David Prater is an Australian poet who lives in the third person.
He edits Cordite Poetry Review (www.cordite.org.au), an online
poetry and poetics journal. He is enrolled as a PhD student within
the Institute for Social Research at the Swinburne University of
Technology, Melbourne.

Back To the Tourist III

you better run, squirrel ...
(barman to Marty McFly, Back To the Future III)

destinations detonate like
the coyote on acme or speed
my runners wear thin again
- it's time to go back to
the tourist (iii) troubles
i've seen em (stacked them
high lived them low better
clear out of this saloon &
hope a time machine comes
soon ... sitting inside a
pentagon (shooting aliens
is more fun than it looks
send home an ordinary book
hear the killer drone it's
a shoelace they've untied
forgotten homework inside
a locker full of pin-ups &
baseball pendants at home
in the brochured suburb i
took a spin in the rhyme
machine pedalling madly
just to make these hours
swim in buckets shortened
calls - the snowy breezes
& the freshly paved street
sheets of burning rubber
castle motels conventions
buses without destinations


City of sleepy subways and swift downstrokes. A city without inhabitants, only visitors. Disgruntled in their winter jackets, following outdated itineraries, tourists wander but do not take photographs. Information is posted on street corners but it has been superannuated. City of scripts and small change. Sweet rays emanating from prison blocks in the seaside suburbs, ships' lights winking off the coast. Your journey here has been for nothing - trouble follows you daily and you sleep warily at night, expecting axe attacks. The fetid air of the abandoned fish markets only serves to further intensify your unease. Flags snap in the breeze. Random parties, initiated by means of short wave radio, continue until late in the morning. Conversations are limited to a few words of introduction: name, previous location, mission. Ladders lead to decaying overpasses, where travelling merchants set up camp. All manner of currency cards on display at small tables, lit by halogen lamps. Over by the cable car station (also disused), a carnival splutters into life and then fades, inevitably. Ghost dogs have been known to frequent some of the more popular bars. Here the chairs recline alarmingly, as if the world was in perpetual ascent. Occasionally a signal flare from one of the colonies provides illumination. The city carries on disintegrating like a hog left in the jungle to rot, filmed using high-speed photography, the maggots seeming to bustle about their work, though in slow-mo they are merely wriggling, squirming. Darkness at the edge of cardboard skyscrapers, the end nearing, someone sets the radio frequency to the emergency, concentrating attention and dismaying the patient clouds. Shredded loads of timber, once bound for the capital, lie wet and useless by the bay. Severance from the city might take a week or even a year. In either case the rats have everyone's number. Yours will be called momentarily. Mice, on the other hand, are now electric and emit pulsing light as red as a bloodshot eye, as loud as a catastrophe siren. Old foreign men sit in the alleys and play childish games, without irony. Something is very wrong here but you can't see it for the crowds of moneychangers clutching black bags, whispering market, market. This little piggy stays home.


City of miniature cities, laid out on lawns like picnic lunches. Skyscrapers made from sweet stuffs, syringes for telecommunications towers. Lights blinking away the loneliness of miniature people gazing up at the stars. City of landing strips and vertical automobile repositories filled with carcasses of crashes long extinct, shards of steel bone and empty rearview mirrors. White with chalk, the streets dream of empire. Strange mists roll in from the sea, making navigation difficult. The new transport craft are rumoured to be arriving soon, their saltwater power supply offering emancipation from the manacles of gasoline. Refineries shoot fumes into the darkness, their miniature workers like specks of dust around cooling tank rims, fuel vats. City of museums dedicated to the excesses of human foolishness. City of demilitarized and school zones. Shopping ceases during the annual demonstration season. It is no longer safe to walk without riot-proof gear. Your movements are being summarised for Monday morning's briefing session. Expect a transcript in the mail. Suffer fools gladly, for they shall inherit your tax burden. Socialism is an occasion of public drunkenness, renegade pitchers filled with the blood of small berry trees. Soon the time for our departure will also arrive. I expectorate gladly, shadowing my chosen mark, while another tails my family. Cheap gore, two dollar techno blares in an underground bar full of old-fashioned LPs. Fashionistas while away the hours. These songs are familiar to you but the words remain hidden beyond drink. They all have names like "Feminism", "Rampant" and "Waterfall". Our invasion soundtrack continues overhead, spy planes contributing to the drone, this faint metallic whirr of today. Emptiness is an emoticon, a symbol sent via cellphone, arriving not at its intended destination but the end of the mechanical life cycle. Even machines must reproduce. In the planned obsolescence of the human condition, breathe freely even when the gases penetrate your senses. Adjust the plastic mask designed for self-suffocation and peer out through the orange agent. Await the final outcome.

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