Bush Christie

The strangers and travellers were all in place
Only one of them wore a murderer’s face
His name was – Mary Gilmore came in then
Making firm statements about the victim:
Banjo Paterson had always liked him
Apparently he owed Henry Lawson six bob
None could remember him having a job
But a poet will always go easy on a sloth
For reasons of euphony, sense or both
John Shaw Neilson was revising in his head
His attitude relaxed towards the dead –
The croaked (all’d seen a few). Adam Lindsay
Gordon too appeared. The dead bloke
Had been speared and poisoned. The
Latter they found out about later. Except
Of course, the poisoner, who sat there
Knowing – but were they the spearer
Also? Who in the room was good at
Throwing, apart from Bennelong? It
Wouldn’t be him, he’s playing detective:
A too predictable upsetting of fictive
Structure. Lawson had been known to
Loose a billy into the scrub when swinging
It to make tea. He wouldn’t poison either
One who owed him money (the IOU
Was well-known and had been larger).
Uncharacteristically quiet was Charles
Harpur thought Bennelong, who had
Himself been speared but never serious-
Ly. Ned and Dan Kelly played snooker.
Ned appeared to have breasts but they
Were coconut shells shied away from
Shaw Neilson who’d been playing a
Game of ‘horse music’ with Gordon.
Ned of course had the track record.
But the deceased was not of the police.
Gilmore was preparing a jack o’ lantern –
Something she’d picked up in Paraguay
She said. Probably a lie, and she had a
Strong pumpkin-cutting arm … She
Lit a candle and put it in Jack’s head.
Bennelong couldn’t eat her bread. Pat-
Erson splashed a little gin at Lawson’s
Burning card hand, which could have
Made it worse, but luckily didn’t.
Lawson had nodded; his cigarette
Caught the edge of an ace or a card
With a face. It’d been a good one
Anyway, Lawson claimed. Harpur
Raised a brow at the waste of the gin
Though currently convinced that drink
Was a sin and could lead to anything.
Mary Fullerton was looking in the bible
For a letter; while Henry Kendall listened
In order to write about it later. It was tribal –
Bennelong was convinced – he didn’t buy
The swaggie tag that’d been stuck to the
Murderee. There was more camaraderie
Under the surface than he cared for. This
Was no knife-fight in a dunny over honour
Or money, but some thick coves hiding in
The smoke of a stove in a Shearer’s hut
Where treacle did for bush honey. He
Needed a clue: it was in the woodpile
By the stove – a review of a new book
Of not-so-innocent Austral verse. The
Wind changed and a spear went through
The reviewer – a handy piece of wood
Too it was and confiscated … The news-
Paper was dated a week ago. All claimed
To have been at the beach or the snow
Holidaying, not paying attention to lit-
Erary affairs. They spoke in threes and
Pairs. Where did the Kellys come in then?
They were no more poets than Bennelong
Himself. Though ‘E’ took notes on their
Diction. The case became one of dereliction.



An Animal Named Richard III

Like a book in the basement of a Melbourne
university / What is the text of a
tiger? A photograph’s entrails might show
evidence of Dick Burbage. Notions such
as these may harden a book (they may not
but what of the animal named Richard
III? Adam as Shakespeare. A king is
a non-fiction category, say fictions

An animal flexing of genders. Don’t
be tired: in the streets roam diverse creatures
that would conquer all younger commentaries

An animal can be read, and reread

A blueprint (or hologram) takes on flesh
whether shorter or longer means cutting
of the tail or the neck. Well might you think
such mutilation destabilising

Let the inducers proclaim that all known
unicorns are white: black logic will rear
its Southern-conditioned head. But that’s by
the-by. We don’t know what kind of verse it
speaks. Volatile, stamping, wanting-to-be
free … perhaps. Beside the River Clarence
runs the old animal, Richard Three. Ghosts
of poetry, Freudian sentinels
guide and block its way. A truth like sardine
twins glimmers in the drool of its tongue. Keys
that once jangled on its neck or tail are
muffled. It is not fearful, nor is it
faithful, a flapping of dry bedsheet round
a Tower. Valued, dedicated, it
has diasporic eyes / incorporates
disintegration, believes its own hair
about its ears. Call it keeper of a
tragedie – it will not come: it others
family. A complex image, then. What’s
a clock but a book of time. Of forces
Machiavellian is Richard
III, a play. It has no confidants, yet’s
interactive, fluid, a very Duke
of culture: every expression its own
imperfect couplet, intricate quatrain

By definition, lap-oblivious



The Fragmented

Like a woman in a blue dressing gown
as her husband leaves town. The self …
divided. ‘What about our island?’ says
the man when his girlfriend asks him why he
stays with her. One of them has cancer
all of them have hopes and dreams. They’re just …
characters. They don’t represent …
anything: they say that to each other

When they meet by accident on …
beach years later. Or they produce a new
sexuality like a rose out of
the old. ‘It’s like I had no skin before
they shout, putting on their fantastic new
suits. A woman is lightly …
reprimanded for shutting her lover
in a cupboard for fifteen minutes. ‘I’m
not a woman’ she says, ‘women are bold
brasserie-damp. They make red sails in …
sunset and all that jazz.’ The man arrives
in his hometown, returning with a good
job and a woman in a blue dressing
gown. ‘I thought Marie stayed in the city
to focus on her career, where …
universities are apple pies to
cook your children in.’
                                    ‘She did stay but split
into two, this is also Marie …

Marie runs into the house to change. There
are workers renovating the kitchen

‘Do you want to drill or glue, Han …

                  ‘No, you have to choose.’ Marie
tries to dodge their equipment in her …
slippers. They applaud her adroitness. ‘No,
mum’ he says, ‘this isn’t my gay self, I
wouldn’t bring my gay self to the country

‘Well what’s he doing for Christmas?’
                                                           ‘Don’t …
worry I’m sure he’s having a good time

The mouse is of a particularly …
nondescript personality …
practically thought of as ‘inframice’ by
other rodent friends. Which does lend …
certain conceptual cool to …
mouse’s being or ‘beos’. At …
moment of conception of her own …
adoption, she feels a fragmenting as
if going off to other, unlived lives

The ex is met at a café or at
Coles, and our whole beauty is restrained, re-
channelled; beauty is not something we will
let the ex desire. The one with cancer
goes on a two-year holiday; no one
ever knows. The hopes and dreams are killed by
the chemo and something stockier grows
in their place. An unflowering rose is
still a rose. The insomniac mouse is
disordered. It has sleeping selves: it’s …
divided against this identity
that it drinks into, as Marie stirs …
café au lait and sits down with her …
mother-in-law, knowing that she isn’t
living, renovations coming along

They’re running from and writing to each …
other, their different outfits glinting in
the light. The plural seagull celebrates
these shards: human, personable shards, as
they splinter like kicked glass, like broken …
perspective or an othering sharing

Each one like a quote drowning in the sky



[Michael Farrell co-edited Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets (2009). Recent publications are open sesame (2012) and enjambment sisters present (2012). He grew up in platypus/timber country; a tea drinker, he now lives in Melbourne's coffee belt.]

Copyright © 2013 by Michael Farrell, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.