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Remember there are sixty million

  • 29 January 2018


Selected poems




We had a Vincent on the wall

back there in the 1940s

out in what we called the 'sunroom',


fading in the Clarence light.

I don't recall it now in detail,

one of those square carts perhaps,


some hayfields and a levered bridge,

what we called a 'print' back then,

in fact a photo-reproduction


with every colour not quite right,

no trace of an impasto.

So much we didn't know back then.


We couldn't say his name in Dutch.

We'd vaguely heard about the madness,

the death at 37


but that seemed further off than France

and, like it, of no great account.

I never asked where it had come from,


just glanced at it from time to time.

It seemed a peaceful scene and not

too much unlike the lucerne flats


we used to cut and bale upriver.

Later on, there'd be museums,

true chromatics, all the textures,


the vision Vincent brought too soon

with help from brother Theo.

All up, eight hundred works in oils.


One sold that he would know of.




The Project

Lack of luminosity

would be there near the top

along with how all lives


are written out of others.

Those scatterings of paltriness

are better not revealed.


From here, he can't quite feel the prose.

It could end up quite short, he thinks,

though lives, he knows, must widen


and whisper of the infinite,

the slowness of descending suns,

whole mornings gone before they're noticed,


the sheer quotidian,

the way the weather was,

the sidelong drift of conversation,


a late-night wine across the palate,

those intervals of sweat and skin,

the light from an exotic dawn.


How is it that he can't begin?




A q & an a

There must be something in between

those world-wide sixty million urgers

bobbing in their boats


all threatening to squat en masse

across our CBDs

and nailing up our own four hundred,


give or take a few,

to crosses cut from tropic palms

via chainsaws made in China,


intending that the westward waft

from all the dried and dying

will stop those wallowers in Java


from putting out to sea?

No way, we say (bipartisan

and fully-phalanxed).


Remember there are sixty million.

No need for any fuss.

Crucifixion worked for Rome


and it'll work for us.



The Argument


Unless we were 'untimely ripped'

we've travelled down that birth canal

and now, a lifetime later, we

can understand the rationale,


the interchangeability,

the need to step aside, make room,

the argument of perfect skins

freshly conjured from the womb.


So what then is our death canal?

The river Lethe? Or the Styx?

Slowly, most of us come round.

It leaves no room for politics.


It's not an image we much dwell on.

We do our best to quiet the fear.

These babies work their logic though.

We'll be gone and they'll be here.





Geoff Page is based in Canberra and has published