a tea towel of a woman

fingering a wagon’s hubcaps and nuts

hose drenches this misty morning of

soil and twigs

she’s colouring in a colouring-in book


squat dim schoolteachers

before their classes in clumps of static

and the teachers and the students

colour in the colouring-in book


nursing home inmates

and the gnashing television

they colour in the colouring-in book, savagely

until the crayon wax creams up around their knuckles


those who wake in the dusk

chasing their lawlessness as they rise

marauding out, to fill their tank

as crayons fill a colouring-in book


me, writing this poem now

I’m colouring in the colouring-in book


Buddha-nature sees the crayon colours

sees the paper pages, the wood table

(one and the same)

smells the soil

(one and the same)

Buddha-nature dances with the money spider

leaves the crayons in their box

recognizes the grasping hand

Buddha nature smells the smoke and smells the mist

is paraded on the shoulders of monkeys

hears the crows and hears the magpies


Will Swan






DRONE LIVES OF OFFICES AND HANGOVERS. Office drones and living hangovers. Official lives and droning hangovers. Officious hangovers and live drones.  Office life hanging over drones. Drone-overs and hanged office lives. Hang-drone life officially over.

Where to find Elvis

It’s in the way you approach a town –

You sneak behind it, blindside it, coathanger it and

Smack it with an uppercut while others watch the finger puppets

You invade the forgotten arcades

The flightless cafes, the shops which hold out

Against all the franchised volume

That race of shopkeepers who crawl like sand crabs

Away from the roaring surf

Selling coins and flattened comics, incense and beads

Or pork buns and meatballs in cauldrons

Scattered around the amphetamine blare of car parks

And the slush of aquarium grit and fishmonger ice

Ghost towns not in coffins

Trade winds still lifting through those necropolis lanes

Where else would I have found the Calabrian gorilla Elvis

With his snap-on toupée, replete with sideburns

Witchy-black and villainous

Selling Danielle Steel paperbacks for one dollar per edition

And bandanas of skull and flame

Where else can I get a cappuccino and

Drink it around the purely and sincerely wild

While the Sun God beams across it all

Unseen by the weekend warriors and the couch-bound sell-outs

The husbandly wife-chattel and the target audience

The Sun God ignites these eastern blocks of town

As a speaker in the car stereo workshop

Explodes like a daisy cutter

And the rose gales of Guan Yu hammer out

And wash over walls and gutters and feet-filled shoes in

Waves of atomic perfume

Little Red Dragon

Standing at the ladies room sink

The press outside, they’re battery-hot now but

All will be soft and warm as a history book

Her laurel is ashes and the girl

Watches herself and the void that dances, pitch black and funky

In the corners of the mirror, lapping black flames

Indomitable girl with her name falling up the walls

The knives and dice and clutter of kabuki masks

Every deal brought her to this mirror

Every policy speech and

Every endless night, every ungainly microphone

Every badge machine and overheating photocopier

Her reflection does not yield as

She leaves it there

And now, with her scarlet wings blooming at her scapula

Turns and walks and flies into liberty

For the first time in her life

The Original Raw White Tribe of Australia

They didn’t care when the politicians stole the word ‘battler’ because it was never aimed at them in the first place. They are not that caste of milky flabby men who substituted blankness for experience and who now, at forty four or however old they are, look lost and keen and have their own vague, sheltered children and their own big wagon-cars aplenty and their big ears tuned to tabloid wavelengths.

There are so many castes. E.g. there’s the caste which understands how it all SHOULD be and this caste has a distant but necessary love for their idea of The Original Raw White Tribe because it can move this idea like doughty pawn in the rote philosophies and romances of imagination.

But the Original Raw White Tribe remains ignored by politicians and visionaries and its individual members remain ignored and avoided by the good people who understand how it all SHOULD be.

The lot of the Original Raw White Tribe won’t be altered by editorial indignation or gay marriage or by republican fixations or whatever this week’s profoundly important moral advancement may happen to be.  The whittled oddness of public language does not matter to the Original Raw White Tribe. In many ways, this tribe – sub-tabloid, semi-rustic – is a ghost.

But this tribe has always been there. It arrived in spores on convict ships and it hardened like fungus amidst the rocks and rains of the land. You can see its members in photos from both world wars and Vietnam, farewelling and collecting their own. Their matriarchs are squat and bright-eyed with accents which sound like field recordings. They move in close family groups with primate pack purpose, unselfconscious. They feel no need to distance themselves from each other on a generational level. For centuries, they have been content to acknowledge common law marriage and leave it at that. They are conceived on long rainy days and bourbon nights. They are not the ‘working class’ that you rudely idealize as you sit there all pudgy with craft beer, all glib with stale understandings; they are not the ‘working class’ and you are most certainly not one of them.

