“Hawthorne has managed to deal with a horrific topic in a beautiful and poetic manner”: Beatriz Copello reviews ‘Dark Matters’ by Susan Hawthorne

Dark Matters: a novel by Susan Hawthorne (Spinifex Press, 2017).

DARK 300 (1)Dark Matters: a novel by Susan Hawthorne is a fascinating book which tells the story about women, their lives and their myths in a post-modernist style. Through diary sequences, poetry and narrative, we get to know Kate, Mercedes and Desi.

Kate and Mercedes were in a relationship, but their destiny took them through the cruel road of the dirty politics, where men abuse and violate women’s rights and bodies through torture. Desi is Kate’s niece, who like a patient embroiderer, stitch by stitch, is able to capture not only the cruel reality of her aunt’s experiences but also her inner strength. Intrigued by her aunt’s relationship with Mercedes and their political involvement, she travels to South America, visiting Argentina and Chile the country where Mercedes was originally from.

Hawthorne states that she started researching for Dark Matters in 2002 and I am not surprised. This book is a treasure of knowledge, not only of the dirty wars in Chile and Argentina but also of history, mythology, language, psychological and cross-cultural issues.

The author very cleverly presents reflections on language, particularly the language of poetry. The reader encounters profound thoughts that take them through the possibilities of words, lines and letters. It is admirable how Hawthorne teaches without preaching, shows without overwhelming and presents facts without being pedantic.

Dark Matters is also about the politics of being a woman and a lesbian. In a very poignant passage, Kate says, ‘How many women have to be killed before men’s violence is seen as real? How many women have to be injured and violated before their pain is verified? How many lesbians have to be tortured before our pain is made public.’

As a psychologist, I was impressed by Hawthorne’s ability to portray the mind of a character who has been deprived, not only of her freedom but also of any sensory stimulation.

Desi travels to Argentina where she visits ESMA, the centre of torture where many women were violated and tortured during the military dictatorship in the 70s. Desi, trying to understand her aunt’s past, reflects on the nature of the torturer and how true her words are: ‘The torturer is not after truth. Not even after information. The torturer wants to break the person who is subjected to pain, uncertainty, disorientation and humiliation. When it comes to women, the torturer wants to inflict shame on her. To do this, he will reduce her to her sex, by which he means her genitals.’

Hawthorne has created a character who is fully fleshed, Kate is not a cardboard cut-out. The reader learns about her past, her love and her ancestry. She was a prisoner, but only her body was imprisoned because her mind was never captured.

Kate relates myths and stories, creates poetry and beautifully describes her inner world. Kate’s inner strength reflects an inner strength that I imagine most lesbians in the past had to have in order to survive abuse, pain and persecution because homosexuality was previously considered a crime, a sin and a mental illness.

Hawthorne has managed to deal with a horrific topic in a beautiful and poetic manner. Very skilfully, she utilises short sentences to manage the tension and the drama. Even in the darkest moments, there is relief in the profundity of the thoughts, in the poetic narrative, and in the inspirational strength of Kate.

-Beatriz Copello


Dr Beatriz Copello writes poetry, fiction and plays. Her poetry books include Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations at the Edge of a Dream, Flowering Roots, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish). Beatriz’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review as well as in many feminist publications. She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers’ Festival, the NSW Writers’ Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), and Ubud (Bali) Writers’ Festival. She received an Emerging Writers Grant for Poetry and in 2003 she was awarded a Doctor of Creative Arts Degree (Creative Writing) from the University of Wollongong.

