Big Bridge #9

Poets of Australia


Richard Hillman

The Blacksheep Says It All

                                                                    Barricades and brickwalls
                                                                    won't keep me from you

                                                                            Kasey Chambers

You say that being single
is difficult in Australia, only
on holidays. Always you are
the tourist, flying from this club
to that resort, never stopping
long enough to take up roots,
just snapshots at random -
tokens and stamps, at best.

When you speak
I think I'm hearing headlines, or
captions in some cartoon show
where the little child
pulls nose hairs, plucks
eyebrows, because she
is so unfamiliar with your accent.

You're a face, a go anywhere-
anytime face, a poster or billboard
'peeling' from a safe distance
like Houdini from a straight-jacket
denying the confinement
of the twenty first century.

And when I lick
the postage into place, mark
some destination in airmail blue,
I never know if my words will get to you
or lose themselves crossing some border
into a land meant just for you too.

N.B. The Kasey Chambers quote is from 'Barricades & Brickwalls' EMI Music, 2001.

Can't Say No

                                                                    If for me there's 80% said
                                                                    for you there's 20% unspoken.

Received one blank postcard
for John's flood installation in Sydney

not really blank, but white, absolute white
as if all had been overwhelmed by light.

Floodlights are flicked
for postage stamp softness
and these wavy lines on the back
write a watery History.

Webb referred to these lines as
the sea's bickering passport motion
when he was a custom's officer in Adelaide.

But you're not interested in metaphor
as anything but response though
there have been times remember
Shelton Lea's Fairweather postcard?

Just what do you say
to all that geometric grey.

When David Marr sent those black
& white pictures framing shearing sheds
at Inverell Station at least, I had a sense of place
though not of time, unlike Mark's colour
postcards of Big Renata's Cafe in Coen
just after the rain.

There's a connection here, which reads
these things must be thought about.

Last week, someone forgot
to open the floodgates
and the Patawalunga became
Glenelg North for a night.

The water rises, a nightflood, a father
who can't say no to a mother
in a black room with wavy lines
on her face, perhaps watermarks
on the wall of a room in which
you once thought you were drowning

in silence.

I'm Ready

                                                                    I'm ready
                                                                    to let the rivers wash over me

                                                                            Tracy Chapman

Tonight there's something outside
preying beyond my window on the dark
and I'm ready for it to come inside
to lift me up and let me sing like a lark
but I'm not ready to return to rhyme
because I've had enough of those two wings
beating in classic metronomic time
against the nothingness of forced things
against the polish of a new millennium
against the black, the back and rum
of rebellion. I'd rather take in a breather,
offer a light to the darkness beyond
the frame, turn on the radio and listen
to talkback or slip into ambience, take
whatever comes, not wanting anything
in particular to happen, ready to let
the night wash over me, to see what
driftwood she's left for me on the floor
in the morning after the rain fell and
rose up about my walls until there
was nothing left but me and you
floating on this dream where we fuck
between waves of sound like clogs
laughing on gas because you've forgotten
to take off your sunglasses, because
you've dropped your hair, because life
is a celebration and beyond this
we need no meaning.

N.B. Tracy Chapman quote is from 'I'm ready' EMI April Music, 1995.

Richard Hillman is the author of Mending the Dingo Fence & Other Poems (Friendly Street Poets/Wakefield Press 1997), Gone Up River (Sidewalk Poets 1999), No Grounds (Sidewalk Poets 2000), and Jabiluka Honey: New and Selected Poems (Bookends Books 2003). He edits the South Australian poetry and poetics journal, Sidewalk. He is a reviewer for Thylazine and a contributing editor for papertiger

Previous Australian Poet      Australian Poet Index      Next Australian Poet