Stu Hatton

the familiar

Every evening you convince yourself 
it’s the same house 
you’re returning home to. ‘Did something 

happen here?’ any visitor might ask, &		
your answer would vary
depending on the slight

irritations of the skin
at the given moment. 
‘Pleasure dead as a cave’
could be one answer, & ‘perhaps 
only birds limping circles
on the roof’, another. 
                                       All that sleep 
tends to kick you into an awful mood

that threatens to keep you,
like cream harbouring a feather 
in the catbowl; & this too is how 

the owner becomes more & more 
the pet. 
             When night resumes 
there’s only one way to relax

that’s failsafe, or so you say—
though no one is careless enough
to probe you for specifics.


Still you’ve been brought nothing to perfume 
that most wayward of thoughts which (quelle 
surprise!) cannot be unthought. No one 
will venture an ‘I can relate’ with a straight 
face; instead it’s either ‘Contemptible bastard … 
& to think he had such impeccable manners!’ 
or ‘You right for a drink?’ And now the mood 

is one not to be trusted, whilst sipping 
silver droplets from upturned leaves
in that renowned honeypot precinct,
its streets littered with sham passive-income 
empires, & a sort of downcast faith—not even 
a grudging finger of acknowledgement 
lifted from the driver’s wheel.

how you churn against the day!

To think you were once the Empress’s
tutor, no doubt teetering at the edge
of the garment! But we both know 
whoever holds the purest secret
will be declared victor by the tradition.

How they turned away when you insisted
misfortune resides in the proverbial 
throat through which a near-sentient 
shaft of hunger peers, spooked by 
its own shrill barking! ‘So hoarse are you

with shame …’ And for all of your 
‘a star in the North suns 
the deeply worthy’, I’ll point you
to the wild lights encircling 
the rainwater-tank-as-temple.

That is, who else will you press 
to arrange the pillows upon which you walk?

‘As if it were my aura & thrice-op-shopped clothes
seeing to it that your pen is dropped
in a not-incorrect motion.’

won over in the usual way
‘Why else would they build a stronghold for their received ideas and platitudes, unless they really are testing how little they can get away with?’

I feared that the whole thing actually made sense. But he wasn’t finished: ‘The game had initially consisted in marking off a taboo area & spurning its perceived advances. Only later did it become acceptable to light candles over this area.’

He seemed to think there was no case against him, as if an unrecorded act were one that never took place. And yet his body language seemed pretty deadly. His eye wandered to the clock tower of the old asylum, now visible through the window of the interrogation room; upon his damp cheek a fly nonchalantly cleansed its wing.

I was only there to invigilate. I didn’t want a repeat of last time: his painful longueurs, all those re-enactments of every perceived slight against him. But he was right about one crucial point regarding his case: the waning of ‘public pleasures’ was well-documented.

So I levelled with him: ‘My days, too, are spent trying to prove I’m no idiot after all, pounding a tune no one wants or understands. And the mask I leave up on the mantle may well be the true self I dare not try on, lest it impinge upon my flagging “net worth”.’

His reply was somewhat unexpected: ‘Oh well go, go then to your chaste abode! Only I—I alone—could make myself tremble! And may the river get lost on its way!’

And so we found ourselves, he & I, on camera under the scorching lights, looking to brandish a feather of the truth.

Stu Hatton is a writer & editor. He lives & works on Dja Dja Wurrung country in Victoria, 
Australia. His third poetry collection will be titled in the not-too-distant present.
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