Dark Matters: a novel by Susan Hawthorne is available from Spinifex Press

Suzanne Bellamy launches Dark Matters by Susan Hawthorne


Teasing Threads – The Pleasure of Forgotten Movies: Oliver Stone’s ‘Alexander’

Chris Palazzolo seeks to rehabilitate the reputation of the criminally scorned Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone, 2005

Image result for alexander movie imagesThis isn’t really a forgotten movie. It gets a regular airing on Australian free-to-air tv, can be streamed on Netflix and has a special Director’s Cut version on dvd. I just feel the need, 12 years after its shabby reception by reviewers to call for some kind of critical rehabilitation of it. Shabby is an understatement. At its release in 2005, most reviewers dropped their daks around their ankles so fast they were tripping over themselves in their haste to drop a turd on it. I saw it twice in one week just to be certain I was watching the same movie, and each time the ancient Greek army descended from the Himalayas into the jungles of the Ganges plain, drunk on wine because they couldn’t drink the water, and throwing spears at attacking monkeys who they believed were native warriors, I thought, not since Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God, have such blood and guts images of world transforming incongruity been committed to the screen.

The story is this. In the 4th Century BCE, Alexander, heir to the Macedonian throne, currently ascendant among the Greek states, is educated in Aristotle’s Lyceum, where his precocious mind is filled with the most rarefied currents of Hellenistic thought – universal reason, and the ennobling of his sexuality (thus making the already perilous question of succession just that more impossible). On becoming king, he flees his scheming mother (who intends for him to consolidate Macedonian power in Greece) and embarks on a series of crazy military campaigns, conquering Persia, marching into Babylon, and then, in order to seed Greek civilisation in Asia, dragging his armies across the Himalayas into India where they eventually founder in constant fighting, mutiny, and sexual intrigue in the courts of wily Asian despots. After his death, and with no heir to hold it together, the Alexandrian empire quickly falls apart and is swept away.

Of course there are problems with this movie. These mainly stem from the narrative’s structure of staggered flashbacks which are executed so clumsily it’s like a truck double-clutching up a steep hill; it’s not until two thirds in that the movie really starts to build momentum.  On the other hand the overwrought dramatics seem to me to be perfectly justified. The subject is a man who conquered most of the known world, and a considerable chunk of the unknown world, before his death at age 33. An awful lot was packed into such a short life, much of it would’ve been overwrought. And the Scots and Irish accents for the Macedonians and English accents for the Greeks also makes sense. The movie is explicit in its analogy with western imperial adventures in the Middle East and Asia. The Macedonians were, to the older Greek states of antiquity, like the Scots and the Irish to the English of the Common Era; frontier states, tribal and restless. As the argy bargy of conquest, resistance and eventual accommodation (with the Scots at least) on the British Isles laid the foundations for Britain’s expansion into a global empire, so Macedonian ambition combined with Greek resources (economic and intellectual) made possible Alexander’s empire building.

While I agree with Oliver Stone when he said that homophobia was the reason critics were so down on his movie, I think its intellectual ambitions offended them more. As if the subject matter isn’t grandiose enough, the clear parallels it draws with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 pushes its connotations to the absurd (Colin Farrell’s Alexander, with his tight blonde curls and small triangular nose, even looks like a camp George Bush). I think this is Stone’s point – the invasion of Iraq, the incoherence of the US government’s motives for invasion (was it eliminating WMDs, or avenging 911, or bringing democracy to the Middle East?) – was completely absurd. But then Stone’s own motives seem to be incoherent too. Is he comparing George Bush favourably or unfavourably with Alexander? I think it’s the latter, given that Alexander is portrayed as being open to influences from Asia, seeking to marry West and East and create hybrid civilisations, whereas George Bush, a famous Know Nothing, exhibited no curiosity whatsoever about the country he invaded. Still, it’s difficult to be sure. I think it’s important to note that the legend of Alexander the Great, the exemplar of imposing civilisation through military conquest, is an entirely European conceit. Indian historians barely rate him a mention, and Iraqi historians regard him as just another foreign tyrant.

– Chris Palazzolo

Teasing Threads – Ostia Antica by Peter Jeffery

Chris Palazzolo reads Ostia Antica, a cycle of poems by Peter Jeffery AOM

In this cycle of poems by the great West Australian poet Peter Jeffery there are two Ostias; one, Ostia Antica, a small Italian town near an ancient ruin 60kms west of Rome and a handful of kms inland from the river Tiber; the other, Ostia Lido, the port town of Imperial Rome located at the mouth of the Tiber. The geographical discrepancy between these two Ostias is the result of 2000 years of silting so that the Tiber now cuts an entirely different course to the sea. The focal point of this cycle is the distant flint of the river glimpsed between the grasses growing through the ruins, while spectres of the ancient entrepot parade through a gulf of remote memory.

