04 Rae Desmond Jones

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Australian poet Rae Desmond Jones, Nimrod Theatre, Sydney, 1985, photo by John Tranter
Australian poet Rae Desmond Jones, Nimrod Theatre, Sydney, 1985, photo by John Tranter


[The New Australian Poetry, page 19]

Rae Desmond Jones

 

      THE ELECTRIC CHAIR

on the table you will
find cheese & biscuits
so please take your coat
off as we don’t usually
stand on ceremony finding
informality preferable
under the circumstances.
we believe our guests should
be as comfortable as
possible even indulging a
little those things which
might have been before
just out of reach; we have
available women of various
ages & types also & if
you should prefer boys
or perhaps beating (there
have been quite a few who


[The New Australian Poetry, page 20]

Rae Desmond Jones

seem fond of that which is
surprising here but i
can tell you some stories
later) we hope you will
not mind those straps and
buckles on the chair but
we do try to keep the wires
to a minimum & discreet,
that button you press for
music, the other is for the
watcher to come & talk or
bring more food (we don’t
believe in guards) the third
button you press only when
you strap yourself in. be
careful when you do that you
lock these sleeves around
the wrist close as cufflinks.
yessir it is up to you &
i quite agree it is peculiar
how few last out seven days
but the voltage is high &
you burn very quick indeed, it is
ultimately your choice & the
only limit upon reality
however i must go &
prepare for the late batch
which should arrive any
minute now although we have
no clocks & there is no way
we can turn out the lights.


[The New Australian Poetry, page 21]

Rae Desmond Jones

 

      TELEPHONE ELEGY

when my mother told me
on the phone my uncle was
going to die i didn’t think
i cared very much
certainly i don’t owe him
any favours & my mother sent
ten dollars worth of flowers
i only met him once when
i was very small &
would never have taken much
notice except he was the one
they never talked about
but i knew he drank lots
of whisky & lived with several
women i was seven
making sandcastles on brighton
beach & he was
short with grey baggy trousers
the only member of my family
who ever wore a hat
he had small shrewd eyes &
the racing form guide in his
hip pocket but now twenty
years later the sea
of my childhood washes over me
decades of ice creams & dagwood dogs
& my mother


[The New Australian Poetry, page 22]

Rae Desmond Jones

remembers the farm of her
childhood now the farm of memory
which never really existed
& can never come back
which i saw only once close up
& several times in the distance
near a row of pepper trees as we
passed in the family car along
the dusty road but never stopped
i know says my mother that
he is sixty-five & though
sorry he ends this way he always
was a bit of a lad
i remember my mother sang
O sweet mystery of life
as she turned the washing in
the copper boiling with water
& the coke burned with a magic
sibilance & my mother’s voice was very
loud & she sang unabashed
& ignored the neighbours
the steam burns as it rises
fogs my wondering that a life
might achieve in its ending a
neat bit of symbolism
the universal fact in each
particular form but
I can only offer her now
lumps of memory torn out
of our dense & common heart


[The New Australian Poetry, page 23]

Rae Desmond Jones

      THE POETS
they speak to a vast audience
consisting mainly of one another
all of whom nervously shuffle
manuscripts & wait their turn
meantime the masses who are
as usual deaf blind & stupid
just keep walking to the bus or
into the office reading newspapers
& quite obviously don’t give a fuck,
& who can blame them?
for of course they have real
problems, the problems of carrying
on the business of carefully
& unselfconsciously
living & dying & paying off the
telly getting tired disillusioned
& old but nonetheless keeping
the nose to the grindstone etc.,
but if one should by some incredible
mischance happen to actually read
one of the poems published
as an occasional cultural piece
but not too prominently
in the corner of the review page
of one of our saturday morning papers,
he nods, baffled, & turns back to
the real problem he has of the second
mortgage or thinks about his wife
swollen with the third
or the legs of the office girl
so tightly clenched he thinks


[The New Australian Poetry, page 24]

Rae Desmond Jones

her pussy must almost pucker &
blow him kisses
but rarely he might think
at how unreal the world has
become & how beautiful & how
soon he must leave it which is
also beautiful & how time
passes but in any case perhaps
just for a minute he thinks
poetry & knows himself
dwarfish, blind & ugly &
returns once again to the real.

