Redfern – Burwood – Strathfield – Granville

Hourless platforms of Redfern Station

Always pulling west, unmarked sky

Propaganda poster heaven over industry of wires

Pulling this west like a star freighter being towed into orbit

Silver sun, brown shadows, golden concrete platform

Leagues away, near that lamppost

An Indian in Doc Marten boots is audibly thinking, neat clockwork skull

This is afterlife country, with the afterlife’s seagulls

Rust and clarity and the blue universe you can grab and sail upon

 

Train arrives with a few souls rattling around in an

Otherwise empty cardboard box

It’s the best having these box carriages almost to yourself

Choosing to ignore the complimentary idiot news sheets

Watching the cola-tinted shadows hum across brick columns

 

Burwood and a barber shop cut into a wall

Is a puppet show of self-cleaning puppets

A butcher shop screwed into the street like a tight pink bulb

Sea of pork meat’s nudity wafts about

Bobbing with small sweet bananas

 

Rematerialize in Carriage Land for the trip up the line

Mobile phone conversations in different languages

Heads splashing up out of barrels

Gasping for apples

 

Strathfield, the platform’s vintage awning

Lattices the green-blue sky in diamonds

Holds sluggish bags of pigeons

Architecture of a pier, all the way out here

The recorded robot voices moan on & on & on over the P.A.

“Customers …

Are reminded that consuming alcohol or

Being in possession of an open container of alcohol

May result in you being fined or asked to leave the station premises”

Waiting for the connecting train, this plays continuously

A pigeon looks at me sideways from up in his awning

The robot becomes wordless in its noise

The sky in its diamonds is hard, clean and bright

 

Granville, I do not leave the carriage and the train hovers

With an uncertain announcement of delay

The platform down there crammed with what appear to be

Fully grown adults in school uniforms

Often at these stations it looks like this

Catholic Lebanese school students – men & women – who look like

They might have schoolkids of their own but are

Cluttered about in school ties and scuffed school shoes

They dominate the platform but Korean and Chinese kids

With schoolbags almost as big as themselves move amongst them

Now four railways workers turn up

Three of them laughing and a fourth to the side

One of them is, I suspect, about forty three but

Looks like he mightn’t be long out of school himself

Another is red and turkey-like and sucks on an energy drink

Another is cheerful and shy and looks like a big gorilla

In special ‘big man’ sized pants

He’s a good soul, you can tell from up here

He has big eyebrows, Black Irish swarthiness

His railways shirt is like a sheet

The fourth stands slightly to the side

English as crumpets and tea

Sideburns, specs and a mod fringe

Looks like he could have been a second guitarist in Oasis

All of them are in a blue lens of shadow

A train sucks into the space between my carriage and their platform

Obliterates the scene

I haul out to the places where the sun arcs cold and amber

 

Will Swan

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Scaredy Cats

Under crimped hair & brollies, behind oversized plastic sunglasses

Projecting their perverse thrill, scanning for menace

Scaredy Cats don’t even need tabloid television to tellum that

They’ll be ripped apart by amphetamine werewolves

Fetishists of fear, they swoon at the thought of their own

Helpless lacerated carcass ransacked of its silver coin, pocket lint

And orthopaedic shoes

They make bobbling expressions, swirling

Lockjawed in a desire to fear me or anyone else here

It’s almost overtly sexual in its method

But I can’t see anyone on this train with cannibal eyes

Only people reading, sighing, grimacing, etc.