Spectres are phenomena that confuse the distinction between inside and outside. Is a spectre something that is in the world, or is it some projection of the mind. The poems play with this confusion, drawing a parallel between the experience of the Australian poet wandering the ruins near Ostia Antica, circa 1970, and the Romans on their pleasure trips to the beaches and brothels of Ostia Lido. The spectres emerge from the crumbling simulacra among the ruins and crowd around the poet who, in his own metaphysical journey, has arrived at rootlessness and pleasure seeking. Through his own disenchantment the poet sees in this spectral Ostia the ancient world’s disenchanted termination.

An old cock with a lolling head,
I am too crushed on my foul perch
To clarion down dawn for Ostia
Morning city of Rome.

This is the Rome Tacitus wrote about; a great nation corrupted by a succession of weak, criminal and insane Caesars. And it is also the Rome of the Satyricon; its streetlife and pleasure spots. The poet projects his own sense of ruin into a sequence of decadent panoramas. He observes the proliferation of gods as prosperity and despotism pile complexity and inertia onto Roman life. He sees spectacles of enormous daily consumption in which the sea itself is drawn into nets to feed the expanding metropolis. He participates in the grotesque feasts of middle class holidaymakers, their desperate remedies for fading youth and vigour. He imagines himself stumbling through the rubbish discarded on the beaches. Everywhere he sees excess, overripeness, the falling point where energy and lust come apart.

All this reveals
That civilisation’s death
In this museum,
A most tasteful arena
for our taffeta minds
As tasteful as that day
When, above courtiers in wanton play
Nero unleashed tons of flowers
Drowning their screams in bowers
Of fragrant over-scented death.

But the poet’s restless senses will not accept such a death. There is a broiling rage in the long rolling lines of his verse. He fights against this dying Rome in the same way Laocoon fought against serpents entwining him, pushing and thrashing against it. This is the energy of the verse; this fighting, even as he feels himself succumbing to it. Sometimes it rises to megalomania, a fascistic glorification of virility, at other times an erotic fever dream of physical and emotional abandon.

No wonder they were brothers to the sea,
and saw the huge marriage feast of Neptune,
where nymphs and horses and gods trailed tails,
sexual, rhythmic and pulsing through water.
Their proudest stance
was prone or diving down
into the raptures of the deep,
where in bronzed love, these water gods
laughed ripples of minnows from their mouths.

These panoramas make a spectacular garment of literary and historical tropes which reveals the being towards death of the poet. Having reasoned god out of the world, the poet conceives of his existence as nothing more than a terminus of decaying mortality. He seeks meaning in travel, but finds the echo of his disenchantment in Ostia. But still, inspired by a brooch he sees in the museum, he’s consoled by the beauty and permanence of its setting, and clasps the garment together in a perfect phrase.

Till set down
In a book –
Rigid casting of print –
The jewel cannot shift,
In its brooch,
For yet, a thousand years!

Readers interested in obtaining a copy of this fascinating cycle can contact the author by email. peter.jeffery@iinet.com.au

– Chris Palazzolo



Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Annemarie Ní Churreáin

Four Poems              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a poet and writer from northwest Ireland. She has been awarded literary fellowships by Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany), Jack Kerouac House (Orlando) and Hawthornden Castle (Scotland). In 2016, Annemarie was the recipient of a Next Generation Artists Award from the Arts Council of Ireland. In Autumn 2017, Annemarie’s debut collection  BLOODROOT is being launched by Doire Press, Galway.

Further information



Teasing Threads – on housework music

Chris Palazzolo offers some thoughts on remunerated housework.

