Ether

The human goldfish making colour and form

Of these invisible waves and currents

The goldfish making sense and meaning

In this canyon of nothing

Notions with less substance

Than a rippling soap bubble balloon

Slung out of a bubble maker on a sunny morning

Concepts with less substance than

Uncertain conventions

Personal histories carried like paperbacks

Where no paperbacks are carried

A wilful chronicle trapped in the skull

A lonely pellet of green oil holding all your gospels

Sagas, romances, moral tracts, cantos

Your personal opera, superimposed

Over the game board of the world

When that green oil capsule splits, like a valium being shared

It runs out into the earth clear of all opera, data, meaning

Runs sterilized through that soil

 

But while we walk the surface, we’ve got

Television boiling like an aquarium

We’ve got commissioned poetry painted

On the wall behind the council offices

We’ve got ideologies

With the pungent damp metal smell of fire escapes

We’ve got projections basking in bank loan brochures

Piloting deckchairs down conquered Fijian beaches

We’ve got measurement in sticks of furniture

We’ve got a place at the beer garden table

We’ve got acceptance by not speaking out of turn

We will have something we can grip like an anchor

With the empty breathable air around us

There is a rusty six foot anchor and we can grip it

For all we’re worth

 

Will Swan

 

 

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our brief span in the sun

the rhapsodising alcoholic got it wrong

the white collar workaholic got it wrong

the mad old witch at her turnip patch and sunflowers got it right

the Jehovah’s Witnesses got it wrong

the jihadist went out of his way to get it wrong

the sixteen year old mother and her steadfast friends got it right

the ex-con at the cafe table, with his tobacco and Staffordshire bitch

has got it right

the intelligent, mild man married to the idiot woman

got it wrong

the idiot woman doesn’t care

the cheerful butcher who knows everyone’s name got it right

the scraggly busker eating lychees got it right

the snouted bat gobbling gnats by stadium light got it right

the barefoot ones under the Spiderman kite

got it right

 

Will Swan

No Candles for Elizabeth

When it got really cold, we geared up for our fire festival

Bags of unadulterated cosmic fury

Crates of mineral glory, bound hard in cardboard

Ordnance of ancient Chinese science

Fuse-sprung to open the dimensions, to sing and skate

On icy planes of night air

Peking operas in bumper pack assortments

Catherine Wheels staked on paddock nails

The whole damn haul set aside, waiting to scream

And us in duffel coats and beanies waiting

For the semi-official hour when it all kicked off

Then three or four generations became possessed

Of the ancient birthright, no real order to it once we’d begun

The only protocol was involvement

And one big cracker at a time, to maximize the glory

Well, some of those things were dragons

Their intelligence awed us, their loaded dance

Had been waiting there the whole time

We gave over to the summoning

And the djinns roared back at us

Blowing shadows out into the paddocks and yards

Flattening us in the black wake

Of their jade and crimson stars

 

But then. . .

But then, well.

Some malign little near-abortion couldn’t help but

Spray down every cat and kid he came across

Turning flames on everything that moved

And some grubby little idiot tapped

The powdered guts, reworked them into a lead pipe

And blew his hand into fine mince

And so

That was the end of it, our fire festival.

Shut down, but that’s alright, apparently

Because now we can all go and stand behind the fucking line

(By Christ, but we are an obedient race)

And enjoy watching other people do it all

And call it ‘Fun for Everyone’

 

Will Swan

 

Wino Valhalla

Grunge rock was still flying low on its last drops of bongwater

Diminished chords, chiming hymns about gasoline, Vaseline, glycerine, lithium

But that marketing was over, really. So there was I living in a world

Of concrete houses and electricity substations

Former Greek precincts, pan-flipping with all comers

‘No Parking’ sprayed everywhere in black scorpion splats of paint

Cash economy, slumlords and

Pasty, trendy invaders renovating any toilet they could find

Sydenham, St Peters, Tempe, Marrickville

Now, the radio star of the day was an unlikely candidate, a beanpole

Half Jewish, half North Sydney WASP

In an outtake from his recordings he’s heard to laugh and

Refer to his cohorts as “Mum’s tennis friends!”

For me, that said it all, but he had some good songs

Weak voice, busy melodies, evocative lyrics, earnest delivery

He’d worked a theme through what became a hit album

Themes in tribute to his bandmate, who had leapt into death

From a cliff in the Blue Mountains

The star of the day had renamed his friend and had more or less charted

The trajectory of his decline

I was never too keen on those songs, or that approach

In essence, the sentiment was very patronizing

And in interviews, he was free and easy in talking about

His friend’s dissolution; I thought that was a bit much.

But then again, half the white people in Newtown

Suddenly claimed a long friendship with the dead musician

There was some sort of local phenomenon to his suicide, it seemed.

But there were other songs on the album

Heavily embraced by the radio stations

And some were directly about the world I lived in

So, with the radio always on, I often heard the lines:

“They’re all asleep but the morning tastes like wine

It tastes like wine in Tempe!”

I could taste that morning myself

And there was a pretty song about Melbourne

Where the city shimmers like a raining daydream

Simple and accurate

And also a jangly offhand song, like a woolshed folk song

About there being a band on every corner

And how hopeless most of those bands are

This song also somehow got across what it’s like

To be waiting in a pizza shop at night, after emerging

From drug-induced daytime slumbers

And to know you are tiny, messy and irrelevant

Somewhere in the city.

The album has a lot of cheap wine infused through it

My recollections and associations of those songs

Are certainly stained with cheap wine of various flavours

(all bleeding into a singular ‘Cheap Wine Flavour’)

So now that I think of it, I’d say that those songs

Along with some ghost of myself

Are to be found awash in the halls of Wino Valhalla

 

Will Swan