Owen Bullock


   lovers write at the bus station

      the diet’s going really well

I’m rushing through my rest

   you haven’t got your poetry trousers on

      you’re not going to like what I’m saying

         give up power

            there’ll be a lot of moon shit

               why are you travelling to Tokyo?

                  at the end there’s an orange bucket

                     I can’t stand any kind of change

                        this is my last year at Uni –
                           what am I going to do?

                              beards have only got another five years, I reckon

                                I like boy talk
                                except when they talk about sport

                                   did you get the silence?

                                   please don’t @ me

                                      he likes it when they break up with him
                                         rather than he have to . . .

Karaoke poem

I’ve just walked in
   late for the party
      the host thrusts a laminated card in my hand
         asks me to sing

a man I’ve never met
   dressed in a kimono (all reds and pinks) 
      and a curly blonde wig says
         I’ve been waiting for you to come and sing with me
            how about . . . ‘Up where we belong’

it’s a chance to try out a Joe Cocker impersonation
   I start off as Jennifer Warnes 
      and we switch part way along

I didn’t plan to do Karaoke
   it’s like
walking into a pet shop and coming out 
   with a monkey

you channeled Joe Cocker
   it was a gift to the world

I never got to see him 
   but now I have

I heard him in Sydney 
   you were just like him

I drink two glasses of water
   walk over the bridge 
      catch the bus home

who knows what tomorrow brings

skim (segmentivity, indeterminacy, components, messing with)
for AJS

it looked like the objects would fall out of the sky
   held by two ticker hands
      a spring sprung out of case
         your single line catching

if ridicule could swamp episode 3
   posts might wire the message
      a staple, a mouse
         rephrasing plausible

dining with half a table, half a chair
   you might put socks on one leg
      fold free of all but a hinge
         .5 of a tumbler, open sandwich

bread dust falls to one side of your plate
   each speck a note for art
      sings like chairs flicked aside
         imposes new patterns

dreadlocks the coolest place
   so much you mumble around him
      but he likes you even without a radio
         will call you Polish and dance

a wild night of love becomes two decades of teasing
   out from the covers a subtle dig
      words approve
         but fail the arm test

in the bureau of locks
   we don’t like drawers full of associations
      or evidence of letters, however impressive
         we disparage stories

stories mean you own something
   know the characters
      even if you edit them
         having proofed

you don’t come at hurdles like a westerner
   roots in the bush, fallen logs
      record you good as any phonograph –
         you’ll answer to them


Ania Walwicz is a teenage boy reciting a poem called ‘Artifice’. We huddle outside a restaurant looking through the fire bars into a room with a mirrored wall at the back. On this side of the mirror stands the boy with his mother (now Ania), he starts reciting. This is the poem, I say. Just before a wave sweeps me along with other men crossing a bridge in a previous existence. We sing, surfing on our backs.


Anyway lambent limbic limb pen poise I can do it I can what will they think do they think I’m a person who interrupts full of himself full of himself full of himself bad is it bad to be full of yourself

Bad full of self bad had they said to be you wear colours that don’t match match colours don’t wear them do they think you’re a scientist how can anyone understand see into you your job isn’t it (signalling, no signalling) what is what is what is a revision pen I drop the revision pen wake up start writing again – where was I between next moment next day next sun there won’t be another? The biggest thing in our lives a powerful revision pen source of energy constant almost eternal virtually to us. Seven minutes seven since we started. What? I won’t tell you I’ll hide in poems reading poems again why shouldn’t I it’s my job but I still have to apologise it’s your hobby she said it’s your hobby she said. No complaints just a bag on the desk a bag on the desk. A festival of. In October. Festival. 9:24 that’s enough. Keep going till 15:00 okay trying it out Pomodoro mini version mini van board seats either side above the wheels stooping slouching at least picked up from rugby. But otherwise the next. Moment. Day. Year. Not enough work. Okay now half-smile of compassion on my face sleeves rolled up own room not hungry not thirsty lucky LUCKY the way Napoleon Dynamite says it I said can I borrow your book real quick in a corridor and a student got the joke the reference what if you don’t know the reference you’ll feel excluded oh god a couple of minutes to go actually less a minute and a half thirty seconds less less less less


