Sydney, May, 1951

Facing down the carriage, a young man gnawing on nothing but

the unannounced small show of his palsy.

She gets on the train at Parramatta, along with her daughter

the carriage creaks, the people wobble a degree but

their cigarette smoke floats without jarring, then

the train leans into the day

and hammers off, bloated with its quiet intelligences.

Down the aisle, newspapers splash off and on

The young man rides steady for a good length of track

Then grinds his face in its socket

The membranes of his eyes aflame, fishgut-tough

He knows the wallop of the guard with the rancid breath

The strike from behind; the flowering splash of vacant white.

When he’s hit that hard, he believes himself in a schoolyard

With his head ringing

The train juggles past brick walls and strung clothes

Chickens in a yard

Corner shops drop away from bridge overpasses

The young man struggles but releases a squeal

Dropping it like a wild red squid

 

He knows how the guards will not want them talking

He forces himself quiet with one-two-three-four

Hard taps of his head against the carriage wall

His hat on his lap

 

The newspapers flash here and there, here and there

She senses fascination from her daughter

She, who was a nurse, throws her child a look

As hard as an oar wrapped in baking paper

And so the daughter relocates her stare

Into a nowhere middle distance

 

She, who was a nurse, says nothing

And if you had two crowbars now, and two strong men

You would prize no declaration from her mouth

She knows the serrated uselessness of words

 

The autumn air slaps across the carriage window

The young man tries to hold some focus

Eyes hot saucers full of jungle

He sees a friend reach into his own mouth, twist his knuckles about

Unveiling a useless tooth which he holds out like a bullet of wet bread

Looking out at it

Flies clump up his hand and seemingly prevent him

From flicking the tooth away

 

The carriage stills, its life teeters

The young man’s eyes climb for the May breeze

Somewhere nearby he can smell the

Guard with rancid breath

The one, he suspects, who will kill him

He breathes, holds himself in place

 

The carriage is now

a full breakfast of clean and alert, muted humanity

Greased by the fresh air of the morning, oiled with shaving soap

Maintained by tobacco smoke and directed on breeze tides

This floor just glides across a city

 

Somewhere out past where the trams don’t go

The young man can hear the numb roar of insects

Somewhere out past the edge of it all

Are his friends, candle-men, quite melted

Half-sunk into Hellfire Pass

Their faces barely holding form, steamed rags of faces

Strung on makeshift bones forever falling

Faces drifting out of shape, spilling away like clouds

Then an uncertainty of whether the bones themselves

Have likewise died, or were ever alive in the first place

 

He has wanted to see them again

It was Anzac Day last month but the young man, he

did not manage to get to a service

He takes up his hat

The carriage shrugs and dies at Central

Newspapers are sword-swished under arms

The young man and the woman who was a nurse

And her daughter

Are sucked out into the crowd

 

Will Swan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ganesh of the Apples

Golden dawn, I find him where I left him

Stoned on bhang, Ganesh nods and says

“I’m watching the dawn, you know, the hosts of angels

Are on the wing like cockatoos. . .”

I say:

Do you want a coffee?

He says “yeah, yeah, thanks”

I tell him that I’ve got a couple of things to do

He says “sure, I’ll rock along. . . ”

So, a shower, then we’re out in the gold sun

He’s beside me at an ambling pace, eating a gold apple

He’s thinking about stuff and he’s a bright powdery pink

In the sunlight, now he’s a talcum grey-white

Now we move through shadow and he is a clean pale indigo

Back in the sun and he’s bubblegum pink again

We go to the newsagents at about 7:45

The newsagent is typical of his guild-calling, he is bulky

Dramatically unhappy and restless

I expect him to have a stroke any second

Wonder if blood will slip from ears and mouth, then

Think of him left for someone to ship off to the coffin etc.

Ganesh is at the door, finishing off a second golden apple

Chewing it loud and sugary under his trunk

The newsagent seems pissed off about him being there

But then again, the newsagent is pissed off anyway

I get a tattoo magazine and a pathetically hype-laden music mag

And a couple of $2 scratchy cards with a pirate treasure theme

Give one to Ganesh, he says “ah, thanks” and eats his apple core

We keep rolling

Back to the house still hollowed by early morning shadow

I have to sort out lumps of clothes, consign some to recycling

It’s nearly May and I notice sprigs of Christmas ribbons tied around coat-hangers

Ganesh sees the frost of surprise well up in me and he says

“It’s not BEHIND you. These festivals are planted in one place

Like skate parks. Or like Luna Park. . .”

He produces a fat hand-rolled marijuana cigarette

Tucks it under his trunk

“. . .or jetties, or temples, or fourth-generation pizzerias. . .”

 

Later, we’re down at St Vinnie’s, throwing green-black bags

Into the recycling vaults, like a couple of plunderers

The Vinnie’s shop is just opening, the crystalline little great-grandmothers

Open the door in the manner of acolytes, not proprietors

Ganesh says his stoner hello to them as the sunlight cuts us all sideways

And they say good morning to him

In their silver ring of honest goodwill

I’m shuffling through a deck of dog-eared comics when I hear

The St Vinnie’s ladies say “oh yes, that looks VERY smart. . .”