For solicitors-turned-State Premiers, this tribe is not a concern. For Prime Ministers, not a concern. For the good people reading the right newspaper editorials, they swirl as some sort of idea but their perceived ‘politics’ (though they effectively have none) makes them awkward. They are a big awkward tooth in the mouth of the Left. They are a ghost, a potential embarrassment, a romantic idea and an awkward tooth.

But I see them all the time. I’ve seen them outside fish and chips shops in Lithgow and in bleak wintry Katoomba beer gardens and on western and southwest train platforms waiting long waits in the middle of the day, far from the world of the solicitors-turned -State Premiers.  In country towns with renovated supermarkets and lonely skies.  Seen them in places near the worlds of the inexperienced blank men who own big wagon-cars, but this only a case of physical proximity, for they are light years away from these worlds too. Seen them with cigarettes curled in palms while others read tabloids. Seen them displaying mild palsies in the Salvation Army shop down long rows of funereal suit coats and other ridiculous cast-offs. Seen them hunched over prams under shop awnings in shockwaves of loud perfume.  Seen them shepherding their grandmothers across railway bridges, flanked by more prams, weighted with bags, decked out in giant baseball caps and hoodies, wet when it rains, moving across the face of the only world they’ve ever known.

 We don’t all have to have an ‘opinion’ on everything and everyone in this world, y’know?

Will Swan

A Column of Completely Clueless Cunts

Sydney Road, North Brunswick rising northwards

Through the grey lungs of Victorian sky and


The sort of people who keep tissues tucked in the wrists of

Pea green jumpers, these people look like ads for

Cold remedies which never work

Stale from their covens they march like ruined puppets

The Trotskyites, the Womyn and the Green-Left Weekly

Men with thin colourless hair, twitching robots

Women with a searing sense of misdirection

They shout, the words gather, they shout some more

In a spout of high voices now



Their audience includes some 3rd generation Turks

Who look on it lightly over the cherry sweetness of hookah smoke

And the Lebanese Catholic blokes also look out at them

From their white neon kebab counter

The old Turkish warriors in their dark, cool club hall

Are playing checkers and so they ignore the march completely

There are also some Moslem and Hindu people woven into the audience

And several native Melbourne Italian types who

Are as indigenous to the streetscape as

Any lizard which has ever crawled about a rock face

At any point in the last hundred million years

However, I don’t see any racists about

Which is just as well because BOY WOULD THEY BE IN TROUBLE

They would have to run down the side streets to escape

Their teeth would chatter, they would hunch and flee

From these wielders of the Justice Sword on the march

There are a few more chanted calls


They sort of sound like water fowl noises

I go into a grocer’s and buy some zucchinis and onions

From a dark woman with big hoop earrings

When I emerge on Sydney Road, the march has dispersed itself

And the place is alive in its vacuum

THIS IS NOT A LOVE SONG it’s just a short tale of Newtown & Marrickville Municipality

Back from Wagga with my mate Ken Smith, where accordions had been played around campfires and I woke to see kangaroo legs thrust upwards, stuffed into a derro gallon drum in the camping grounds of small folk music convention. Strangely savage vision in the morning light. On that trip I first encountered the ‘lock out’ system of town binging and we’d snuck into a so-called Irish pub where the locals were hurling themselves headfirst down a flight of stairs in what was a favourite drinking game. A few days later, back in Newtown and back to the Townie without making any big deal of it one way or another, then running into my brother in the Townie, then the usual flotsam of associates, then Ken himself, and drinking all night and waking up cheery in Marrickville to rock over to Petersham and rouse my brother, who along with his girlfriend was typically hungover-cagey, which I was not, and they didn’t appreciate me commandeering the stereo to play the just-released Steve Earle masterpiece ‘Transcendental Blues’ so I headed out into the morning, bought a longneck of Reschs and went in search of adventure. Found other acquaintances in The Coopers Arms on King Street and drank the heart out of the afternoon, to quote some macho man or other who coined that one, and ended up at Kelly’s and drank until blackout but that was fine, was woken by a Maori bouncer but no bullshit at all, then woke again in Marrickville and dived out into the grey day up to Dulwich Hill to drink schooners of Reschs all day at the Gladstone Hotel until it was time to think about heading out to the new job I was to start that night, in a ramshackle call centre above the Lansdowne Hotel, and I turned up there and it was fine, just a horde of flotsam plugging themselves into half-broken phones and Byzantium computers, and I got through the shift with a speed freak babbling on at me through his scraggly beard.

I remembered this particular 48 hours lying awake at about 5:30 am today. What is memorable about it is that it was all so unofficial, unchartered and dandy. The obvious theme of grog was to expand and go its own way, but that’s not the point here, and was not a point manifest in my recollection. The point is that none of it was announced on a non-existent facebook, or was romanticized or whined about. I was making it up as I went along but I was not really aware of that being the case. Looking at the way most people seem to go about things – or how they choose to represent how they go about things – they remind me of herded school children with packed lunches and nothing much to say or do, dozily waiting to be cued for the next assembly or sports day or whatever. I’m only saying so because that’s how it looks to me.

Will Swan