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   Jacket 33 — July 2007        link Jacket 33 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

Ken Bolton

Three poems

link An Australian Suburban Garden


link For various movie directors

This piece is about 33 printed pages long.

An Australian Suburban Garden

I am sitting in the front yard
                                                          the enclosing high walls,
stand of bamboo,
                                          green hose snaking
                                                                                           from the far
corner to the foot of the gum, across the carpet of twisted
fallen leaves
                                   dappling light.

                            Pola sits, tiny, in the sun—normally
quite a big dog,
                                   but curled, so that I see only
                                                                                            head &
                            a profile that looks hilariously innocent
like a deer’s: ‘good’, ‘fond’. The breeze,
the best part—plane tree, gum,
                                                         vine leaves, bamboo—moves
            or storms occasionally about,
                                                                             quietens. I’ve had
a better time of it than Leopardi
                                                                           whom I read now
In good health—a number of
                                                                                          worked out
more or less
                            —questions he asked I never would
                                                                                                          ...  (in this ‘secular’ age).
I have perhaps worked
                                          no ideas out myself, taking them
                                                                                         ‘from the shelf’, merely
                                                                                                                              —as Leopardi
availed himself
                                                of the Ancients.

                                                                                                                       Who did I raid?
James Schuyler,
                                                                                                 Bob Mitchum
                                                                                                                                              (”Baby, I just
don’t care”)?  
                                                                    Though more sentimental
than that
                             or inconsistent.

                                                           Pola now lies flat in the sun
                                                                                                                     in a
depression she must once have dug
                                                                           —a Siberian husky, her
white fur
                             gleaming in the light—      
                                                                                            before I finish that line,
she has moved    from sun to shade. I hear her head
hit the concrete as she flops down, invisible now
                                                                                              on the other side of
                                                                                                         this vine.


             I am not going to appear in another poem,
                                                                                                                      she thinks,
thank god.

                          A review I read recently
                                                                                               of Italian Poetry
remarked their tradition
                            of addressing each other, something British poets, it said,
”rarely did”. British poets, it seemed to me,
                                                                                           rarely addressed anybody
but spoke as if they weren’t being heard,

                                                                                           as if it were impolite
to break any reigning silence —
                                                             especially in view of their having
’nothing to say’.

                          Me, I am given to the utterance in full voice.

                                                                                                         (’Ha ha’)

                                                                                           Can I steal anything
from Leopardi?—
                                            a note    to myself,
                                                                                            for the future,
or later tonight.

                            On my left the enormous fallen statue
                                                                                                     of the robot
that stood
                                                             for a year or two
                                                                                            after Craige Andrae
installed it, a bizarre
                                            benign presence
                                                                          in the garden.
                                                                                                          Et in Arcadia
                                            You, too?

                                                                                                          it seems to parody,
selflessly, the Romantic-ruin-&-vista, with
                                                                                                 No Care For Its Own Dignity —
as if to say Hey, look at me—I’m making a joke:
                                                                                                                   ‘Look upon my
works, o, man’ etcetera.
                                                              One leg remains upright, cut off
the ‘knee’—
            where Cath delved,
                                                            looking for the honey the bees had left behind
                             &, undermined, Ro-bo
                                                                                        fell some time later.
And has lain there
                                             for a year or so now.
                                                                                            Once or twice we cut the long grass
around him. Beside, an olive tree grows
                                                                                            in a terracotta pot
near the wall—& near the meter the utilities man can never find,
unless we point to it—
                                                & a vine creeps up the wall
                                                                                                             that I planted
maybe eight years ago,
                                          making slow progress but adding charm
& outrunning the parti-coloured ivy
                                                                                         that sets out after it
& makes a pleasant, never-used cavern
                                                                          in the left hand corner of the yard

