The Adventures of Crab Boy & Kid Sulphur

They slouched around on the fence near the cricket nets

Pitching jewels of gravel at Fanta bottles

Crab Boy had a white sugar cigarette perched in his mouth

Like a thermometer

Vast storm clouds flooded across the plains

It occurred to Crab Boy that to walk out of town in any direction

Would find him very small indeed, under the flooding skies

That had begun to cackle with faraway lightning

Sensing this, Kid Sulphur asked him, “You know how we got here?”

Crab Boy belted a chunk of gravel at a bottle & it made a porcelain sound

Kid Sulphur continued, “… they built a railway

All these men screwing train tracks into place.

They built it to make things easier – they did the same thing in the cities

So now it’s easy for people to sit on trains for an hour to get home

It’s so easy that they get sore from sitting down like that.

Actually, I dunno how easy it is, because it makes them tired.

We went & stayed with my cousins in the city & my uncle and aunt were

Always tired from these easy trains, or maybe it was from the easy motorways.

Anyway, people had come out here in wagons, loaded up like crabs

Then they’d come out in trains, loaded up like crabs, & now they come out in

Family cars with all their furniture and stuff loaded up in a Dawsons Removals truck,”

Kid Sulphur flashed Crab Boy a cheerful, superior look –

“Like you did, Crab Boy!”

Kid Sulphur had lived in town all his life.

The first stones of rain plummeted into the grey dust around the cricket nets

Crab Boy chewed his sugar cigarette into a floury paste

Kid Sulphur sighed & fixed his BMX with a glazed stare that said

‘The time to go is now at hand’

And he spoke now, even more deadpan than usual

“They’re always going to say that evolution is progress, boyo

But it’s not. Evolution is adaptation. They just got hammered with a load of ideas

From Pilgrim’s Progress and from dead-eyed politicians.

You’re doing alright, Boy Crab,

Moving across this rock.”

There was a gust of cool stirred oxygen and they both copped a splat

Of heavy drops on their faces and they straddled their BMX bikes

And rode out into the pagan storm of their childhoods


Will Swan


Kiss a Rooster

The bookshop was the kind of place where

Staff turned soggy. The microclimate was perfect for breeding a

Virulent mind-fungus, the type that results in palaeontology Masters students

Forgetting about their potential careers in brown stone bones

Gets them quietly gnawing for that position as Sales Accounts Vice Sub-Manager

Turns disciplined souls into mad mice & pulls their lenses onto the more real matters

Of window displays, sycophancy & who gets to go for a piss at hour’s end

It was awful, easy, well-paid stuff. I’d better elaborate now, though:

This was an academic bookshop – civilians were rare & the students, for the most part

Were students of such solemn callings:

Management Accounting

Human Resources

Strategic Management

Polished pilgrims of the Halls of Learning with credit cards and

The vaguest notion of which city they were standing in

Our shop was run, like all the others, from “Head Office”

As is the way with these things, when anyone referred to “Head Office”

There was a change in pitch. It was said as if it were a black note, as in

If someone was speaking in the key of F, they might say “Head Office” in F-sharp

If they were speaking in C, they’d say “Head Office” in B-flat

The boss of our shop was a dapper silver-haired fellow

With a taste for well-cut overcoats & good polished shoes

He spoke in an old Sydney accent, an uncanny reminder of my grandfather

And I liked him for this, as well as for his disorganized flair and his cheerful

Unsuitability for the job.  He was one of those tainted folk figures

Of which I am one now myself –

‘The Recovering Alcoholic Who Does Not Drink’

And this seemed a natural aspect of his persona

At this time, I’d eat Kentucky Fried Chicken for breakfast &

Drink lemon squash & Coke for breakfast after nights of cheap wine

Like I say – ‘SOGGY’!

But now I see that most people seem to drink Coke in the morning

So I was ahead of my time, anyway

There we were, a largely ‘overeducated’ staff (whatever that means)

And a dapper but organisationally shambolic boss and

Head Office did not like this arrangement

Head Office wasn’t too far from our shop

They’d swing by to grimace & gaze & force this horrible affability

There were a clutch of them; gay, straight, divorced, hungrily devoted to their company

Lost to themselves, with sad, mean eyes

Attentive & capable, living in desirable postcodes

As far as I could tell, they were all Baby Boomers

Some had fathers who had fought the forces of Imperial Japan but

These people had a company to profit from

So they decided what was drastically important in their lives

And what was drastically important in their lives was

Sacking our boss.

On account of small print and cowardice, they were unable to do this outright

So they put up a sheet of paper in the backroom of our shop

Requesting that we write down ANY problems with the management of the shop

As such gestures go, it was as raw as a glistening thread of Kentucky Fried ligament

I wasn’t all that surprised that the sheet of paper was left tacked there, ignored

Although Head Office had their agents amongst us

Whom they had whored out with allusions to promotion

Despite this, the paper remained blank

Until I wrote on it with a fat red marker, taking the obvious precaution

To write with my left hand in big clownish letters

KIsS a RoOStEr !