And see Ganesh checking himself out in the mirror

Having tried on some insanely colourful paisley shirt

Which, even around that big cannonball belly

Is a really good fit

 

Will Swan

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Will Swan

 

Mojave Roving

I’m a black girl, leather gladiator with a laser pistol

a fossicked helmet, goggles and a shotgun

In this eerie post-apocalyptic realm, decayed highways

haunting billboard signs and mutant salamanders

Last night, perched on rocks, I cut down a Mad Max gang

My 9mm roared and cackled as it slashed ’em to meat

Then I encountered a crude pre-war robot – I think he might

be following me around the wasteland; we’ll see. . .

And then, just now, I rose from the controls and wondered

should I be doing something else?

These DRIVES don’t always stay disappeared

Not when you once lived with them

Not when you have them hardwired in your form

Endeavours, and all that.

I used to say restless with endeavour, so I assume that sometimes

(like right now) there is a ‘ghost of purpose’

After all, since the savannah, we’ve sought to DO STUFF – as banded men

maybe that’s what this ghost is?

I look at the democratic facebook news feed

see little dark and milky iPhotos of cocktails from last night

captions and comments, stunningly childish; weirdly obvious

see the milky cocktailed faces, 10 seconds ago in Sunday bars

think of the mic leads, the pleasantries

bands setting up in that self-conscious way

the little sound-mixer-man and his slipped, expansive self-image

the milky Sunday evening faces in corner bars

maybe I should be doing something there, but why?

As this games machine whirrs down, back into its hibernation

an evening walk around the lanes and hills

beloved skies of whipped river stone grey, Dantean platinum

walk on past a flabby man dousing his family wagon with a hose

flabby ears, flabby back, flabby arms

and a sense of alarm about him, like a man awoken by ice water

His kids are playing in the middle distance of their own memory

but his face is white and sour

He’s poking a sponge into a shining wagon orifice

There is nothing left to polish but he’s poking and polishing

Desperation right here, right now, in front of me

Like the harder he polishes these shining orifices

The more it will mean

 

The MORE

it will MEAN

 

This silver water slops from the hose

Over the lid of his silver wagon

A disordered bladder trickling all over

His unheard shrieking

 

Black night and from this bed I can hear

neighbourhood dogs, a big dog and a high-pitched sidekick dog

barking with autistic stamina

I instinctively reach for a plasma grenade. . .

 

When I wake up it is still dark and a nearby highway

is alive with the four most popular brands of wagon

most of them polished

A populated highway here in this robotic future

the apocalypse will have to wait.

 

Will Swan

 

 

Shove your bucket, shove your bucket list

This thing floating around the internet, around facebook:

“Top Regrets  of the Dying!” We were all dying to know Number 1:

“I regret wasting my life trying to fulfil others’ expectations of me” or

something

like that. To that effect.

Fuck that. What a cop-out

What a weak blame

Talk about a double bunger of dumb-sack reasoning

Target yourself by all means but don’t call it honesty when

You drag the women & children & geriatrics off the deck with you

A double bunger! A double whammy!

Your cake AND A fistful of lollies

A boil under a bunion

A carbuncle under an oversized proboscis

So make up your mind.

Then there’s the bucket lists telling you what you should read

What outrageously life-affirming outdoor activities you should commit to

In New Zealand or Peru or somewhere

Thanks – I know you don’t really MEAN any of this, by writing this article

But it’s not even entertaining to read it while on this platform

Waiting for the train.

When I go, I’ll be glad of the following:

(My own BUCKET LIST, if you will):

 

* Sunsets like crab cluster fireballs

* Wood smoke, everywhere and unseen, on autumn evenings

* The mouthy, turquoise smell of public laundries

* A cold length of cheap Riesling running through you like a dragon when you are twenty one years old in your greasy cheap flat and people move underneath your tiny cement balcony with goose-horn voices, your lounge light is a powerful dirty yellow and EXISTENCE is inexplicably and strenuously sputtering and exciting

* Incense, in varieties, as reliable as polished bells

* Dogs exhausted, passed out on beds after they went out with you to plough up streets, hills, parks, twilight and abandoned lots

*Manfred Mann’s ‘Davey’s on the Road Again’ grinding out over a circus tent in a paddock on the edge of town

*Your brother’s first banjo from a pawnshop, cheap and dangerous, insect-like and LOUD

* A wild white living ragdoll smiling frosty pink lipstick at you, often

*A chorus of discount shop ornaments shining on back to you; those painted plastic creatures, the earth-red Buddhas and those arrow-straight nuns and the little magnificent saints, and Spiderman, and the Child of Prague and Ganesh and Skeletor and the Jedi and Wolverine and the Monkey Prince all communing back to you right here in the Cathedral of the World.

 

Will Swan

9 am Sunday

Shops to open in the black of 10:00 am texta

Sun is a silver axe head on a plate

Bourbon cola cans shucked and populous and

Painted black & white and lighter than the sky

Shaken off as scales by that lumbering big man, Big Lizard Night

He who went iguana-stumbling off into the quartz

Now little things which died hot in the dark are

Found reconfigured in crystalline forms:

Condoms

Cola, wine and devotion are

Now powder burn slugs of sap, are

Now crimson crystals exploded round the dead clown’s mouth

Knives that somehow slept right through it all

Still stretched out like thermometers

In their kitchen drawers

In a brick house the voice of a woman, she was

The tough high school girl you once sent a rose

The one you never spoke to

And the voice is shouting at some totally unseen child

The sun is a silver axe head on a plate on a table

The back lots of shops are set in tar and bricks and sun

Sunday: 10 am in black texta behind glass

Out here, the roses

In yellow light, have been dabbed in slashed throats

 

Will Swan