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Garrie Hutchinson

(26 poems from the dictionary)


'Apres Mots, le Deluge'   -- Joyce
[Editor's note: I published this sequence in my anthology The New Australian Poetry in 1979; to me it summed up the decade of the seventies in Australia with a disarming frankness and a goofy, awkward grace that has perhaps been equalled but never bettered. -- J.T.]


we come to breakfast as the rains are
fallen the native trees visibly move
their roots too slow to crack the walls
and the toast is cold the coffee out
side diluted sky grease films its surface
you'll have to shut the windows for fear
of bleaching the sash come in take off
your dressing gown and feel yesterdays
crumbs and the flaky sheets going cold
there is nothing like that . . . as it gets
lighter it rises only to dullness, falling
apart I tell you and too tired to stop
I've pulled out the last of the peppers
the stalks were hard as reeds the fruit
sulking, and the wash-house is full of
stuff do you want? but how terrible
to throw out these old wounds we might
have you found it, the way to get back
home - some excuse to escape with honour
what a thing to say padding in circles
and typing all night afraid of cold feet
someone has left a pile of cups around
full of sodden ash and butts, I'll clean
it up and won't be late. late coming down
what combinations are these? a strange
ache in my shoulder from tightening the
coffee machine and sore feet from walking
out. why laugh at librans? it was the
beginning you know, that wry determinism
like the salad oil, mouldy even in the
fridge and layered with the false humours
and phlegmatic cough the feeling that each
cigarette eats my teeth away, hot wrinkles
you might shake me, rejoin the oil and water
and regret putting melancholy baby on the
stereo, eat greasy lettuce next day, my lovely
some nights the light from the globes would
soften and there was a warm oven and a warm
fireplace and the claret mulled it over again
sitting and waiting for the people we were
sure were good friends to break bread seance
and this to confuse matters is described as
life, not art they say and more satisfying
threatening nobody's eccentricity . . . these
formal properties: design & red meat, you know
milady mixes the media, turns on the music
and we actually encounter anecdotal sexuality
and swap stories about old mates with diseases