TImage result for dancing housewives imageshe Family Tax Benefit is an example of how neo-liberal theory which underpins the fiscal and monetary policy settings of the Australian government has reconciled itself with socialist feminist theory which was the first economic theory to recognise the home as a vital unit in a modern capitalist economy and how the labour transacted therein should be remunerated. Whether the home worksite should be subject to the same OHS regulations and insurance as other Australian workplaces is a political question, especially when one considers that many workplaces are now under electronic surveillance; economic justice, which includes protection of the body, the ‘instrument’ of performing labour and making a living (the government’s domestic violence campaign as a kind of labour rights question) can find itself opposed to privacy.

As a househusband in a single income household I can, for the sake of this argument, define myself as an employee of my wife who pays me a wage to perform the duties of housekeeping, that is to say to create conditions favourable to the regeneration of her energies so that she can reproduce her daily labours in her place of employment; and an employee of the Australian taxpayer, because I receive FTB as a supplementary payment for the raising of three future workers and taxpayers.

One of the nicest conditions of my employment is that I can play any music I want to as I perform my duties. This is important because having laboured in a workplace where a loop-tape played Whitney Huston’s ‘I will always love you’ on average six times a day, I’ve long felt that the music workers are forced to work to should be covered by OHS. Furthermore, if the home is no longer a completely private space, then the aesthetic and performative aspects of housework are now of public interest. Here are a couple of my favourite housework accompaniments.

Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra. I have this piece on record and I’ve played it so much over the last four years it’s a wonder the grooves haven’t worn off. It’s the perfect accompaniment for my morning chores; making beds, stacking breakfast dishes, doing the washing. The depersonalised whine and the squelching electronic ostinato of moogs and mellotrons alternating with the skipping ostinato pluck of a bass guitar puts me into a machinelike trance. I’m a 1966 model human, and that’s why the technology of this piece harmonises so perfectly with my body-mind; it’s like two machines of the same generation communicating. The dirge at the end of side one, threaded with a kind of gamelan type chime punctuating each phrase in a halting rhythm and torn by mid-volume electronic shrieks, like the cries of terror of all the innocents abused in the long wind-tunnel of history, fills my bright morning house with reflective melancholy.

Concertino for piano and orchestra by Arthur Honegger. This piece I normally play during the last phase of my evening labours, namely sweeping up, wiping surfaces and stacking and washing dishes after dinner, while my wife bathes the kids. The exposition and first subject is a tick tock clockwork interplay between piano and orchestra. It echoes the division of labour in the house, making the whole process like a mechanised diorama in which the automata perform their programmed tasks to achieve a single objective (kids in bed). The childlike mood of the first subject takes on a tone of menace in the second subject in order to remind us that this process is not just playful, it is also serious; if kids act up they need to be coerced; kids running amok and a messy house is the first step to squalor, ants and DCP. The final subject, a stern vigilant theme played by two saxophones, embroidered by a staccato argument between the piano and a muted trumpet, rhythmically underpinned by plodding arpeggios on the basses, is the gendarmes sending the scrapping shouting monsters to bed.

‘Open Sesame’ by Kool and the Gang. Three minute pop songs are usually too short for weekly housework (I can’t get any momentum because I have to continually change the selection), but suit better the process of housework on Saturday mornings. We expect the kids to make their beds and tidy their rooms on Saturdays which is an extra division of labour making the process more segmented and episodic. ‘Open Sesame’ is a disco number from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack featuring Kool as the genie of sound telling everybody to dance. It opens with a big gong, Kool’s reverberating baritone cries ‘Open Sesame!’ and we’re transported to ancient Persia. Magic spells are woven by the wavelike arpeggios of choir and trumpet over disco drums and bass. My favourite bit of instrumentation is the funky wobble board to get the nightclubs of Babylon moving. My wishes for three tidy bedrooms are rarely granted though.

