Three Radio Shows

The first one has Artie Shaw’s band singing about you, baby (baby as in woman)

Recorded during the war & the sun is shining from this rinsed sink

I’m peeling Dutch potatoes & I think that I must be my grandmothers-in-one

A shirtless childless male lifespark of both grandmothers

Or at least I fancy that now I’ve got an acute idea of what it’s like

To peel a pile of spuds in a metal sink listening to cheery wartime orchestras

I settle for it being some early autumn in the ‘fifties

Keeping the bloody war out of the moment


The next one is just the usual pile of big homely spuds

You hear it in every supermarket

The Little River Band is riding their groove in tight white pants

I can’t deny, they really nail the harmonies, maybe overplay that aspect a bit

But there’s a benevolent then-fashionable groove & I’d drink with it

If I still drank, but this cleanskin $2.90 wine – perfectly good, I’m sure

Is going in with the potatoes


The third one is quite specialized, a psychedelic music show

Presenting rarities from Psychedelic Age, ’65 to ‘75

There’s some pathetic faux Indian riffs and zoological imagery

It turns out that this unabashed & ignored track from ‘68

Is sung by the singer from The Little River Band

He eventually found the right fashion, of course, but it showcases

What a dogged little chameleon he actually was

The presenter of this show says he loves to pull out ephemera like this

It’s stark, this prescribed nature of styles

Reminds me of a scene that I was around

It’s still going: everyone pretends to be Irish or Scottish ruffians

Sings about various brands of beer or spirits and other tough things

Lazy playing

… Gawd!

There’s always a lot of vaudeville out there, if you want it.


In goes the cheese & the honey & the radishes & the black pepper

In goes the chicken & the purple thin wine & now the pumpkin

The sun has left the kitchen sink, the sky is grey

I’ve left the psychedelic station playing, unfolding like a Silver Surfer comic

Don’t talk to me about psychedelia, boys, I’ve got a dog who looks like

The caterpillar from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he’s got webbed toes