then the liquid amber (also looking quite classical ...
if Salvator Rosa, or the lost Titian—Death of Peter Martyr
                                                                                                                                      can be
called classical.
                                         It’s an ‘Australian’ perspective.
                                                                                                           If not, maybe,
every Australian’s.
                                             Though most I’m sure, would know what I mean.)
They’d know, too,
                                          it was crepe myrtle.
                                                                                         Why do I always call it
liquid amber? — because of the liquid smoothness
                                                                                                          of its trunk,
            like the underside of forearms.            I love the downhome,
                                                                                                                      ‘American’ perspective
on Europe—old Europe
                                            anything before the nineteenth century—where they refer
to it
            as ‘England times’.
                                                           I saw a comedian do it once
                                                                                                                       deliciously &
repeatedly,  to stupid, Anglophile
                                                                           Clive James,
                                                                                                           innocently gaining
his assent to the view
                                            that England’s time had passed.
                                                                                                                    ‘My Time
After A While’ —
                                             the great Buddy Guy tune. Am I
                                                                                                                       that distracted?
I wonder if this poem
                                          (my poem)
                                                                             will once again attack England—
& why?

                            The phone rings—but every time I go to answer it
at the other end of the house
                                                           gets there first. Which is great—I get
regular breaks
                               but no distractions.             Cath is at work—or out to lunch
with her friend George (Georgina).

                                                                            The boys are in England.

                                                                                        I sent them photos,
             of this bougainvillea —
                                                            in full flower. Its green covers the salmon-pink
of the wall, beyond the delicious
                                                                            lemon-cream trunk
                                                                                                             of the gum—
that ascends
                            angled skyward, vast & smooth, spotted, in just
a few places, by bits of bark that hang on—
                                                                          flecks of grey-pink still clinging
to it—
            & that can remind       though they don’t today,
                                                                                                         of the occasional
large pale slug
                          (that I see, about every three—or five?—years, somewhere)
as they spot the trunk


                                            Is the colour puce? A word I associate
with ecclesiasticism somehow
                                                           (Ronald Firbank, a pulp novel I read
as a teenager
                                   —The Odour of Sanctity?)
                                                                                                           & latinity
(& Medievalism—
                                            fleas, after all:   the Black Plague, dirt & darkness:

not the full sunny glare of classicism
                                                                          —by which I mean,
Heaven Knows, Mr Allison—
                                                           what do you mean?
                                                                                          That old joke. (That old
Paddo comes in, Anna’s boyfriend, yells How’s it going?
                                                                                                                      greets the
goes in.
                             The day before Xmas.

                                                                                          Leopardi would be—a century or
                                                                                                                       two ago—
shivering in his father’s library,
                                                            blanket over his knees, cloak about his shoulders,
                            —something improving or curious—
                                                                                         snow falling outside, maybe.
Here it is mild. I’ll be reading Leopardi,
                                                                                         or John Forbes!—I found his old
          ‘In Memory of My Feelings’,
                                                                 which I’ll look at tonight.
                                                                                                                             The moon
—to return to it? or is that Leopardi? is my poem
                                                                                                    moonless until just now?—
the moon approaching full.

                                                                                                                      I like
the moon in daylight—
                                          but, looking about, I can’t see it.
                                                                                                              The sky
is cloudless & beautifully blue. The green
                                                                           of all the trees across the street—
visible from here, above the copse of bamboo—
                                                                                          with the hint
                                                                                                                       of red & brown
in their leaves—
                                            makes the blue vibrate about them. And, near,
the glowing parallel bars of the white garden seat opposite,
quietly, E. Phillips Fox, divisionism, Bonnard
                                                                                          ... other names from Painting
—though, hitherto ,
                                             it had simply been a chair & I
hadn’t noticed.
                                          The light changed?    Must have.

Suburban Garden—was written Xmas eve 2004. Another catalogue of unreasonable opinion. Leopardi: congenitally ill and much suffering Italian poet of the absolute & ideal. Actor Robert Mitchum shows up, I don’t know why (to lower the tone?)—twice maybe: he starred in Heaven Knows Mister Allison. Australian painter E. Phillips Fox typically painted finery, flowers, gardens etc in a very high-keyed and dappled light that went some way to ‘making strange’ the subject matter — most famously some women in ornate dresses & with parasols descending steps to board a boat in bright sun. The poem wrongs a great many English poets: I was thinking of circumspect verse favoured by the TLS probably and harking back to opinions I held years ago.


