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The Disappearing

I thought things were wrong:
it manifested in me buying
and wearing Ulysses blue
eyeshadow. It didn’t suit
me. One day I stared into
the mirror at the caked crystal
of smudged me and said ‘You
look like a whore’. I was cheap,
cheeky, comehithersome—but
clientless. Makeup remover in
hand, I finally admitted that you
had left without me. That you
weren’t coming back. That the
rocket we’d saved so hard for
belonged to you alone.

On the moon, water tastes
like oysters and makes you
orgasm when drunk and vegetables
are as small as the teeniest seashells
yet pack a bomb of good—one
mouthful lasts a week. The sky is a
new colour, a colour called star,
it is a secret worth keeping. The
ground is sponge. You bounce
everywhere. You, you dance through
life like a Premier danseur noble
a luck-soaked Latvian superstar,
strong, unbound, dramatic. All this
is true (for you).  I am jealous.

So that’s dickhead you, on the moon,
with your new diva life. Up there.
Away. And here I am, on earth, ever
unable to afford a home, washing
our old, faded towels, still stale
with your secretly spent sperm. I am
working my way through the pile
of leftover you, leftbehind me. It is
more satisfying than you’d credit.

Are you happy there, homeless
but free? Duty has its own splendour, so
they say. I’m pretty busy. But missing
you—that’s my next chore: to mark
that unmapped galaxy.

This poem was written for The Disappearing, an app that (literally) explores poetry and place, which you can download for free
Susan Bradley Smith began her writing life as a rock journalist in Sydney and London and has published extensively as a theatre historian, literary critic, and creative writer. Her latest books are the memoir Friday Forever and the poetry collection supermodernprayerbook which was shortlisted for the 2011 Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, and The Age Book of the Year Award 2011. Currently working on a biography of Sarah Churchill, and a new collection of poetry, Girl on Fire, she lives in Melbourne and teaches in English at La Trobe University.

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Fountain 77, Glebe

For Timothy Yu

Plastic-sheathed roses embroider the dark.
_________________Set to volplane
we take photo-triptychs, each of the other.
Moments of daring oscillate in the strangers
we become.
_________________And arms betray us,
they link our assembly of states, ventriloquised,
________cravassed by cloud, echoes, reason’s
sastruga faults, whole continents of inaccuracy
________rumoured, unrumoured.

Making for the 336, syllables cleft as we inhale
olfactory flakes, a wrapping scrapes the asphalt
___________in our roan-coloured quarter.
Parting, of course, is not
sinking like some Titanic hybrid, cobalt-feathered
________________favouring métissage,
________but a cold coming—
________So riddled —are we?

Michelle Cahill is a Sydney poet, author of two collections of poetry and two chapbooks. Vishvarupa and Night Birds are her most recent books. She received the Val Vallis Award and was highly commended in the Wesley Michel Wright Prize.

Clouds Afternoon Jazz Sprinkles

For Jill Jones

(1) Clouds
Abercrombie Street, Chippendale

Reading your electrical poems in a Northcote bar
in winter was just too much: like trying to drink
beer sailing freely through the air: free of the glass,
sure, but harder than buckshot to catch between
your teeth. I longed for some o’ that Sydney where
July was windy and wet but not cold. I wanted to
perch in that laundromat on Abercrombie Street
just down from the Reasonably Good Café, chew
on an Incredibly All Right Ham Sandwich™, read
William Faulkner’s Light in August (i-in August!
& simply wait for September’s frangipani blooms
to disappear down the Chippendale lanes like odd
socks above Central Station or perhaps (sure, in
desperation, to close my eyes & also disappear.

(2) Afternoon
Fouveaux Street, Surry Hills

I could pretend to live somewhere else, I guess
but all I can think about is how darned clichéd
Sydney must have been in the 1920s,the futurism
of Bondi travel posters aside (oh undergrad hat tip!
I’d already been there, once, maybe. With a girl.
I just wish I could turn to poetry the dismally banal
warehouse districts (c. bottom end of Fouveaux St.
& surrounds, CTRL+ALT+DEL every whipped
palm tree by the Elizabeth St. entrance to Central,
blow up the blackboard menus outside the faux
‘cafes’ ‘adorning’ streets where journos used to
drink away the afternoon, like the one where we
caught up, once, in a previous carnation. Yeah,
everything was chic & Quadrant didn’t even exist.

