I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We were now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen. And President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded. What do you do? —President von Clownstick
The strangeness of politics seems to be on everyone’s minds. Late night show hosts and comedians don’t seem to be able to talk about anything else. I feel the same way. When the police of Gardner, a town near Kansas, USA, late last year investigated sightings of a mountain lion and set up cameras to get a picture of the animal, they found that locals had been pranking them. The resulting photographs are a delight. ‘Are these the people who voted for Trump?’ I asked myself. I could like them. My kind of people. The cognitive dissonance set off by the photos ended up in a poem, which is what normally happens when I can’t explain what I’m thinking, even to myself.
Stephen J. Williams has published writing and images in many literary magazines and newspapers. He has been the recipient of the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Anne Elder Prize and John Shaw Neilson Poetry Award, the Association for Australian Literature’s Mary Gilmore Award, and the University of Melbourne’s John Masefield Prize. He lives in St Kilda (Victoria, Australia).
In the 1980s, at Meanjin, a literary magazine founded by Clem Christesen in the 1940s in Brisbane, Stephen was assistant editor for Jim Davidson—typing letters, sorting envelopes into postcode order, making tea, and playing Scrabble with A. A. Phillips.
Much of Stephen’s writing in the 1980s and 1990s was published by the editor Barrett Reid. Stephen and Barrie met in 1990 after having corresponded for a decade. Stephen worked with Barrie at Heide during the final years of Barrie’s life.
Stephen has worked as a book designer, radio producer, and copywriter; and as a consultant, writer, publicist, and editor for