Green Rose In The Night

Somewhere out there in the marathon of night

With gum branches rattling an occasional offload of rain

I cracked the code

Like splitting the DNA of the green rose

In the middle of the night:

She’s the only woman I’ve known who doesn’t want

To be somebody else

If that sounds hard and sooty, like a blackened iron slab

Like a barbecue plate left out in the rain

Then so it is, as I recall the others who always had a friend

Whom they wanted to be:

A taller, louder girl who would buy up the merlot red wine

The endless takeaway Thai curries

And all taxis charged to a work account

Some gutsy girl in slightly oversized high heels

Maybe with a nice glass table and a flabby beta male

The so-called intelligentsia boyfriend

(Though from a working class background, therefore

As the girl was always rapidly reminding everyone:

Charmingly self-doubting)

With a decent little career of his own in academia or

The union movement, or the academic union movement

Wearing the hip black specs

Nice enough bloke

Nice like biscuits from a supermarket

Getting taxis everywhere – they never seemed to walk anywhere

By contrast, I was the drunken Leopard Boy

From some long-forgotten circus

And I walked everywhere, in cheap sneakers

Often with green bottle

For the life of me, I don’t know why those others bothered

Confused escapism, or faith in something normative, I don’t know

But boy did they get it wrong

Anyway, they were alright, those friends of theirs

Generous with the wine and curries

But they were like wooden boats too big for mantelpieces

I’d reckon they might have dimmed somewhat now, and for the better

Cockiness is exhausting


Short of furtively wanting the lives of their friends, then others were

Loaded up with EXPECTATIONS like arrows of many-coloured feathers

I know something about that sort of thing myself

And Expectations MEAN wanting to be someone else

. . . . .


That’s not you

You have no heroes

(Not counting those cheerful sweet dwarves we met

Or that homeless rambler with the shining eyes

Or those wicked old gals who are always waving at you)


Will Swan


Get A Coke Bottle Up Ya!

They’ve gotta new gimmick

They’ve gotta new gimmick with Coke bottles, they’ve stuck

The flimsy names of some Coke drinkers on the bottles

New Testament names and Southern United States child pageant names

Kindergarten class list names

They have these confectionary gimmicks now and again

Like the Paddlepop Lick-a-Prize when we were kids

It’s on again, and the other evening in a dusk of mauve and indigo

I licked my way one third towards a mountain bike

And fancied I might indeed get the bike, and ride it now and again

But more than that, my appreciation of Lick-a-Prize, it seems, prevails!

Like a painted porcelain egg

This Coke bottle name thing, well

I’ll leave that to the kids indoors, who don’t ride bikes

And the methamphetamine scum with crooked heads

Who like to carry Coke bottles by the lid, swinging them slightly

By way of a swaggering male accessory


Will Swan

at the markets

the apples, it turns out, taste like a ride on a donkey cart

sitting on straw up amid the sun and motorboy dragonflies

must’ve been grown by the scarecrow himself

some of those particular flea market stalls I’m expecting to see

at the Flea Market at the End of Time

‘cause those stallholders today had trawled their nets through our childhoods

we knew it, and we swooned, and they knew it

and they grinned back

so come the End of Time we’ll run these market rows

clutching glow-in-the-dark plastic skulls

full o’ bird-thin fruit tingle bones

and slabs of Marvel Fanfare comics

that dry sweet old drag girl with gimcrack antiques strung on hessian

in her orange hide and sunglasses

a jangling swamp crane greeting you in this sunlight, like I knew she would

the Mister Whippy man who ate miles of land and leagues of sea

on those Romany tides, just to pound up the same excellent snowy heap

as was first ever imparted from this same pink & white hut-van

the bookstall woman is somewhat malevolent

but has crawled under all the beds of a dozen towns

among the fossilized condoms and abandoned cobwebs

has found a ton of books that look worth reading

grandad with metal green tattoos on his hands and

hearing aids like Bakelite headphones:

