You beaut country

Selected poems



Dealer of dreams

In times of incandescence,

a mind as full as a crowded

Times Square, Venetian St

Marks Square, bobbing gondolas

making those on land reach for

the brown paper bag, for a handrail,

a bright stucco building to touch,

grip, give you a sense of steadiness,

but it is an illusion as you seek out

peace, a piece of something might

settle you, then the earth moves

in a wide sweep, like a dodgem car

and you are off once more,

reaching, retching, asking why

these images suck you up,

spit you out, and the wise old owl

with yellow eyes, on the dead

branch, sees it all and simply waits

for a hint of carrion about to be

surprised by randomness, which is

what we all are when it turns out that

today we will not wake and the fiery

flames of Joycean Hell and Fury will

be our home. For some this will be

a relief, even though unblessed, and

the priest will adjust his soutane and

his steamed glasses and offer unction

and the body of

and then you awake.




El poeta

alle estabe con su lire

y su baston cortado en la Montana

de un arbol oloroso


the poet

was there with his lyre

and his stick cut in the mountains

from a fragrant tree

Revolutions: Neruda


These men in suits,

well dressed colour coordinated,

sometimes women,

by formula,

strut their stuff in

houses of debate

and formality, in

adversarial poses, speeches

held aloft on scraps of

rolled up paper, and words

dashed on the dispatch box

like regurgitated poison,

having forgotten those who

hid in caves, disseminated

thoughts to turn things on

their head, let loose

the slow moving molasses

of ideas,

crashed glass shop fronts,

and ceilings

and wore bruises on their heads,

as rewards of the process,

rosettes spreading red

across their chests, faces

lit up with belief.


Sometimes prophets and poets

come down from their caves

in the mountains where they

have seen burning bushes,

a light on the hill, having

learnt a new discourse,

language, poetry of new ideas

and images of freedom and hope.

Sometimes the prophets

have seen too much brightness,

it is manifested in their own

burning, flesh crackling

in the flames, too much,

too soon, for those

who need the insight,

the sustenance, deny denial.


As a young poet I read

Marxist tomes, subsidized

by a communist press, workers

of the world unite, the little red

book, other texts and pamphlets,

could smell something in the air,

duffle coats and desert boots

a uniform of dissent and question.


Sometimes the poems were writ

large across the sky, but like

clouds they drifted, dissipated

like the words of the Tiger Moth

skywriter, and now the skies are

blue, and like the height of summer,

spread into infinity,

are an echo in the mind,

of nothingness.


The words of those in suits

simply vaporize like high


barren summer clouds

becoming nothing.


We can hold our breath,

those with hearts still


sniff the air for rain,

harbinger of new growth,

know that patience is all

that we can hold on to,

as long as we do not

clench our fingers

too tightly.



You beaut country

[John Olsen Exhibition, Potter Gallery,

Melbourne, 01.01.2017]

Bursts of bright yellow

sunlight, whorls of intense

colour, a plague of green

tree frogs, Olsen's surprise

packet of energy,

strangers to him until

adulthood, fascinated,

each leg extended

from the folded potentiality,

curious child, one by one,

stretched green across his

pink palm


in one bound it was


off he was too,

his vivid imagination

bouncing here and there,

with washes, paint,

brush strokes extended,

frogs seemingly eviscerated

as if mounted in a lab,

his charcoal lines

and paint dobs

like a plague of painted


jumping this way

and that,

their spirit caught

on the surging brush

paint tides

free dots and lines,

organic canvas.


He muses on poets,


of nature's movement,

transient beauty


Lake Eyre

here one day

gone the next,

thousands of pelicans

birdlife millions

salt encrusted pans

where life stays away,

danger to the unwary,

sucking death under

the crust,

no locals here.


His baseline is country,

ridges, lakes,



and we are taken

along the skylines

of his imagination

which shoulders its way

through the streamers

of the players race,

colours askew,

bursting out into

the field of play

where we are invited

into his game, his rules,

goal posts he moves

forever, we engage with

the master gamer.


Sometimes we await

the final whistle,


but not this time,

this is a game

that must go on,

in ever increasing circles,

lines, colours extrapolating

imbued with the muscle

and elasticity of

energized tree frogs.




Lying back on the hill

the earth pushing hard

against their backs,

the sky dark as blackness

itself, clear of clouds,

the air still, they looked

at the stars and the planets

and she called the

constellations by name,

pulsating stars and

still-light planets,

as they walked their eyes

across the domed infinity

and he tasted his

insignificance, a grain

of sand on the beach.


A satellite arced across

their view, and a second,

and a third; he could feel

his smart phone in his pocket

getting its orders from up high,

remembered climbing the back

fence to watch Sputnik, making

its initial arc, when he was

hairless, gormless, eyes wide.


This time he reached out

across the moist grass, for

a link with his own reality,

but she was busy in her roll

call, pointing her hand skywards,

her long finger still making

its own journey across

the never-ending

wide expanse.


Tony LondonTony London has had poetry published in various literary journals around Australia, in national and state newspapers and broadcast on the ABC. He has worked for the last twelve years as a self-funded volunteer for Tibetans in India. His commissioned book on the Tibetan diaspora, High Hopes, was published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, in Dharmsala, India, in August of last year.

Topic tags: Tony London, poetry



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