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Michael Brennan

Two poems

Who is Alibi Wednesday?

Don’t worry too much, it’s all taken care of.
That’s what the city tells you. You’re goo-goo about it,
fresh off the boat, looking to be the grit in its dozen oysters.
The tide runs in and out of Sydney Harbour, as though
the city was breathing. It’s been doing it for years!
Only after the pretty blonde from the Welcoming Party
checks your papers does she snip the stitches from your lips
and pass you a Southerly Buster. The smugglers told you
the truth: this city squeals delightfully in equal portions of
vodka, ice and speed. It’s a heady mix, and after your forty days
in the desert, you’re looking for a bit of fun. You’re so happy
you shout beautiful curses in a language no one understands.
When the gutterals catch on, you end up in a succès de scandal
corrupting the local dialect and importing foreign literature in bulk.
The executioner rolls in, all black mask, bowie knife and speech
pathology. When you feel the blade’s tongue lick your throat,
you are still giddily scratching surfaces, falling in love with the city.

The disaster of grace

It’s true the mirror was in love, finding itself in every face.
It was not a function of syntax. His life was slurred.
Yes, it’s true, the heart hid in the dark with the dream of light.
How did you disguise yourself with only a pause?
How hungry I grew after the lean years.
The mirror stole the face I would have traded for such emptiness.
All those wars of attrition. Silly lovers.

If I could reach you with anything but myself, what then might begin?
Rest maybe. When the sleepless awake. When the dreamers sleep.
What gentleness, the bricks barely brush these first flowers.
Ahk, sly dog, teaching me touch.
My hands fell apart in yours.
Poor soul, dance upon my feet awhile.
Hunger, never leave me alone.
All that I left was a beginning.
I could have cried for him, but for his friendship.
No, not her, the drinking was alone.
Oh, that the half-hearted might find each other!
It was mid-winter when his eyelids said their farewells to each other.
Over those long months, the light remembered the heart’s darkness.
When the mirror finally touched me, it was drunk.
What ugliness, the self reflecting, the others looking on.
Will it be gone tomorrow? Tomorrow. When did it begin?
It was a terrible joke. A century of wars you say?
When my coffee is finished and the rain begins and I leave, please, oh please, this time, break into song.
I dried out when the rain held the promise of colour against the sun.
When did my youth get the paunch and knowing look?
Every word, given time, believes it’s another.
That’s a cheap trick, paying for dinner then growing old together.
I no longer know if I held it against you, or if it held me from you.
Little devil, youth, with your bad memory and tall tales.
I dreamed of you, friend, this great world without a face.
Oh, don’t molest me, words, randy little hot’n’tots.
Stop talking. You won’t make honey from mortar.
Why did you stop? Were your vowels cumbersome and long?
Such complicity! Praise this long life of late-running buses!
OK, OK, have your way, senseless little things, consonants and accretions, you shuffling orgy gone hungry.
Where were you, trouble, when I needed you?
Such tenderness swapping partners, words, holding hands pretending to be friends.
Look, snorkleporkle! All these years together, neither of us aged.
What happiness, a lifetime of delusions against the muttering and miracles.
Cough it up, eh. That love of yours. Hawk it out, a good big gob, rough as it is.
Hey, jerk, stop dreaming me up with such chinless ease!
Don’t leave me alone with words. Who will they talk too?
All that tough talk dented the beak of the bird pecking at your temple.

Go on, scuttle off, skip-ship, flip-flap. I’ll keep your rudder safe `til you get back.
Ah, sweet feet of clay, what beautiful shapes you might still become!

Michael Brennan photo

Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan was born in Sydney in 1973. His first collection, The Imageless World (Salt, 2003) was short-listed for the Victorian Premier’s Award for Poetry and won the Mary Gilmour Award. Brennan received the 2004 Marten Bequest for Poetry and is the Australian editor of He currently lives in Nagoya, Japan where he is a lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies and Foreign Languages, Nagoya Shoka Daigaku.

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