Tony Beyer

Through the Mallee with Ern

he whinged and grizzled
the whole way
window up too hot
window down too dusty

his lungs and the garage door
every time Ethel brought him a cup of tea
while he was trying to write a poem

his criticism
of the ageing process
that it improves neither
looks nor intelligence

I told him how lucky he was
still to be in print after all these years
given the handicap
of never having existed

but he’s down as well
on those two blokes who misrepresented him
how they ducked for cover
and left him exposed

all his mates
in the heteronym business
speak only Portuguese
and smell of sardines

popping snakes on the dry camber
sipping an all-day-sucker in a sleeve
the truckies
waved out to us



Australia’s McCahon
                Fred Williams
in his Waterfall Polyptych

narrows the white strand
                of sliding water
to a strip of light

that divides and redivides
                on one panel
curls on itself on another

space not just visual
                but physical too
hence the preposition

stacked like the
                stack of the land
already sacred

before human shadow
                weightless as paint
nothing to add

nothing to take away
                only look for yourself
(ambiguous imperative)


Jeffrey Smart
                on the other hand
                               painted the one

continuous concrete city
                Sydney to Turin
                               Santiago to Tokyo

the labyrinthine
                               no man’s land

so the edge of each
                of his works leads
                               to the edge of

the next and the next
                seemingly functional
                               disabling geometries

with a palette
                more restricted
                               than the desert’s

cruel poetry
                of the underpass
                               the silo park

where grass occurs
                it is dry and fibrous
                               tormented by density

the age’s nightmare
                in which the solitary figure
                               stands aghast


Brack’s thin humans
in their streets and rooms

whose hats are more
expressive than their faces

are also more authentically
the dry-as-a-bone inheritors

of settlement
than any of Drysdale’s

stockmen or their wives (or bones)
glaring indomitably

into the red dust
of the empty centre

where terms like sturdy
and doughty run a distant

second and third to
just plain bloody determined

as if they could
see a future in it


I’m always pleased
to read in a book
a female character
who resembles me

for example the
fissile Kōko
in Yūko Tsushima’s
Child of Fortune

whose pregnancy
conceived in the mind
abetted by the
empty body

carries deeper weight
than gender
or culture may
safely redistribute

who we are
and where is such
a construct
beyond the self

dogged and swollen
all unsatisfactory day
among pupils
and relatives

each seeing
somebody other
than the undecided
one in the mirror

whose narrative
brief but inevitable
this recounting
actually is

Tony Beyer operates out of Taranaki, NZ.
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