                                     “Neo-classicism? Chiefly I like its bric-à-brac.”
                                                                                                                   —Paul Keating


                                   Time to make a start
                              The ODE TO WINCKELMANN

                                             (Is this  an  ‘Ode to Winckelmann’?)

                       “I saw a photo    of the monument   to you  /  him  — “

                                             “Hi, Joe,” I begin  —

searched for it in fact!

                                                I think you’re
unfairly associated
                                         with boredom these days
                                                                                             (the inventor
of Anton Raphael Mengs
                                                              & David)

                                                                                                         but in other respects
it was insufficient, too

                              —  the monument, the plaque  —

                                                                            boring, as I’ve said  —
(Not quite direct enough
                                                    Or  very antique)

—   you’ll have come by boat
                                                                  not train or, heaven forbid,
airplane  —
                                         I caught a bus in to the town
                                                                                                         & kept my ‘archaeologist’s’
’eye’ out  —  
                                   how many
                                                                   scare quotes will this poem
                                                                                                  support —
before   collapsing
                                 under the weight of its ‘irony’ so cheap?
the allegories ‘aboard’ Trieste’s architecture ‘abound’,
                                                                                                            inviting it  —

dumb, hilariously
                                                 —   there are some ‘fine figures of girls’
in stone or plaster   somewhere    representing
                                                                                               the ‘figures’ of
clean   & brackish   water   (!)
                                                                 —   par example.
archaeologist’s eye though
                                                                 spotted only Original Joe’s
a coffee shop. The name in English
                                                                                                 tho American
would likely be the intended resonance

not London    —   &  not,  Johannes,  German.

                                                                                               We’ve been
for 100 years now
                                                & America  —  which in your day
existed, yes,  but as pure horizon
                                                             ( & for the futuristically
                                                                                   inclined )
(the Wright Brothers ...
                                  democrats ...)
                                                                             whereas you kept your eye
pretty much
                                 on the past, is that true?.
                                                                                             What do I know?
Would I even like to find out?

                                              You were probably not a democrat.

                                                                                      An Open Letter to you
would seem to set you up  as a kind of
                                                                                        Rip Van Winkle figure

hardly fair,
                                                           but, ‘inevitable’?
                                                             in any case, not interesting

                                                                                            The neo-classical,
I have some time for
                                              Even nutty old Mengs   is sometimes
maladroitly interesting
                                                                 And David    —   were you around
for that? —   while sometimes  drily preposterous

well, often dry, more often preposterous
                                                                                              was terrific,
really, on many occasions

                                                   —  And I liked the idea of seeing your tomb,
for this reason.

                                                    You’re still, you see  —  if just marginally  —

in the cultural DNA  or whatever   that gets passed down.

Am I any sample ?  representative ?
                                                                                            More marginal
by a long shot than you
                                                         —    a minor poet   conscious
of the irony
                                 or ironies
                                                              that inhere,  around
the practitioner of one marginal form
                                                                             saluting the
dead, forgotten  great   of another.

                                                                                      And finally
I didn’t find the tomb or memorial. Tho

                                                                               I ‘attained’ to within
200 metres, a few times,  I’m sure

You got killed here  —  probably by rough trade

                                                                                              you’d picked up ...

                                                ‘& all intelligent Europe


Is that the phrase?

                                         I like the place  —

                                                                                   beautiful buildings
pretty girls,
                                  that harbour

                                                                    The Triestine mix  
Italian, German, Austrian,  & Czech & Slovak & Slovene

has made for greater restraint
                                                              than you meet
                                                                                               elsewhere in Italy
                                 Cath & I left Rome
                                                                                              home of the ever-
car horn & imperilled pedestrian
                                                                                             for Austria, &
were amazed & amused:
                                                              walk too close to the footpath edge
& cars slowed   —  in case you meant to cross in front of them  —

                                                                             police cars put their sirens on    
But only briefly:

                                              when approaching an intersection, say
  —  turned it off
                               when they were through

                                                                            In Rome, the importance of a
Racing Home For Lunch
                                                                             ‘required’ a siren.