 

      THE WORD MASSAGE

we stroke you with
words & rape you
with poetry
with our remarkable
intuition for
degradation we
insist on making you
a thing apart as
abstracted & cool
an object of
contemplation as
our own lovely ideas
& so you whom we
close up in a greenhouse
of glass
within which your
real beauty lives &


[The New Australian Poetry, page 25]

Rae Desmond Jones

grows lush & vegetable
the organic flowers
open you
are sweet in the centre
& soft & have the taste
of cunt i say
i want to love you with
hand & tongue & nerves
& sense & bite
& adore your arsehole
as a valid seat of
your soul but
instead with
all the other great
inarticulate fools
apologetically & clumsily
to you i offer
another poem

 

      THE GENERATOR

always brilliant
& all the world is queer
particularly you
                                      he voted
                                      petula clark for post-
                                      mistress general
had a Volkswagen fitted with a siren
screamed up & down pitt st
chasing police cars
                                      he hated the public
at seventeen was sure life was barren


[The New Australian Poetry, page 26]

Rae Desmond Jones

& at twenty hungered for royal weddings
told me he could speak to jesus
on the royal telephone
the joy was not divine
he preferred orgasms
                                      sold his arse
                                      at green park although
                                      he didn’t need the money
picked up by a fat man
he found the ultimate in kicks when
he attached little plates to the guys scrotum
& turned a generator
giving genuine electric shocks
                                      thereafter drove
                                      everywhere looking
                                      for scrotums
said he could tell a good scrotum
a block away
                 until one day he saw
                 someone run over his cat
                 he saw it in the street flip
                 into the air from some bastards wheel
its spine arched like an electric rod &
got bits of cat & fur down him
he hadn’t washed two days
just sat there in samadhi contemplating
the wires between the stretched out poles
of mind fizz out into the open palm
of night
          i am the cat the cat &
          he repeated the cat is dead man
          i am the cat
then he kissed me got into the volkswagen
dropped the clutch
started the siren & as he accelerated
filled the night with flame
crossed the arc &
burned straight out towards the gap*

* The Gap is a Sydney feature, a Pacific-side cliff often utilised by suicides.


[The New Australian Poetry, page 27]

Rae Desmond Jones

 

      JUST AFTER DARK

just after dark
in stanley street the girls
stand in the doorways
                    $10 a quicky & no
                    full strip & remember
                    nothing kinky there’s a hoon
                    out the back
                    with tattooed arms & no teeth
it’s still too early but
along the paths a few guys shuffle & smoke
down the road the greeks play pool
the cars are just beginning to turn
on their lights
             in the half dark
             the street smells of cappuccino
             olive oil cats & piss
             the windows are covered with masonite
             to keep out the perves
along here somewhere
in an old church somebody wants to read poetry
& i am supposed to go
but i stop outside the dirtiest brothel in the street
the girl quotes her price but leans back
puzzled when she sees i am staring
at the house next door.
             it is very neat
             & renovated back to the sandstock
             the timber door is tastefully varnished
             the window has a clean yellow curtain
             demurely closed
from behind the curtain comes the sharp tap-tap
of a two finger typist on a portable royal
carefully i step to one side & closer
in a narrow sliver of light the poet sits illuminated
             above his typewriter
             he lives there because
             he believes he should be able to see life
             his bookshelf is full of


[The New Australian Poetry, page 28]

Rae Desmond Jones

             d. h. lawrence & mailer
             his deep purple records stand
             neat & dustless in their dustjackets
             on a rack beside his expensive radiogram
             he is concentrated on his poem
             pausing only long enough to sip
             from the ostentatious can of fosters.
he is very serious & very sincere
but just then the bull wagon comes around the comer
the girls close up shop & the men start to walk briskly
as though they have places to go
but one starts to run panics & sees
the only available window
as i turn the comer he jumps
                   i hear the poet bellow & protest
                   as the body of a guerilla poem
                   lands in his lap