– Chris Palazzolo

Doireann Ní Ghríofa Filíocht

Doireann Ní Ghríofa Poetry

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

marginalia (foraois nach féidir)
marginalia (an impossible forest)


marginalia (foraois nach féidir)

ní fheiceann
tusa anseo

ach seomra

in adhmad

an chláir sciorta,
feicimse foraois

faoi dhraíocht,
foraois nach féidir

dul tríthi,
agus ar ghéag

ann, tá

faoi cheilt

a ghob

faoi gheasa,

a shúile

duaithnithe –
dhá shnaidhm

sa chlár,

sa choill
sin, agus

a amharc
uasal orm,

a deir

cad é atá fút
fút, fút

fút. Feicim
cad é atá fút.

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marginalia (an impossible forest)

you see nothing
here, only

an empty

but in
the timber

of that baseboard
I see a forest

bewitched, an impossible
forest that cannot exist,

so we could never
plot a crossing

through it,
and on a branch

there, a single
owl hides,

his curved



as twin brown

in the wood,

in the woods,

his gaze,
gallant, smooth,

that seems to say
I see

what lurks under you,
yes you, yes you.

I see what’s under

‘marginalia’ appeared in Oighear (Coiscéim, 2017). Translations by Doireann Ní Ghríofa.

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Doireann Ní Ghríofa. Photo by Bríd O’Donovan, 2016

Teasing Threads – On reading as public service.

Chris Palazzolo wonders how we can read when there’s no time or space to read.

Image result for trecento imagesTo be a reader in 21st century Australia is to be like the public agent in William Burroughs’ The Soft Machine – standing on a street, receiving messages and instructions from random fleeting scraps of signs like a page of a newspaper blowing past or a song on a passing car radio. The bewildering, oceanic quantities of signs our culture industries pump out makes reading necessarily a fragmentary, grasping and furtive activity. Our culture’s overvaluation of a certain definition of ‘production’ – that is of a perpetual one way, from inside to outside pushing out (what Burroughs himself called ‘sending’) and which covers a range of phenomena from KPIs in business and publishing quotas in academia to the emoting on social media and tv talent shows like The Voice –  makes reading something vaguely suspect, interior and receptive, a passive ‘absorbing’ that seems suspiciously layabout.

But we are all readers, all of the time. Even when we believe our minds are switched off to any external signs while we’re dutifully producing, we’re still snatching them from here and there, like Burroughs’ agent, feeling our way, with our semiotic sensors, through the maelstrom of the 21st century socius. We certainly wouldn’t last very long here if we weren’t constantly reading. Even the most trivial of signs – Fitzy and Simey on FM radio banging on about Kendall Jenner, or the covers of Woman’s Weekly and Marie Claire sitting in waiting rooms, or on loungeroom coffee tables – provide a perpetual source of low level semiotic illumination that keeps the daily socius ‘legible’. ‘Serious’ reading, whether of the monastic exegetical type or the 19th century Matthew Arnold type, or the ‘close readings’ of the New Critics, or the deconstructionists of the late 20th century, is still the exclusive provenance of the universities. But even there there is less and less space, as the borglike ‘resistance is futile’ logic of consumer capitalism (modes of productiveness and efficiency) opens those spaces out onto the socius where Burroughs’ schizoid agent seems to be the only hope for any kind of critical reading.

