Photo credit: Leigh Backhouse
Ross Creek Triolets
High tide: the drunk drops a line where salt
water, fresh converge: subtropical trompe
l’oeil: honeyeaters squeak on asphalt,
stab redly at chalk grapes: the Coral Sea, salt
like speech, scallops trawlers, fault on fault:
sudden whoosh, O God! from mangrove swamp:
the meth head rehydrates the brat: sugar, water, salt:
the black hour pitches: four thousand bats tromp.
Are the bats suspended like concertists’
quavers, or have their wings been splayed by God, bored
with reassembling angels’: this loneliest of taxidermists
has no faith in showered concertists:
frames sway greenly in powerlines: photojournalists
(everyone’s one) flaunt their sleaze on Instagram: floored
by echolocation flawed, canvaslike concertists
waver: forty wings in which black holes are bored.
A fortissimo carves the heavens’ bones:
drunk, meth head, brat star the litter of the gutter:
wool-tipped mallets tar a vibraphone’s
ribs: the full moon’s floating bones
disentangle bluely: old grindstone’s
whine: God tortures linoleum cutter:
four menangles of bats’ bones
stutter Pianissimo from the black gutter.
On the day of the explosion
Everything is liable to explode. Many times
Just take the imagists. Their heads explode.
The manufacturer of explosives, and so on,
Buildings sculpted by explosion
Like a stab of paradise: explode: and then at last
I breathe in, breathe in and don’t explode.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
Note: a cento from Philip Larkin’s ‘The Explosion’, Fady Joudah’s ‘Sleeping Trees’, Paula Tatarunis’ ‘SCHOOLS’, Louis Simpson’s ‘On the Lawn at the Villa’, Alicia Ostriker’s ‘The Window, at the Moment of Flame’, John Koethe’s ‘Domes’, Naomi Shihab Nye’s ‘Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change’, Pura Lopez-Colome’s ‘Echo’, Sylvia Plath’s ‘Tulips’
Seven Chinese needles. I needn’t watch,
I do not watch. On this organ cushion, others cry.
Might I transfigure elements.
I sense enviousness, Goliathless statue
unafraid of my nakedness
now. Diagrams bow from the walls.
A footpath, a man with glasses and my mother,
two thawing snow skin mooncakes. I slow
at the junction, their autumn jackets ripple like paddies. ‘Hand
me a handful of earth, a red rose.’ Moth-breath
issues from my lips. I listen
serenely to ambulances, cattle trucks, ear
a mosquito’s blood bag. I cannot see her handsewn floral
skirts, her terry towelling nightgown,
the spotless venetian blinds, the bedroom’s square
of cubbyhole. I try
the Red Boat’s soloist’s notes;
my diaphragm balloons.
Note: a terminal from Sylvia Plath’s ‘Morning Song’; ‘With the sestina as a model, John Tranter has created the terminal — a new form similar to, but far more flexible than, the sestina in its emphasis on end-words. Taking only the line endings from previously published poems, the terminal can be any length.’ —Brian Henry
I’ve looked into the Spanish eyes of El Dorado.
I looked — a dream — and saw the Soul of Spain.
xIn this dream-Spain,
Under Spanish clouds, a summer bliss. Oh:
In Spain, the bougainvillea entered
Spain wears whole groves of them
In another flat a Spanish lament tilts its stealthy ardour
Spain — an itch along the skin,
xxNow I’m his Spanish boy, who died in his city
Note: a cento from David Rowbotham’s ‘Snow Decembers’, Peter Porter’s ‘Antonio Soler’s Fingertips’, Victor J. Daley’s ‘In a Wine Cellar’, Luke Davies’ ‘(Shudder)’, MTC Cronin’s ‘Garden Flowers (Las Flores del Jardin)’, Kate Llewellyn’s ‘Oranges’, Gig Ryan’s ‘The Cross/The Bay’, Jan Owen’s ‘Travelling Light’, Adam Aitken’s ‘The Connoisseurs’
Central Queensland rondelets
meltdown in Coral Sea’s fishtanks;
seized from sunbelt’s frangipanis:
fishy clowns’ magnificent pranks.
White, edible petals close ranks,
Black fruit bats drop
mangoes on steel corrugations.
‘Black fruit bats.’ ‘Drop
it’: useless appeal. The backdrop
billows, tangles constellations.
A squeal of abbreviations —
black fruit bats drop.
grieve the grey dead centre of town.
Curlews’ night: shrieks
of coal trains chill Mount Archer’s peaks;
two foals mill by a broken-down
harvester; the third upside-down
‘Curlews’. Night shrieks …
and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands …
Father F wanted to talk to me.
O fuck, he saw me nicking candles.
In the musty vestry
he drew the green velvet curtain.
‘Schmuck, I’ve seen you nicking candles.’
One hand in wrinkled black pants; the other
drew the green velvet curtain.
To the sofa he moved, closer, closer,
quicksand in wrinkled black pants. A groper
expelled a steaming cup. He padded
to the sofa. He moved closer, closer.
I smelled brown spirits on his breath.
I held the steaming cup. He patted
my knee. ‘I have to tell your father.’
I smelled foul spirits on his breath.
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, weeny meanie,
my knee—‘I have to tell your Father.
If that hand crawls any farther north’—
weeny meanie, my knee—no! weeny meanie—
‘I’ll break its fucking fishy bones.’ I paused.
‘If that hand crawls any farther north’—
Father F sweltered like devils—
‘I’ll break its fucking fishy bones.’ I posed.
‘You make a hell of a cup of tea.’
Father F couldn’t swelter weevils.
Father F wanted to talk to me.
He made a hell of a cup of tea
in the musty vestry.
Stuart Barnes was born in Hobart, Tasmania, and educated at Monash University. He was runner-up for the 2014 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript. He won the 2015 Thomas Shapcott Prize, resulting in the publication of his debut collection, Glasshouses (University of Queensland Press, 2016). Since 2013 he has lived in Central Queensland and been Poetry Editor for Tincture Journal. He tweets @StuartABarnes.