swarthy Welsh – a services man – he rolls a bottled ship

goes onwards like an orang-utan after his Welsh wife and grandson

a Mr T moneybox bust sits like an Egyptian thing

and that incense I picked up, in the packet with the flowers like bindis

subtle on an ebony background just like a shawl, well

I’ve been burning some, it smells like amber medicine

mixed with boiled barley sugar

the sunshine configures you like a leadlight gypsy on a red lampshade

a rarity, detailed on magma glassworks

such as can only be found at a flea market


Will Swan


Down among the stone blocks and railway crossings of Victoria

There lurked poor Paintmouth, singing between

The boundless brick acres of Brunswick

Head a brown tin bell

Face welting and humming with stripes of chrome and colour

Oily platinum, fuming blues and Catholic golds

Moving through that morphing mask of husk white undercoats

Fluffed with hot rod pink and many oils besides

An industrial chameleon, a synapse-popping jungleoid

In her oversized man’s boots

Sometimes with an oversized man friend in tow, stained

But not so stained as she

Her head a sundial with every red shadow racing across it

White Ox tobacco clutched like a black bunch of grapes

Singing those painter’s parrot’s songs

All that flat old municipality her dropsheet

Her shy butler in his tracksuit and his haze and she

As bold as brass and clanking across my brother and his girlfriend one day

And singing “breaking up is hard to do-ooo-oooo…”


Will Swan

Wild Pugilistic Irish Whiskey Bastard!

Holds a tub of perfectly diluted weed poison

In sandy grip of foreknuckles

In ten a.m. morning sunshine

Points the crooked brass finger of the nozzle

Lightly slices squarely along his driveway, bent before his tiers

Of thoroughly watered, well-potted nursery plants

We throw a morning greeting between us like a small foam ball

He is pink ham faced, shines with shaving soap and he is shy

He’s the bright pink lunar agrarian glance

Of Tommy Makem hovering over a story

The face of a golfer from a novelty greeting card

(And also of a legendary granduncle imp of ours, gone from the glen…)

His house is like a cardboard display of a dream home

From nineteen hundred and sixty three; that minted reign

I can’t see a Jetsons’ space car but

There’s a silver tractor-sedan

The shade floods with the smell of his fresh water

His flowers are primary and hot, you could pull them out of the day

Like tags of painted leather

Two cream stories, clear windows and clean bricks, and he’s shy

Irish Ham Man of decency and potting mix

Of golf caddies and an accent of berries and thorns

Sure and he’s a gentleman

So I don’t know why they

(They being others)

Keep insisting on hauling out

The big stuffed teddy bear with the bristles and the bullet holes

And the corroded shouting jaw

And pretending that it’s the truth, and that it’s them?


