Patrick’s Green Dragons

Out from the markets in Celestial darkness

Asteroids hurtle in showers of splintered ore

Plume away at angles like other people’s lives

Down here – from this ore, this strata of sealed cement

From this froth of simians, clamour and tropical armpit haze

Rise now the Green Dragons!

In a corporeal surge, so bright and so green

That they put us all in shadow

They tarnish our earrings, our bracelets

They make scrap metal of the sunlight that gets in

Here in the halls of Paddy’s Markets

The cabbage dangles like a pirate’s heart

The dragons roil around it, dignify it

In a calculus of whipping thunder

In a warm-blooded reptile fury of courtship

In the chimes and hiss of ceremony

And the grocers and the thieves and the transvestites

And the kebab peddlers and the Americans and the spoilt grooms

And the winos and the acrobats and the flautists

All whoop under the dragons and in a brown sea on land

This is how the world sees

The saucy, lightning Emissaries of Heaven


Will Swan


Melbourne Duat

And life pressed like sea horse bones between gelatine slides

Puffs out horizontally in turquoise Victorian skies

And delicate bone dresses in pitch along promenades

Of Fitzroy Gardens, her eyes clear and fierce

Behind the gelatine, black but for light, she lives

Pilgrim of the Duat


I walked the great hall of some edifice known to me

As a deep museum, but in tilting back slightly

At just the right fraction

Instead found the interior at near completion

Loading with plaster and the freshness of stone

Clamouring of bright tools and whiskered masons


Two mated falcons hurtle the night for doughy bugs

Fat bags of preserved fruit for them in the hum of high mist

And the mates throw straw gazes at the City of the Duat

From behind beaks of gritty granite


In another museum I stand facing an Egyptian headrest

Made for the voyaging corpse

Carved from a chunk of azure universe

My mind takes a fancy to admire not just the headrest

But a chunk between us:  three thousand years

A concept I cannot display and which only cobwebs my skull

A skull positioned near the glass cabinet here

It will fall with all skulls, away into the starry river

I’m looking at the headrest from the sea of death

As will other unhatched civilizations

All of us ink in the black sands of the Duat

And you and I now float out into the cold smoke breeze

Those ballroom gown gusts of Melbourne


Will Swan

Melbourne Cup

And here’s me, born in another city not far from a race course

Grander than this excavated ditch

Heavily garlanded with roses of disgust

Here’s me, I skulked out the front with a hot can of beer

While they unloaded themselves in here

Now they form a human bunker howling up the truth of hell

For the main race, as they’ve been taught to

I slide along behind them like an ice cube on the concrete

No money for the race myself, I marvel at the energy

Of unity and play-money, there are waves within waves

In a shared and otherworldly roar

I am a coat hanger made from piss

There’s a wife somewhere (but not for long)

