Owen Bullock


Listening to Hendrix the mynah bird is new, the car is new, the road sign is new. The crickets clang. I think of you, my darling, I’ll be advised by you, never have I been advised. How to do, what to prioritise, the art science of living loving.

Twenty years from now I met an old man out front of the supermarket. He looked familiar. Aren’t you, David Gilmour, one of the greatest guitarists who ever played? He said, I can’t play any more. But that doesn’t matter, surely, what a soul you must have. What a place to store love, to bind colours we’ve never seen, like quink and cwivel, to store music for days like this.

After work stuffed up my contract and gave me the box-ticking award, after the mine invaded our land, Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock. I’m bored with blues, but when he erupts Red House, I’m wailing with him, screaming through a guitar.

When I squeeze the wah wah pedal-o, when the note flares tssszatt – when I press the pulse of orange-o when I love that boom do higha hat – I pick up the pieces and make my island, invite you there to stay with me to lay with me; I think of you.


Maybe this key won’t do it, maybe this pulse will skew, maybe lamp’s not set right and I sit on the inside with you. When I sailed the roundabout so much seemed possible, but I leapt over the speed bump and Dylan skipped Dignity, changed like an eclipse. I’m not the one to decide, to lead, suggest, I’m the one to watch, record, hold up, not comment on their fascist tendencies (which are in me somewhere deep in brackets that I don’t want to swing on – I’m the bureaucracy, the mine, the law which favours the wealthy. I’m the intransigent, not the flexible. I commend tradition, death, cruelty, unhappiness – what we’re used to – fighting negativity bias, which I don’t even need to know about to not win). When Hendrix (I almost said Jesus) said ‘Peace and happiness happiness happiness’ he was Dalai Lama for a moment. He’d already given the people back the Star-Spangled Banner, which had been stolen by politicians. He’d grooved through Purple Haze with snatches of Baroque. He’d taken his men on a mission to the land of sound experiment, part heavy metal, part jazz. He needed them & oh how they needed him. He needed them like Beethoven needed an orchestra (to prove it). The guitar was an organ. When Hendrix said ‘Peace and happiness happiness happiness’ he’d arrived at the perfect gospel, so simple we hate it, so simple when there’s 1,476,949 dead from COVID and 63,751, 931 cases and I’m sorry, but I want to be happy, it’s even more offensive put as a choice, when so many can’t choose, but I want to choose happiness. Please. Don’t stone me.

slides off edges of moonlight
drips from the frill
the colour the cow licks from the newborn calf
high on the hill, early in a July winter –
she smears it back on with her tongue
her tongue’s rasp won’t let go
like a blanket of thread
the spider distils
tumbles over molecules of water & air
unfences mist
that drowns the Indian Summer
in a Cornish coastal village
& what we call fog
an electric wash
rides over pebbles, jetties, stone walls,
the colour cwivel


when you wear your purple-flowered shirt
with the bronze trousers
or your yellow jersey with blue jacket
& feel beautiful
it sits at the edge
addresses the seam 
a pinkish glow
no one else sees

she says ‘you work so hard’
and ‘well done’
brushes its way from her lips
like vapour
a pinkish glow
no one sees

daffodils rush out
sack your eyes with the scent
spell your name with yellow vision
leak their vigour across the table
onto your feet
it vibrates there
a pinkish glow
no one else sees

you touch the air
round the eucalypts of rocks
sniff them after rain
talk to them when you arrive –
cracks in the ground
spaces between stones
bulge a water
whose sound
a pinkish glow
no one else hears
you taste
the colour quink


red at centre
must bleed to live
whitewhite the petals
blueblur at edges
day thunders on
green in the night
fade to white morning
smell like a nest
in the forest
in the free wood
lined with dried grass
tastes like coconut bacon
if you eat those red
inner petals
you’ll lose your desires
become sated
by water
& sun
minerals tracing back to the soil
root hairs birthing from your feet
you’ll stiffen & slow
supple in the wind’s side to side
close your eyes & dream
of the Clomah flower

Metaphors for music

your riff grinds like magical light
through a flow of nutty seeds
to make the perfect paste
that sweetens the cake . . .
                                          . . . I am the cake

I could run away from here
be safe in the wilds of the city
I could leave the office door open
walk to the lake & watch the ripples
never returning, not missing anything
going home to the trees

I could talk to anyone I needed to
confident, like your notes
I could dance through the square
at nine on a Monday morning
to the memory of your tune
I could ask the best drummer in the world
to play with me

I could feel as alive
                                 as you look
in your headband & long hair
& you stopping to take in
the noise of the crowd

I could ripple over these hands 
like dry ice, like laser lights
into ears like a blessing
like a cry and shudder of love

Symbol of flowers

you carve wild lanes
to Craig y Pistyll, the rutted tracks
& fog – you shape the shrinking distance
to a hand hold, a pace
30,000 paces repeated with the same glow
as the trace of midday through mist

you carve the road & plant the roadside
raise up mallow like a younger sister,
a companion; you stretch the lakes
you link them, you curl the heather round
& bank wild berries

you have sounds come
dipping into the lake or clacking the cobbles

on the cliffside, you shave the bushes,
contort trees
all so you can place yourself within
a rare, precious delicacy, look, amidst
all this, unguarded wild

you love the chaos
since you ache perfection

               nestled in moss
               inviting time –


stop drumming the table
start dancing

you’re a beautiful man
he said

nothing is personal
or, it’s just about them

*soft growl*

the window flexes like a membrane

djimbe on the ground
a microphone inside

when they play like children
they create music
out of nothing, out of nowhere
out of sound
out of silence

nothing like
shouting over loud music
for a sense of intimacy

Owen Bullock has published poetry, haiku, tanka and fiction; most recently, Uma rocha enorme que anda à roda (A big rock that turns around), translations of his tanka into Portuguese by Francisco Carvalho (Temas Originais, 2021); Summer Haiku (2019) and Work & Play (2017). Owen teaches Creative Writing at the University of Canberra. He has a website for his research: https://poetry-in-process.com/ @ProcessPoetry @OwenTrail
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