Lost-Combination Lockout

Where’s the photographer who declined
to capture the startling colour-spills
that vanish in the Antarctic blue
and white — the blood of an albatross,
a rill of chartreuse penguin urine —
preferring to pursue the almost
imperceptible textures of fog?
I suppose she’s back in Wellington.
The snows of yore are in the cycle.

But what about the ring-in king who
banished that thinker to archive-land
for being a hopeless finisher?
Did he have the foggiest idea
of the leaps his courtier had made
in the long art of combinations?
And that decisive King of Denmark
whose name escapes me, where does he ride?
The snows of yesteryear are in you

and the ashes of a future fire.
Early speedcubers have arthritis.
Dull cucumbers wither on the vine.
Where are they now, the glinting hatchet,
the van to die in, that banished clerk?
After tantalizing me for weeks
with the promise of a solution
that would go clack like a wet mailbox,
that line vanished back into the dark.




Vertical (II)

To the head-kicker on probation,
stroked and softly glowing tie-silk says:
Pretty ruthless, but it’s just too soon
to tell if ruthlessness is enough.
Stare all you like; we don’t blink either,
and the timer is running. Outside:
sunny, light winds, twenty-five degrees.
The city’s effortless ugliness
mined by figs and bolting lorikeets.

For a man with a stiff neck, stretching
on a street corner, a clear sky reads:
MARRY ME ERIC. He waits to see
the first M blur as the final A
is traced, before going underground
to spend this golden day engraving
dog tags, bullet cases and love locks
that will face the harbour or the sea
amid a gradually swelling crowd.

It’s fluorescence versus marigold
at the formerly charmless café
in the underpass. A couple sits.
To the man with a bitter mouthful
of foot, ruefully contemplating
a future mined with moments it will
always be just too late to avoid,
stepped-on shoe-leather says: You’re harmless
enough but who’s entirely harmless?




The Object Cell

When I look up again, the lemon
is swinging and the bulbuls are gone.
The dusty dormer window’s ajar.
I think it’s The Queens of the Stone Age.
Nice garden, but I can’t just sit here
waiting for the dead palm frond to drop.
Keys, thumb-drive, pencil, glasses: mobile.
Two Maronite sisters walk ahead.
The fallen orange is turning blue.

May lights up the enclaves of autumn.
When I reach the place of the hanged bat
it has vanished and a magpie sings:
this is liquid syllabicity.
Another CCTV camera
has enriched the owner’s compound eye.
I know it’s not the Kings of Neon,
but what could be sinister about
a cypress tower’s grey interior?

The next time I look up, the orange
is gone and the cloud’s a pure slate blue.
I smile at a silhouette but it’s
another person altogether.
The loyal rivalry of my feet
has brought me to this corner again.
There it is: the mini aqua dome
of the Greek church, paler than the sky
on one side, darker on the other.





Ordinary morning, Canterbury Road:
some aggressive car-body language
between Forty Winks and Captain Snooze.
A little bird tells our quipping hosts
that the backing singer who came through
the blind auditions on fire now feels
like a used tissue. Never easy,
sending people home, said judge and coach.
But the truth is it gets easier.

A byte from the man who knows what can
count as a live issue in the eyes
of an ordinary Australian
in a marginal seat. New season,
new ways to dramatize exclusion
and feed the national dream of a home
where the features are stunning and beer
has a dedicated fridge. Old news
but still true that corneal tissue

from the man on a bridging visa
who set himself alight is living
in the eye of an Australian.
Aeroplane shadows flash over us.
Fluid air traffic between a place
where the beaches are stunning and fear
is impalpable to visitors
and a place with stunning beaches where
mattress disposal is an issue.







[Chris Andrews teaches at Western Sydney University. He is the author of two collections of poems: Cut Lunch (Indigo, 2002) and Lime Green Chair (Waywiser, 2012). He has also translated books of fiction by Latin American writers, including Roberto Bolaño's By Night in Chile (Harvill, 2003) and César Aira's The Musical Brain and Other Stories (New Directions, 2015). ]


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