Away we go 10 minutes I stand up next to a mountain and see a photo of men in uniform could be Crimea like the Hendrix jacket harassed by policemen in London where he found it in an opshop I heard the story bang clatter sorting equipment chairs recording gear cameras clatter do I shut out learn to live with shut the door like meditating on the chainsaw chainsaw meditation it’s not really a thing yet yet the performance of free association is different to the free association in the mind always that always that difference and repetition can take over I was trying to see if I thought in whole sentence but I can’t tell I get writing the writing takes over pretty much in sentence (sentience) or whole phrases not you know random nounds and verbds but buts or anything joining joining in tag team tag it to the next or try to notate the writing takes over but it must have an object and the mind gives it and the writing modifies it mods and rockers on Brighton Beach and legends and the film and the way they want to talk in rugby about legends of the game want to mythologise make into super make into a god oh god what a comeback call back (stand up) it’s hard to come back go back back back up

Stop. STOP now. Stop. It’s hard to stop when you’ve set yourself the task another ten minutes another ten minutes to write leave out any words you can can do monkey do see a way to learn way to go kiwi vernacular darlin where did that where where am I getting closer to there is this an investigation why ask ask away I can give you some kind of answer qualify qualify the reaper mish-mash meltdown melt-over melt-up I can reaper be reaper saw reap or reap is technique scythe grim blisters tried it full size has to be sharp or just climbcomb no cut cut. Cut. Almost time up. Cut cut? Almost cut


Epa epic epacris flowers like fuchsias long bells long chimes the little bird’s spiney bill the eastern spinebill in a flash reaching into three flowers epa epic epicChris, a honeyeater sways finding honey blossom blossomable possum possumable groovy googlia greveillie wooglia, grovel over gravel, what look like rasping raspberries, raspberry leaves, a wild fig willed big wilt pig phig, wild raspberries, too, banksia bobby-barked giant, Lomatia Myricoides waves a fruit like a little paw-paw caw caw ca-caw caw the red round fruit has teeth like a dragon, Lepto lepto leptospernum (expecto patronum!) spectabile spectabile, fossil bossil postle in a pastel coloured rockwall bustle bustled up – do ee    ever    will ee    stop it – imblossomable impossumable, Thorny Devil holding still like all great lizards, fluffs of flowers commes cosmos a microcosm of the cosm, cousin Cosmo, the rock garden with rocky outcrops signs the bush, the waterfall’s zen takes us back to emptiness.


One thing at a time or I get too fractured, lucky not to have had casts all my life, better to endure some accidents, they say, especially before the age of two (if you don’t get to, you’ve been mollycoddled), odd snippets half-remembered – can you half-remember, without the other half, do you have just a feeling? Whether a journal entry or a poem depends on the label (the book you wrote it in), aesthetic or efferent readings, you decide, the tablet changing, flowers subsiding in the water jar, the note half-seen: ‘remember the goal’ – what if you’re seed rather than wholegrain, if you sow yourself like a fragment (for the age), growing a shadow. I investigate lines, you investigate viscosity: how the slip sticks to make something that looks like it has the strength of a dozen hands but delicate as dried sepals. I can’t apologise for words, they’ve taken over my mind, so why not use them; this is for you. The dried rose buds, too, snipped so carefully, placed in a shallow bowl – when days are challenging and I want to cry but can’t see or hear or touch or smell or taste something beautiful makes the balm – tears is balm, old John said in The Golden Arrow, a character who walks with me in the woods.


We kept the word ‘poon’, for fixing up the table leg with a slip of folded paper. He said virus in French and the three-year old improvised vieux Rousse (the old Russian woman). Cockney rhyming slang gave us new meaning, ‘scarper’ (Scapa Flow: go); ‘raspberry’ (raspberry tart: fart); use your loaf (loaf of bread: head). I want to make up my own slang, like ‘it’s all Acker Bilk’ (stones and milk: lithogenesis and lochia – from the poem by revivalist Scot Hugh MacDiarmid); it won’t catch on.


Following the line of time, centri-rabular – the technical term for essential experiences, not linear or circular or cyclical . . . This avenue points straight to an unlikely correspondent, like a chess penpal you had to have that went nowhere. Like hours playing snooker, following paths of balls sabotaged by obstinate non-training. You’re the line, for someone. Your kind word uttered, that you don’t remember, taken and placed in a small cardboard box, clumsily decorated with an old sticker of Paris and sat on the dressing table of a room of tools for years. Lines in and out, remembering words. Your smell is a line. The way you raised your children is a line. The way you didn’t raise children and commemorated your mother and being a child instead (with a seedpod tribute) is a line. The made-up truth is a line. The truth is seldom, if ever, a line. The arrival at the deserted station of some small outlying part of truth is a line. Your brother picks you up, you alighted at the wrong station. Let’s get in.