 

      THE FRONT WINDOW

it is raining softly
as an old greek woman
dressed in black walks
along the path with
a big brown paper
parcel
       the spray tapers on
       the roof opposite like durer’s
       hands & i know if i take a rubber
       i can obliterate the world
the old woman looks
at me & her face is folded & cracked
& her eyes are small
               i take the rubber
               & she looks down as she
               begins to disappear
because she is heavy i rub harder
& she becomes gradually faint
& weak


[The New Australian Poetry, page 29]

Rae Desmond Jones

         she drops the parcel &
         it splits on the wet ground
         & sets loose a swarm of angry
         bees
their tails are fat &
they beat against the glass & live
although i rub them out one by one
they are a plague

 

      AGE

      1
sometimes to think about age
& the possibilities of it & what it usually
does mean,
not the idealism of the young
which must so often be the desperation
of the inheritors, a fear of being robbed —
perhaps age could be the time
of resentment
not crabbed resentment but a passion
fusing the hesitant acceptance of separateness
with the other enemy
the quiet opposite, certain of dissolution
& although familiar never seen always rattling
underneath the dry leaves behind you &
is never there
no matter how quick you turn —
when your power is most feeble
your strength should be greater & social
justice may become the greater injustice


[The New Australian Poetry, page 30]

Rae Desmond Jones

the bland impersonal welfare state
offering the created need for things
ah the bourgeois
such nobility more insidious & clever
than the fascist boot
the asthma of the not quite comfortable room
& the television screen streaking
& the smile of the new social worker
who just knows that you want to talk &
the tom piper meals on wheels all impingeing
on one’s right to dissolution
& one’s right to be angry
about it, as though if you are to die you
should do it timidly & tidily & be
aware of your lack of sense
of social responsibility: the collective
denial of the embarrassment & benefit
of old age, the distillation of self into
the concentrated chemistry
of all the disinherited &
the suffering & stupidity of the oppressed
beyond the cynical tolerance of the oppressor.

      2
i saw an old man this morning with all he owned
in a string bag & the sun was clear
& sharp
& he sat down near the water on a bench
with his neck tucked in like a pigeon &
small beads of mucus
rimmed the lower lids of his eyes


[The New Australian Poetry, page 31]

Rae Desmond Jones

the discomfort of being without a comb & pushing
his hair back over his ear
with his fingers & his other hand holding
a cold square pie just above his lap
looking the harsh god of light
in the face & the light spread over
the edges of the world where men worked in
the daytime in concrete boxes
stuck like pegs into the horizon
& he looked out on the sky & the boats dipping
noses down in the swell & the spray fanned
up & fell as the deep hidden tides beat
against the rock

 

      &THE PEOPLE

& the people turn away in millions
      leaving houses empty & record covers
scattered on the bedsheets & fillet steak
      frozen hard in the freezer with all
the classics of western literature &
      art the lights going out in the flats
behind them & plastic garbage tins
      lidded along the footpaths they
are going in cars & trucks & trolleys &
      with furniture stacked on wheelbarrows
& pioneer coaches changing down as they
      take the grade & the catalyst of the
migration the last illusory individual listens
      to the recorded speeches of dr goebbels
& taps his fountain pen nervously on
      the blotter & the cassette is still alive
& whispering the battery is running down &
      the people are going & the roads are
choked with cars


[The New Australian Poetry, page 32]
Australian poet Rae Desmond Jones, reading his poems at his book launch at a pub in Summer Hill, Sydney, Australia, 2009, photo by John Tranter
Australian poet Rae Desmond Jones, reading his poems at his book launch at a pub in Summer Hill, Sydney, Australia, 2009, photo by John Tranter


Rae Desmond Jones

 

