Dogs & Tomato Sauce

Some spider monkey in socks like scarves, sandgritty and heroic

Homosapien with the aorta flush of the sun echoing through its

Pools and wells and floodplains and whirling clear cells

In the golden burnt reef of afternoon

With a dog at its side, also upright, similarly swirling and

Breathing even through steady chestnut eyes

The homosapien has done devouring 1 x pepper steak pie

Loaded with two cartridges of sweet tomato sauce

Drops its hands by its sides, one at the dog’s muzzle

Away with a mutter falls all hunger

Away falls all conquests and scrabbling, away falls any sense to be made

Of those women forever squashed in their frustrations

Inert and accusing like stuffed toys in the rain

Squat and silent with foul anger and family

Away they fall like smashed white plates in the dark rented kitchen of

Dull refrigerated recollection

Away fall the schemes like undertakers’ playing cards

Away fall the costumes, the dumb sugared boys playing musketeers

(The very deeply saddest still out there in his own head, playing Jack the Lad)

Away fall all the feathers from caps in cheap greens and reds

Things from $2 shops

Away fall the heaps of mantelpieces, the spare coins

The shrines and the centrifuge of scarred coffee tables

Away fall those tendrils and sleeves and banners of banter

The wry good lads who left lines punched into brainfolds like type

(To only finally die with the brain)

Away fall caustic points on scoreboards

The homemade weaponries of insult

Away fall the carcass slug trails in beds of lost crawlings

But the dust motes remain, the platinum galaxies

The bonsai universe bobbing in the hourless mornings

Those moments before all of that terror and shame and intrigue and

Script and score, revolution and glory and gossip all came rushing in

Like nothingness sucked up into a vacuum’s bladder

Those dust mote suns

Their easy morphine waltz through silver mornings

They’re always floating there, unreachable for trying

The rest of it falls away as the dog turns into the sauce smeared knuckles

And licks the sweet red gunk away

Because that’s all it





Will Swan


Cadaver in an Australian Swamp

Rain dispersing at wetscalp altitude, metallic swamp poultry

Attacking inclines while carrying their own giant hands like

Fragile oversized freight

Penile skinmasks making red snouts, bobbing

Around straw grass goblin homes in low rain

The lagoon:  a green cream hide, watching in marble eye bubbles

While its god dances deeply in deadwater ballet

Of many legs and missing toes

Dim radiating from thickets but crystalline gums of rocky syrup

Glow their own moon’s blood through skinless intimidations

Blackened bush washing itself

Lagoon a rotten sponge

White bourbon cans caught like prawn shells in all this slippery silt

Boy’s body headlong into a liminal plane that grips him by nose and mouth

Pinches his face into reflecting dark wetness

Leaving the dead horse of him for ticks and bugs and leaving

The bugs for the incandescent poultry

His yellow t-shirt desiccating in precipitation

Godworlds away are cities of Christendom, candles and rain-softened stones

And nuns trickling a soft wet blue electricity

And nurses aloft on their cuticles who smell of soapsteam with

Pikelet cheeks awash in pink warmth

Opera chorus beings of gaelwoman concern

But boy oh deadboy are you a long way from home

While now comes from frontier carved streets outside the pit

The telegraphed black smell of burnt gravy

The snub bullfrog murmurs of white men under tiles and tin.

Will Swan

Christians Hooked On Antidepressants

Punk rockers driving new cars to job interviews

And crisp scooped-out office mornings

Family men sulking hotly

Hipsters who never read books

Adult fans of violence with babyfat bunching at their wrists

Godfathers utterly absent from baptisms

Quiv’ring in alcoholic psychosis on couches

(That one was me)

Peasants who own so many houses that it magnifies their hunger

Musicians with garbage-stained eardrums deaf to birdsong

Young soft mother at a bus stop, staring at her toe

Toying with twigs & stones

Just like she did in the endless lines of school

While her children wait like hams wrapped in gingham

Free men who cannot walk away from smalltalk

Nor from a father’s steampressed hopes as the blue biro

Haemorrhages an assassin’s slag heap out through the breast pocket


Will Swan

The Ballad of Alan Jones

Had this idea, was fairly certain that Alan Jones was dead

Could not account for the details of the death but had

Had some idea that I’d read it

Printed on the rags of idle newspapers

Or overheard it, and was surprised when I considered

That I must’ve transcended my contempt for tabloid hades

Because I wasn’t even delighted by the death of that particular

Confused, self-loathing prattler

But then heard his voice this morning with its lifetime of doubt

Pulling against itself between the ring corners of:

“Belligerent plain-speaking workin’ man” (in the blue corner)

“Ingratiating promiscuous theatre queen” (in the pink corner)

Slapping around the floor like a Greco Roman wrestler fucking himself

That voice, flimsy and automatically attuned to his little notion

Of some sort of passé educated tone

A radio throwing it all out under the spring morning moon

And jasmine deluged hills

As though broadcasting it were a civic duty

Some friendly idiot owner- builder at his hillside playpit

Forever digging out a swimming pool and muddy landscape garden

I continued up a tangled hill at pace but caught enough dialogue

To see The Problem: The Problem, it seems is that the caller’s children

Are suffering a persecution

A woman’s voice stuffing urgency through a phone’s mouthpiece

The soft fat cock of indignation squishing through the mesh

(Nine o’clock on a golden spring morning, I cannot count the birds singing here)

Thankyou Alan my children brought home a spelling list of

Words they had to spell and my husband and I couldn’t spell

Any of them and we’re both professionals …

Even Alan seemed to be thinking of something to say

As I disappeared up the hill into the sun

Going by the caller’s voice, she was not only of euphemistic intellect

She sounded drunk and pilled

Doves and swallows piped jigs at the moon

Alan Jones oh Alan Jones, set my people free

But be wise in your faith, pilgrims

For this morning I had checked some trackwork signs

That told me next to nothing, written by recycled robots

In the dead-end yellow and red language of bureaucracy

The railways having been stripped of human beings

Like cherries from an orchard

I tasted the contempt, that tinny tang of the robot world

And if I didn’t know any better, why

I might’ve phoned up Alan Jones and

Damn well said something about it.

