When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their ántique pen would have expressed
Ev’n such a beauty as you master now.
Neither gods nor nature suffer our insolence to be unrestrained.
And, so, they made a plan to humble our pride
and improve our manners. To diminish our strength
they cut us in two, and gave us, each, a neck that could be turned
to contemplate the part of ourselves that was lost.
Through this we were to learn humility.
—the fable of Aristophanes
Poems in this book have been published previously in Family Ties: Australian poems of the family, Melbourne Chronicle, Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets, Overland, HIV Here and Now and TheBody.com, The Oxford Book of Australian Love Poems, Perseverance Poets’ Collection 1991–92, Walking the Dogs: the Pariah Press Anthology, and on ‘A First Hearing’, ABC Radio.
There lies Peter Clutterbuck now
still fourteen, on Phillip Island
where he was sent, and where he died
in 1935 parentless and poor
to the Newhaven Homes for Problem Boys.
His sister could not move him from this grave
since with him is another child
named Victor Hardy, still eleven.
Years ago, when I was reading the philosophical works of Schopenhauer I heard a sudden eruption of laughter on the street. I looked up to see what the cause of this laughter was. Across the road, an old man extraordinarily obese, was heaving his immense body along the footpath. He used a cane to help balance himself as he walked and to relieve the strain on his back caused by the great bag of fat hanging from his stomach. It required considerable effort for him to walk only a short distance. I felt revulsion at the sight of this man. There were feelings of pity, too. I knew immediately there are no counter-motives to humiliation. We live by climbing over each other struggle to keep our heads above despair and try not to think of harm that’s done. I lowered the book and listened to the sounds of birds a howling dog, a small child in the street asking something of her parents — every voice repeating the inner nature of the world and I knew what trouble and pain was
still to come.
cathedrals in their middle age
the platitudes of worship
(what longing made
the history of their long struggle
and what prayers like smoke
stain the minds and hands
of old men
): their structure is a torsion—
pleasure and silence
at invisible altitudes—
below, the dark
icon of betrayal
above, a whispered light
no voice to read
or to preach
and no believers (especially
if there are no believers)
at the end of worship
silence is their business.
if I was such a man
—my eyes removed
through the wars
my memory buried
in a field—
how could I then say
what my body meant to say?
Originally published in Out of the Box: Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Poets, edited by Michael Farrell and Jill Jones, Puncher & Wattmann Poetry, 2009