                                                                                                                              Last night
   I saw ‘a very Italian thing’
                                                                                            or so it seemed
& not un-classical, either

                                                                                      though of course,
                                                                                                     true to your
role, here,
                                 you could be supposed not to approve

I was walking   ice cream in hand   between various
small restaurants & pavilions set up on the town docks.
Saturday night I think. A sort of family day had been taking
place all afternoon and evening  —  blaring pop songs, a semi
professional girl group singing, a hot-air balloon rising and
falling, rising and falling constantly, lots of food on grills
                                          As I passed the enclosed courtyard of one
restaurant I saw some teenage girls somehow milling about.
There were assorted adults among them, but a dominant factor
was these fifteen year old girls, ‘swanning’, threading their way
through and between the others  —  all walking as on a fashion-
shoot, languidly spinning and turning, crisscrossing the space,
quoting, performing gracefulness and the designated disaffected
pout—and boredom or detachment—high fashion often uses. It
was very odd, because there was no evident audience, unless it
was the no doubt slightly bemused or exasperated parents  —
there seemed to be no young men about. Maybe the girls were
‘playing’ —  the last form play took before you, too, were free to
escape  —  like the boys were  —  family occasions?

                  It bore a little resemblance to the classical frieze
a la Flaxman   or Poussin.  
                                                                                              Maybe, Johannes,
you’d have liked it?


                                                      It occurs to me that nothing in
real life resembles more the work of Raymond Roussel
than a truly high fashion parade.

                                                                             The old buildings of Trieste
—  nineteenth-century mostly, so they show your influence
but you never saw them  —    reminded me somehow  
of Margaret Dumont :    gently, amusingly, pompous  —
& a little faded
                                                slightly ‘comic opera’
                                                                                                        in fact the Paris Opera
came to mind
                                            though it is a little busy,
                                                                               & coloured ‘Northern’ & ‘gallic’


                                                                Trieste was more comfortably confectionery.

The gallery had Von Stuck, Marées & Bocklin

                               (no Bunny,  no Lindsay)

amongst a collection otherwise thoroughly Italian.

The girl group ‘were quite Italian’ —
                                                                                         they emoted
heavily & rhetorically
                                                           resembling     but in no way suggesting
                                                                                                 felt emotion

A little like neo classicism?

                                                                             Air force jets performed
                                                                                             in the sky  —
finally trailing the Italian colours behind them

And on late night television back in my room,
Aerosmith :  career highlights & a career salute

                 this too seemed Italian
—  The best part  —  in its own terms  —  was Shakira    
           doing “Dude Looks Like A Lady”
                                                                                              with great energy

          Sort of a ‘dude’ herself
                                                                                        A healthy girl  —


I might care about you more than any poet in Australia.

                                                                                            A thought.

It’s possible.

                                 (You, Winckelmann  —  not Shakira.)

                                                 More than Paul Keating?

Now there’s a thought.

                 ( I keep thinking to call you  ‘Henry’

                                                                              Henry Winkler

                                                                            ‘The Fonz’ )

Would my caring be any consolation I wonder  —

rather idly, I’ll admit  —  ?

                                                                             All the paraphernalia
                                                                                             of allegory
is used by the Italians   as just
                                                                     humanizing adornment
symbols no one attempts to believe in,  or consider.

Whereas Aerosmith’s lead singer is a symbol

who could hardly ‘argue’ for meaning, except by
more strenuously enacting it

                                                                            As a professional he really
(it seems)
                               in being in the business   of

(especially standing-for-them-strenuously)

value-judgements being the concern     of those consuming
/using these meanings

                                                                 (In fact maybe he’s an adverb  —
“strenuously” —
                                                   more than any particular passion)

                                                                                           Of course
usually it’s just “freedom”
                                                                   or freedom by association with
                                                                                  ‘rock-n-roll’, man.


