days roaring by like the 1980s / train days weddings parties anything days to pass the time / a gear stuck on saturdays bumbling & roaring / sticky-signalled roadwork delay rays on long doomstruck slow-mo haul days playing on the radio western country tune spiked with cigarette ash / prolapsed economy death march / funeral parades of days past & still passing slowly boom times made of booming days released of their tabloid burdens / set to replay every subterranean bowel-shuddering day courses through the vein but slowly as if it's here to stay or boom slowly in space-like stations selling food or fuel but never both eyes whining like elastic bands but the smoke screens sight with its curling fancies & the gig's up (ended or over / in the same way as animal days fade / & our dusks collapse in a roar or a motorcade
You did interest us by referring to your Japanese correspondent, though I have never been to Nagasaki, or seen its leaves. Tell me, have you heard anything from him since then? We’ve not Heard a peep out of you through the post & can’t help but Wonder what might have gone wrong. Your interest in ‘Western’ Orientals pleases us too, binds us closer to you – in an Abstract way, of course – and gives us strength to go where e’er You do. I refer, in passing, to more spiritual transports Whose meaning remains deliberately obtuse. Tom Touchstone, Who was there, met instead his nemesis, Kapital – not to Mention ours! Six months he spent pitching his ‘lucky strikes’ At the proles before Japanese anarchists blew his cover as A correspondent for a magazine devoted to the projectile arts. Walt, I have made friends with Chinese men. Your poems Have truly inspired them as much as me. If it pleases you I’ll Send some translations your way, though of course I can’t Read a word! We are planning a workers’ holiday, using only Public transportation to shuttle us to the sea. Somehow it Loosens a coil of anger inside me, the years of living tension A memory. Some kind of peace that Eva & I never knew. I know we’d light up the Nagasaki night together, Walt! May We never need to go home again, never wake up. My head This morning! Must’ve been the rice wine or the booze, the Pilsener brew that someone snuck into the Athenaeum. Ah! Liquor! Love of the working man! In bars and laneways, Master, pink lanterns. We make merry with hostesses & Spiral like leaves in a moving circle around the courtyard. Tomorrow I will write poems in your soft grass style.
The last time a poem of mine appeared in Jacket was way back in 1999, when Cars (for Bruce Beaver) was published in issue 8. While it makes me feel old to say that I’ve waited eleven years to see another of my poems in Jacket, the wait has been more than worth it!
Pam Brown has guest-edited a little feature for Jacket #39 on Rewriting Canonical Australian Poems which, as the name suggests, consists of works that re-write ‘canonical’ or well-known Australian poems. In the feature you’ll find works by David Brooks, Justin Clemens, Michael Farrell, Duncan Hose, John Tranter and moi.
I’m really chuffed that three of my poems have been selected for the feature, all of which are re-writes of poems by Australian ‘proto-nationalist’ and poet, Bernard O’Dowd. In case you didn’t know, I’m a bit of an O’Dowd tragic, meaning that I’ve written quite a few poems about his life, most of them inspired by his correspondence with Walt Whitman.
And so, without further ado, here’s the link to Red Dawn Ward, Oz and “The Campfires of the Lost”, three re-writes based on O’Dowd’s ‘Dawnward’, ‘Australia’ and ‘The Campfires of the Lost’, respectively. For those who are interested, you can now read the full text of O’Dowd’s Dawnward?, the collection in which these poems were first published in 1903, online.
I realise that phrase must read like a reference to a fiendishly obscure Norwegian pump-combo but instead it’s a way of spreading the news that my poem ‘The Germ! The Germ!’ can now be read online in the second issue of YB, a blog journal edited by Rose Hunter.
There’s six other poets in the issue, namely: Lindsay Marianna Walker, Marguerite Scott-Copses, Sherry O’Keefe, Corey Mesler, Jeff Crandall and Ryan W. Bradley.
Each contributor gets a few lines to explain their poem or offer some kind of commentary. Read mine here, or else read more about Leaves of Grass, the project from which ‘The Germ! The Germ!’ ‘sprung’, here.
Most of us make America mean the world,
or sometimes we put ‘Australia’ in its place.