Of the Scaredy Cats, a freakish tiny few were victimhood fetishists

Their whole lives through – there are always sickos like that

Others have held onto stank, overboiled political sciences

Cold stew of Red Scare, Yellow Peril, Sinbad the Sailor & Agatha Christie

Most have willingly grown into it

Learning that some dim bulb of self-realisation seems

To come with protracted helplessness

And that it glows a little brighter as it swings in the sandy winds

Of persecution fantasies

Up the front of the carriage, one unloads the lot to a fellow traveller

Assuming, because they are of a close vintage, that the

Fear-thrill will be shared

She tells how the local police sergeant, who sounds like a bloated thug

Was quick to respond when some suspect tourists

-Japanese-

Were lost in front of her house on the way to the National Park

The local police sergeant was there in a jiffy

Ransacked their bags & read them the Riot Act

That’s what she says, but who knows…

She continues on to the fact that, before all this

There was but one annual murder in Sydney, if not in all of New South Wales

Then she issues a salvo of bird noises

Advertising her delicious and spongy passivity

The travelling companion is dryly embarrassed for her

The bird noises continue; she has forgotten all about

This utopia founded with the cat o’nine tails

She’s forgotten about the Anzacs who came back & killed their families

Before making stiffs of themselves in kitchens

She’s forgotten about Razorhurst & the heroin that roared like a sea

She’s a Scaredy Cat & she loves it that way and a

Direct attack by an amphetamine werewolf with gory goo in strings

On the end of his crowbar could not convince her otherwise

 

Loaded up with groceries on the corner opposite the locksmith shop

With its half-raped mannequin out the front in burglar attire

I see the Anti-Scaredy Cat

She is driving a rusted garden tool, a car that has been excavated & claimed

An Elizabethan sedan pulled sucking from the brine

Her eyes are the colour of cold park fountain water

Silver hair, clean jawline, unapologetic life

Waiting for the lights, she’s scanning the sky, reflecting it all

The last autumn leaves are splatting about and a distant roil of clouds

Appears as a hot spring

She’s lived, she lives, her sedan trowels up all this illusion

Growls within its rusting bones

She is no more scared than a crow upon a line

Who leaps on elegant black bestial hands

Across the expanse, owning the world

Because it doesn’t need to

 

Will Swan

Follies at 0645

In a dark that was black as slices of flooded gelatin film found

In a rust-puddled clawfoot bathtub found

Behind a boarded-up wall in a Georgian house in Bloomsbury, London

I flicked on a switch at the powerboard

In the dark I flicked at the wrong switch & the hot water did not heat

So my shower was a lone bucket load but that’s alright

Because while I waited for the water to heat up PROPERLY THIS TIME

I drank up two cups of Cadbury hot chocolate, the fine powder like silk

Now I have chocolate for blood

Lit some incense sticks of ‘Herbal Mystical’ flavour

From a packet embossed with green Hindu jungles

Reheating the chicken flecked with chilli & the glass cooker top trembles

As I play a 16th Century rouse-to-arms through concertina bellows

A brigade of fighting Irish skeletons rises to the hem of my beach towel

The incense smoke in its streaming ghost-white belts

The glass cooker lid and its clear lively tremble

My various anatomical systems awash & charging with chocolate

The massed march under a tide of pikes and the echoing mutters:

“Follow Me Up To Carlow…”

At this moment, I cannot prove that humanity prevails out there

But in here, it’s like Fantasia

As the sun throws a blurred copper lantern into a wall

The rubber skeletons here wobble suspended

 

Will Swan

Golden Guts (in praise of Chiko Rolls)

School was for jerks, staffed by aimless jerks

School was for jerks but Chiko Rolls were for everyone

Thick golden logs of offcuts steaming like a torn hot oesophagus

Greasy branded wrappers in the winter

There we were, folded in the envelope of the cold skies of the plains

The teacher issued some compendium picture books

With a jerk-off picture of Bilbo Baggins looking like troll

With long wild hair, like he was in Iron Maiden

There was one story about a witch named something-‘Macabre’

Everyone including the teacher was mispronouncing “Macabre”

I briefly tried to put them right but then just tried to forget about it

School is a jerk-off but there was a great poster in the library

A montage of Greek monsters, hideous stuff

And a little slide show of the Walt Disney version of ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’-

That was always fun

The male teachers all had this Baden-Powell thing going on – anachronistic, ready-made

