Shar Pei

The sun that makes it into this shed is orange; opera; bonfire

Though the sky is porcelain white

Shar Pei pours himself onto the lino floor

Spreads & flattens against it

Emptied from some golden canister, siege-grade

Stuck with a forgotten paper label, stamped in red Tibetan runes

25kg of chocolate cake mix gathers to the last drop

And is still on the sand-coloured lino

Somewhere in the heaped cake mix, a bright eye dark as sump

Looks straight through the doorway at me reading on the bed

Pneumatic snore splats across the plane of lino

As the eye in the cake mix holds my own


Will Swan



His men materializing, murderers in a sleeping bathroom

The tiling contractor

Unloads like a general


On the bookshelves of your closest St Vincent de Paul shop:

The Atkins Diet, The Gluten Free Diet

The Low Carb Diet, The Detox for Women Diet

The Herbalife Diet, The Fatbusting Diet

& Jane Fonda’s Workout book(s)


Meetings, more meetings, and everyone making Meeting Faces


All of them are bohemians at 3 a.m.

Interrupting each other with bold statements; funny & insightful

Jaws a’drip in warm glassy fluids

The fleeting small abandon, etc.


More meetings, faces squashed like slices of bread


The marooned epic of the 6:37 morning commuter

Gazing at his toes in the thrush-coated light

Dangling forever at the end of the platform


Herding her own children with a distant professionalism

A legal evasion; saves her from continuing to speak with her in-laws

Because they have to beat the traffic

They’ve got school tomorrow

Assorted sighing noises


Queuing for a new mobile phone then showing it to somebody


Powering-up on thick champagne, he paints his hair again

Stirs a load of sweetly reeking gossip, even as it dries

And flutters out to find his gaggle


Presbyterian bones twitching under the earth

Will they leap out & do things

As things must be done?


Will Swan

Quinn of Cork

Standing there tilted in his pegged yard

Evening air crowding with birds & the smell of hot biscuits

As a comet – is it a comet?  – plunges up across skies

Washing its wake in oceanic tails, jellyfish undulations

He calls to Johanna, she levers out the biscuits

Appears in her faithful spritz of soaped hair & spiced dough

Watches the comet swim up and out

Far above New South Wales

He says that he fancies it to be some manner of metal

And he’s right – it’s the silver sun on the wings of a Virgin Blue flight

From Sydney to the Gold Coast but Quinn & Johanna do not know

That the comet is full of people unborn

Edward Quinn, a soldier of His Majesty, has seen

Many queer things, on many expeditions

He has passed up a dawn river, moving through

Natives’ waltzing campfire smoke & he knew he was

Passing directly through a spell

He has heard native boggarts, in dark swamp places

Mewl & slap & burp and – cold-eyed – he has half-smiled back into the dark

With the loosest thoughts to the God of Rome

He has stood under the sun on a rock shelf as

Crabs writhed in colours obscene like the continent coming to life

The bubbled sockets in the cliffs watching them all unload

Their flag party made of its slaves & captains & cargos

He saw purple silhouettes on the ledges, men like cranes

And he looked to his own contingent of scrambling navigators

As to any packet of sundry infidels in the desolate seas of all men

Looked back to the crabs and rocks, marbling in the tide

He has, in this place, come to question the authority of language

He recognizes this trait in some others –

A certain marvelled wildness in the back of the eye

While still others have pounded & pounded pure meaning, like stakes

Set squarely in their skulls

It will always be like this, some will wonder

Some will declare belief

These others to come, Quinn & Johanna’s descendants

Rising & burying into New South Wales

Scrambling like crabs where Ireland is not even a memory

(Though some have hitched comets across the planet

For a floating bout –

Drunk up of that musty protein, slept that brown sleep)

Granddaughters go into vases & flowers go into vases

Perfumed words flower across stones like engravings across padlocks

Which grow about in plots of rich rounded peace

Where crows & magpies mutter and sing

As they do now around Quinn as he tilts to take in

A comet, recalling the universe of sea life

Spluttering alongside their ship, revealed in water and sun

Trailing away on alien trajectories

In the energies of fossils exultant


Will Swan


They had sex last night, into the morning, the fiddle player &

The 2nd guitarist/backing singer. They were not drunk & neither of them was

Observably flirtatious, let alone saucy

The fiddle player is an ageless young woman who wears light chalky colours

Plays a strong reel, music with a heel of wood in it

She does not laugh often, she never scowls & she is not ‘One of The Girls’

The 2nd guitarist used to live in Hobart and he maintains a strong friendship

With his teenage son who still lives there

Also, the 2nd guitarist has not sunk a drop of alcohol since

That week when Kurt Cobain died

The fiddle player and the 2nd guitarist are both calmly forthright adults

Who play in a tourist trap/office workers’ bar, an “Irish Pub”

They get paid a decent dollar for all the bog standards and scripted requests

The leader of the band – the main singer/guitarist – is an androgynous alcoholic

Who would not have hired them if they were not confident & good

The leader of the band needs space on the tiny raised bar stage

And the other players understand space

So last night, in the planet’s iron-grey ride through space

Right up until the first airliners float up into the airport rains

Right up until that sound, under rain, of many hundreds of housewives

Cracking the aluminium seal on the second yellow bottle of white wine

The fiddle player and the 2nd guitarist did sport and play

(as it goes in the folk songs)

