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Adam Aitken

Rock Carvings, Sydney

Some days I pass the handiwork of tribes, that tribe that’s gone,
Why make their loss
speak for us or me, the nation’s patchwork
constitution?

Why make of their defeat
the lyric lie you call preamble

which says we mean to keep it:
conception’s rock, whale and one stone calf,
two intersected outlines,
just-born palimpsest lucid as newborn skin,
large enough for two to lie inside?

They answer no one back
in that text they had to read
of sky, beach, cliff, and ledge,
land’s fractured page, countersigned as real-estate.
No man owns it say the men who do.

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Tumbleweed Roundup

The posse had gathered
in the emptiest part of town.
Even the dust looked bored.
It was not like there was
enough sentencing to go round
to make a paragraph.
Maybe the Indian Wars
would finally steamroller the pioneers.
All that learnin' foa what?
The Community wanted a lynching
before they knew who did it.
Thankyou for your narrative interest in this position
but we regret to inform you...
Mixed or miffed genres
the Sheriff knew he was up against it -
maybe today he'd name his target, but
no, he wasn't to show his hand
until well after midnight, at which time
the intruder would have left holding nothing
but a kitchen sink -

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Road To Lovina

descending
from the misted island apex

of a garish golf club
resort

the mountains slope seaward
in second gear

through monkey
territory

past the poorer of the poor
on the arid karst

past rainforest
artist retreats

and down the valley
through the clove hamlets

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Sonnets for '58

1

’58, the year he’d come a thousand miles.
From post Olympic Melbourne
setting new records for broken homes,
babies began to boom.
The beaut Asian wore pink socks, spoke
great English, knew her brandy-lime-and-soda,
read Das Kapital in secret.
Her mentor the opium professor
got himself fired by the embassy of correctness,
qualified as Best Man and wrote a novel.
The year Dad fell in love at the Victory Monument
the Generals burned the pipes,
the year of the bantamweight champ
of nineteen fifty eight.


2

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Orchid Weather

I loved that jungle, the one behind the house:
it bore the wild Malayan Emergency
leaf-knitting colonies of chilli-red ants
and scowling ahmas
dicing pork
to a very fine and furious mince
enfolded in dumplings
purple chicken’s entrails
sweating in pots of broth.
Fortunes told, widows in black,
clairvoyants in a house of exorcism –
more incense in the shrine, fresher
pyramids of tangerines.

Burst fireworks confettied the air.

Young fauna, my brother and I
dried off in Royal Selangor
Golf Club towels in a house that
reeked of quinine, limes and gin,

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The Anti-Travel Travel Poem

The anti-travel travel poem suggests the road
romance & regrets
the endless paperwork we left behind
I dreamed of walking boots that wouldn’t lace
anti-travellers can never get lost
in a swamp of Choice we must take
the American grid pattern endless
military runways, the borders
of Empire, take-off zone & rabbit fence
keeping peace at the ruined city gate
where crows consider life in a decommissioned bomber
the line I have lain too long on the beach
staring at the awesome winter surf
is prelude to destruction & creation
the anti-travel travel poem does not
ask for directions on a road no one’s taken
it is time arrested at six-ways crossroad
where cremation crews put shoulder to the Prince’s corpse
malicious hangers-on decide its time to quit
and humans go on burning quietly

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