Then I forgot about it, and someone casually asked me later, while remarking on the politics,

If I had written it and I, knowing him for an agent, casually said no

But then Head Office found it

And the sheet of paper was rushed back to Head Office under armed guard

And photocopied, again and again and (…oooooh!) again

And the boss was hauled in, and photocopies were distributed

And staff were taken aside and asked if they had written the slogan in red

And I was already on a warning for hanging up the phone on a rude customer

Some miserable lawyer who turned out to be friends with Head Office

I looked up from the cash register when the photocopied slogan was

Presented to me, pulling a nonchalant face followed

By an expression of baffled amusement, as seemed fitting

And so it all continued but I’d just like to say here, Steve

If I was the straw that broke the camel’s back for you, well

I want to say thanks for you trusting me the way you did with

The things that really mattered, like those tens of thousands of dollars in cash

That we always tallied to within twenty cents of accuracy

You understood that I would never pinch a cent

And as for the Kiss a Rooster fiasco, well, I know it was for the best

That you were finally shot of those stupid fuckers


Will Swan

Red Dice

Clacking like a tablespoon on a steak & kidney plate

Red dice as red as Coca Cola

Red dice, cool & dry as a half-derelict carpark

Four levels high in abandoned afternoon sun

Red dice, loose & firm like week-old sneakers

Red dice, minted in a slush of poker machine coins

Red dice holding unburned smoke

In subatomic gunpowders

Red dice, hot as cinnamon gum

Red dice sailing in an arc ablaze

Like a gold watch in a Sicilian barbershop


Will Swan

Laszlo of Southeast Queensland

SPLAT! went the bat, shook away the form

Of a magician’s top hat & reeled up out of frangipani

In back-masked Black Sabbath ribbons of rubber

Blasted out above the highway sex warehouses

In his navigator’s mask – bare teeth and star-drunk eyes

SPLAT! went the lightning in the long indigo twilight

Rude, wet and sugary violet in its bubblegum burst

And down Tahiti Avenue, astride his automotive reptile of insulin

Laszlo engages the Tesla coil, sets it pulsing & crackling under the shell

Laszlo practices Mindfulness & hears the porcelain tones in frangipani bells

Sees the true forms of the sex warehouse acolytes, the dim & dutiful moth folk

Sees the joggers glide like softened Spartans along the straw beachfront

The shore and the chanting mineral ocean bob against themselves

Some civilization’s candles stuck like orange glue in a thousand residential towers

In a republic that might leave the moon feeling Victorian, although it rises

Out from Polynesia, cooking in orange shades of Hell and striking alight

A wisp of salty smoke on the turtle green sea

As Laszlo stands on a platform of sand

And hurtles with the green sea, on this orb among all other orbs

While between towers with ape shapes haunting the fatal square windows

A stripper in black tights and sheepskin boots walks a skipping Pekingese

Past nightclubs charging like banks of batteries

And gelato cones are passed around in the colours of coral


Will Swan

Postcard from Burleigh Heads

G’day all, just a quick scrawl here at Burleigh Heads where tonight we’re watching a drum circle doing their thing; morphing rhythms with djembes, clapping sticks, bongos, tambourines & fife’n’drum.  Fire-twirlers lighting up the pines & sand nearby. I once thought of these displays of neo-tribalism merely as awkward emulations, but not these days. ‘We’ were all hunters & gatherers, for the main part, and this drumming tonight is as ‘valid’ as it gets. The paper doll outfits of our society, from the Victorians to current all-important careers in human resources, accountancy, mobile phone sales & bloody ‘Information Technology’ look to me like the oversized costumes from some pantomime; children’s play-vehicles made from the discarded  boxes that  the whitegoods & exercise equipment arrived in, dials & faces drawn on them with fat marker pens. Heap them up there in the shadows just outside of the dancing circle & the firelight. Heap them up alongside the tide of whitegoods & televisions & exercise equipment that grows vaster with every hard rubbish collection week.  Tribal fire and raw clear music at night are how it always was, for the main part. We are meant to sleep soundly after the drum ceremony, after the exertions of the hunt and the forage and the act of sex. Away with your sleeping pills and those limbo anxieties on your status, meaning, purpose and ‘fulfilment’! You spend half the night awake & then your whole life dumbly asleep, sealed in your jar of assumptions, illusions, delusions & spurious doubts. I’ve been there too.  Dig the drumming & recognize it. But we must be careful when invoking rites, for no matter how convenient you may want to find it, working on your beergut is not shamanism. Skulking around a morning pint of liquid sugar and spending the week on your arse moving decimal points around is – have you considered – dubious. We are animals grown into the world from an ancestral environment where our species went about existence in certain ways, & this holds no matter how many comical animal behaviourist send-ups they do – that rote one in the mocked voice of David Attenborough we’ve all seen a hundred times.

So the props heap up in the shadows, under the coastal pines, along with the churches that have lost most of their power and now cling to the abstraction of piety in order to bulwark the status of their leading and more active membership, and in some cases, to print money. They must pursue fiascos like the current gay marriage proposal to try and save face, having inanely tied ubiquitous human custom to their own Abrahamic movement, failing to see that they are an aspect of the big picture, not the other way around. Their membership and especially their hierarchies are, no doubt, compelled to belong – for whatever animal reasons. Down here near the beach tonight, the rhythm in the drum circle moves like a mystic serpent.

Meanwhile, back in the Unreal World, a grown man of solid ‘status’ lives his days without anything resembling physical exercise. Some out there tonight are full of angst because our political system has proponents of a ‘social philosophy’ which holds extreme financial wealth is the paragon of existence & is concerned with promoting this pitiable idiocy. Many more nod in a daze. The boys drunkenly compete to impregnate the girls and this they do and then they go and live apart – alongside each other – with all the things that came out of the boxes their children now play with, briefly, before the cardboard is thrown out and the children acclimatise to a lifetime of television. The genes are passed on, the genes are carried, the genes are passed on…  all the way here from the African savannah. Somewhere, there are sagas and trickster tales around a fire. Here, the green sea is hissing its cream across the way. Here, unadvertised, is something resembling INSTINCT.


Will Swan