But what is the purpose of critical reading? Is it to reveal truth and beauty or the mechanics of ideology? I don’t see why it can’t be both. It should really depend on the mood of the ‘agent’ who’s taking the trouble to read critically. If most citizens have neither the time nor the energy to think about the interplay of melodic motifs and lyrics in the song that’s playing on their radio as they sit in peak hour traffic, then the critical reader is there to speak to that half-minded and low priority, and yet nonetheless thoroughly contemporary and shared experience of hearing that song and perhaps, momentarily, being ‘taken with’ it, before the lights turn green. That’s what critical reading addresses; the ‘taken-withness’ of something. I’ve been taken with that song with the line ‘My heart is a ghost town,’ which I heard on my car radio, but didn’t catch who sung it cos my kids were mucking around in the back seat at the time (the song is by Adam Lambert). Is this experience important? No. What’s important is delivering myself and my kids, safely, at a destined parking spot to do shopping, pay bill, see doctor, etc. But, momentarily, amid the regulated catastrophe of internal combustion machines, I’m taken with a metaphor of desertification. I’m struck by this, not because the line is particularly original, but because of the way it’s sung; it’s shouted out, over a skipping electronic beat, with a reverberation to give the words added sharpness. It is both a cry of distress and of exultation, like a state of being achieved – no people, no movement, absolute stillness. In the cabin of my car, I’m enthralled by its desolation, just for a moment. I recall another song, about desolation in traffic; U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’. The lyrics of this song actually are about sitting in traffic, with apocalyptic visions of the everyday, and they also have the word Heart in its opening line. The Heart in both these songs signifies the same kind of centredness as the monad signified in Leibniz – the centre, the subject, the thinking-feeling I. By using Heart to signify the seat of subjectivity, these song lyrics reveal their descent from the lyrics of the Troubadours and the poets of the Trecento – dove sol con Amor seggio/ quasi visibilmente il cor traluce.

– Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world. His novel, Scene and Circles, is available from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449419

Juan Garrido Salgado- biographical note

Juan's Launch 17

Juan Garrido Salgado. photo by Tania Garrido

Juan Garrido Salgado immigrated to Australia from Chile in 1990, fleeing the regime that burned his poetry and imprisoned and tortured him for his political activism. He has published five books of poetry, and his poems have been widely translated. He has also translated collections of poetry from John Kinsella, Mike Ladd, Judith Beveridge, Dorothy Porter and MTC Cronin into Spanish, including Cronin’s Talking to Neruda’s Questions (2004). He translated five Aboriginal poets for Espejo de Tierra/ Earth Mirror a poetry anthology edited by Peter Minter (2008). With Steve Brock and Sergio Holas, Juan Garrido Salgado translated poems from Spanish into English for Poetry of the Earth: Mapuche Trilingual Anthology (2014). His later book Dialogue with Samuel Lafferte in Australia (2016) was published by Blank Rune Press.

Juan Garrido Salgado: six poems with translations

Teasing Threads – ’22 Years to Life’ by Mohammed Massoud Morsi

Chris Palazzolo reads 22 Years to Life, by Mohammed Massoud Morsi, 2015

33842117Like most Australians my daily routines are spent sweetly oblivious of the hell many of the world’s peoples endure. I step out my front door and I don’t wonder whether a sniper’s bullet is going to take me out; I send my kids to school and I don’t worry that I might be pulling their bodies out of its rubble later in the day. Reading Mohammed Massoud Morsi’s novella, 22 Years to Life, is like an irruption of this daily hell into my ambivalent Australian paradise. In the peaceful early scenes of the novella, Fathi and Farida, a young Gazan couple, travel to Canada for fertility treatment. The glimpses of my kind of life (in Canadian form) – the quiet, well-ordered streets, the safe houses, the civil and legal safeguards of private life – are Morsi’s narrative doorway for me. They are the conduit into a world where houses and walls are no protection to the human animal and where any kind of intimate life is routinely annihilated.

The narrative actually turns on two forms of intimacy. The first form, the one that’s to be annihilated, is the one we in the West take for granted is available to us whether we choose it or not – the intimacy of love, companionship and family. The second form is the annihilating form. It follows in the tradition of stories from the Iliad to The Naked and the Dead – the intimacy of war. In the early scenes of the novella we see the first form grow. The opening scene is the moment Fathi (the narrator) sees Farida for the first time. We follow their courtship and marriage, their attempts to have a child, their struggles with fertility and finally their success when a son is born and they set up home in Al-Mawasi on the coast. Around them, during this time of peace, we see the beginnings of a civil society, crabbed and secretive under relentless Israeli sanctions, curfews and no-go zones, but tentatively building homes, markets and schools.