                                                                              Italian ornament
functions to furnish all areas
                                                                with a thoroughly humanized
—that is, colonizing  —
                                                                               psychical comfort

Italians who emigrated
                                                              must’ve wondered what they’d
left behind
                                              —   bullshit ?   or paradise ?

Australia might have seemed,
                                                                 whether cruelly or refreshingly,
a little barren.

                                                The Little King

I remember him  —

                                                                  a comic strip
                                                                                                                  of ineffable
                                      to a ten year old   .
                                                                                             —   He looked like a
bookend  —
                                 and another cartoon near to him
                                                                                                              whose name
I don’t remember
                                              seemed to be about ineffable banality

& as these concepts were beyond me
                                                                                            at least conceptually
I found this one intriguing
                                                                             typically two matrons
smothered in furs & pearls & opera glasses
whose tone was considered ‘risible’
                                                                                         (I guess)

Dad preferred Boofhead
                                                                             —   the true archaic

                                 & the action took place on a plane that
paralleled that of the picture

                                                                              Winckelmann & Lichtenstein
would’ve loved it
                                                Which is great  —  cause I love you guys!

                                                 ha  ha

— The artist who drew it could not handle three-quarter views
                                                                                             or foreshortening  —

                                             Nadi & Pinko
                                                                                        one of the stores I pass

to get to Divo Antonio Thaumaturgio  —
or the temple-fronted cathedral of that saint  —
a nutty neo-classical unit, like a bit of de Chirico,
situated, Taj Mahal-like, at the head of what once was
the Grand Canal. The church is massive, but, except
close up, looks too small ... & amusing, & sort of
crooked in relation to things  —  it needs
a big armchair to sit beside it,  and a
Trojan-scaled horse   or  blow-up castle  —   companions.

Giorgio would’ve loved it.
                                                                                   Which is great  —
“because I love  (both you  ... “

Complacency & comfort are Trieste style.

And you say, Winckelmann:  “Which is great  —  because
I love both you guys!”
                                                                And I say Point taken,

where is the rigour  (in this, this poem) ?

                                              When you visited this place
                     (“All of civilized society in Europe
felt your death” weeks later)
                                                                                                     what did you

Did you just like to see the few ideas
                                                                                                            ‘go thru
                                                                                                            their motions’
—  elements of classicism, combined,
                 in standard order?
                                                             Like Divo Antonio   —

four good pillars, the triangular pediment above,
the right volumes within?

Now the TV screen is filled by an ancient sailing ship

from which is thrown to the Italian viewer
                                                                                                    —  a
bloke presumably, but what sort of bloke? —

                                                                                              the Bounty

in kit form :  hours of fun

After the ad the program continues
                                                                                           a history
of the competition, Miss Italy.
                                                                            Currently the
                               as a rule she is never as good looking as
the girls around her
& usually she doesn’t look Italian

: they go for ‘California’
                                                                never a hint of, say, Algeria.

The judges: politicians & mayor look-alikes.

The host
                                 : thoroughly respectable  —
clean & almost earnest

                                                              & therefore thoroughly an idiot :

cliché & classicism


                                                          polvere de’stelle

                                                                                             part of the


                                                                                            I’m working on

Hard to fool yourself poetry is much loved

Hardly reasonable
                                              —  for me
                                                                                           to come & spit on

your gravy
                                                ...     “Schadenfreude  —

                                                                                  last chance!”

                                                                                                              I hear
                                                                           a newsboy’s shout proclaiming.

”One of these days, Alice  —  Pow! Right to the moon!”

Is that what it means
                                                           —  ‘seeing stars’ ?
                                                                                                              ‘pole-axed’ ?
stonkered ?
                                                      Banjaxed, my favourite  —

                                                                                               Mary hadn’t heard it
                                                                                                         & was impressed

                                                     The simple things, right,
                                                                                                  the small things


                                                                    takes a simple man
                                                                    to sing a simple song

”I’m worried now”
                                                                                   But I won’t be

                                                                                                    ...  etcetera.

Rather Romantic
                                                    —   or even vaguer  —
                                                                                                                    the ellipsis,
don’t you find?
                                                                                     Or are we Not Speaking
                                                                                                  finally    any longer?

