one was
in the form of a journey out of the city on the familiar family
'drive' or 'jaunt' of the Avon Valley - York, Northam, Toodyay and
home. Like many poems in the competition this one relied heavily on
the 'listing' device, but what made it stand out was the acuteness of
the observations, the ironies this 'city eye' was able to offer and
the lucid metaphors: 'the black road a fishbone of pretending', 'on
the Avon, white swans seem too clean', 'churches cassocked/in land'.
The three towns were seen as three sisters, progeny of the invasion
and appropriation of a continent. The poet seemed always in control
and details such as punctuation and line breaks were handled
skilfully. The only flaw, perhaps, was the slightly clichèd 'moral'
with which the poem concludes.
Now we come to the podium finishers, as they say. I gave third prize
to 'Fog' (Brook Emery), set in New York City, apparently, in the
vicinity of a fog-bound Brooklyn Bridge:
'It's an incremental progress. Seeing,
then not seeing, wondering what might be stopped
But the poem is a love poem and from the city fog the imagery takes a
metaphoric leap to a girl clearing a patch of steam from a bathroom
mirror and then to a lover opening her eyes to the contemplative gaze
of her loved one. The journey of their love then flicks to the
driver on the fog-bound freeway trajectory where the thought of the
blue sky beyond the fog presages the 'blue sky dilating like your
unblinking eyes'. What is it that appeals to me in this poem? Is it
the sureness of touch with which this poet takes and reshapes
language in the image of these moments in human life. Yet does not
invite us to an embarrassed sharing of too-intimate or
too-exhibitionist moments in the poet's love-life. What we do get is
a lot of connection with all our lives and with the universe (and the
universals) in which human life is cradled - mysterious, usually
impenetrable, occasionally offering moments of clarity. The poet
expresses this in a five-part free-verse form which is un-clichèd
relaxed yet the tension and the focus of the lyrical observations
never waiver. Minor quibbles over certain punctuation details aside,
this is poetry as craft. A very professional piece of work and
therefore a poem for the poet to be proud of having created.
The second prize goes to 'Ledge Point' (Jan Teagle-Kapetas), a poem
with obvious Western Australian references. For local readers it
offers immediate points of validation in the images of our beaches,
'sand tracked by gulls', 'distance as language that matters in
sleep'. Somebody recently commented that it is surprising how little
in the way of major poetry has been evoked by the W.A. coast, this
long edge of the Australian continent. Historically the western
coast was first landfall for most of Western Culture's collision
with their second 'new world' and this poem reminds us of this: 'Six
hundred ships, they say, are wrecked here,
beyond their maps'.
But the poem is no mere parade of history or heaped images of coastal
landscapes. The argument of 'Ledge Point moves to a strong
"not hope we need -
it is the roots of the sea plants,
their practise [sic!] of hanging on."
I have listened to enumerable judge's reports over the years and most
have finally claimed the indulgence of personal preference in their
final choices. So do I. I have pleasure in awarding the first prize
to 'Light and Skin' (by Judy Johnson - pen name: Julian Thomas), a
lyrical poem which appeals to my Celtic inheritance with its
deceptive simplicity of form and musicality of movement. The
recurrent theme appears to be the difficulty, indeed the
impossibility, of defining the demarcation line between such binary
opposites as light and darkness and between one moment of time and
the next. This should cheer the hearts of post-modernists, presuming
they have hearts to cheer, of course. In fact it is a puzzle as old
as time itself, at least as a notion that humans have espoused in all
the world's languages. But the poem doesn't complicate the argument
with too much ratiocination, too much logic-led musing. The poem
points with its images of skin and light to the doubtings of
black/white borders. It notes:
how skin renews itself
in the same pattern
each three weeks for want
of a better idea.
The poem notices other evidences of subtle change in the body in our
Where image divides us
from who we really are.
I really enjoyed this poem for its want of pretentiousness after so
many poems that were intent on riveting my attention (or so it
seemed) with their self-importance in form or message. Please, no
more 'years-of-the' poems for a while! So once more I congratulate
whoever 'Julian Thomas' is on creating and submitting a poem which
rose so successfully to the brim of the broth of the Year 2000's
entries in The Tom Collins Poetry Prize. And I congratulate the FAW
in holding this long-standing competition.
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