I got it wrong. It’s not my job to write poetry. It’s my job to teach and do research.

If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. If I can’t do the research work well, I’ll just have to do it badly until I can do it well.

after all this research
I can spell Enterobacteriaceae
without looking it up
and that isn’t right

studying the gut
wondering if my gut feelings
were right after all . . .

Could it be this work is more worthwhile than what I normally do? Who am I now? I, who wanted to finish the novel and write screenplays, reach the place of no agenda – some unseen force brought me here, screaming and lashing out (read being passive-aggressive and back-biting – but there’s no hand to bite, just a green energy that’s really benign). It’s not my job. It’s not me. I am not that. I am. (And, yes, I do want to avoid using the verb ‘to be’, but . . .)


Life began in a seed pod, it nurtured me with creamy sap. When I was ready the leaves of the pod opened to the sun and I slid down into long grass full of wildflowers – no wonder I’ve always been a bit of a grass-fancier. A goat lived in the meadow and let me feed from her. I picked earts and wild strawberries. I washed myself in the stream with a handful of leaves. When I was about seven, a wizard appeared in the lane and beckoned to me. I followed him to his house by the sea where he showed me books and magical shells full of songs which told the dreams of mermaids and fisherfolk. He taught me how to cultivate plants, tell stories, read & write, build. By the time I was twelve I raised my own cabin in the woods. I look back on the early days in the meadow most fondly – simple, endless, nothing stood out except the green, the ceaseless green, yellow from flowers and the shine of the sun.

Wandering the burras, lonely and aimless. Wild and anarchic, yes, but pointless, too. Without reference to anyone but myself. Parents rolled me down the hill without giving me any sense of community – it’s taken me decades to understand that fitting in with people, even with one person, fulfills you.

Each thing has depth    even the line
on the page    could be magnified    to
three dimensions    with molecules of ink
even the cell has a nucleus    space
within    even is odd    the single
multiple – no single thing lives
take us with our 100 trillion microbes
Alanna Collen tells stories about them
& I feel colonised (evolutionised)
by beneficial settlers    who help me
eat my food    we help us    eat our food


Your hair swept back, horizontal, the grey hairs. This lines says I’ve had regrets. This line says I appreciate something different now. This line says I see you, I accept you for what you are. This line says I accept you for what you are. This line says I have loved and been hurt & forgiven. This line says I’ve come to terms with my own choices.


Finding a plump mushroom in the forest, I polish and laminate it. Soon afterwards, I visit a computer technician in a booth in the mall. He tells me he’s the editor of the journal that accepted an essay of mine two years ago, that still hasn’t appeared. I have the mushroom with me, now an electric blue. He takes the mushroom, scans it and an icon shoots up on his computer with the final draft of my essay. That’s it, he says, published, at least online. When I wake up next morning, it lives in the real world.


The party conversations distract each other, but give you possibilities. Like Gogol Bordello – Start Wearing Purple for me now! In corridors filled with tear gas, we’re coming rougher every time (‘Immigraniada’). But when I make something, does it take me anywhere, just another anxiety, another artwork to be edited. Please set me free of my mind. The grey says to the bare branch, take your time.

Not bad, but no consistent narrative thread, or lots of mini narratives, fragments, too postmodern, tired of it. Try . . .

Did you organise anything about getting together with your mates for D&D? He was betwixt & betwine. What hotter-bottle would have kept him warm? It was important to make a discovery: disco very. A whisker from the blackbird, whispy from the rain. How very yellow of you, daffodils. Do you halfacado? I’ve got 27 eskie bricks, just in case. He spends half his life on youtub. I always remember it as: ‘they toil, not neither do they spin’. Finally, I laugh at myself, the high-point of the day.

Better. Still fragment. But better.

What’s next?

Writing the way you think?

Done that.

Closure after all?

WTF . . . Conceptual is


Let’s go back to the dance. And I’m off . . .

Neither with the glitch nor push the view, crane me a look at the sill and adjust the stew, build me a frame for limpets and light the new, fly the box for a kite and plus the pew, blast the river to bits and mend the crew, plush the sky with song and orange the blue, arm the crests with a cat and stuff the queue, lend the rabbit a stick and bet on glue, heave your stone father into town and paint the cue.

Owen Bullock has published three collections of poetry, five books of haiku and a novella, the most recent being Summer Haiku (2019) and Work & Play (2017). He has a website for his research into poetry and process, at https://poetry-in-process.com/. He teaches creative writing at the University of Canberra.
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