Pregnant junkie on platform 19

Pregnant as a white mouse, pregnant as a scorpion

Sliding across the grease paper of the city on her aspic eyes

Greased, uncatchable as the rest of us

Sliding across our faces, asking for spare change

Under her medicant aquarium

Bobbing sleepily with her dead plasmic leviathans

Bobbing with the balloon bulb of some simian yet to gasp

Junk-cooled in utero

Bones frizzing, sporadically, in that elastic well

At her eyes of loosened glue I say no – I have no shrapnel

As she swims up the platform like a drunken dwarf shark

Comes the realization: I am of this city of bricks, of heat

She has shown me this fact

The lie as acknowledgment – society’s way –

As reliable an honesty as anything else

And the best women here are Valkyries

And the next fellow is some Indian blacksnake

So the junkie swirls through the coral station as

Announcements build upon themselves

In megaphonic applause of breaking surf

All these different shoes flat upon tiles

But she drags dangling flippers & the tiny trailing oil bubbles

Of junk go “frip-smack- pop!” & are flattened by slapping soles and

I’m considering that we are at our best on station platforms

Our truest, our coolest

Fact is that nobody cuts her off

Most everyone looks her in that pricked face

And she moves on, like an oaf eating a bag of junkfood

Made cool by the platform, he moves on too and I think two things:

1) son, you great whale, you’re gunna die floating in some hospital

but you haven’t had a heart attack until you’ve had a Portuguese heart attack


2) this poem is dedicated to Henry Lawson

who swam these daylit coral fields

like the junkie and me


Will Swan


christmas shopping hungover

hungover on christmas day with soft flies

tickle-walking all over your bare feet

those pointless



the wrapping paper in bunched sponges everywhere

it’d be plain coldblooded to chuck it



hungover in the stockyards of joy, yule, etc.

you would rather go to sleep in a cheap coffin but

you must find a gift for the brother-in-law

there are always brothers-in-law

in a few christmases, you won’t know this brother-in-law anymore

but there will be another brother-in-law

and you’ll be back here

gifts by gender, gifts by engendered SMELL

remembering those christmases when


maybe that was one of the androgynous scent lines

(which must be due to come back around soon)

for now, it’s blue WATERY SMELLS

they’re alright, they’ve gotta lotta melon in them

but the density of it is making you anxious

even more anxious than you already were

lurch past a shop column mirror, see someone

lardy and stupid-looking

as American sleighbells clamour & hoe

the sun outside turns cold beers into hot tap water

very quickly indeed

with a couple of COLD BEERS in you, boy

you’d feel good enough to wear some of these

blue melon WATER SMELLS and enjoy them

but not at the moment, because

you smell like a toad rotting here in Myers

tequila turned to gas

fermenting out of dead amphibian scrawny legs

it is really awful

the zombie lizard stink, a ritual-gone-wrong stink

you wonder if that polo shirt with wide stripes

would make you look & feel better:  in here

– and they are very clear about this –

ANYTHING is possible

now there are tasks at hand

there are the joke gifts that make you laugh mad with relief

at the possibility of parody, but not really

just more stuff for you to avoid wrapping

later this evening, or tomorrow

falling back on your gender –  in parody, of course

to get out of all that wrapping

falling back on your gender & your beers

exaggerating your beer blood level

to get out of the wrapping


Will Swan

Former Mistress at a Funeral

Now the lapsed Catholics are poking at themselves

Like morbid children, and that done, we all settle into these

Gusts of words

& the clocks of the world stop for a while

Later there will be clucking, in warm chickenshit breath

How they cannot believe that I attended

But now I sit at the back, in the pride of my inexpensive perfume

He even bought me some, once

I’m the only person on earth who knows this now

His second wife is at the helm, it’s her day

Because it has to be somebody’s day

It was the first one who knew of me & hated me

I see the backs of his daughters’ heads, those little girls

I would see in sugar-sculpted relief when I dropped him off

Just like in the movies (not necessarily with a sprinkler trilling)

Now they are grown

All the homely obviousness of adulthood

Poking out of their faces, along with their sorrow

And he’s as dead as a symbol

Exhausted by the same childish diet & misdirected energy

Which kill so many of these men

Who then leave behind

More than a few bin bags

Hastily crammed with hang-ups & compensations

They are reciting his extracurricular passions

I acknowledge these and find an easy dignity in it all

I’m in a hatchback car, stilled on a hill

Ground under him:  we freeze

Bloated spectres of headlights

Pinning us like sugar gliders in a glass box

Then floating away


Marijuana & ice cream

And always, in memory, rain

Rain left at the door, rain upon waking to accompany all

Those wiry lies – it is amazing how many lies

Are stored within one telephone handset

I’m not mourning the cricket coach

I’m not mourning the generous host

I’m not mourning the world traveller

I painted my toenails cardinal red last night

And drank a Black Russian

For the man who laughed, abandoned

Exploding in front of rented comedies

Trapped in with me

While the world hid in rain


Will Swan

Grown-Ups go for Thai

Plunging into nights like small waves

Restaurants, tables hissing about in shipwreck flotsam

These waves give form to the space between, otherwise

It would just be a flatline on the monitor, a catheter left in the wrist

Silly wine labels – cave art, lyre birds, offbeat puns in coy watercolours

Silly wine flavours – sour wet official – abstract $15 variation in prices

Before the splashing conversation

There was silence in your skull mouth

Trekking as a pilgrim through the city’s thunderclap cough

After you’ve gobbled up all the low-lit night jelly

You’ll be silenced again

Eyes glued to a ceiling rose in the dawn chorus

Brain scattered like birds leaving home

As you sit atop your salty toilet

Now tasting, deep within your buried mouth

The faraway punch of basil


Will Swan