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Ken Bolton



"As a people we are now called Australians because a vast & lonely land
has touched us with her differences"

    - George Ivan Smith, 1953 preface to For The Term Of His Natural Life
"it's noble to refuse to be added up or divided"
    - Frank O'Hara
"In this dawn as in the first
it's the Homeric rose, its scent
that leads on"

    - Frank O'Hara, Ode to Willem de Kooning


"Beyond the sunrise
where the black begins" -
& the lights of the city, we
imagine, twinkle or blaze . . .
the horizon line here
a curve of butter yellow,
slightly oxidized - lined,
at its rim, by olive-green 'natives' -
hides a city that if I am
facing the right way
must be doing its afternoon trade
relaxed this last few days after December 25th
but ready nonetheless for the big push
at night, the raid on
fun desire release -
selling mostly coffee, wine,
Michael / rolls a joint has one
then rolls several others children
contemplate navels - the girls their own
with quiet pride, the boys the girls'
with longing puzzling as it is strong
Mary paints her nails, reads, Cuban music
playing. What of Margaret, of Crab? they do
those things normative in a utopia
a cork is popped, Marg plays
fado, the soulful music of Portugal
or Crab practises on sax
reads some politics, some mayhem, reads
the poems I gave him. I
try to seize upon that greatness
which is available to me
if it is available at all
(am I facing the right way?)
thru art.
    The view is
quintessentially Australian, which is its
problem - for me - tho not classical
& in its particulars
is information (where the classic typically presents
only sign). The essays of
Meaghan are to hand which might
stiffen my resolve or form it: not to be
inimitably weak & picturesque myself
but standing forth a subject not a spectacle
There are daisies nearby & a shin-high wall
of loose but flat-laid shale or slate twelve feet
beyond - a standard country wire fence; the
field of grass; on the horizon a distinct
curve of hill three hundred yards away, a
water tank nestles in to the furthest reach
of the olive 'natives' -
can I drop the scare marks from
that word now, hasn't it
done enough? &
I rest their case
        "for now
a long history slinks
over the sill",


        & with it history's ironies, reversals
sarcasms so de rigeuer. I never wanted to be postcolonial
or colonial just modern which is
the joke on me - but who wants to be a category?
Many would be right - it will do me to be interested - &
one accepts the truth like a tired disguise handed out
for the party - is this me? - & joins the crowd
as the brave must always ascend, always the musts:
the Eiffel tower, the flight over London, the café
table - in Rundle Street or rue de la Rocquette
where Lorraine lived & we stayed tho for me, today,
this hill is my focus, the clouds - (for I must ascend) -
are beautiful & white & echoing fluidly the hills'
shape, the splotches of green that mottle the yellow
& remind of ‘Minor Moderns of South Australia'
a line I join of precursors - Horace Trennery,
Dorritt Black - pondering a relation
to the minor English, Europe, the
universal - & its status as 'the wrong question'
which strolls now & then into a field
& sits down like a forgotten rock
while 'we' walk on
to an horizon line, that's beautiful, keen,
precarious, & doesn't tug - not 'rose', but
serene, & melancholy, & joyous, all at the same time, a kind
of benediction that says, I'm free & I'm gratuitous
why not feel better? & since you do you do
return: into that inanimate world of voices cross-
questioning you, no longer like your father, a man
in an open necked shirt eating an icecream (& just,
perhaps, 'going for a walk'), but in a shirt I bought in Melbourne
made by migrant Vietnamese late at night, yet in which
I feel Australian, whatever that is
                - a point mapped by shifting co-ordinates
you momentarily 'keep your eye on' or don't being
yourself or a moving target (do the hills you climb as
no one count? The hostess explains,
As we leave administered life
there is a slight discomfort - the tug of
gravity on re-entry returns, you may
feel tired. Where, the open neck shirted men, women in
thongs & sandals, ask is our shimmering ideal? If O'Hara
had such timing John his last move suggests he blew it
Tho exits are notoriously hard to make. "I live above a
dyke bar & I'm happy" - I might too for all I know.
Am I? Occasionally, occasionally very. The female
of the tiny blue jay or 'wren' appears, bouncing,
across the grass outside then some of the 'men'
move across my field of view from left to right . . .


Ken Bolton
Ken Bolton is a poet, art critic, editor & publisher, born in Sydney in 1949. Since 1982 he has lived and worked in Adelaide in South Australia, where he is associated with the Experimental Art Foundation (on whose web site can be found the site of the now defunct OTIS RUSH magazine & a listing of the books put out by the press he still operates, Little Esther Books). Major recent publications are a Selected Poems (formerly Penguin/now ETT), Untimely Meditations (Wakefield Press) & two new Little Esthers - Happy Accidents, an 'account' of the 70s and a collage poem, August 6th. He has also writen extensively in collaboration with Melbourne writer John Jenkins.


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