      FLAK

      1
it could become one of the great classic
film cliches — almost like john wayne’s back
in ‘the searchers’ — now imagine it like this
you are the pilot of the lancaster
bloated with bombs coming into hamburg 1944
at night     the munitions factory in there past
the scribbling lines of searchlights (no women
or civilians military target     the moral
imperatives clear, images of messerschmitts &
stukas now shelled out on empty airfields, cut:
goering in poland 1939) you nose the lancaster
into the circle of lights curfew below & herrenvolk
in shelters feeding on dumplings & ersatz
without lights to the chill of sirens & crump
of bass, cage musik metallique — but they
have nothing to fear from you despite the tempting
flutter of your thumb about the bomb release
ahh but you resist it & now the flak

      2
the reich marshal walks past the hangar
in the drizzle, an airforce general beside him
talks & directs attention to the new model junkers,
goering does not look but smiles, he walks with
a hand behind his back, three staff officers
follow several steps behind, the airfield
is circled with barbed wire & outside the fence
an old woman in black pokes & stoops looking for
a chunk of coal or a piece of wood, a private
of the wehrmacht leans against a post & rolls
a cigarette, he glances from the woman to the
reich marshal’s back as he leads the way, shaking
hands with the pilots outside the mess, it is cold,
poland. long empty fields waiting for seed. A
train whistles, the private lights up. out there
a fringe of smoke.


[The New Australian Poetry, page 33]

Rae Desmond Jones

      3
disconcerting, those bits of metal coming up
under you the lancaster shivering & pieces of wing
chew off a test of nerve for you pilot poet audience
there on the screen      the tell-tale scar of a change
of reel & a direct hit & the body of the plane
buckles & screams (for a minute the fragments
of white outside the cabin bum out the centre
of your head but you hold on good theatre control
keep them in their seats with their pants wet stay
in your seat roger D to control roger D to control
fuck that use the intercom     ask details
of damage & casualties noting the co-pilot’s
lean sideways a small dribble of blood out the side
of his mouth

      4
rear gunner gone & bits of voice from the intercom
starboard outer engine gone & you going to keep
on coming in low the only contact possible metal &
plastic warping like licorice cut! they’ll never
buy that one suspension of disbelief O
Rimbaud St Exupery stay with us now
& you completely involved & chopped into components
you never thought before could be whole
but watch out for the cliche here it comes
the sparks loses his nerve starts screaming &
thrashing i do wanna i do wanna & crying until
he gets it in the next lot don’t show no
doubts only discomfort sorry for the kid him
who always has to die in this man’s myth
tighten them up & let them off but leave them
just the edge of doubt

      5
the bomb aimer sits like a spider above his sights
& lets go stick after stick nothing better
than a weight off the mind & follow the big arc out
beyond hamburg across the north sea listening to
the flutter of motors & down there the cold


[The New Australian Poetry, page 34]

Rae Desmond Jones

where you would last seven minutes if you ditched
but that is a different script     now pan to
girls & haystacks her eyes & dawn the chafe
of stubble     you are the only one of the squadron
to survive to walk the streets of london on leave
haunted in the fog past army greatcoats in pubs
& lily marlene     it has everything life & certainty
of death the black night of the soul multiple
metaphors of society the body & an inbuilt
cross-reference to oedipus at colonnus & lastly the tides
under Waterloo bridge

 

      JUNGLE JUICE

the slack lines of the rope bridge
dipping to the river and the mountain’s white head
plugging up the sky above the lush vegetation
         the afternoon shadow coming across the trees and the slow meander of the mighty river bending around
         the flat circle of dirt and the huts in the open
         and the brass gong swinging outside the huts
         and the fine sticks of the wall and the blades of grass coarsening
         then edges fading as the sun goes down
         Tarzan enters, his testicles banging together like billiard balls and the tiger skin hanging limp and delicate off one shoulder
he is here for the 1936 Congo Fashion Parade and comes with his
high heels in a plastic carry bag emblazoned with a UNION JACK
         pushes the ropes/lianas to one side
         dr. livingstone steps out of a hut fine strands of grey hair basined over his head and his eyes popping out of his sensitive delicate civilised face now crazed by the torment of loneliness, Christianity and the white man’s burden
         his dirty white trousers held up by rope and his toes protruding
from his gaping gumboots jaw hanging slack and eyes almost dead
but now gleaming with faint hope


