Ken Bolton


I play a little 
80s Lou Reed, 

Legendary Hearts—
sentiment & compassion — 

to get me serious.

—  It takes so little?  —

And drink a glass 
of Melentie's mastika
— a kind of ouzo 
more or less.

& I've got the mood   ( ! )

but by proxy, as if 
it had not 'arrived'

though it is available — 
on tap

& I
use it   — 

reading some poems, 
attending to them,

corrections, changes

& that is life 
you use it 

you can't hold on

The way one translation 
of Apollinaire's 'Zone' has it, 

"Your life 
  that you toss off
  as though it were
  a glass of spirits"

A glass of spirits & bed!  

It is late
but not too late, 
the air is mild.  Cath
reading still.

In the (large, abstract) 
painting this poem 
would like to resemble
lines, colours, 
styles or modes 
or manners
                    of painting, 

with space, 
to live or breathe, 

beside each other—

something made up 
of Micky Allan, 
Kurt Brereton, 
Whisson & Fitzjames 
(Michael’s Optikon, say, 

much of Darlinghurst, 
blocks & blocks of it, 
rooves & streets,
including the street 
where I almost fancy 
I can see the restaurant
I ate in for years 
where they threw me out once 
asleep before 
my raznichi.  
I was aghast, 
how could they?  
Nick & Helen at 
Diethnes were never 
like that, tho I didn’t 
test them they were like 
parents.  “Where is 
your girlfriend tonight?”)—

lines, colours, etc
tho one, one of them, 
must organize the rest, 
the others?
or can large aesthetic 
continental shelves coexist, 
in detente? They 
can if I say so.  
The dripping, fluid shapes 
of Whisson 
indicate ‘Gorky’ & then 
‘childhood’—the mill 
there was no mill
in my childhood—

creeks & grass 
& green declivities—

where I pictured, 
I remember, 
my future wife—
seated injun squaw-style 
back to me in browns
beautifully cut hair 
feminine gentle stylish
a large colour-chart 
across her knees—
the feminine task 
of deciding style—
& so unlike 
the brazen hussies 
I chased after—
demure, modest, elegant—
(pace Deborah, Lila, 
Lorraine)—& in fact 
they weren’t hussies & 
I ‘chased’ no one.  

She was a model I saw 
in an advertisement, 
paid to look that way.  

Look feminine!  
“How?” the model 
must have thought, 

“I am feminine, 
aren’t I?”  

—an ideal I bought into 
(& Cath, of course,
does occasionally push 
furniture around, 
considers colours, 
considers the magazines,
& is, yes, elegant


Photos on my wall—
photocopies mostly,
many I notice 
only when they go awry

& need ‘a-rightening’ 

& pressing hard
in their corners,
where the blu-tak 
hides, good still.  

Some I see
regularly & notice: 

the pic of Julie & Richard
beautiful, magical people  
— so the photograph
testifies —  photographed 
at night, lit strongly,
the street dark — 
coming to a small 
opening of mine, 
Richard a gilded youth,
Julie, girlish, a tinkering 
impish angel
or witch maybe, 
in this photo,
hiding, her head peeking 
round the corner — 
at me,
or whoever was 
taking the photo —
Beside it, the picture of 
her on the phone
at the office

All these people   
Pam,  Laurie

Richard   Jules

figures who have witnessed
my life 
                 & understood, 
estimated it, more 
than I

(Laurie’s records 
of Coalcliff — where I have none.  

‘Not looking’
at the time

means I can’t look back
tho nostalgic

am I?  ever?  always?)


A burst of Nino 
Rota music as 
I look again at 
Richard & Julie

 — the final scenes of 
Nights Of Cabiria

urchins in the woods,
like bad fairies,
mock the heroine


Anna & Chris observe 
a scenario 
& sequence of events
from their place 
at the front window 
of a restaurant,

that is totally Fellini—
awful, really—but magical: 

Surfers Paradise.
A bus shelter 
where two girls 
wait for the bus 
in to the city—
a Saturday night, 
very short skirts, 
cheap jewellery.  
A boy happens by
& accosts them, eagerly, 
do they want to come 
to his party tonight? 
His birthday?  His 
Lots of alcohol provided.  
It will be great. 
His Dad, he tells them, 
thinks he is ‘one sick cunt’.  
He is eyeing one girl 
particularly, much 
to the consternation 
of the other girl 
who thinks she is 
the prettier.  He 
drops his bottle 
of vodka which smashes 
on the ground. 
Drops & does press-ups 
in front of the girls, 
lapping at the vodka.  The
girls will be 
impressed by his muscles.  
His shirt is off.  
Another friend 
rocks up.  Will he 
be coming?  The girls 
get on the bus, one a little 
regretfully.  Some Japanese people 
walk by & the boy 
curses them at 
length & loudly: 
get out of Australia, basically.  
The new friend says, No, 
he is going in to town, 
to have a good time.  
Wrong answer.  
The birthday boy 
curses his chum’s 
retreating back.  
Then heads off.  
Stage empty.

Ken Bolton has been a leading figure in postmodern Australian poetry since the 1970s. His many volumes include the recent books The Circus, A Whistled Bit of Bop and Sly Mongoose; his collaborative texts with John Jenkins have appeared in numerous editions and also been widely anthologised. As editor of the literary journals Magic Sam and Otis Rush, and through Sea Cruise and Little Esther Books, Bolton has made a significant contribution to small press publishing over several decades. He is also an art critic, based at Adelaide’s Experimental Art Foundation since the early 1980s, where he runs Dark Horsey Bookshop and the Lee Marvin Readings.

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