War is coming. Embedded in this provisional society is Hamas, and its network of tunnels, arms smuggling, and recruitment cells. Its activities provoke the Israel-Gaza Conflict of 2014. War asserts its rights over all tenderness and love. First, it destroys all privacy by blowing everything inside out; it blows out cars and houses and bedrooms. And then it kills the exposed people by the hundreds. It blows them inside out too, limbs and guts and brains all over the street. The first intimacy is eviscerated. All that’s left is the second intimacy – the intimacy of hatred and revenge. The book ends with a kind of micro-perception of the same intimacy that it opened with, though not of love, but of hatred. A new recruit to Hamas sees the fear and youthfulness of the Israeli soldiers he attacks in a suicidal frenzy, and whispers metaphysical comfort to them as they die. Palestinian. Israeli. Their bodies rot as one.

– Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world. His novel, Scene and Circles, is available from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449419

Paul Casey 6 Poems

Paul Casey Biographical Details    Contemporary Irish Poetry Index


Stone Circle Circle
Dia an Cheoil (God of Music)
Indoor Forest
Inside the Bonsai
what’s clogging the mindpipes?
on second thoughts


Stone Circle Circle

‘Stone Circle Circle’ first appeared in Colony

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Dia an Cheoil / God of Music

Dia an Cheoil

Trí fheadóg bhí ag m’athair
A mbéalóg glas, gorm is dearg
Gaotha binne a séideadh
Maidin, iarnóin is oíche

Gach feadóg díobh ar nós a gcuid
Slat flaidireachta, ag lascadh an aeir,
Is chuir a gcuid duán faoi bhriocht mé,
Agus ghéill me láithreach gan teip

Sracadh den uisce mé le draíocht
Is mé nach mór ag eitilt
Mar is é an ceol, an Dia is láidre,
Bhuel sea, í ndiaidh an ghrá

Ach go cinnte an Dia is iontaofa.
Slogadh anois me, a Dhia an Cheoil
Le do chuid slata daite draíochta
Múnlaigh mé led fhuaim

A Mhúinteoir uamhnaigh
go dtí go mbeidh na píosaí beaga den eagla
Imithe, is go dtagann ar ais an solas

In ainm na feadóige moire glaise
Is na feadóige moire goirme
Is na feadóige moire deirge


God of Music

My father played three tin whistles
through lips of green, blue and red
sweet winds blew
morning, night and noon

each a flyfishing line
split the air
hooked each pitch deep
into the underbelly of surrender

to be whisked from water
into perfect flight.
So, music is the mightiest god
after love and surely

the most eternal
Swallow me whole god of music
spin-flick those fly-rods, the colours of magic
mould me in tones of unheard notes

again, dear and dreadful teacher
‘till these tiny scales of fear fall
away with the first rays of light

In the name of the green flute
and of the blue
yes, and of the red flute too

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Indoor Forest

If your urban life is leaf-free
one might say
you could bring the forest to you

to a wide south-facing sill
solar steeped and deepened
with a small table, enough

for sixty pint-sized pots
ten say, by six
with seed varieties endless

cheap as compost on e-bay
green up those phalanges
rein in the continents

with maple jacaranda coral
spruce acacia wattle and
after two careful winters

a forest
spread open, bough
to open bough

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Inside the Bonsai
………………………….after Yehuda Amichai

You visit me inside the bonsai
together we can hear the secateurs
clipping around and around us precisely
You whisper to me

I trust your words
because they carry grains of salt
the way real seaweed
carries salt from the sea

I press your fingers to my lips
this too will shape the future
and your fingers are cool
the way a hot day is blue

these things are all true
You visit me inside the bonsai
and you’ll wait with me here
until the secateurs complete their work

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what’s clogging the mindpipes?

A clamper spends all day seeking the key to his question
An artist removes an opinion from her mind’s eye with thinned
ideas made from crayons. An architect’s mind is written out
and emptied and filled with fresh addictive frustrations.

Today is a coffee overflowing with answers to yesterday’s dilemnas
as sugar-free yesterdays are auctioned off in the yellow pages.
These have in recent years faded to white. The blank screen is a pause
button, a quiet picture of night framed dead center in the room.