At a job I’m not interested in

I came here as a guest but I should not be here

This is for official revellers and the happily curious

But not for hot can drinkers

Who woke up retching

To depressed widow wives who went off to shop jobs in martyrdom

I’m behind the tide of noise and I will never hear it again

Because I’ll never come to this again

The human wall shivers in its satin and its rumps and prop top hats

Possessed grins like drunken knives

Women made of orange bacon wear their fathers’ faces

Like rosettes and the booklet-flashing men with beer nut brains

Play at dandy, which leaves no room for a genuine fool like me

Who glides behind it all, riding it out

Placing the coiling thirst out behind me like a rope

Knowing that a crumpled request for money is in order

And that I don’t need to be a gimp among these legions

Any more than the horses need to run up that grey track


Will Swan


Waiting for her to disembark so I can go back to

The airport bar, the one with an Irish theme-

Idiotic, childish

A big painful wait and off she trammels

Smelling of cabin-bound perfume, peppermints and

Of one expensive inflight drink

Adam is with her. I knew he would be, he was off

Playing with his mundane band

She said she’d catch up with them

Adam is a mediocre player and a nice, quiet bloke

I tell them that I’m going back to the bar but I haul her bags

Up to the bar for her, by way of an invitation

I ask Adam “stout?” with a nod and I buy us all a drink

She’s in tight black jeans and already I think how sullenly

Some of us own each other

Fifteen minutes later I will think the same thing

As she tearfully searches for me throughout the airport

I order a gin & tonic with my pint of beer

In what is perhaps some attempt at a flourishing gesture

I look at them and then I bang that perfume down the hatch

As if revealing to them some pet locust I have trained

Into performing simple but impressive tricks

Adam’s presence is cool – not hip – just simply, literally cool

Like mist drifting out of a split in an overpowered garden hose

We are mild and civil as for some reason

We are supposed to know one another

I don’t know what she wants to do next

But that is always the case

She’s operating under some attempt at scrambled telepathy

There is a blur of mental static over the course of the drink

And she says that she’ll stay tonight with Adam

I suppose that my eyes bulge and I look at her and at him

His presence is never an expressive one, not even now

His bottom lip always hangs open a little bit

I look at her and her incessant questing for purpose

“Ah, fuck. Ah, fuck’s sake!” and I spacewalk out of the silly

Irish bar, immediately trying to mentally locate another bar

I continue to spacewalk throughout the airport

The airport neon feels like anaesthetized gums at the dentist

She sees me in some corridor, locks on and scurries up behind me

In tight black jeans, her head a bundle of crying rasps

But nobody looks twice at someone crying in an airport

Then she’s all apologies and aggressive surrender and more rasping

As her monkey knuckles tug at me and I feign at

Breaking free

Hulking in the neon light like the definition of a sulk


Two years later and I am at the back of the huddle

Of her wedding, listening to the muffled celebrant

The service sounds like somebody reading out a credit card statement

I’m sucking a piece of rum & raisin chocolate from a small block

Of chocolate I’m sharing with Steve the bearded singer and guitarist

We’re of like-mind about all this spruced shuffling show

The chocolate knocks the teeth out of the awkwardness

After the service I see Adam, also invited

And it’s “hey man!” and clean bright cheer all round


Will Swan

Backyard Blitz

“In time almost all humans will work to amuse other humans” – Hans Moravec


The newcomers arrive a few days after

Trendy grey walls with trendy thin windows are done

They roll out their turf mat

As is the fashion (and it’s only fashion, I know that)

They’re building homes like border checkpoints and

Houses like home offices and

Home offices like offices

For although sloppy people in many ways

(Husbands hunched in rolls of neck fat

Wives in white pedal-pushers with

Cracked heels spread across the spoons of wedge shoes)

They’ve really bought into this

Bulk-fed minimalist thing, with the trendy grey

The geometry lesson angles

Which is just as well for the brokers

As nothing else is quite so easily sorted

And where the previous houses remain

The gutting crews go bravely in:

Bathroom Renovations, Landscaping Solutions

Kitchen Solutions, Tilling & Renovation Solutions

Luxury Kitchens, Prestige Kitchens, Bathroom Installations

Premier Tiling & Flooring Prestige Solutions

… and a bunch of phone numbers smattered on every truck

And the plaster and paint that dried under the appreciative eyes

Of builders not long ago

Explodes in sacramental bangs of dust

But here’s hoping they keep that lurching blue fibro place

Screwed like a lookout base into the top of the ridge

Because the obligatory face-twisting

Concerning structural deficiencies

The distracting lust to smash and spend

Won’t change the fact that the place would otherwise still be fine

Long after cancer has kicked them in their breastbones

Long after heavy coronaries have sunk them down into soil

On the television home renovating show

An imbecile dangles a sledgehammer

His eyes flickering with the faltering charge of stupidity

And grinning, he sets to mauling a good wall

That a builder, still living, built well


Will Swan

Scottish Community Radio

There’s a great old girl on the Scottish Show

They got an ethnic grant

There’s a tenor now, stretching like black honey

Across wax and seas and silver film credits

Stickiness firming into that melody they all have

The great old girl puts on the wrong tracks and laughs

A bloke comes into the studio to promote a community event

With a sausage sizzle and the whole bit

The great old girl laughs along with his hopeless delivery

He’s a bit like a grilled sausage himself; one that’s been in the fridge

And he’s possibly gay

Then she puts on the Pipes & Drums of the 1st Battalion, Black Watch

Especially for Keith in Merrylands, and she blurts in

Over the first bars of The Black Bear and re-announces

“This is for Keith from Merrylands”

Then she reads the fastest history lesson ever given

On the history of Clan Cameron

Then she puts on some Andy Stewart saying how

“Oh, we do all have a spot for Andy Stewart…”

Only it’s not Andy Stewart but some miscellaneous

Hair-oiled alcoholic or recovering alcoholic who, undaunted

Sings of savagery and eagles

The great old girl laughs as she lines up her Andy Stewart song

She cannot know what ‘preciousness’ really means

She’s just like another great old girl around here

Who has a dog named Angus

I sometimes meet them on dog walks

She sounds to me like she has no fear of death

No paranoia, no pretending to hate the English or the Chinese

For all this crazy cabaret shortbread tin nostalgia

She is cleanly, brightly in the unguarded present tense

She’s a working steam engine

In the museum of her radio show


Will Swan

The Flower Press Principle

Coal trains of night clunk and shunt

Unseen as bones

And when morning comes scuffed, then

Naked in its glass upright stage set

A Siamese cat drops from his truck cabin window

In a length of spilled grey milk

A passenger plane leaps across to the Pacific

Leaving a white ivy trail spreading into its own husk

Abandoned stack of bricks possessed by orange flowers

Arcing in summoned occult fire, cat-arrogant

Tendons exposed, tightening and learning

Staffordshire terrier gone frosted, now a deathless cannonball

Waiting for Ragnarok on the back step

And in a reversal of the flower press principle

A shed under shadow of rampant vines

A tin roof loaded with a mattress of sugared purple flowers

More drifting onto it now

The kind of crypt we should all lie in

Among the jaunty birds, the same future songs

Pressed into the endless world


Will Swan