I must have a rest now the sweet cooking
drives the juices to make one foot follow
its hungry friend down the stairs to lean
against you at the stove simmering greens
and watching fats steaks grilling hemlock
who knows perhaps like a mother driven by
furies you are slowly poisoning me and thats
why I cannot get up in the mornings and why
the carpet is worn down from pacing and stop
what madness and ideological despair are we
driven to? do you really believe books?
twos! I am, um, fighting magic dualisms seduction
a stone drops cloudy as a feather falling
limp pond and splashes randomly the families
pleased as the chaos dies: the slogan is
No More Hippies. no casual fucking and clean
pots, a dining table, our name in the phone book.
I am desperate for regularity but inside the
warmth I look outside and prove the proverb
I cannot carry the weight and declare too much
to policemen with political axes in hand.
a gentle swim through limbo nimbus is going
the mind softens and outside it the cock
watches and feels neglected droops bloodless
the whole tribe increases this living
together explains itself in anger and
lost causes. the child is bad history
working himself through constant sad
remembering. actual physiognomy, it is
look, this table spread with baby photos
and working through the motions of who
and what and where did this and how
he is different when away from expectations
how it works itself out in different ways
I am like him! we disagree and hate yet
some chains are breaking while the sins visit
yawning from the headache of losing myself
in books, the dust glows and points the way
up the road for a change, to tell stories
of yeats as currency inspector and hoping the
design of coins would not make pigs of men
I lean on the bar, you are scraping food
slapping backs not loving this fraternity
: how fake how funny and how often in control
whilst the appearance deceives, wrong in the eyes.
who is forced to leave? who watches the birds
as they wake up mornings? I must watch the
cosmos as it is only a slave ocean in my head.
we have to build it inside narrow brick walls
just as new yorkers plant all over lofts, we
need to watch analogies for ourselves. they
take some responsibility from our head, it's
not all up to us: rain and sun often help
so few visits outside the roads and crowds
that treading where wordsworth sat, & seeing
shelley's guitar is hardly enough. we were
frozen at camelot, and never again trusted songs.
you are my country and bear my scars, you
water me through the long hibernation & see
the poor flowers grow after the ice age rape
the stable ocean leaches out my body, I
erect fences to keep you outside, stiles
to climb and close my ears when you scream
float away to worry about this nuisance,
this 'art', making it whilst slipping under
how simple convincing myself to be washed up
to take out the keys that break my fingers
the piles of blank paper and hyped up plans
and transfer this cowardice to the nurse
he wanders and finds the easy way to be facile
in a regular pattern, his habits are to be
deplored and he needs discipline. perhaps the whip
for one so small you become the earth in dark
and lapse into images in the greasing slide
the reverberations boom under the sheets and
the light goes dark. it is a fact that there
is this monstrous mother that makes men live
but what of the father? can it be that horrors
visit and mingle in the pleasure, do we become
acid dreams and expand consciousness to the limit
of our tiny minds, to allow them no edges, no edge?
I am struck by banal paradoxes, the radio is on
the currency is devalued and there is no fort knox
only dualists could invent a concept like value
I must rearrange the house and ban some foods
: this living is a real problem. a relapse is
natural but the habits inconceivably changed.
androgyny is an obsession. I wipe the bench
spotless and consider the tragedy of no-garlic
these men are not the same, they have no grace
rarely let civilization interfere with pleasure
and exhibit little evidence of belief in possession
outside of those that cause emotional distress
worse is staring at what is left that was common
and believing that you are here enjoying someone
that you cope with gawky emotionalism
can see you as your hair grows long
and the old scars of hairdressers grow out
and can debate the why of conditioners
as the sun glows in yellow blinds of masks
and your voice changes inventing its secret
language I cannot say the words am I privy
to the subtext and I am learning rosetta's stone
the things that have happened talk between
my ears and distract like a mosquito in bed,
ah similes growing as real by themselves
as I grow alike, having identity crises
watching the friends become bigger persons
nostrum sanctum there are swellings the ends
are ends no more and significantly the traffic
arrives in a rush, its noise surrounds the island
bed as the sea grows up past the plimsoll line
noise penetrates pressure equalizes like drowning
a small furry wombat is missing the bed is one
sided and clammy, he arises from dehydration
drinks water on the edge of dreams, arms numb
and his head bangs against the ceiling in fright
I am beginning to wonder why I have no strength
and cannot change a repugnant mind, and why
confessions crawl out like ants while I watch
look I have met the so beautiful that breathing
ceased, and touched their perfect bodies with mine
seen them glow at the sight and played games hard
won whole continents and saved them from politics
announced reading lists and fucked them in the mouth.
I can see the television rampant with elysian fields
and see tables full in hotels and smile over glasses
ask questions directly or become the compleat
romantic, send flowers and fall head over and over
but now, maybe through disappointment, it's this:
a habitual delusion of how it might have fitted
- that there is something beyond habit. how can it be?
the loss of cooking was a gift to regret
though the kitchen was available all the
acceptance, it is. how blind to aphrodisiacs
and pumpkin soup, quiche lorraine, pies
and glow watching you, the wine dark sea.
aw shuffle gesture a look you know how can I