They saw themselves in a military light, for some reason

But one of them once read us a Roald Dahl short story-

Only lesson of his I remember

In winter especially, it was Chiko Rolls, the outer casing barely edible

The innards, as mentioned, a scram of offcuts

A staple, they had a sort of cactus aftertaste

One time, after my father had left, he & I went on an outing

While my mother was in a rough state

Back at the house which was now shucked of all heart

My father & I meandered to where teams of children

Tried to play soccer, their parents howling at them

A legion finger-painting in the mud

I recognized some of the parents but they seemed clawed and furred

My father, something of a pariah now, was greeted with

Curt manners, that script that says you must convey disapproval

Through intonation but never through actual language

So if it’s a ‘hard politeness’ then it isn’t as hard as steel

No, it’s only about as hard as an erect human dong

I’ve seen that ‘hard politeness’ so many times since

I’ve been on the receiving end of it myself, many times

And I am always careful never to resort to it myself

Should I come across a so-called pariah

It’s an idiot’s script.

Anyway, my father laughed a dry incredulity at the howling parents

Was flexible under the hard politeness and, I suspect

Could not have cared anyway

We walked away from the steaming, exhausted children and all that howling

Everything was cold now

The schoolyard was cold, those plains’ skies were cold

History was cold

Now we were all bare branches

My father & I reversed from the creaming mud and dead poplar leaves

Went back into town and got some Chiko Rolls from a chip shop

Same plastic strip drapes, same peasant faces

It was all grey and I suspected that there was a red fire of colour

Burning somewhere in the town, as before, but

I couldn’t see it anymore

 

Will Swan

Nourished in Black

Half awake to blackness like a perfect cube of coal

Mineral, matt, unmined black

The last sunlight I saw was via the folktale moon

Full blue and submerged in last night’s cruising manta sky

Bare branches & red branches & leaky exhaust rain

Half awake to blackness like leather thigh boots

Falling under the bed’s surface again

Loading up on the still, black energy

Doses of it, as windows bead

As those bare branches span in silver

 

Will Swan

You might have a Masters in Denial, but I’ve got a Ph.D

That word they take from the bland, once-middle class field of PSYCHOLOGY

“Denial” – they like that word. It sounds conclusive & there is an inference

Of self-knowledge that comes with simply saying it resolutely

So take an obvious example, like a noxious drinking problem, grown wild

In somebody they know. That somebody is, they say, “in denial”

But said person takes stock, gets dry, stays dry and

Is no longer considered to be in denial.

NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.

I’m one of those people, the vines of drink starved dry & withered

Thanks to the power of denial

I deny myself, openly deny my nature

And whatever denial might have been in the shadowed days of deluge

When vines flew about like serpent beanstalks, lashing me securely in place

Well that’s nothing to me now

Previously a Fifth Dan Black Belt in denial

Now a DOJO MASTER in denial

Nobody says so though, not that it makes any difference

They have a pure dumb faith in connotation-over-denotation and

They would deny this, but

I can SEE THEIR denial and it’s

Like looking at inflamed gums in a medical journal

All those husbands who are ACHING, really physically aching

To fuck a woman who is not their wife

They have this quiver of agonizing longing in them, that cliché:

The silent scraping at the Otto bin walls

Those good fathers in jeans & parkas & bright white training shoes

Awkwardly supervising their children in the playground as if

They are minding someone else’s children

Can’t quite work that one out but

It looks, from over here, like some form of denial

Because they simply look like they don’t want to be there

 

To any genuine drunks out there, please consider

The three worst places to be drunk:

i)  bar

ii)  restaurant

iii) anyone else’s private home if they are not drunk themselves

The best place to start drinking is in the sunshine

Emerging from the awnings of the Portuguese strip at Petersham

While the first chickens are basting on rods & the trains are shunting

And the sparrows are full of life

The best place to end up molten drunk is in front of the stereo

With enough cask wine to last you until the end

I don’t deny

 

But anyway, I’ll live in my denial and they

With their bright white training shoes and invoices and chunky wife rumps

Can live in their denial but I reckon that mine

Drunk – or – Sober

Trumps theirs like a playing card of crimson energy

Swirling with the astronomical light of red nebulae

 

Will Swan