Featured Writer Les Wicks: Four Poems

Emily Takes Off

The surgeons wanted to cut them out
but she had other ideas, albeit
half-formed like those lumps on her shoulder blades.

Scans were inconclusive
but the medical profession poked-prodded
to a point where bruises blossomed across her back.

There were suggestions surgery
could leave a tattoo of pain across her adult life…
all within acceptable boundaries
drawn by those without affliction.

As the skin began to split around
the urgencies on her scapulae
doctors sought orders from the court.

Her parents took the family on an extended holiday.
Process servers fretted about the vacated home but
all the neighbours refused to answer questions –
common good, common purpose.

Emily’s wings required some adaptation
but she thrived above the clods of debate, that
aggregate of rules, those
endless line markers at their bitumen.

Her party-dress of clouds now skims the globe.


The Love-It-Till-You-Don’t Club, Kingscliff

Terry. Vietnam.
That word is enough, they
cured the cancer. Big deal.
With his Seniors Card rode the bus to pick up Nembutal.
For years he felt there was magic yet in his world, plus
he lived near the beach.

Friends will be there
but by obligation “not there” –
this loving called death must legally be done in solitude.
Booked into the Sunshine Motel.

He belongs to a group that helps their members live & die.
Never too much pain, nor much joy
he remembers the boy he was
& apologises at the air.

Medicine can be tougher than the patient.
Lost his way at Falldown Bay.
Never too much pain.
Those who cared flapped about him pesky precious,
orbited his damage for years.

There were pinnacles in his life.
Marlene & her hippy dresses,
she could tea away apocalypse.
Cowboyhat Hannah just got to scootin’
as Daisy went & flowered straight out of the garden.
It’s not that it matters, small tears
in an old t-shirt. They were all so piss-weak
& twice as strong as him.

Not a dole bludger,
that pride above disability.
Mate/employer Davo reckons
he can’t cope without him
(should never have been a builder anyway).
Davo whinges a lot, reckons he’s just a man
fighting depression, custody, bankruptcy but
he  never served.

Terry served, knew a few miracles.
Still shrugs, thinks big deal.

Slipping away, this day
people will drop by around 7pm, check there’s no pulse.
The road to well is sometimes a dead end.
Call box notification to police, because those
hard-pressed cleaning staff aren’t paid enough for bodies.
Terry will be honoured, a forward scout again, trailblazing
in the territories beyond hurt.


The Last Trick –  Colloquium Perspectives on the Arts
in Post-literary, Poly-liminal Aggregations

With the Australian Empire on its knees
(& unable to afford the arthroscopy)
I was invited to address a modest gathering of minds
to discuss the Twenty Doctrinal Errors.

Parliamentarians promised to save our misspelt solds.
My position in the Temple was dependent
on the continued satiation of grandees.
This involved  robust video presentations of puppies plus
the adornment of statues featuring
that reified, reassuring, retooled Roman god Quotidian.

Not for lack of effort
though as the years drag on my pretention
has become more prefab.
Authorities became concerned & a
clerical constabulary questioned my
grammatical life choices.

I fell.
Not in a graceful mort d’un cygne way more
abattoir chute.
I zeroed.

So with nothing left, retreated to my reservation
(1970’s working class apartment)
& there await developments.

Swapping meals with my friend in #8
(Mustafa’s a bit heavy on the meat –
me on the dairy –
we both believe in garlic & mushrooms)
I defend the right to die
alongside discouraging my ex-lover’s suicide.
Yesterday rode my bike by the bay,
this irrelevance is a sanctity.


Grand Mal

He knew her when they were seeds.
Now they flash their Seniors Cards & call it dance
He wasn’t ready, ever.
This life is birdcall across scree…
deep & meaningless as any deity.
Thoughts proclaim territory
as that territory shrugs.

A table with a view.
Meeting her again, both
are fat on good intentions. The nests are brimming
with dependents. This anthem of glut
has clogged the world

& isn’t enough.
Not by a long shot.

So later they rut mindful of
backs & knees.
So unexpected: she had worn just comfort underwear,
he hadn’t shaved his back.

Age will give you everything, don’t struggle.
Turn down the lights
& remember your medication.


– Les Wicks


Les Wicks
Les Wicks. photograph by Susan Adams (2014).

Les Wicks’ 13th book of poetry is Getting By Not Fitting In (Island, 2016). For 40 years Les has been a figure of substance in the Australian literary community. He has been a guest at most of his nation’s literary festivals alongside a substantial list of international ones, including Festival de Poesia Medellin, World Poetry Festival (Delhi), Beyond Baroque (L.A.), Austin International Poetry Festival, FI PTR (Can), Vilenica Festival, Struga Poetry Evenings (Mac), Festival Poesia de Granada (Nicaragua), and International Poetry Festival Istanbul. His poetry has been published in over 350 different newspapers, anthologies and magazines across 28 countries and in 13 different languages. Les is seen as both a “stage” and “page” poet. His work is a mixture of accessibility and dense use of language. He is a master of capturing the vernacular. His poems are both humorous and fierce, often in the same poem. Les is equally well known is his work as a publisher and editor. Most people will remember Artransit which put poetry and art into Sydney and Newcastle buses. However, that is just one of dozens of similar roles: some predictable, like literary magazines, while others range as far afield as publishing a poem on the surface of a river. The most recent poetry anthologies he has co- edited and published are Guide to Sydney Rivers and AU/UA: Contemporary Poetry of Ukraine and Australia. He has coordinated workshops across the country. website: http://leswicks.tripod.com/lw.htm

Getting By Not Fitting In is available from Island Press


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