Maybe it is “pole star”,   polvere de’estelle   ?

                                      Joe raises an eye, but remains silent.

Would “August 16th”  be a good title for this?

                 Or “Europe” ?

                                                                I see on August 14th
I was considering
                                             Is an Italian a happier person ?

                       how would an Italian know ?

                                     You get to Heaven, after a life of depression  —

& find out you were happy all the time,
to a German,  
                                   someone from Dublin,  Dusseldorf,

                                                                On the other hand, you were never
very serious
                                   it turns out

                                                                            (like someone from Dusseldorf ...
Cork ...  Duluth ...  )


                                                                          I read the not very
Poem   —  from Edinburgh  —
                                                                              about ancient China

Second Best Moments in Chinese History
                                                                                                             & like it.

My speed.
                                                 As I sum up    on Europe
while flying, in fact, to China

                                                                                               where I never
                                                                                                              meant to be

( & find I like it )
                                                         meeting Niu Baoguo
                                                                                                                   & Yu Hua

James Joyce appears in Trieste as he does all over Dublin

in that silly hat

                                                 Was it an affectation    at the time ?

                                 Posterity’s revenge.

(In that silly hat & cross-eyed.)

                                                                                               On the other hand

He is remembered for a great work
                                                                                                 —   merely recognised

(not reduced ‘to’)
                                                the familiar outline.

When I was young it was the legs-akimbo shot  —

of him in cloth cap, chin up, head on one side

                                                                                              “Wondering,” he said
or is said to have said    “if the photographer
                                                                                                           could lend him
any money.”
                                                 Makes me think     I
                                                                                                 ‘should get a haircut’

Is that the allegorical figure   of Fame
                                                                                                         a-beckoning ?

It’s a wedding-cake aesthetic almost, this
                                                                                                     —  This 19th century
style of eclectic classicism  —
                                                                               but better than that,

because more modest
                                                                         or more quietly confident? —

than Rome’s Victor Emmanuel monument?
                                                                                                              Tho that
is perhaps hysterically assertive

                                                                  ...    as some weddings no doubt are.

’False teeth’  they are called in Rome  —  the world’s biggest

                 —   with their little winged victories

or whoever they are
                                                                 (flanking in chariots)

dark angels & horses   —   & a spear?  a standard ?

And the Irish
                                             —   what is the point? —
                                                                                                                   except to wonder
at the answer to the question ?

                                                                              “Ah, colourful people
Of the world” ?

I wonder how it turned out,  Anna’s first coffee

With the parents of her boyfriend ?
                                                                                                    Anglo Saxon stock,
                                                                                                                    mostly  ...

Italian coffee ...
                                                universal situation.

                                                                                                           I will
                                                                                                              find out

when I get home
                                                    unless an email remembers to tell me.

The Figure
                 a little woman, one foot in the road,
                                                                              is not waving to me

                                                                                        but to someone further behind

                                    & she isn’t Fame, either
                                                                                           because the person
                                                                                                    behind me

looks sort of ordinary.


A big  pumping  cloud configuration

                                                                            Dufy with nobility

                              (Like   drunk with love

                                                              sick with lust)

      Time to get a haircut
                                                                                               my  Ode to Europe
(my ode to Europe)

                  begins,   begins finally,    with the little lady

in red
                                 red linen suit,  red linen pants

                                                                               who brings to her table

                                                                a reddish drink
                                                                                              tea, I think.

I forebear to remark.
                                 (We are in an airport terminal)

                                                Bonjour, Trieste!
                                                                                               Francoise Sagan?
                                                                              In any case, Farewell, Trieste!

                                                              The Italian girl
                                                                             On the train from Stansted

              : her joyous delight    on seeing so soon
                                                                            an Englishman,

                                             —   in a field, playing golf!  —

                                                                             pointing it out
                                                                                            to her father

                                             She is 15

                                                             Her mixed horror & raised

          As the grubby, crowded,  cheerless
                                                                English inner city begins to appear
                                                                                             Thrilling depravity

The reggae from Gabe’s flat  —
                                                domesticating the city noise of traffic

                                                                   the industrial sound of buses’ brakes

                                                a faint clatter of plates from next door  —
telling me
                                  “we live in Brooklyn, baby”
                                                                                                             not I don’t

                                                                                                                       is my response

or do I ?
                                                    that is one view, I know.

