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joanne burns

Four poems

button dependence day
button revisionism
button after reading Keats’ Ode on Melancholy
button carnal knowledge

dependence day

the astroturf blisters, bubbles in the hollywood hills,
the forests of the world become landfill, no bushes
left to burn, to illustrate those gutsy gods
of fire, old deities grown senile on donuts
and cheap cheesyburger bites, their powers idled
away in puny farts, billions of eyes lift
to read the sky: huge fire clouds billowing
out like wild miracles, a festival at
the end of time, the aliens’ spaceship is
about to arrive,

the world dances on its
deserts, gulches, dried up
streets like a mob of
extras in an old movie
marathon, nostalgia
rules the skies.


king lear in a mr. whippy van
ulysses in a greyhound bus
heathcliff in a honda
miss havisham waiting for the lights to change
henry lawson in a holden commodore
silas marner in a mercedes
gertrude stein as a taxi driver
jane austen in a panel van
tennyson in a toyota
emily dickinson in a cadillac
voss in a campervan
Hamlet in a valiant
huck finn in a volvo
lady macbeth as a removalist
the man from snowy river in a rolls
sartre as petrol tanker driver
dickens in a mini moke
lawrence in a jaguar
hardy as a hearse driver
whitman in a four wheel drive
sylvia plath as an ambulance driver
eliot as a chauffeur
evelyn waugh as a rickshaw driver
proust with a flat tyre

photo of car behind wire fence

after reading Keats’ Ode on Melancholy

that night I bounce tennis balls
high up through the sky
I’m not sure of the brand. it’s thirty years
since I’ve been intimate with tennis balls
but they are tennis balls and they feel good,
although the dream says they are prayers
our father hail mary glory be;
a silver white shape a hybrid of the infinity
sign, the a.b.c. logo, the double helix, a large
twisted pretzel, a ufo, appears
above me, small hard red apples
like beads from a rosary start falling
on my head and they don’t hurt at all;
I sit on the grass flipping through
articles on tv talk show confessionals
and marshmallow bombs in a magazine
called ‘the 21st century’, from new york:
the sky turns black right down to
the ground, a virtual reality kit
named lethe appears at my feet
— if the glove fits I’ll wear it

Durer's Melancholy

Dürer’s ‘Melancholy’

carnal knowledge

outside the sex show palace,
a dreary tenement teased out
of its sullenness by the flash of
candy neon come-ons,
a carload of steroid boofs
leap out and race up
the stairs to bundy on
for the friday night long hot
shift, the A team in their
identikit satin bomber jackets,
renaissance men each at least
a spruiker-bouncer, perfect in this age
of multi-skilling
they rush to their workplace
with all the professional cool
of U.S. marines beginning an invasion
or of hitmen late
for a murder
their gym bags held tight in
a left or right fist
like doppelganger erections
in the time it takes
a junkle to spew
in the gutter opposite
they’re back on the street
hands free, they head for the cappuccino
shop, walking as if they need a piss
but don’t know it
while the daytime spruiker in mufti
flinty and snappy as an old cattle dog
holds the fort barking ‘have a go have a go’
into the early evening crowd
in the window of the zorro café
they sit snug as chubby
babies in high chairs
the cappuccino kids, sucking up
the froth rising high above
the rims of their cups like detergent
foam in a blocked drain

Flat Earth Painting, 1997, by Loma Bridge

Flat Earth Painting no. 3, 1997, by Loma Bridge,
copyright © Loma Bridge 1997 [original on glass]

Collection of John and Lyn Tranter

joanne burns’s seventh book of poems, penelope’s knees, appeared from the University of Queensland Press in 1996 (ISBN 0 7022 2780 3). A previous book, on a clear day, is available from ETT Imprint, PO Box 157, Kings Cross NSW 2011, Australia. joanne burns lives in Sydney, Australia.

Jacket 1 — October 1997   Contents page
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