Torture is a dirty word

Voices from outside the cemetery
Very well then, comrade, and if our time has gone
we still have gesturing that can be made,
stuccoed upon the reef:
the merely personal whistles like a wren
or trills our nerve-ends with a few volts.

But, busy enough, sloping under a little

clump of errant bluegums here
when the day's grown aromatically warm,
that reminiscent perfume just about
rips out my heart.

Very well then, or not, an age has passed
stranding on a gritty reef all those
who rode a plank raft of ideals,
working to protect the little fish,
when there still was a secular god.

The dirty word
Walking under winking wattle
that burns the winter away
resist the paradoxical way
in which the viridian tide of pleasure
makes one taste of death.

But if we fail to murmur death
we cannot hear the sound of blood,
nor touch those random victims who
cry out from the very moment
when the electrodes are applied;

for torture is the dirty word
and some are trying to clean its face.
There can be nothing quite like
hypothetical fear to rouse
the deepest human nastiness.

If the cut worm has any sense
it will not forgive the plough,
but let's not hear the word, revenge:
a dragon that must feed on
all the pornography of shame.

Chris Wallace-CrabbeChris Wallace-Crabbe is a Melbourne poet, and the editor of Vincent Buckley: Collected Poems.

Topic tags: new australian poems, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Voices from outside the cemetery, The Dirty Word


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