Will Swan


Cheap Chinese piano accordion, heavy as an outboard motor

Would plug myself into it, would plug myself into the street

Corners of Marrickville and Illawarra Roads

Exposed under trinket shop awnings or

Squaring off with my back to the shadowed bank

Next to the sex shop staircase

Rising to a paper sun and incense dust

The fifty cent coins on my mantelpiece in ruined silver columns

A small white and caramel dog smiling

Always a collared shirt, vagabond decorum

Half a block between my floor bed and my posts

Breakfast bowl streets of grit and noodle steam

Shopkeepers like hares

Tawny vague men in their clubs and cafes and town square

The transported fervour of town square elders

That Old World pantomime, the puppetry of disagreements

A flourish in hair oil and cardigans, moustaches and cigarettes

Stuck about the mainstreet like pieces of brown linoleum

Always one sweet walnut of a local, a solid beaming mother

Of tribal Asian disposition, the sort of face

That stays warms against snowstorms

Scarf and trolley

Who would always, with something resembling inherited ritual

Fetch out a two dollar coin for me, always

We would smile and nod and smile and I hope

That I was able to punch some melody into the streets

In her wake every time, for I certainly tried to

My playing was self-taught, raucous and had a kind of crunchiness

And I always doubted that these planetary villagers

Half of them from accordion climates

Thought very much of it at all

But I suppose it had a certain swing

Probably picked up from playing every day in Marrickville

I’d claw the coins into shoals, like shells

Loose shorts ballasted with the scrotum pockets of twenty cent pieces

I’d play until I had enough then dump the accordion near my bed

And then – a civilian once again – would go about the town

The neighbouring butchers and all the scarfed butcherwomen

Cherry red meat, so cheap you’d think

They’d hacked it from the undergrowth

A plastic bag of chicken hearts for the small white dog

Seared up grey and pungent in a showtrick of brown smoke

A box of red wine, a cold noon-fresh beer

Perhaps a trinket for the house, a rubber skeleton

Or some polythene flowers in toothpaste green

Saccharine orange and dowry red

It was always enough, Marrickville was enough

A jar brim-tight with tap water

Later would come madness

The accordion gone to the hockshop

Like a slave down a storm drain

But before all that, Marrickville was always enough

I don’t bother playing piano accordion any more

And now the smiling white and caramel dog is gone too

But sometimes I’ll buy the incense with the crimson-faced

Warrior God in Green – Guan Yu – on the box

And I’ll burn it for all of my

Marrickville Ancestors


Will Swan

Fire and Water

Naked logs of meat fizzling in the darkened kebab shop

Mauling panther logo hovering around the pizza shop

Chalky calendar cliffscapes in the chicken shop

And in the fish’n’chip shop, plastic crabs and

An unplayable lacquered wall-bazouki

Rolling past the lot of them with sweaty turnstile coins

To that wet amphitheatre of thrash and serenity

Sockless in black canvas sneakers across the

Jackson Pollock mess of birdshit stains on the footpath

Imprinted in nuclear permanence in this

Childshriek planet of chlorinated gold

Citrus puffs in oily clouds from torn mandarins and

Towels stiff and creamy in hunchbank wrappings

Sucking on a gluey sweet mess of dangerous sea snake

Green and blue knot of gelatine

Swimmers plunging up like welders from turquoise oil

Standing slow and moulded in the shallow end

In the contained daze of explorers on the hot moons of Aquarius

Bush smoke from distant burn-off

Infusing the setting with the evening smear in your swimmer’s eyes

The smell of nostalgia from the fires of no importance

To blow back into night on a bronze sarong breeze

And lie among the fragrant fire of the stars

Knowing that life is the miracle and that’s all there is to it

That one chord peeling and flaring out in quicksilver light years

Between the claw-softened earth and gum leaves

You catch it, you hear it

It sings through you.


Will Swan


Men of slipped and blunt geometries

Full heads of baby white hair and suitcase chests

Shoebox shoulders and ice cream carton heads

Rinsed ceremonial pool birds trussed sparely

In the red and blue bands of their Speedos

Goggles shrivelled upon their shining foreheads

Like twisted condoms from the bravest raw days of aviation

At peace with themselves, the sky and the religious water

The magpies and peewees and the strung pennants catching waterballs

From ploughing backstroke and white mammalian sprints

Towelling up in the changing room’s deluged cathedral

Their Andy Capp whistling scrambled and joyful

Gorilla stances and suds massing through their scalps

A final comb parting reverence, a rust-whorled mirror

That dainty, mannish finishing touch

The echoing foot-slaps and chunky little dicks

They are anonymous birds, like the magpies and peewees

But as a species I know their presence

Surfacing through the warping blue skin

Into spring’s uprising:

A dropsheet, strewn and stuck with boiled musk specks

Bright fluff and mint leaves


Will Swan