Les’s Collection (2)

Here are some more poems from the current Quadrant collection, an adequate Christmas gift, I judge, available now from a bookshop near you.

Red-Head With Phosphorus, 1976

Red-haired girl in a white bikini
who he saw for the first time aglow
on a launch moored in a Rottnest bay
twenty-five years ago,

inviting them up from their sailing dinghy
to share the owner’s champagne:
as the green water lapped in the sunlight,
as they bobbed on the mooring chain.

He was, he recalls, a painful mess
and she was sweet and kind,
both certainly more than he deserved,
and more than he’d looked to find.

Quaffing champagne in the cockpit,
and diving off the bow.
It would be perfect, the owner remarked,
if they could stop time now.

And she, and his friend, and the owner
laughed together in the sun.
He was the moody, silent dork,
just trying to offend no-one.

Later they took the dinghy
and they sailed in the moonlight bay.
He remembers that phosphorescent time
as if it were yesterday,

or yesternight, to be precise
as they sailed through the easterly blow
with the launches and yachts at their anchors,
and the phosphorus aglow,

with the dinghy’s bows splitting the dark,
and the easterly blowing warm,
his friend lying drunk on the bottom-boards,
and she snuggled under his arm.

And lights on the island and anchored boats
dwindled and left them the stars.
The waves rushed in cool green fire
and the sheets were taut as bars.

A wonderful night, he thought as they sailed
(I said more than he’d looked to find).
He’d never forget it, he thought, and he had
no more than that in his mind.

The moon slid down and he sadly turned,
headed back and the rocks slid past.
They came ashore by the Army base
and he thought it was over at last.

They waded ashore through that green fire
when the night was otherwise black
and, when he turned and kissed her
she, amazingly, kissed him back.

When they’d dug the anchor into the sand
and pulled the boat up the shore,
he found to his astonishment
that that night held a good deal more.

That was a night, whatever’s come since
(people and pleasure and pain)!
Oh! Pocket-sized red-headed Venus
who put him together again.

– Hal G.P. Colebatch

Thirteenth Birthday

She’d wanted her own bike
for as long as she could remember
At last with some misgivings
Dad bought one second-hand
and did it up

Proudly she rode that day
wobbling slightly
down a nearby quiet lane
Five boys on cycles
chrome shining
came towards her
and with a U-turn
forced her to stop
Laughing they pressed her
into the grass verge
The ringleader did her first
the others watched
then took their turn

Long after they’d gone
she sobbing wiped herself
on her torn knickers
threw them in the ditch
and still trembling
pushed her bike back home

She didn’t tell her Dad

– Jean Frances

In Memory of Corey Tottenham, 1973-2005

An African word
Roughly it means:
I am because we are

A lovely idea, and true
An idea with a view
Of all of us
And how it makes us I

A lovely idea, but if true
Then no word will ever do
Or description describe
What it meant when you died

For now that you’re gone
There is no us, there is no we
So now I am not. You’re dead.
And I am no longer me.

– Brad Jackel

Leave a comment ?


  1. Gawd, they’re crook.

  2. Very ‘now’poetry, i rather like them all, also very Australian…
    I know someone called Hal Colebatch, but I don’t think he was a poet. :wink:

  3. RJ please give us something that you think is better. A few lines will do.

  4. RJ, are you trying to stir the possum or just display symptoms of aspergis?
    You just want to say they are wankers because they had the wit to write something down that relates to a life’s experience, the understanding and sharing of it.
    Why mock?
    Why so arid?
    Without even expending the effort to say why?
    Of course people are pitiful, as part of the human condition, but good stuff comes from engagement and the only alternative is the Unconsidered Life, that a wise old old bloke reckoned, well over two thousand years ago, was hardly worth considering.
    Life is in the living and that includes the processes and effort expended making sense of it and discussing it with other people.

  5. Barbed Wire

    New strung, it sparks a live wire
    when sun hits right, and can be
    thumbed like a guitar string, its tune
    pure country twang, but given
    enough time rain rusts metal,
    fence posts wobble like loose teeth,
    barbed wire burrows in laurel
    and goldenrod before found
    by fisherman or hunter,
    as I once did, miles deep in
    the Smokies when something latched
    to my calf-coil of old strands
    not quite elemented back
    into ground ore, and though I searched
    no chimney-spill or hearthstone,
    no sign but rusty fence-thorns
    of one whose hammer tapped out
    a claim on this land travelling
    through bright lines from post to post,
    travelling time to a moment
    one man’s tenuous hold on
    the earth snagged like a memory
    surfaced long-after, time-dulled
    but still able to draw blood.

    -Ron Rash

    Summer Morning

    The black kitten, ignoring her toys,
    presses to the window-still
    round eyes so filled
    with the wonder of the garden beyond.