                                                                   Well, importantly, mine
                                                             On a bad day for my conscience

                                                                                                         The Colonized Mind

tomorrow I find, & buy, by chance  Second Best Moments in Chinese
                                                                                                                  History  —

By the author of A Bad Day For The Sung Dynasty

                                                                                                                     cloud,  like
                                                                                                     Immobilized white steam

                                                —  soft, large, silver-lined  —

against the blue
the usual repertoire

                                              cite them here?  Tiepolo, Dufy, Guardi, de Pisis

                              in the Trieste Museum is it Savinio or Carra
                                                                                                                            that combines

’the usual repertoire’ —   nude   armchair   classical column
                                                                                             stylized, wavy water

                                                                                             (all within a room)    !

cynical,  tired ?   but it was hard not to like  —

                                                                                                     a meditation
on de Chirico’s vocabulary  —

                                                                   “iconography”, I should say  —

rehearsed one more time, recombined

                                                                                          to see what they will throw up

in this new configuration

                                                                            A helicopter beating at the sky overhead

                                                                             returns, like a wasp at a pane of glass



Europe — it’s a continent, mate! It is also an idea. Paul Keating was Australian Prime Minister. There are art references—to Winckelmann, Mengs, Jacques-Louis David—but, as the joke is that they are so little thought of now, it would be perverse to explain them here. Margaret Dumont was the central female role in many Marx Brothers films; Garnier is, here, an architect, not a perfume. I was in Trieste—& Dublin, London & China—courtesy of The James Joyce Foundation’s travelling prize. “Bonjour Trieste”—my joke with the title of Francoise Sagan’s novel, Bonjour, Tristesse. “Europe” was written as I bounced to & fro between London, Trieste, London again (& Gabe’s flat there), & thence to China on my way home to Australia.

Back to list of poems

For various movie directors

I come this way
for the ‘S’ bends
Driving alone at
night I feel
like Paul Douglas in a
wordy, moralistic
movie the kind
I loved—still do—
when I was young
these made
adulthood seem so
interestingly full—
of worries,
& heroism:
love, & guilt
& betrayal, unspoken
forgiveness: Paul always
loved her though she was
no good—though she wasn’t
so bad—he was no
great shakes himself the
big palooka
besides, he had cancer,
his partner was out
to blackmail him
the business could go downhill
any moment—she’d given up a lot
to marry him. Paul wore
big coats, over big suits, &
sported a muffler he had
dumb, intelligent eyes. I
come home on just
one glass of wine, to play
an obscure record, write
a poem—obscure too probably—
write a letter
& maybe call Cath, in Italy—
on her holiday. Soon to return—
to her palooka, deeply worried
today, about Manet,
deeply worried about nothing—
a palooka in 1992 Australia
in a small yellow Mazda
moving carefully through the

Ken Bolton; photo by Bianca Barling

Ken Bolton; photo by Bianca Barling

Ken Bolton: A gay, light-hearted bastard, Ken Bolton cuts a moodily romantic figure within the dun Australian literary landscape, his name inevitably conjuring perhaps that best known image of him, bow-tie askew, grinning cheerfully, at the wheel of his 1958 Jaguar sports car, El Cid. It is this image that also carries in its train the stories of later suffering—the affairs, the women, the bad teeth—and, speaking of teeth, the beautiful poems wrenched from the teeth of despair & written on the wrist of happiness “where happiness happens to like its poems written best” (in his inordinate phrase). (“Inordinate”?—can you use inordinate like that?)

Penguin published an early Selected Poems; more recently Wakefield Press have published Bolton’s ‘Untimely Meditations’ & other poems (1997) and At The Flash & At The Baci (2006) and a monograph on sculptor Michele Nikou.

For further information see Australian Literary Resources site