[The New Australian Poetry, page 35]

Rae Desmond Jones

         — meantime the natives leap down from the trees
         the sound of distant drums itching against irritated eyelids/the rhythm drilling through the head THEN
         out of the jungle the lush lantanas and chrysanthemums a pygmy holding a long spear rushes before dr. livingstone
(just gripping tarzan’s hand tenderly and long his voice faltering)          but the pygmy says
          DOWN DE RIVER BWANA!…COME DE JUDGE!
livingstone goes back to his hut to get his make-up compact and purse
         slowly in the gathering dusk
         the leaves of the bushes fondled by the gold setting sun
         as the trees lean out over the river and drop snags
         the stumps of rotting trees clustered about in small islands in the water
          comes a gunboat pushing the logs aside a small moustache of water at the bows
         turns the bend graceful as a neutral bay ferry in rush hour
         it is the VORSTER (200 tons) captained by Joseph Conrad
         and on her decks princess grace kelly and robert morley
         arms linked each side of little black sambo and grace straightens
his red coat and his little button eyes (careful to polish out any gleam of savagery that might reflect the primeval HORROR (yuk!) of the surroundings)
         the thick sensuality of the leaves as they dip like lower lips in the breeze
         the VORSTER pulls in at the small rickety wharf
         timber slabs ripped out of her decks and spears still skewered in her spars
         left there by some of the less grateful inhabitants
         ah the delicate but heavy and sensuous smell of hamburger mince as the neons go on above the huts
         small wisps of smoke and the dark descends

 

      THE EL PASO RESTAURANT

the radio playing country & western
          on the first floor of the el paso restaurant


[The New Australian Poetry, page 36]

Rae Desmond Jones

the air conditioner snoring
          & down on the street gary cooper hitches
up his stockings & checks the clock
the waiter hobbles in boots &
          a red cowboy shirt because he’s not used
to high heels & he leaves us the menu
          the plastic seat sweaty & you angling
the light onto your chrome sheriff’s badge
          & a tear in the creases of your scarred old elephant arse of a face
          & the filaments of our souls
touching & joining & even though the waiter
          ignored you i could not go on to the fort
without you & i am thirty-five & breaking apart
now amigo we are both pegged back
          the apaches squat in a ring of painted faces
& their cocks hard against their loin cloths
          the wet rawhide tightening in the sun &
no distant bugle & colonel custer’s long
          yellow hair was not taken on the little big
horn
the greasy cards fanned out &
          the naked joker upward on the table my
shuffle & you john wayne archetypal cocksucker
          leave your guns at the door
the horses wait outside & four ugly drag queens
          lean against the hitching rail & it’s almost
noon & the meat is curling on the grill
          downstairs

 

      JAMES DEAN

      1
where if you glance behind
you can see the monochromed bars of taxis
swivelling at the bend


[The New Australian Poetry, page 37]

Rae Desmond Jones


the car still burning there its flame
crawling up the sky hesitant as a crippled fly
on glass
& beside the white emptiness of billboards
stylised coppers watch blank faced
from motorbikes
in the rear-vision mirror you catch
him looking through your eyes narcissist
as ever the flowers of his mockery recurring
eternal late movies on television

      2
with valentino he escaped
a destiny of soap commercials but has served
to keep the repressive myth alive
beauty & honesty are easy distorted but
as with rimbaud they could have done without
his energy, an unforgivable imperfection —
although the creases have never deepened
on the sides of his face

      3
a few lengths ahead
an old customline her fins swept back ducktail
& sleek brakes at the stoplights
the slow single flicker
on off on off & the regular heartbeat
of gas & the delicate pulse of her timing
move slowly past him the manual gear change
up when the lights go green


[The New Australian Poetry, page 38]

Rae Desmond Jones

the speedometer needle climbing & the sleeve
caught in the door & leave him
& america
pissweak reflection & creator of a generation
now gone to parenthood & the suburbs
& the chicken still screaming on the veranda
the tragic screen widening to cinemascope
the sun coming up & the huge mandala of the wheel
easy in your palm