Because they are adults, they know that the devil, in guise of lippy serpent

Did not make them do this

Because they are sober, there was no selfish lump of sleep involved

No fuming breath  – no sly, drunk evil eyes

Because she never scowls, she’s not going to scowl about it

There will be no gaming pistols firing fat silent cartridges of spite

He is happy as he reads a newspaper with his coffee & cake

In a rain-rattled café this hourless day

She sleeps a silver day sleep, for a while

Then rises and buys herself some jonquils, plays CDs loudly

Does not phone a soul, as far as we can tell


On Friday night, their Irish Pub band let’s rip with its prodigious setlist

For gawky tourists – cannon fodder from England, slipping around like puppets

The peering rent-a-crowd from Sweden & Holland & Brazil

The mass of suits from the towers of corporate finance

The swilling gaggle from advertising, the PR hyenas and the Telstra chickens

All hostile with fun

A neutral skirt/suit ensemble brays like a stringy blonde crow

As the androgynous singer bayonets the chorus of

‘The Red Rose Café’

The 2nd guitarist provides the backing vocals and the fiddle player

Turns the wooden dials on some small melodic varieties

As the crowd boils like algae

Before tomorrow’s morning of scowls and

Telephone calls and thickened evil eyes


Will Swan

Friends & Couples

And friends of exes and exes of friends

With nice flatettes & kitchens like frozen stomach cramps

His PARTNER swishes a Merlot in some adolescent recital

The left hand playing in a different key to the right

Gargling the melted label and price sticker

Her PARTNER still in his job-game; the bureaucracy, teaching, whatnot

That hasn’t changed but he has fresh sneakers, a bit dad-ish

He’s got money in his plastic card that you’d spend in two days

For the sake of it, no different from breathing in a rose

He’s got a paunch that gives him the aspect of a biological host

You are introduced & for the next gonging five minutes and

The following anaesthetised hours

You are acting, not playing with cap guns or imagination

But playing in an abandoned dental chair, in a garden shed

“So where do you guys know (name) from?”

“So where are you guys living?”

“It’s good, y’know, it’s a bit expensive but it’s a really great area…”

I first tapped at this enamel – obliged – in ’94, then ‘95

Again after the turn of the century, not too often but

Enough to know that it’s always the same two people

Born of equal career opportunities, vague self-expectation

Darwinian fundamentals of psychology

And a thickly brittle vanity that resembles hatchback cars

Printed in the colours of cheap hairclips

On office-smart hairstyles in sexless shampoo perfumes

Now his PARTNER swirls her Merlot recital

Speaks at twice the volume of everyone else when the subject turns to


She’s taken everything, done it all, she says, but the stories aren’t good

Simply loud & perfunctory

And mercifully brief in comparison to all these other


(All of them about herself)

The Thai green curry and duck salad come and go

The green wine is dobbed about and under the weight of

The wet wine & the oyster sauce & his paunch & the GROWN-UP TOPICS

Her PARTNER expands, a slice of drowned photograph in

The tray of The Siam Palace darkroom

You abandon the mode of this Georgian parlour dance

You opt instead for the Apocalypse Now approach:

You’re a gunship and any old TOPIC is but one village hut

For you to rape and rocket to death – this is not transgressive

But is perceived as eccentric and usually gets you, a week later

An uncertain compliment, “(Name) really liked talking with you…”

But you were not talking

You were playing a violent video game

And violent video games are as dumb as it gets


Will Swan

The Ballad of Samuel & Caleb Corneloup

“There is more evidence of Jesus’ existence than of Julius Caesar.” – James, October 4th 2012 mX newspaper (distributed free on Sydney commuter trains)

James here hasn’t put it very well but and I’m no scholar & will not contradict him. Many more people have claimed to KNOW Jesus than ever claimed to KNOW Julius Caesar.

“Fire crews say a blaze between Pretty Beach and Lobster Beach, on the New South Wales central coast, has flared and could put properties under threat.” – 7 News, October 5th 2012

Hot winds whip up & up, invisible as Lucifer above all the lobsters and above all the prettiness as the fire trucks are pumped full of fuel & water, as under crustacean tiles the white humans wait for word…

“The court today considered whether a by-law restricting Samuel and Caleb Corneloup from preaching in the Rundle Mall shopping strip was inconsistent with the implied constitutional freedom of political communication.”  – The Australian, October 5th 2012

The laptops are hot like the rocks on Pretty Beach, the iPhones run empty of juice like stonefish gasping for breath on shores under hot winds, the Senate must determine some laws to prevent social media’s influence on the Courts.

The face falls open and the sun floods in and the thumb pumps the keypad and the heart stays beating.

The Corneloups & their cronies slouch like armed robbers in their neckfat and whiskers, the hot winds ribbon and whistle around the stone blocks of courthouses from shore across to shore; a denizen of Lobster Beach is at present gathering up nothing in her household under crustacean tiles but her thumb is hot on the rubber keypad, she throws words out into the hot winds that say:

OMG might be a bushfire here OMG fuck

And 36 people like this.

A magistrate pisses hot & heavily in the tin trough behind his chambers then turns and heads back to an office that is cool with mahogany and marble and the reassuring ghosts of Latin as spoken by Julius Caesar but maybe not so much by Jesus.

“In which once ye did walk according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, of the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” – Ephesians 2:2


Will Swan

Deserted Circus

A willie wagtail performs his mazurka on

The split tar of an abandoned sidecar track

A billycart waits by the street sign on a blossomed corner

Like a dog of childhood carrying a tray of shared memories

The turquoise sky opens up again in a flush of painted canvas

A Jack Daniels label holds the crumbed glass of its dead bottle

As a name holds an estranged family

Finches evaporate in lemon juice blobs from goblin branches

And later, pagan clouds running across the full moon are

Water across a blazing buoy, silent as steam, save for

This brief bout of tinnitus coughing in my ear like a seashell

The folded tarry dough of the middle of the night

Images of cronies, drunk & marauding & hungover in Hobart

Their railing declarations, their exhausted oesophagi

Like some theatre of convicts, a parcel of simians

In a play you only recall, in passing, when you

Can’t seem to sleep


Will Swan