Remembrance Day, 2016



Selected poems


bowler hat

Magritte, the body flesh of,

is just

intermediary between earth

& bowler hat


(colours uncertain



circulatory system


staged on carpet,

ugly patterns


chaotic skin

beginning the depiction—


a mealy tongue curls in

analysis of a neckline


while accelerating decorations

protest the prison of days

— Barnaby Smith




I swear I saw his chest go up and down

swelling, impermanent —

curled up yellow fingers falling

on blemished but once rosy buttocks

unquenched and stormy,

dancing a cumbersome dance

under the artificial light

of early evening


in each of them the great swirling

intestinal brain


oceanic thickets of appetite that bring blisters

to thin lips. Honeyed insects for two hours

floating through each others' blood.

— Barnaby Smith



Decision in a foreign city

It takes a moment only

And the others are gone,

My lover, our friends,

Back to take the narrow lift

To our holiday apartment

While I wait for laundry

To shed its travel grime,

Tumble itself crisp and bright.


Later, we will find cheap food

In this city of love,

Practise our school French,

Refine taste buds and palate,

Joke with the easy waiter

About which football code

Is truly the best, but of course

Only if I return ...


It takes a moment only,

The dry clothes packed in bags,

And I am standing in the street

Looking left, looking right,

Lights and shadows beckoning,

Murmurs of strangeness beckoning.


Without a second thought

I could return to welcome arms,

To more laughter and keen words,

This holiday our first overseas,

How the light is cooler here,

How trees shimmer with a green

That isn't burnt or dirty,

How our national game wins,

Being the only one

That only scores goals

By foot. Or I could follow

That blood whisper of new streets,

New words to call myself,

Try on a new face, then another,

Stride into a future not chosen

By the past, not bound to it.


Looking left, looking right,

It takes a moment only

To imagine a third future

In which all moments brighten

Because I stood and chose

And, so choosing, will remember.


I stroll uphill to our room

With its view of the Eiffel Tower,

Which we won't visit, preferring

Shakespeare & Co, the Louvre,

The markets, the back streets

Of Montmartre, the love locks

On the Pont des Art.


I step from the elevator, wait

For our door to open, blood

Quickening with breath and gaze,

Blaze of city lights, hues of touch.

— Earl Livings



Remembrance Day, 2016

In a bakery in York, I stand silent

With other customers for two minutes,

Think of nephews who have served

And seen action, some still serving

On land and on water, some bearing

The costs of their service in bad knees,

Hard hearing, scars in hidden places,

And think also of you, my father,

Tending to aircraft engines

Or helping out on black-market runs

In small cargo planes, from the mainland

To New Guinea, that time a door opened

And you almost fell out. No action as such,

Though early in the war you crossed

Submarine-haunted seas on a troop ship,

And patrolled a jungle aerodrome,

Fought hand-to hand a Japanese soldier

Risen from the grass before you,

So you told me once in your old age.


Many came back with PTSD,

Though back then this was merely

Nerves and moody silences, with

Bursts of nightmare and violence.

Your word was law in our house,

The strap a constant threat, flicking out

Under the kitchen table when a child

Spoke back or asked hard questions,

Or any other lapse in discipline,

Your hand, too, or a length of hose,

The handle of a hatchet. Scars

Heal, but not the bully threats

Echoing the sounding board

Of the mind years on end.


The middle sibling of five,

You lost your father when young,

Neglect of his own war wounds,

Left school and home early,

Cabin boy on a merchant ship,

Bullied and abused by the mate,

So my mother told me, excuses

For lack of warmth, for bursts

Of anger. PTSD as well?

No one left to tell us now,

But I think of you tinkering

In your tool shed, tending

Our vegie patch, working

A second job at the service

Station across the road,

And in this wreath of silence

Come close to forgiveness.

— Earl Livings 

Topic tags: Barnaby Smith, Earl Livings, poetry



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Existing comments

Bowler Hat and Concubine. Crikey!
john frawley | 06 November 2017

Loved both your poems, Earl.
Jean SIetzema-Dickson | 06 November 2017

Loved the poetry in this issue. Earl's poem, Remembrance Day, 2016 was especially evocative of an era long gone and the men who returned to fight another battle.
Anthony Scott | 09 November 2017


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