(3) Jazz
Atlantic Café, Elizabeth Street

A little bird inside my cranium orders me to write
a poem on the subject of the old Atlantic Cafe but
I can’t do it. Who would care? All they ever seemed
to serve was steak and peas, & I never ventured
inside there anyway. Too busy moping, probably.
Why? They removed the soul of Strawberry Hills
just to make houses from its yellow clay years ago
& the pub that shares its name has since stopped
playing bad jazz. Oh yes, blows away the melody
it does, just like a wind chime. Cue ragged Tibetan
prayer flags. The paper carries yet another article
about th’ Australian poetry, written for the over
68s. Cue Trans vision Vamp, baby. ‘I don’t care’.

(4) Sprinkles
Grace Bros, Broadway

I’m reminded of sprinkles, the way they insinuate
loss, or themselves. That’s insider culture! & how
we insulate ourselves from change (unless it’s the
climate at stake—in which case Sydney blows bum
notes all along ‘Broadway’. What’s left? Do I light
another Craven A? Crack a silver bullet? Or maybe
chomp down on the deadly sausages Bert Newton
ate in Fatty Finn? Gawd, I miss Noni Hazelhurst!
Pardon me while I dream of the days when trams
lit up Sydney’d skies with meteor showers (or were
they sparks? Think I might take another space walk,
this time in the direction of Central Station, pop in to
Our Lady of Snows. Free meals, clouds. Afternoons.
Jazz. Wherever you look, cakes & lots of sprinkles.

David Prater was born in Dubbo, NSW, Australia, in 1972. Papertiger media published his first poetry collection, We Will Disappear, in 2007, and Vagabond Press published his chapbook Morgenland in the same year. His poetry has appeared in a wide range of Australian and international journals, and he has performed his work at festivals in Australia, Japan, Bulgaria, Canada, the United States, the Netherlands and Macedonia. He was the Managing Editor of Cordite Poetry Review from 2001 to 2012. He has also undertaken two writers’ residencies in Seoul, Republic of Korea, and has worked extensively as a teacher, editor and researcher. He currently lives in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Astronomer

Just stars, and grassland –
___to stand on the limit of the world
___and then climb upwards.

Here is his tower,
______his staircase curled and vagrant
as any dream:
It is pictured
next to the cow.

How constant the constellations,
this city now wheeling beneath them.
Here is his quiet heartbeat.

He must have heard the cries of children
in his sleep,
their lowing.

In his tower,
you breathe lungfuls
of sky.

Fiona Wright is a Sydney poet, whose work has been published journals and anthologies in Australia, Asia and the USA. Her work was included in Best Australian Poems 2008, 2009, 2010 (Black Ink) and The Red Room Company’s Toilet Doors Project (2004). Fiona was runner-up in the 2008 John Marsden National Young Writers Award. In 2007, she was awarded an Island of Residencies placement at the Tasmania Writers’ Centre, developing a sequence of poems about Australians in Sri Lanka. Fiona’s poetry has featured in journals such as Going Down Swinging, Overland, Heat and the Australia Literary Review. Knuckled, her first collection of poems, (Giramondo Press) was published in 2011 and has been shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Poetry Prize.