    What has this brainless predator retained
    that we have so often lost: awe at the curve
    of a flower-stem in the sun, the jewel-flash
    of light in drops from a sprinkler?

    -Hal Colebatch

    A present from Christmas Last
    I toss the shirt into the wash—
    To rid it of its factory must.
    A gift from my father,
    Though he didn’t choose it.
    My sister did—shopping
    Being for him out of the question
    Christmas last.
    This gift seemed more a duty
    Being fulfilled. When I thank him
    He looks at me blankly.
    He has no idea.
    Among all the gifts he gave
    This the last
    And he’s no idea
    Why I kiss him, and kiss him again.
    This gift, adrift of his love,
    Like the card he could only mark
    Bypassed him completely.
    In this now the third week after his death
    I toss a new shirt into the wash.
    And watch it tumble then submerge
    Along with every other thing there.
    Russel Erwin

  6. I enjoyed the first one, very evocative and pleasant (in the sense of rhyme, flow, etc). The last poem was good too.

    The second one I didn’t like so much, but it was a powerful representation of something truly awful.

    Not wanting to side with RJ here, but do you really need reasons for liking/disliking something as subjective and personal as poetry? Apart from a feeling that it speaks to you somehow, in ways you can’t completely explain. Or not.

  7. My Lover
    For I will consider my lover, who shall remain nameless.
    For at the age of 49 he can make the noise of five different kinds of lorry changing gear on a hill.
    For he sometimes does this on the stairs at his place of work.
    For he is embarrassed when people overhear him.
    For he can also imitate at least three different kinds of train.
    For these include the London tube train, the steam engine, and the Southern Rail electric.
    For he supports Tottenham Hotspur with joyful and unswerving devotion.
    For he abhors Arsenal, whose supporters are uncivilised and rough.
    For he explains that Spurs are magic, whereas Arsenal are boring and defensive.
    For I knew nothing of this six months ago, nor did I want to.
    For now it all enchants me.
    For this he performs in ten degrees.
    For first he presents himself as a nice, serious, liberated person.
    For secondly he sits through many lunches, discussing life and love and never mentioning football.
    For thirdly he is careful not to reveal how much he dislikes losing an argument.
    For fourthly he talks about the women in his past, acknowledging that some of it must have been his fault.
    For fifthly he is so obviously reasonable that you are inclined to doubt this.
    For sixthly he invites himself round for a drink one evening.
    For seventhly you consume two bottles of wine between you.
    For eighthly he stays the night.
    For ninthly you cannot wait to see him again.
    For tenthly this does not happen for several days.
    For having achieved his object he turns again to his other interests.
    For he will not miss his evening class or his choirpractice for a woman.
    For he is out nearly all of the time.
    For you cannot even get him on the telephone.
    For he is the kind of man who has been driving women round the bend for generations. For, sad to say, this thought does not bring you to your senses.
    For he is charming.
    For he is good with animals and children.
    For his voice is both reassuring and sexy.
    For he drives an A-registration Vauxhall Astra Estate.
    For he goes at 80 miles per hour on the motorways.
    For when I plead with him he says, ‘I’m not going any slower than this’.
    For he is convinced he knows his way around better than anyone else on earth.
    For he does not encourage suggestions from his passengers.
    For if he ever got lost there would be hell to pay.
    For he sometimes makes me sleep on the wrong side of my own bed.
    For he cannot be bossed around.
    For he has this grace, that he is happy to eat fish fingers or Chinese takeaway or to cook the supper himself.
    For he knows about my cooking and is realistic.
    For me makes me smooth cocoa with bubbles on the top.
    For he drinks and smokes at least as much as I do.
    For he is obsessed with sex.
    For he would never say it is overrated.
    For he grew up before the permissive society and remembers his adolescence.
    For he does not insist it is healthy and natural, nor does he ask me what I would like him to do.
    For he has a few ideas of his own.
    For he has never been able to sleep much and talks with me late into the night.
    For we wear each other out with our wakefulness.
    For he makes me feel like a lightbulb that cannot switch itself off.
    For he inspires poem after poem.
    For he is clean and tidy but not too concerned with his appearance.
    For he lets the barber cut his hair too short and goes round looking like a convict for a fortnight.
    For when I ask if this necklace is all right he replies, ‘Yes, if no means looking at three others.’
    For he was shocked when younger team-mates began using talcum powder in the changing-room.
    For his old-fashioned masculinity is the cause of continual merriment on my part.
    For this puzzles him.
    Wendy Cope

  8. In the new tradition of being banned from Robert Ellis’s blog, fair reason given or no, a music video should be posted by the banned. It’s a great way to go out.

