Poets of Australia
anti-romantic: a sonnet square
i: sonnetThe most elegant present I could get – Ted Berrigan
this poem is trying not to cry
but is it ‘brave?’ were we to say, ‘brave,’
what would be
the nature of its courage?
does it speak of quiet strength to men
in the language of men,
& what of women?
does it say something to them?
perhaps it’s asleep, the tiny poem,
maybe it’s dreaming.
now it’s trying to say goodbye,
now it’s blushing & looking sad.
don’t cry little poem, be brave.
the future of imaging is a whirl of upgrades
& words like ‘life-like’ or
‘translate your vision.’ as children
we were beaten for farting
& wrestling in the nude, not behaving
to the standard expected of young ladies.
so we were boys. it never hurt to learn
to sit with our knees together.
puberty was a dream of hairstyles.
i vomited at the prom, my date
spent several weeks not speaking
& the first time i borrowed the car
i drove in circles, feeling myself up.
what a vivid imagination!
at 7.09 the sonnet began to exhibit
itself shamelessly rubbing its
earlier drafts out in plain view
of the street & your honour
likes to watch, i know,
but this little thing goes on
like a handle & would you like me
to blow you before i leave?
here’s a dollar to buy the paper,
& there’s a pay phone to call the client,
now if you’d kindly move over
i could take back my arm.
you just smile & say honey
& squeeze the trigger.
iv: sofa of my dreams
in this sofa there’s a dream of you
stretched out on a grid called
the hierarchy of vision.
then the drums start, then the bass,
& that’s me on your steps
like a happy lyric.
i’m full of living & dumb as a typeface
& who’s my little banquet?
when i was a hat my mum says
i’d eat anything put in front of me
so stay tasty & think on darkness
& there i am like a meeting in june–
the papers start, the agenda stretches,
& someone asks to be excused.
v: describing poems
metaphysical sense of a timeless grief.
which is to say, how cute you are
in your tattoo & hair,
how full my mouth.
sometimes the light
catches your watch
& shines into my eyes –
it blinds me, you fuckwit.
we go on despite sadness,
though men in wheelchairs
break my hearts.
i’m not waiting to be happy,
i’m a frequent flyer.
i’m the afternoon’s self-conscious breath.
in case of emergency swallow the proof
& grab my thigh just there
between the scars & that stretch mark,
take the laurie anderson CDs
then join the others in the quadrangle,
where matron will take the roll.
honey, stop smirking,
it’s for your own good.
the western world goes to sleep
& we’re out of beer, my cigarette’s
gone out & i wish we could all get along
like the animals killing & eating each other.
if only we didn’t have money.
vii: greatest hits
easing into the poem is like finding fourth
when you were after second –
everything shudders & someone behind you beeps
& you shuffle gears frantically, forgetting to look
where you’re going. it’s almost a style,
the way you wear your family’s disappointments
out to dinner, the poem parked in a loading zone
& the waiters looking surly at the bar.
are they serving or guarding those drinks?
your friends hold you up to the light
& twig you’re a fake so it’s lucky
you can slip from their fingers.
the poem starts first go
& the morning sun shines right through you.
at the halfway point it’s unlikely grace
will step from the clouds & spit on your cheek.
maybe the man of your dreams won’t
prefer me to you but i doubt it, & now
i’m so pretty no one’s talking,
no one’s breathing, just me & the lights
& your car’s exhaust cooling &,
just there, if you listen, a radio, someone’s dog.
at 35 you decided that several dreams
had gone unpunished, two different displays
had gone to heaven, & every time
your diary crashed the system
the disk drive started laughing.
none of this is true unless you kiss me, baby.
at the heart of the subject is a space
we call heart; here, wanting starts,
in both senses and the others – desire,
lack, the eyes ears nose tongue skin
begin to shape what we call knowledge –
that cloud over there looks like a question mark
& the pulse adds its quiet
soon it stops, this wanting,
or continues. as each gallery must decide
its definition of collection, when we’re plumbing
we run a pipe from this junction, here,
to this outlet, here.
one-two, one-two. then silence.
x: an email sonnet
patsy awoke ready to squabble & i don’t need
an algorithm for finding books
just for storing the jitters
as the heat of september
sneaks in at night like unwelcome kittens.
should fortune or that neoprene ache
make you famous? anne vanishes
on the river, waving from her surf ski.
remember the watercolours you photocopied?
scrunch them now as we follow
the great works in a spasm of pique.
you hit the street on my head & jingle
while a library of sex
misquotes into being.
xi: dance dance revolution
we don’t need you we want to be here it’s not
like you’re money or the way the bus throws us together
at every corner. you read philosophy like sound bites,
playing pin-up boy for fear of failure weekly,
& maybe psychic tools lead to business success
but the lights have changed & the crowd’s walking
so save your sense of being-in-the-world
for drinks around the pool this sunday.
gosh! listen to your stomach grumble!
heat beckons to the savouries as you
frame a new aesthetic warmth, waving
to the hairdressers in their blue hyundai.
you’re like the distinction between depression
& grief, but no one’s relieving the symptoms.
come closer. press your hands against my chest.
xii: we cross live
a shy man sucks a journalist’s finger & so writes.
we resist the politics of hatred & re-elect contempt
as public institutions tremble in the night.
send more sit-coms & get my broker on the phone!
social justice was a troublesome abstraction –
we whacked it with a mandate now pay attention.
the treasurer’s gonna tell you
how lucky we are.
can i get some new shoes in here?
a magazine with the fetish stuff down the back?
three more years of keystone cops.
last night, when you said you loved me,
was that a core or non-core promise?
three channels broadcast tragedy.
on this day i declare
of sound mind & body
the ratty heart & it’s sack
full of boring.
sayonara land of plenty!
we’ll write but won’t post it,
we’ll talk but you’ll never know.
this is how history passes into history.
it’s the last day of the ’70s
revival but we’re not so lucky.
i don’t care if you love me,
there’s more to life than happiness.
i pick up men.
i like the taste.
xiv: 8 dollars plus postage
form letters tickle like ants
working up to a nose job
your scalpel exudes in the heat.
summer breeze blows the candle out
as poetics spasm & feedback stains your shirt.
you useless, artless freaks.
i wish i had a job.
i wish i wore stupid hats.
good morning election, rinse & repeat.
we’re not disorganised,
we’re passive-aggressive in waxy dark
like a poem looking for three more lines,
then two, then shrugging its shoulders
& slouching off across the street.
ted nielsen was born in 1968 in Townsville, where he lived for just over three decades. He has been writing for over eighteen years and has published poems in small magazines within Australia and the United States. ted left North Queensland in early 1999 and currently lives near Coogee beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. His first collection, search engine, was published in 1999 by Five Islands Press as part of their New Poets program, and was Commended in the 1999 Anne Elder Award for Poetry. ted’s second collection, wet robot, was published by Vagabond Press as part of their Rare Objects series in 2001.
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