Mother Russia

‘Mother Russia’ was my first published poem, and the first poem I ever performed in public. It appeared in 1991 in Textbase, a short-lived journal put out by the people who ran the Reasonably Good Cafe on Abercrombie Street in Chippendale, Sydney. I remember attending the launch and reading my poem. Afterwards someone told me I read as if I was calling the races at Harold Park.

from siberia: the fisherman's cooling room
is a cave chinked out of a cliff of ice - there 
the fish lie swollen while the nomads chop wood
in the snow & while my foreign tongue gags 
on the names of lost cities & apartment 
buildings hazily appearing now through 
the window of my helicopter - as we circle 
the lights of nurry urengoy - hastily built 
sitting atop a field of natural gas - lots of it 
frozen within a red bottle by a stubbornly icy cork 

          (thus read my - hmmm
suspiciously poetic briefing crumpled grimly 
in my gravel-encrusted mitten) 

        "so you see 
chuck"  he breathed along the thousand mile 
cable connected to my alaskan telephone
"this is the place where only the gallant 
survive - where there is no turning back 
so if the going gets rough - "
                 
                 gahhrrr! 

"moonlight and vodka takes me away"
croons the one-time concert performer 
to an incomprehending audience of short 
time miners & oil riggers thawing in the bar
what else is there to do the alcohol slides like 
penguins from glaciers down throats & 
karloff's tears flow in buckets while the men 
sway from side to side now and then grunting 
as they discover the faces behind the frozen beards 
they worked with on that damned oil pipeline
 
the dream of a balalaika: slowly crushed 
beneath a timber truck o god i want to go 
home this place this place of deja vu it's
riddled with shanty towns & factories &
refineries & summer fun & dirt bikes & 
ballet & grizzly bears & snowy ideal resort
frozen lakes & oil derricks & aeroplanes
& national geographic photographers 
& helicopters & heads full of maps &
jigsaw names & red faces & hangovers
 
& a terrified memory of a young boy
crucified on a bare flat table wrapped 
in chunks of ice so his body will cool &
his pulse

                          slow

enabling the surgeon to get at his heart

O hai, you were saying?