MARTIN HARRISON


Martin Harrison's Wild Bees: New and Selected Poems (University
of Western Australia Press) appeared in 2008, as did a selected
translation of his poems in Mandarin, A Kangaroo Farm (Jiangsu,
Nanjing 2008). His poetry is published in journals in the USA
and the UK as well as in Australia. He spent the latter part of
2008 in Paris in the Australia Council's Keesing Studio working
on new poems as well as translating from French. A French
translation of his own work is in preparation. He lives in the
Hunter Valley in New South Wales and teaches writing at
Sydney's University of Technology.






Webcam 2008

The one hand typist with the stud in his eyebrow
it's a letter from Russia love going nowhere
light a cigarette and smoke like a Parisian
stare and smile it's real
lean forward to understand if it's really Spanish
your face is striking no-one forgets it
perhaps you're writing a treatise
on love and friendship
the pose is cool yet hot
the elegant downcast look the lip
high cheekbones of someone Polish Czech
with the lithe stance of the hard knock school
work sport tidiness
hair greased 40s style or teddy-boy slick
smoke drifting like a sheen of river past your elbow
a half-touched cigarette sagging in the tray
that's why you're smiling to yourself
like a fire burning back it puts itself out
it's quenched exhausted on some wind-tossed slope
seen on the street you'll track indifferently through crowds
cars trams trains (like photos) hiss under grainy bridges
you're look-alike with anybody athletic as most guys can be
to see your beauty everyone looks twice
to see what's modern in the world how it's moved
you strike a pose you bring your city with you
planted forever evaporated in Europe's winter haze
like a firm bulb in wrap-around electronic earth:
crimson petals unfold in a time no-one knows






The Sea

This sea inhabits the brain
I know what the trouble was
Inside it, there's no love
it's dumb fucked up failure
but might't I just pass

To stare at a blank, green-blue sea
day in, day out
and let it hold your hand
If he truly thought Saleena
loneliness made you do it


A pin drop stillness
found myself flinching Now I shall look
Now nothing floats across the sea-line
making love was ours
a tress or two beneath the rook

where sea stares back at the mind
thinking how it would be
some screen some blank
offering bitterness wordlessly
losing you losing me

To stare at a blank, green-blue sea
day in, day out
and let it hold your hand
If he truly thought Saleena
loneliness made you do it







Rue Cuvier

The fat guy's body language is sprawl and aggro.
He keeps prodding the younger well-dressed guy
on Harvard and Obama. It's all slightly mad.
Between them, a friend beams like a TV anchor.
Three New York intellectuals are having their say,
body language and voices taking over the place -
hard not to think they're contemptuous of us
and themselves. They speak loudly, like theatre.
Outside, it's pouring down September's rain.
The cool French barman can't cope with them,
though he knows, no doubt, they'll pay. Then
the wives appear, one with a baby - suddenly, yes,
they're all packing up to go. The chicks argue
with the guys - but who is whose exactly?
No-one gets on. Academics? Journo's?

It doesn't matter:
there in the street, diamond rain falls down,
bulging the cafe's canopy, then slops over
like a wad of light gashed across the space.
The depth and slant of it transform rue Cuvier.
Once I carried a goldfish home in a plastic bag
half-filled with water - I was a child, eight or so, and
every fragile curve and lump of water entered me
as if water and fish were the tissue of my flesh.
Children stare at what they carry. I feared the polythene,
splitting, would smash the fish's world. Just like that,
this swelling rain first builds, then splashes to the ground:
for a second it's the air the fish will breathe.
But this rain's beauty is its suddenness. It came
with a gust of cool as I turned the corner -
and no less suddenly I ran here, seeing a table
in a bar. Then of course, the Americans,
the barman - what to order. And all the time,
wetness glistening the debris of fallen leaves,
rain plucking its strings, while it damped traffic-roar
into whispers and hisses: now the crossing's stripes
float whiteness through the cobbles' varnish. Watching this
could be like heaven. Watching time fall,
as if it balances every way - while things which move
seem to move nowhere. The New Yorkers are as boring
as New Yorkers can be: "Obama?" "You can't be serious."
"You could work for Condy." "Yeah, sure!" The phrases,
meaning nothing, fill the air with irritation:
rain, sluicing it, drifts out from another world.
For two seconds I'm free of all my thoughts
of how this would be perfect if you were here -
it's nearly perfect anyhow: 3.30, early autumn rain.
What I'm balancing - nothing must ever be lost -
is the dream of being with you, of each together.
A brief pause opens on a world called happiness
carrying the thought of you, the touch of you,
even if, right now, its absence breaks my heart.



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