'Speak English or die'


Angry man
















For Nana

Like a bather by Degas but smaller,
grandma sits on the hotel bed,
her brown irises shadowed blue,
wet grey hair dyed brown,
crow's feet wrinkles like running ink,
clear water drops on her bare shoulders,
her hands' skin loose as fabric,
language drifting away, leaves down a river,
her silvered soles travelled through Myanmar,
through Thailand, through Singapore, into Australia,
over stone, grass, brown mud, black dirt, red dust,
her longhi1 gold and covered with flowers,
a soldier's photograph in her purse,
her pensioner's checks spent,
cooking until the end,
she stares at us.

1Burmese house dress.


Inspired by Constantin Brâncusi's Young Bird (1928).

Songbird, our tongues are a terrain
through which lions and rhinos

in their stubbornness
protest. Their ancient artillery heard

by waterbirds at the edge
of opposing territories. And when we open

the dark caverns of our mouths in anger
the lateral borders of our tongues

are cataracts: beautifully dangerous,
tempting as handguns.

Rage, that salivary cacophony, is a flood
in which buffalos slip like children through loose sediment

necks strained for breath, blood vessels
kneecaps tearing. And in this water, storks

like white doves,
flee where crocodiles snap.



'Everyone on the bus wants to kill ya and you're gonna have to get off eventually, bitch.' — Quote from a verbally abusive racist bus attack in Australia; one of many that went viral online and made international headlines.

1Mandarin: the sea.
2Tamil: starve.
3Sinhala: fruit.
4Arabic: nightmares.
5Urdu: life.
6Persian: blood.

Jake DennisJake Dennis is a jazz singer and poet published in Cordite, foam:e, GORE, Lost Coast Review USA, Poetry NZ, Structo UK, Tamba, and Voiceworks. He won the 2014 Right Now: Human Rights Poetry Competition and headlines shows with Mint Jazz Band at Perth's best venues.

Angry man image from Shutterstock

Topic tags: Jake Dennis, poetry



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Existing comments

Jake, thank you so much for the passion, especially Witness. My gut clenched reading it. I just the question to those who think they own the boundaries to a place 'What would you do, if in danger, if your children were in danger? What would you do?' Jorie
jorie ryan | 01 July 2014

Well done Jake love your insights and compassion for the human condition. Outstanding
Mike Pauly | 02 July 2014

Well done Jake. I can feel your heartfelt passion about human rights in Witness and in Evening I can relate to every words you have penned. Your Nana will be very proud of you ?
Doris Dennis | 02 July 2014

Beautiful, heartfelt & inspiring. Jake is a talented poet here in Perth and a young man to watch out for. I wish him every success. Helen Hagemann
Helen, Perth | 04 July 2014

We need your passionate and compassionate voice more and more in our country to let us see how easily we are becoming a closed selfish country.Thank you Jake.
Colleen Keating | 20 April 2015


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