Rouse Hill

Time travelling on the motorways
we watch the landscape change
as cramped steel and concrete
give way to open space

Somehow bare
and more exposed

carbon copies of a pre-packaged urban dream
past the outback steakhouse
past the golden arches
Flying high in this distant
corner of the empire

At our destination
vivid white and yellow in the trees
A row of cockatoos
observes what’s on offer
making selections
from a drive through menu of their own

On the old Windsor Turnpike
I look across at Bunnings and realise
I’m standing on the front line
a battle between past and present
History holding the line
as the machine of progress threatens
to swallow it whole

The smell of death lingers on the property
rabbits drowned in the heavy rain
mosquitoes buzzing
Life and death intertwined
in the cycles of the elements

On the hill the house is old and grand
a sandstone monolith
Imposed on the landscape
built by convict hands
to oversee the Estate

Inside the walls scream
stories of countless faces
peering out from the picture frames
secrets betrayed in the detail

Sensory overload
floral wallpaper behind
oil landscapes and family portraits
souvenirs brought home
from Grand Tour adventures
The Sons of the Empire watch over it all

Foreign culture planted on native soil
determined to survive and flourish
just like the estranged plants
in the garden outside

The back doorstep
worn down by weary feet
servants shuffling in and out
behind the scenes
Hidden from view to uphold
the illusion of tranquillity

Catching our reflections
I’m startled
by the figures staring back at me
clothes and hair so modern
so out of place in this room frozen in time
Like living ghosts
visitors from a future that has
yet to unfold

The drive home returns us
to a world more familiar
tunnels and electric lights
Smog and FM radio blasting from worksites

Bulldozers, cranes and hardhats
an army of fluro vests
cutting into the rock
at this intersection of time and place

Clearing the way for the future

Same as the men who cleared those trees
and built that house

all those years ago

Nick Bryant-Smith (AKA Solo) is a rapper, spoken-word poet and one half of the Sydney hip hop act Horrowshow. The duo’s first album, The Grey Space, received wide acclaim and earned an ARIA nomination for Best Urban Albumn. Nick has supported acts such as The Heard, Hermitude and Blackalicious as well as securing spots at Sydney’s Big Day Out, Groovin The Moo, Urthboy and more. Horrowshow’s next album is set for release in 2012.

Charlotte Street

The pavement is a narrow procession
of footsteps returning home in darkness.
There is a raw gas-smell past Island Street,
the rancidness of lamb-fat that clings
to plum-coloured brickwork. A palm tree
rustles perpetually through the windless night
with percussion of heavy plastic.

There is a crumbling border a child might walk
tentatively, giddy with the danger of falling
into fathoms of lantana. As you follow in sequence,
muffling your pursuing steps, you notice
the graded curvature of hairstyle against the nape,
the way jeans shape and angle the leg,
the sculpting of muscle by the tilt of heels.

You pass the private hotel with all
its yellow windows lit, Victorian and ornate,
transient figures flitting within its walls,
a church illuminated by orange spotlights,
the fluorescence of a shop you have never entered –
then turn from the stream of commuters, down
a street which has the same name as your own.

John Hawke is a Sydney poet currently teaching at Monash University in Melbourne.

58, black-most lot, collapsible ceiling and underground lung ward

My dear RG. Crates are melting under enamel and asbestos;
whalers are jumping ship for a slant of this rummy sham. Open the
archive to check the mobility, there’s a rotten panorama of a hundred
years of surplus. First the compositers, bakers, and small-time boiled
sweet bankers stocked the clout; second, the house trapped the labour
‘til it moulded the beams. Bad advice suggests that if you grant small debts to your neighbours—tins of beef, tins of milk, tins of tabacco,
tins of paraffin—you will keep their loyalty and gratitude. My advice:
follow the neighbourhood kids. Born in robbery, tucked into their
dance gear you’ll find notes from the ocean, shanties for mutiny, or
else wetted and folded pamphlets of every non-rum language, calling
for nutmeg, vinegary kippers, split peas and rabbit skins. Your
tendency to vanish must be your favourite toolkit. Away and wharfish,
deep to the buttonhole in capital well, pages 1-800 passim.

Astrid Lorange is a Sydney poet with two excellent books of poetry, Eating and Speaking and Minor Dogs, and her PDF book, Pussy pussy pussy what what (Au lait day Au lait day). Lorange also contributes a regular column about Australian poetry to the internationally acclaimed online journal, Jacket2, and was recently guest editor of Cordite. She’s compleing a PhD dissertation on Gertrude Stein at the University of Technology, Sydney, and it regularly between Sydney and Philadelphia.