Laurie Duggan

Barcode 2

change from a pint
on a silver plate?
time to move on

A further misreading

Philip Larkin
the librarian from Hell

Six notes for John Forbes


At Rae’s memorial plaque
unveiled in a square, Summer Hill
I wondered what could be named for you?
A swimming pool perhaps,
where you exorcised asthma?
A car wash on Taylor Street?


I wrote to you a few years back
that England wasn’t the place you knew
now it’s even less so, or more:
the superstructure of class
showing through the fake edifice of ‘merit’,
all that bedrock pomposity
and servility that characterises the place
as Jacob Rees-Mogg, a seeming parody
turns out to be the real thing.

It was in England that I came to understand
the meaning of ‘hegemony’
(where supposed alternatives echo each other,
the newspapers all liking the same poets
those poets published by the same house
— was this ‘house style’?
                                    The Houses of Parliament, 
the City, made up similarly
of Old Etonians.
                                        Houses, actual houses,  
pokier than any on the continent
with a sense of ‘little Britain’ ‘going it alone’,
Dunkirk references afloat on the tide
of neoconservatism.


Dumped in the skip of history
by the great removalist
you would not have written pages of drivel
to get at a few things. Yours was
a different aesthetic, ethic even;
the poem came as a whole
or it didn't; and then
you revised it.


You were Zeus in Ken Searle’s painting,
alarmed at the bulk of your torso;
For love you bought
contact lenses, then lost them.

You read Manning Clark, bemused
that God had played such a big part
in Australian history.


You walked with us once
on the northern tablelands.
Miles from the nearest bookshop
(or any other sign of life)
you read the fine print on prescription vials.

Elsewhere in that hinterland 
from his throne (a collapsed sofa)
‘the greatest poet since Yeats’
dismissed you (after your death) as
a ‘minor poet’ with amusing moments.


So far the Harbour’s free of landfill.
Brett Whiteley and Ken Done remind us 
of our tourist selves,
while down on Wooloomooloo Bay
the navy moors, in view of the Art Gallery,
as though this were some kind of assurance.

Australian Pastoral

a bush muse
amuse bouche

Laurie Duggan's most recent books are Selected Poems 1971-2017 (Shearsman, 2018) and Afterimages, a limited edition work from Polar Bear. He lived in the UK from 2006 to 2018 and is now living back in Sydney.
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