    See you in two months, Boom Boom, perhaps.

    Here is mine. Enjoy.

    • Why not just go quietly and give us all here some well-earned peace.

      • Helvi, what a rude thing to say. Was it really necessary?

        • AoT, if you all behaved as well as I do, this blog would a better place.

          • It’s a blog, Helvi, an open forum apart from those who piss Bob off to the extent they get chucked out.

            Do we need to be reminded of the (misattributed) Voltaire quotation?

            …“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

            It’s pretty simple, imho. Don’t read X or Y or Z if they ain’t your style. :lol:

            We might wish for a ‘better place’ whatever that means, but there’ll always be those who disagree with us, and with whom we also take exception.

            Desirable position: water off a duck’s back.

            • Well canguro, that’s what I said: I do not watch all the videos here, and because of that AoT tells me I’m rude…

              • No Helvi, I called you rude because what you said was, well, rude; it was inappropriate and unnecessary.
                I made no comment on your viewing habits.

          • That was funny Helvi.
            In fact it’s the second time you’ve made me laugh.

  9. Does anyone bother accessing any of these videos?

    I certainly don’t. On principle.

    • DQ, most times I don’t, but I’m glad I watched the videos put up here by Polybius and Joe Dulce on Billy Collins’ poetry reading.
      Please watch them, loved both of them.

      • Thanks Helvi, personally I remove assholes like the above from my blogs and Facebook - without even a notice. I do it all the time. If you give them warning, sometimes they will find a way to sabotage your page via the complaint process.
        Meanwhile, I doubt that Tranter’s poetry would get through to children much like this version of Billy Collin’s poem ‘Litany’. (By the way a good test of clarity of thinking in poetry: can a ten year old understand it? In any case, you ought have a good selection of poems that children can understand otherwise you are failing as a teacher.)

        • Sorry - that was the original. This is the one performed from memory by the child:

          • Hey Joe, Where ya goin’ with that lightbulb in your hand?

            • ps. Good advice, thanks.

            • Ha ha! Good question William:’Going down to Mexico to shoot my old lady, caught her with a damn lightsaving globe.’

              Here’s something that Les Murray has recently accepted for Quadrant on this theme.


              I Sing the Lightbulb Electric
              once a jolly lightglobe
              burnt out over Billy’s bong
              a lightbulb is a lightbulb is a lightbulb
              lightglobes to the right of me
              lightglobes to the left of me
              bursting and blackened
              the force that through the green globe no longer lights the dunny
              does not go gentle into that dark night
              and you my father on that stepladder height
              change change the dying of the light
              I was just ten when they tried to change you
              that black bulb that blew my pretty red heart in two
              will you change it change it change it?
              There was movement at the socket
              for the bulb was passed around
              when the filament from The Previous had burnt away
              begging that bulb between our teeth to light
              keep going brighten spark … but set us free
              and then we saw the wild boys of the hallway
              with fresh bulbs in their hands
              go running after it
              five bulbs the bumpkin calculus of Light
              your echoes die your voice is dowsed by Dark
              there’s not a Pygmy can reach the ceiling

              and lightbulbs to change before I sleep
              and lightbulbs to change before. . . . zzzzzzzzzzz

          • What a clever three-year-old, and so cute to boot…
            I just love how Billy reads his poems. Someone was torturing me the other day by reading his speech for his mate’s wedding. I had to be rude and said: let’s start again.

            • Helvi, My mum is going to deck you. If my Nan was still here she would already be on her way round.

              • But really Helvi, I was going to ask you earlier but didn’t. Everyone, well most people, including Alan Kohler, have a poem in their drawer. You talk of frozen November soil, you certainly are an intriguing character. Why don’t you write something instead of just constantly reassuring others? Which I am very thankful for (most of the time) i can assure you. Thanks Helvi. The Adagio piece really is something. Do as Fedellah says and tell us a story. Please.

        • Couldn’t agree more, Joe. On Helvi’s recommendation I went back and looked at Billy Collins poems. A fine send-up of love poetry; thanks Joe, for posting it.

          • You refuse “on principle” to click on You Tube videos…and then in the space of an hour you do…and are glad you did.

            OK Quixote, I need my daily laugh.

            Tell us about this principle of yours?


            • Fuck yourself up the arse with a pineapple, then fuck your dog with it whilst the dog gnaws on whatever sex organ you may have and then fuck the biggest elephant you can find with it and then give the elephant a vigorous foot massage with your tongue.

              Repeat as often as necessary.

              :lol: ad nauseam

              • Quixote you get a left hook for that you infantile cretinous simpleton!

                Now stick to the fucking point and answer it you preposterous goose!

                Take your time now. That one solitary brain cell of yours needs time to warm up :lol:

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