A grandchild discovers how to clean a marble headstone. The shaker
of good memories will dance around an old thorn to tease it out.
A friend can pluck one’s courage up enough to oust a second thought.
People are pricking themselves on digital cactii, recording their lives

in virtual quipu. A government official spends all day whitewashing
a newspaper headline from the minds of peers. In the city of river-
bellied streets, council workers spend all day unblocking the drains,
dislodging the giant splinters that accumulate in the anonymous night.

A generation of digital miners chip away at their questions all decade.
Do they know (do they dare wonder) just how things might change?
Haven’t they heard? There’s nothing like a long cold draught
of negative equity to regulate the middle classes, oh yeah. That.

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on second thoughts

It’s time for that coffee and packing up of principles
and off to the imagined life, the lock of that stolen key
Could it be this torrent of barbarity we hear and see
keeps us in constant mistrust of our own humanity?
Being spoilt isn’t just an expression, is it now?
We can only do a lot with a little for so long
and traffic is all about flow and avoiding pretzels
Nasturtiums in our mouths are worth gardens
for deserted nets won’t capture lines, lives, nor
will reciting pi to a thousand places while high
as fifth century stylites, our monkey brothers
close at hand, Soon Mo Kong and Hanuman
finding Jupiter in the frosted pavements of the cities
There’s so much more to what we’ve done than luck

Life won’t run away at twenty-four frames per second
in its timeline of deadlines laid pipe-like in the depths
of an age when late winters meant hot summers, kudzu
colonising at a foot per day. So let’s lay a full keel, flee
livid with illusions of progress, the sky split by each in turn
for once shy and forever bitten, we wear all of our layers
we seek the unfound bodies that lie beneath the rain
shallow as a field of g.m. spuds in county Wicklow
and teach our phones to speak Irish so as to consider
the price of being 100% Irish-legal, the full cost analysis.
With the sacred now virtual, we’re walking the world home
as we protest through spending saved and unsaved time
Why count the days in pairs of socks or human chains
and keys of corporate law and vagabondary?

A thousand years ago they’d all be dead men. What fools
take on the traits of film characters, splice fantasy to their
instinct? You, see beauty as a jungle of endless species
a menu unmeant to be written or told. Loss as an artist’s
heart, a black goat, the angel’s share calling the shots
and that’s the kettle calling the hob more efficient for you
Though it may well be a case of mistaken identity crisis
we’ve nothing left to give but the desire to give
Let’s take our souls down to the drycleaners for a spin
we’ve been stuffing the French press with ground-down
words, doomsday scenarios, temporary considerations
If you discriminate among colours you’re a colourist
And those sixty-four twits who make the world go round
indulging in the odd few delusions of grandeur, singing

war as the appropriate response – and then of its nature
while others find teaspoons more lethal than knives
the lives of rolling stones won’t end in their settling
What we imagine in dread can be actualised by all
the wrong people for we’ve imagined it, unrealised
Dark cumulous speeds along the edge of your iris
and in each, a flash – yes you too harbour lightning
We talk of the dreaded ends of those we love, wish
upon them more music, more life while we share
this one, dreaming in one tense, living the other
hoping beyond hope the inevitable turns evitable
Too much too soon too little too late too clichéd,
too unique, there’s no true synonym for synonym
Now we’re specialising in generalising in a time loop

of jumping through hoops, can’t change how we feel
till we feel what we feel and the thing about avocados is
that downloading is our new favourite form of exercise
And how long is a moment? Excuse me a moment. I know
it’s not time yet. Has your imagination too been faithful?
A too cool fool, you say? Perhaps a too cool fool
but a happily too cool fool, in search of that silent L
in words where, the phone won’t play dead for long
where the dead have been calling all day long
where summer thermals make earth-clouds of the trees
or, white-winged raindrops rise in pairs to the sky, only
to fall as caustic grains of sapphire sand, forget the house
in the hills, we should stay right here, clarity being such
a hard-won magnificence, and we so quick to cloud it

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