say it, this is a strange occurrence, how so busy
not to be able to speak. you don't know, what
if, you know, I've only cried a few times, no betrayal.
I must be taught to escape this fear of giving in
become more woman, tough as they are let go:
the lapsed logician parades his wings & flies off.
what shall we do if the numbers come up?
we will buy a palace of rhythm and colour.
what will we do then, you ask watching the tv.
we will live among textures and the great books.
and if we don't? we will do it all again, then.
to be quite frank, I would like to satisfy fetishes
to do with sport. a billiard table in panelled
room. and a wine cellar full of all mclaren vale,
a des esseintes of the day time making surreal vases.
it gets closer. relatives win small and
nearby someone did, and there has to be
a set of laws, the psychic laws of chance.
back again, lonely magnet draws romantic
bullshit . . . what is this ships in the night?
a lyric? or perhaps just fear in upset routine
and a problem of coping with absence, losing
a game and walking home through slippery alleys.
the man with the club inhabits strange noises
he drives slowly alongside and barely needs
a sign he will leap out on sight of a uniform
and leave bleeding bodies for brutalized cops.
a stepping from inside the crowd of spaces
the hotel crying over spilt beer and standard
conversions to beatrices desert island . . .
I am walking an avenue of trees, there are
birds and old Australians picnicking around
cars, and two or three packs of thugs who
wish to beat me up, continually betraying
my ideal of how a real larrikin should act.
you are there too, sunbaking in the distance
and I don't really want to go there, thinking
it is time to drink a beer and watch the cricket
and a meeting to decide part of the life & times.
there is a disaster I read the next day, fire
burnt down the trees and all the picnics, you
escaped and wondered where I had gone, no regrets.
what regrets that things are not more perfect
that habits betray a certain lack of style,
and it was quite accidental that our friend
brought us in the one place at the one time
when things worked out, a day later and who knows.
the restaurant is crowded with drunks and
headaches, you sit cool and disdainful I
come and talk and we fool around and there
is something in the air to take away after . . .
and if we had known that it was to be this -
we closed our eyes and kept talking through
until there is no more time to walk or to stop.
I am standing here examining a bruised and
damaged cock, its warts and blotches hoping
that it will turn out alright. I am reminded
of how peculiar are its habits, when it enjoys
and when it refuses to listen to harsh words.
there is something more than guilt in embarrassing
those other ladies with inability and regret
what kind of terrible shit is there that I
cannot bring to the surface? what lock is this?
you are returned and all at once there it is!
funny, huh? convention might have it, fantasy
too . . . that the others were more . . . but look!
how you lean against me, how gently you sink
to the floor, how difficult but possible it is
under water, how round you are and how we fit
together, how is it possible that this happens
again how agonizing was the wait how bountiful
hopeless language, piss off, smiling you stare
and I stare back and aw shit theres nuthin to
say, man. it's all happening, man, and um, you
turn me on, thats it, thats what happens, man, you
I can look at an empty bed without breakin down
I whistle a tune and dance while walkin around
cos, yessiree bob, lookit the purty lady ive found.
let us merely lie here, let metabolisms come
synchronous after the long nights of pounding
this typewriter as you tangled the sheets &
dreaded the morning. we can be as simple as
rock and roll songs simple as a red wheelbarrow.
there is this sentimental light through the
coffee is almost french and crumbs soften
you are alive with the latency of a dictionary
and there is no greater potential than that.
where is the money coming from? can I survive
writing this? can it really be allowed to me
that the livings should be subsidized on such days.
there are ends, and sometimes namings, rites
that walking the streets gives passage to,
and rationalizations growing behind each
beginning, each gesture complete in itself,
until there are responses and nothing else.
accidents of meeting and you and I and this
forming. I do the shopping and I buy
vegetables to eat and meant to buy some wine
but forgot while you laze inside drizzle outside
are you impressed by randomness? and what of
choice? the forgotten tribal fears hangup survival
even for one so pretty as you coming.
how awkward is this pretence and giving up
the hands raised palms empty after the gift
realizing the space and looking around to see
who has noticed and how real words really are
and how to fit it into liberations and logic
I see you, it is true through the gauze,
and forget the irritants it protects, these
fantasies reserved for images and writings
daisy filled dark and oiled as a cunt.
there are no things like the simple banalities -
perhaps there is magic, there are stars after all
and hard edge science grows more and more fuzzy.
this building grows its mud sprouts
shoots and beans flower seed and again
slippery from rain and the kings buried
deep down diamonds skulls rotted fabric
sign themselves dancing warmly on the roof.
it starts in accident site planning lost
the regulations not discussed we charge
spade first into the trench dig eyes shut
the sides collapse the foundations quaked.
into the desert an oasis plants itself
and we find it after years of thirst, wrong
trails and drink, build on pain smooth rocks.

Garrie Hutchinson

Garrie Hutchinson is or was a poet of the so-called 'generation of 1968', published in Australian Poetry Now (Sun, 1970). He published Nothing Unsayable Said Right: 50 Poems 1968 - 1972 in 1974, and Terror Australis: Poems (Outback Press, 1975) before retiring from poetry to write different rites.
You can read his tribute to Australian artist Arthur Boyd in Jacket # 7.


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