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The Republic of Religion



Selected poems


Buns, boys, buns

I'm Monty. I walk these streets with a paper bag.

What you got in the bag, Monty?

Buns, boys, buns.


I'm Mrs Sparrow, I go bent double

behind my old pram staring under my eyebrows.

I pick up treasures thrown away.

Nobody calls out to me.


I'm Tom, Black Tom. I sleep in the powerhouse

I catch snakes and pull out their fangs with pliers

then I wear the latest one wrapped

round my black waist. I never

change my singlet. In the pub they hate me

when I introduce a snake. Here's Joe, I say, Joe Blake.


Me, I'm a champion footie player

I duck and blind-turn all along this footpath

I take screamers and the crowds yell:

Up there Cazaly!


They call me Bessie, that's not my name.

I walk the supermarket aisles with my dog, Mackie.

He carries my cardboard box for the shopping.

Once I saw Rolf Harris there and told everyone.

Another time I saw Jesus Christ. He thanked me.


I'm Horrie, the radio man.

I carry my big ghetto blaster on my shoulder.

It sings to me all day beside my ear.


Just call me Mister Icarus. I used to teach. I would

tell stories from the Greeks if people would only listen.

I carry a briefcase and always

wear an army greatcoat storm or sunshine.


My name is Possum. I wear a greatcoat too

and bring the cows in every evening for milking

across this highway in the Rises.

I ride the last cow and the cars toot.


I'm a horse. Really I am.

They call me Tobin Bronze that won the Cup.

I trot or canter I gallop along this street straight.

Sometimes I shy away from nasty people.


The many old streets have run into one in time

the walkers all come tumbling now together

as out of Monty's paper bag.

They've been up close to the sun with their prams

and greatcoats, songs, snakes, cows, horses, Jesus

Christ and ghetto blasters and are now

quietly gathering among my piddling memories.


Buns, boys, buns, they are saying.




I moved to the Land of Magic

I moved to the Land of Magic

found it full of mumbo-jumbo


I bounced to the Kingdom of Rhythm

too many ups and downs


I went eagerly to Warm-and-Fuzzy

soon bogged down in treacle


I trekked to the Republic of Religion

it was open only on Sundays


I suffocated in Ideology Land

choked in Hypocrisy's Realm


I passed a place where men went masked

they struck me down with flagpoles


in the outlandish Land of Sheer Outrage

I was mocked for mentioning respect


I asked a wise man where I could find

the Land of Music Love and Art


nowhere, he said, it's all been banned

as political correctness gone mad


in despair and hope I went by boat

riding oceans daring storms


until in the Commonwealth of Promises

I landed bruised behind barbed wire




Rifle range at Port Campbell

When you walk up beyond the targets, the concrete

pit and the stop-butt where the rifle bullets plug


you realize that the sea is right there, under your nose

and out, almost out of sight, a fishing boat or two


still and distantly picturesque against the sky

and behind you a long barely-grassed fairway


with shooters' mounds 100 yards 200 400

the old Lee Enfield 303 shot much further


way out over the targets and the sand-dune

out as far as the fishermen, out beyond to Bass Strait


to the Southern Ocean if a rifleman just sneezed

at the wrong time as he squeezed the trigger


out past the oil rig on the horizon out of sight out there

all the way away from men on their bellies shooting


splayed legs, eyes fixed, explosions, smell of cordite

at the rifle range, out to the whole world maybe


round after wayward round over the Antarctic and away

well past the comprehension of the marksmen


lying on their bellies, of me there on a non-shoot day

looking out to sea, of the fishermen, the oil rig workers,


harmlessly over the heads of the seals and the penguins,

who still swim in here on their bellies from another age.




Coming in through the heads years ago

Coming in through the heads at Port Campbell

still some way out from the pier I noticed a lone

small head in the water and when I eased the boat

to check if someone was in trouble (sometimes

weaker swimmers get swept out to sea)

I saw that it was my son, Matthew. Now I knew

well enough that Matty from a very young age

could swim all day and dive betweentimes

and that seeing him there was, on reflection,

no big deal but I sang out anyway: Need

a lift? and he said: I'm OK, and we all went

on our way. Now Matty has gone, suddenly,

and we are entirely numbingly shocked

at his absence. He won't see Port again

first time in close to forty years and I won't

see again that head bobbing in the water

though now I will always imagine

he is there and still saying: I'm OK.



B. A. BreenB. A. Breen has been publishing poetry for half a century, in books . lit magazines and newspapers in Australia and (occasionally) overseas. His latest poetry collection is Beyond the Frame: Poems from the Art Gallery of Ballarat, 2014.

Topic tags: B. A. Breen, poetry



submit a comment

Existing comments

Simply fantastic! Meant much more to me than anything our great recently departed bard wrote - but then, I'm probably too old to understand what Les was on about.

john frawley | 13 May 2019  

a chord strangely struck

alan roberts | 16 May 2019  

I started and couldn’t stop until I’d Eaten it all.??

Steve | 16 May 2019  

I certainly did find this article valuable. Thankyou BA.

Anna Summerfield | 17 May 2019  

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