He’s a cosmic jockey & he’s ready to set sail with me out there

While this all roasts away, as it starts up a light glassy rain


Will Swan


The Staffie People

Were English, the best kind of English, Hogarthian

They were like Ron Wood

My parents got into Staffies & so we got to know them

Water gypsy immigrants from Manchester & East London

To the dust and mud of a showground continent

With their gardens of dogs coasting around like sheathed boats

Viking collars and pied & brindled boulders split with smiles

Alice Cooper incanting from a panel wagon, a sump clown

A knowing fiend from the dripping engine room of carnival

He frightened me as I drank vanilla milk in the molasses rained paddock

And in the big lazy red arcade tent

A burnished oxblood jelly light, bared cables were roots through the dust

See us there blowing the Death Star to cold little pieces

Snapped like the cheap rapiers of sideshow alley

There were Halloween showbags stuffed with gobs of rubbery spiders

There was the back of our Kingswood stuffed with snarl-farted dogs

And a gluttony of prizes: sashes & ribbons, trophies & those two bronze Buddhas

Another kind Buddha, a tubby pink Cockney, he gave us

Leaden silvery medallions of Our Lady, thrilling talismans

To my irreligious barbed small heart

See that freckled horse-haired kid by the greasing Octopus

Eating clumps of satin fairy floss with dirty freckled hands

See the Staffordshire breeders set upon their fighting dogs

Pulling them up from the din like crabs from boiling water

Admonishing them in guttural fighting dog language then

The fight forgotten, see the breeders in the shade of caravan race memory

She conjures a cold Riesling under long black hair

Unfolding chairs and the dogs grin spastic alongside in general satisfaction

The judges like mayors and Meatloaf’s bats hurtle and slap

Belting past the thrown ears of every rattling rotor rider

See us in our Darth Vader & C-3PO masks like pagan village children

Invested with folktale opera, see this puffy skull sticker

Which will get pride of place somewhere, it glows in the dark

And we glide back across the state with Gerry Rafferty

Flying on his wine stained wing, music of melted down gold jewellery as

We cross low slung creeks home to creek creatures and circle round

Rusted rock hills and the lonely wonder of those solitary hill people homesteads


It will never be the same, yet while ever I’m here

And I would say afterwards, too

In the showground of my soul, it will never





Will Swan

Upper Mountains Pubs & Country Pubs

The women behind the bars look & speak like

Women looked & spoke in nineteen sixty, in eighteen ninety

With the clarity of tank water, hair in Valkyrie braided ropes

They have children they will take out for Chinese tomorrow

They see men with road bikes and they’ve rode out for miles in cold wind

Emerging from the roar at lakesides and lookouts

They handle the beer taps the same way men once handled cricket bats

They are not stagnant with four hour facebook sessions

Not swollen by offices, not paled by pale neon plastic light

They don’t chase idiots and if they ever did, then they learnt not to

This one is listening to the pie-shouldered locals over their beers

In all this antique space, the smell of cleaned pub carpet

She’s the light that was switched on at opening

She has a seven ounce glass of squash to the side

Celtic straw hair and she looks like her great grand girl-mother

Only with a small nose ring

In the dining room of oak sideboards, a big polished quiet

Every table is loaded with a fresh white square of paper

We have it all to ourselves and the cook is playing badminton

When he’s called up for the order; he sounds pleased, lopes in

Stringy white beard, something of a jaunty hippie

And the rump steak comes on whirling white plates and we set to

Filling them with a pink and black level of blood, salt & salad oil


Will Swan

Dreams of Glamour

Seems I’ve got some job in the bulrush shoals

At the edge of the nightclub, keeping it all quiet there

A swamp crane I am here, ladling the shadows with a barge pole

Minding my own business in blue shadow, in sleep

Then some celebrity patrons come bustling goosey

The volatile one is a drunk blonde actress from L.A. and she’s

Lit up like Sydney itself, flashing her fanblade sinews

Language gone to deluge in her sugar-wet mouth and

Seems she’s trying to unhinge her celebrated boobies

In some greedy display for the public but her boyfriend

Who is in magazines with a stylist haircut, stylist stubble

Very fat booze head & he usually looks like he’s got pills up his arse

He’s plucking her back toward him

Trying to keep it from looking brutal, like he’s taming a puppet

Steering wrists as her voice starts to grind and her eyes darken

Everything about him is weak except his need to show off

Later I hear that Nicole Kidman was also at the club

I didn’t see her but I hear that she ran riot in Martin Place

Attacked various ATMs with a can of crimson spray paint

Slagging the name of Angelina Jolie or perhaps it was another actress

Anyway, there was a lot of spray paint left in the wake of the outburst


Will Swan

The Fool of St Kilda

The jeweller has a Dutch name and a rainwashed face

No email, no website, no apologies & he’s as honest as a shillelagh

Without those dots & details, he’s as free & renegade as these

Grey rinsing showers and so it is now or never

A tarot talisman, The Fool grinning himself out at me

With his big pixie sun grin, ribbon dog and now out over the cliff

This vendor, he’s made it himself, stamped the silver

And I know he has made it for me, my birthday card

Made neat & hard, miniature in that case there, glass and hinged wood

I take him, I wear him, reunited with the archetype cut into revelation

By a craftsman with no website who retreats to a hollow log

And prises likenesses of The Green Man from brass

And all such Dwarf-learned flowerings

We are now in our promenade pace of St Kilda

Music box timing with rollercoaster clockwork

Cleaving gateaux with the tiny mighty hammer blows of tea forks and

Filled to ear-level gauge with coffee & tea as we stride up the pier

Keeping it all hammered into the sand with each step of sneaker and thigh boot

The sun is white and formless up in the dome over the bay

As if under a thin scrape of paint in an unfinished mosque

Then low showers in an hourless sweep

Across these marbled fields of gulls, then gold and cold and

Grey washing showers again

Husky Pacific totems and cherry red lights in the tattoo shop window

Smell of sugary hot sausages and fancy bath soaps

Trams that slide like doors


Will Swan

Postwar Municipality

Women’s accents that smell like the shade within chocolate boxes

Loose and even as fresh linen under wooden pegs

Men’s accents like the snapping of carrots

Smelling of smoko and evening sun and shadows

Alcohol problems that sting right through their world

Transparent as turps through newsprint

A Dane with a clipped scalp and union ticket

Lungs at rest in upholstered cool, breathing roast nectars

Cricket’s ears tuned to the insect transistor

And pilsener hitting glass in deep honey blades of cold

Suds barnacled with brief rainbow bubbles

As the radio talks to the fan

A ticket punch crunching that dry rhythm of civilization

A dam vaulting into the sky like a biblical challenge

My father spruced and drunk at a ceilidh

A piano boning a strathspey, out by half an inch

A horse drinking from a sputnik bathtub

Skinks squirreling like offcuts of brass

A cockatoo grimacing, regarding the peasantry


Will Swan

Saying goodbye, in death, to Melbourne

Wherever it happens

That particular goodbye won’t be a flapping one

But hard, brief and bright as a sapphire in an envelope

Every brick and smokestack well met

The geysers of spraypaint still erupting unseen in alley fountains

The Carlton Gardens fountain still glazing itself

In its tumbling shrine of merfolk waters

The crypt stables you find in lanes and

The peace you find in lanes

With lemons splashing over corrugated iron

Feathery terriers rattling like chainsaws behind crayfish back fences

The markets all closed up on a winter evening, the grit

Blown in your eye marking you as a crow

But the donuts still blooming in cinnamon tomorrow

We smiled at the fat rubber spread of the camel’s feet

Himself at home in the tar bazaar

Winds that shake like dirty grey mops

Brickwork corridors that framed the Age of Gamblers

The beaten tin opera of Chinatown

The temple dogs resting in coils of stilled heraldry

Danced in from their otherworld

The city’s ballroom dialect under Cantonese runes

The opium smoke walled-up under stencils defunct

And that morning emerging into Queen Street like the sun itself

From a shore leave rookery with a clean city breeze

Clattering broad leaves and always leadlight glass

Drip-set at the breast of my maiden aunt, my own maiden aunt

With her black hair high and bundled

That healthy city girl best dressed at the ball

Although for her it’s just another cold night

And the expression all and only in her black eyes

I’ll say goodbye directly, no waving about with this one

I’ll say, neat as a brandy

Neatly: “Melbourne Adieu”


Will Swan