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This is Jacket 12, July 2000   |   # 12  Contents   |   Homepage   |   Catalog   |

joanne burns

six poems

golden triangle

when the martians moved in
to alaska boulevarde they
levelled the heritage dwellings
and built homes in the shape
of ovaries; on cold frosty
mornings you can see them out
on their crazy paved lawns
gilded to the hilt doing push
ups in net singlets and
smart bermuda shorts; when
they exhale the air fizzes
with the sport of tiny lime
green triangles and their silver
beet and snow pea hedges
sway in the gulf stream breeze —
like a cocktail of fresh wind
chimes their gossip begins

another new year

the first week of the new year and
indolence drops in as usual uninvited:
here’s lassitude like flat champagne flatter
than sorrow flat as the image of the year
ahead — a schedule of trivial and significant
failures making its prescience felt; any humour
of self parody is frizzled by the heat, an insect
voice rasps    make it new     make it new —
a decision to give up writing for sandwich
making seems quite positive, the first new year’s
resolution approximating common sense in quite a while yet

in a slow thin panic you begin pigging out
on poetry: surrounding yourself with texts, slimthick volumes
of verse, biographies, essays, articles, interviews, as if
you’re building a formidable sandcastle at low tide:
american essays on poetic truth-honesty-sincerity make
you want to puke
to burn the lot pity about the fire bans there’s nothing
more pesky than the pieties of american poets doubling
as lit crits up to their crowns their laurels in
certainties and eloquence, a rhetoric that’s never lost
for words, and cee-vees long as the mississippi; to grow
illiterate, mute (not to be confused with vocally challenged)
is what you crave: a big long sleep on a blank white page

digital recording ( after eliot)

one thinks of all the hands
that whip money out of ATMs
quick as condoms, headache pills;
that jiggle herbal tea bags in thick
mugs like puppeteers; that fill
out lotto forms on a stream of
thin white shelves; that are
dropping shaggy track pants on
the floor beside a bed, that
press touchfones more than flesh;
that vote in cardboard booths
with short lead pencils, tied
to string like small harpoons:
that tremble at the mirror too
close to the patinas of their skin;
one thinks of all the hands, burning
teaspoons in a thousand motel rooms


it’s still the same, signs on the grass
say don’t feed the fish, instead of
don’t eat them, still the same tired old
sports star tropes, failed golfer falls
on his sword, shakespearean high jinx on
the links, how could he be such a loser
with forty million dollars in loot his
hound’s toothed fan heartily burps, new
golf courses still consume asian
farmlands mad cow disease is still
on the cards, just don’t eat the fish
or feed them, ensuite bathrooms are
still being constructed there’s so
little time for church, family’s still
a noun, like nest of tables, to covet:
a home still provides for its
family of cars, even if everyone’s
anxious to leave they all still
want somewhere to park, lie
perfectly still on the tarmac
your poem is about to be heard
its peristalsis leisurely, and
loyal as pop up toast, a grecian
urn still sits unravished in the gift
shop window behind the six pack
traffic’s roar, its proprietor ms salome
sitwell snores into her pocket sized
koans, the figurine of the milkmaid from
Shropshire drops on her face to the floor
and still
the rain still falls



under the house in the soft
brown soil you lean
against bleached wash
tubs wringing parrot
bright holiday clothes,
the cold water on your fingers
delicious as an Italian beer
in a long heat wave, and the
outside ferns obscure
the strength of the sun’s fierce
blaze through lattices of shade;
in this cool private world
the intimacy
of the moment seems
immense as you turn
with your full buckets deep
piles of packing cases
removalists’ boxes in storage,
murmur like totems from travellers’
secret trails


the sweet silence of
this under-the-house shadows
you pegging out
your clothes, a residue
of water trickles up your
arms as you offer
your tipsy face like a brazen
bride to the fiery sun
glazing the lawn the
mango tree chthonic
green you swoon into
greek no universal
myth thoughts of ultra
violet rays are obscene
at a time like this —
the flowery end of your sarong
lifts, a kite in a sudden
breeze, and a grasshopper
lands on your wrist


the watchdog, oshi, short for
ocean, rushes round the deck, he
hasn’t seen a cane toad,
it’s the beep of the new computer
game sending him into a spin —
mandalay towers, a sixty floor
hotel, where fifty mini-robo tourists,
programmed for cyber-shark fishing
and promptness, pulse crimson —
their ten second elevator’s failing
to come, while dion and cora evans,
couple forty three
in the honeymooner suites, require
urgent help with a new condom


disoriented, dazed
inside upstairs you rush to
be of service just like a
mighty mouse, and trip
on the dog’s ball, the
cordless phone then slam
your elbow virtually
through the screen, you hear
the rumble of an earthquake
hundreds of tiny graphics
tumble hurtle megametres of inches
to the ground      the ceiling
fans the hills hoist still
spin so languidly round and
round     is this paradise
lost or paradise found


under a canvas awning, a few
metres above sea level, with backs
to the harbour the poets are reading —
their audience reclines on smooth fresh
mown lawn, swish as a cecil beaton
snap: lyric marinates the air; the p.a system
amplifies the verse right
to the water’s edge, where an evening
swimmer unaware of the source of
these bardic sounds, seeing is believing, may
mistake them for announcements
at a livestock sale or a stubborn
address from a captain whose ship
is going down

ATMs = automatic (bank) teller machines
hills hoist = rotary clothes drying line

joanne burns book cover — aerial photography

These poems are taken with permission from the book
aerial photography, by joanne burns

five islands press, PO Box U34, Wollongong University, NSW 2500, Australia,
ISBN 0-86418-6185

Jacket 12   Contents page
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