TEXT poetry


Damen O’Brien

2 poems




To a Poet

and tomorrow there might not be words
lapping from that brackish seep we dip:
untamed things, cautious to your hand
and tomorrow when you call they may not come.

your neighbour might open his front door
or place a feeder in his yard and whistle
the words to him, that used to fly to you.
You never owned them and they never needed you.

and tomorrow other things may slip your reach:
names and dreams, your net may gather air.
Your friends may call you a fraud and worse
your enemies welcome you, for all your words are gone.

today I’ve sat beside the fountain’s flower
and watched the lizards duck their heads and drink
and fed them muffin crumbs with ginger fingers.
Tomorrow I will not be here to feed them scraps.

today I have these scraps, which might be words.
Let the future feed itself, it’s full today
and you and I should go down to that pool.
Call fear down, while it is yours to call.





What devil could squat
in the chimney of hell
while the Tate has two,
the Guggenheim one,
and the Louvre hosts an entire retrospective?
He beat his sitters so badly that
appraisals always begin with the darkness
stained in his brushstrokes,
the passions sweeping in his brushstrokes.
For an entry fee,
the weeping women with their satin skin
will burn for you in the galleries of Paris.
Murderers, scoundrels and rapists
dipping their horsehair
in the compromises of art,
and there is no difference in paint
between saints and sinners.
Man is capable of such beauty
and the hearth of hell is cold and empty.



Damen O’Brien is a Queensland poet.  He was joint winner of the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and has won the Yeats Poetry Prize, the KSP Poetry Award and the Ipswich Poetry Festival, and was shortlisted in the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, ACU Poetry Prize, Val Vallis Award, Newcastle Poetry Prize, and Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize.  Damen has previously been published in Cordite, Island, Verity La, Southerly and StylusLit.


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Vol 22 No 1 April 2018
General Editor: Nigel Krauth. Editors: Julienne van Loon & Ross Watkins
Creative Works Editor: Anthony Lawrence