Philip Hammial has had 26 poetry collections published. His poems have appeared
in 25 poetry anthologies (in five countries) & in 108 journals in twelve countries.
He has represented Australia at eight international poetry festivals, most recently
at Granada, Nicaragua in February 2014. In 2009/10 he was the Australian writer-
in-residence for six months at the Cité International des Arts in Paris.


When mother died
a man with a cloud took me for a beast.

When father died
I stood in a hole & spoke to a crowd.

When brother died
I had to get in behind the next one down.

When sister died
health was so sick you couldn't buy money.

When I die
human shame will lose a friend.


Over & done with character! So why not get
a structure fix? — that's me, Jill now
as long as the eggs don't break. And,
by the way, a touch of the occult
wouldn't hurt: magic as common
as candles underwater, as perfect
as aim implies, or should as another
bullet-riddled body is dumped
from a passing car. Big deal
or just a local development? A local, & it's
as close as we'll get to an all-or-nothing scenario
of integrity so tight it hurts to breathe. Iron lung
as iron cross. Twenty years of monkish scholarship
gone for nothing. Cathedrals
at high tide, soon under. What happened
to the life jackets? This situation
makes no sense, says Jackie Boy
who thinks I haven't noticed that he's wearing
my Doris Day wig. Am tempted
to terminate our relationship. Jumping Jack
as Jumping Jesus. Makes
my flesh crawl. You too? No need
to answer just yet. Wait for Now
to settle in, a few more seconds, & then we'll know
if it's going to last, this marriage, Jack
with Jill, forever after.


They come through
loud & clear - speakers on poles
in camps for connoisseurs of liturgical
excess, the last consignment of internees arrested
at Les Girls - priests in drag taking it off
while nuns in mufti worked the crowd. Trained
on rosaries, they could pick the gold from your teeth
before you could say Jack Robinson. Jack
Robinson, wasn't he a famous baseball player? That
was Jackie, played with the Dodgers in the late
40s, early 50s, on the cover of Time, celebrated
in song, Most Valuable Player, the djinns
in the crowd grinding their teeth every time he came
up to bat. Obviously he wasn't in their good books,
too self-possessed perhaps. Did he find it
disconcerting? Without those teeth could his average
have been even higher? Grinding like coastal steamers
caught on coral reefs, exotic cargoes spilling
into the crystal clear waters of uncharted bays, only
the occasional connoisseur, having walked away
from one of the many camps for his kind, finding
a chest of teeth - cobra, crocodile, tiger - that
had been washed ashore. They never get very far,
the connoisseurs, before they're rounded up, naked
& hungry, & carried back to the camps on poles
where they're dumped into cages with djinns. Which
explains why there are so many crazies
in the camps, ten days of incessant grinding usually
more than enough to turn even the most diehard
connoisseur into a raving lunatic.


As the only naked white man in our village
who could cook a book with a single match
it's up to me (my lot in life)
to get the word out where it can be seen
for what it is
pharmakoi. For example,
if you took all of the men by the hand
who have taken you by the leg & led them
up George Street to the intersection where
Rachael's grandmother has set up her treadle-
driven Singer sewing machine, the train
of Rachael's wedding dress hopelessly snarled
in rush-hour traffic, irate motorists on mobile phones
demanding retribution while meter maids nonchalantly
collage their windscreens with parking tickets
(Schwitters would love it) you'd have enough (men)
at that wedding rehearsal to successfully invade
six or seven of those no-name places
that continually export their ne'er-do-wells
to our fair land—pharmakoi—scapegoats who,
dressed to kill in St. Vini hand-me-downs,
in addition to seducing our wives & daughters
have taken our jobs as well, such as they were,
in my case a cooker of books.

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