Will Swan


Banked like the Pacific

Placed out over bones of piped water

Coughing up chunks and bobs of furniture like

Lounges in fashion’s rainbows, mattresses bucked insensible

Assaulted and yellowbone naked under rain and woodsmoke

The glowing blue empty case of an abandoned house

The square ghost of air conditioner unit laced with ivy

Where they took it more cleanly than taking a tooth

Windows hoisted up in formality, none broken

Corner fish & chips and burger shop with pink tiles

Minimal signage and frosty windows under palm trees

A chapel from the previous civilization

Some brylcreemed hunchback greased with Luna Park spit & polish

Makes a tin man’s forced march to a tin letterbox

Like a puppet looking for an audience

Head pistons sideways and the street masses eastward under

A ropey aorta of powerstation juice

As an olive man in African colours with a face like a sickle

Paces moonboot sneakers around the house with the Counselling sign

And two or three new mothers, waterlogged and shambling fat and wane

Broodcall to bubbling offspring and the two dull father-boys who

Skulk in their car with its patriotic pirate stickers

Consult the glovebox street guide and more or less ignore their women

The preschool sounds of massed poultry

With a turkey skating across the surface

The surf of all this throws you up into a once-main street

Cheapest supermarket, where a thin man of bald bleach pink non-features

With velvet black eyepatch loads up on cereals alongside

A bulldog brown Asian lady so thoroughly slugged and beaten that

Her face appears as a purple Rorschach mask

In the lab light of the vegetable isle, she gets on with it

The conveyor belts are the longest in the land and you arrange some sort

Of pattern out of your sultanas and cheeseblock and slush bags of corn

While the Maoris behind you ask each other if they’ve forgotten anything

In soft bright bamboo flute voices


Will Swan


At what point do you pity/not pity Mister Drunkyballs there

Now, when his night is one sweet mass of muted tar

All things outlined in dirty gold

While he dances, deceived, in his rascal world

Grinning his knowing charm, his so-called bonhomie

Like something that’s crawled out of a greasetrap

The barstools, the lost women of blowzy urinations

Playing along loudly, or the diplomatic women not really playing at all

All of them soft like tar and outlined in

That dirty gold

Even his porcelain self-pleasing grin is blackhot and gooey now

Soon will come lumps of panic and cold cats of white morning

But you won’t be there to pity that, and could you be bothered

Do you pity this clownsuit, who has allowed himself to be told

That he’s having the time of his life?


At what point do you pity/not-pity this celebrated working boss

Now, with a new position title waiting to be printed out with the stocktake

A bunch of slobs who humour him

Their nostrils caking with shop dust and their fingerprints rotten with copy ink

Standing orders, standard procedures, contingency plans

All on the back of his office door usually open

Everyone sucking complimentary toffees on the sly like thieves

He’s the last to leave, always has been

Two hours after the others are washing themselves in pubs

And syndicated news events

He’s among the trays and the invoices and accounts pending

Like a mate in a submarine’s magazine

This isn’t his business, but he runs it night and day

And he’ll be replaced

He wants to be here, do you pity him?


At what point do you pity/not pity the mousey religious clutch

Swarmed at their mousepit, impudent faces of diluted milk

Coked-up on Sunday’s purpose with their obvious melodies

Their interchangeable lyrics

Their interchangeable clothes and slime hair oils for the men

Big and starchy hair of the women

Their newish cars, their tea and sugar committee meeting to decide

Which builder/relative/parishioner will get the contract to extend the hall

They keep their own contracts with the Saviour close at hand

Said contracts will entitle the holders to some sort of Eternity feast

Even they are not sure how they will fit in with the hosts

Who go in sandals and are heavily bearded and quaff from goblets

And in many cases are savagely brave and hard to get along with

Some of the mousey religious clutch, they feel

That they hold within their chests

The souls of bleached worms washed out by rain

It frightens them and so they unfold the chairs and they hold a meeting

About extensions to the church hall

Do you pity them on Sundays, filling themselves with the golden air

Of polished trumpets?


There’s a man around here who is something of all three:

Churchman (when he can)

Drunk (suds and stinks that nobody needs to see)

Boss (a glowing human magnet)

He is a cast iron millionaire many, many times over and he’s apparently

Top of the real estate game and his trademark colours are everywhere

Likewise his meaningless slogans

And there is local council involvement, miserable and raw

He erects follies and tributes to himself, cafes with confused themes

And a painted panoramic display he immediately billed as ‘famous’

But the look in his eyes is as expansive and blurred as a smashed white surf

He’s the saddest man you could hope to see

He’s crying all the time, he’s a soiled ignored child

And I’ve heard the backstory; that’s pretty much the upshot

So he smiles in his obligatory gnat blue suit while his eyes are constantly crying

All the bozos buy scalding coffees while they peruse his catalogues

He plays the happy caring idiot and sponsors family fete days

Shakes hands like he’s playing ping pong and puts some swing in ‘em

And the eyes keep on crying torrents and the smile

Would not hold up in a police interview, not for a second

His eyes are like bags of water sinking in a silver pool

And I pity him, I’ll say that much.


Will Swan