Not-quite-right freedom from hunger


The vexing
How dark he was.
He walked with his back hunched,
his lowered head inches above his toes.
As if he feared cavities
or his own anonymity.
That black dog
stopping at every fence post.
He twitched. He was languid. At night
his bed clothes grew perturbed.
We sensed his not-quite-right
freedom from hunger.
As if he preferred worms
or no-name soup. A watery grave.
He let his pen do the squirming.
But the paper grew wider,
more empty than the sea.
Much better like this.
Eating focaccia and waving
our mothers an acquiescent goodbye.
The past exits the back door
where pot plants do their time.
Next door a television
talks to the walls.
murmurings of war —
in an unmarked sky a jet
dreams new script

on the powerline
crows collecting like small deaths
and then a wingbeat

already wearing black
two million office workers
preparing themselves
rumours from the city —
we check the basement, our phones
and still no answer
something upon us
the spotlight of terror
a new kind of love
empty house
the leaves, the man with his past
the earth rushing up
blue lights, sirens
the urban constellations
of alarm
frame by frame
nights stretched out on plasma
flowers on footpaths
last night on TV
he said, we will find them
we will find them
turning from her desk
a doctor opens her hands
and the clocks change hour
all through summer
vans with lights on during day
ferry the silent
the return home —
after filling up our cars
we count boxes
a short speech of road
where the blackbird strings up worms
plaques buttoning earth
and these found objects —
a toothbrush, a gas bill
the neat bed
in today’s paper
ringed with coffee stains
this receipt of you

Anthony Lynch writes poetry and fiction, and is a reviewer for Australian Book Review. He works as an editor with Deakin University and is the Whitmore Press publisher. His collection of short stories, Redfin, was shortlisted for the 2008 Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards.

Topic tags: new australian poems, the vexing, elegy, black dog.



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Existing comments

I am unable to engage with these poems
I dont understand the text
I feel sad that I can't
Why is this??
GAJ | 06 April 2010

In his first poem, Anthony employs caricature and black comedy to dramatise solitariness. I've no idea if that's what he thinks he's doing, but that's how I appreciate his poetic performance. The second poem provokes emotion by use of what T.S Eliot in his essay “Hamlet and His Problems” called the objective correlative. This is not the scary idea that it first sounds, indeed people use it all the time. Let me quote: "Eliot observes that there is something in Hamlet which Shakespeare cannot “drag into the light, contemplate, or manipulate into art” , at least not in the same way that he can with Othello’s jealousy, or Coriolanus’ pride. He goes on to deduce that “the only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula for that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in a sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.” Anthony has arranged haiku to achieve this end, describing public and private worlds.
Anatomy of a Typeface | 07 April 2010

Thanks for the poems Anthony, very engaging and clear perceptive images of these modern times. The Vexing reminded me of a character from a Peter Booth painting. Well done.
Brendan | 11 April 2010


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