08 Tim Thorne

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[The New Australian Poetry, page 73]

Poet Tim Thorne in 1979, when this anthology appeared. photographer unknown.
Poet Tim Thorne in 1979, when this anthology appeared. Photographer unknown.

Tim Thorne


      1 Homecoming

Button-grass flats, pale through the drizzle: my eyes

Unhinged, unhingeing; patch-brown pools:

My body’s own still liquids.

After the climb, hard through the spine’s country,

Where leatherwood and myrtle drip

Holes into the bent flesh,

After the droplets running off the tight skin

Around the vein-riddled gullies

Stretched on a hairpin bend,

This is the homecoming, arriving at this level —

The brain laid open in the wet,

Nerve ends like sags, open.

      2 The Hut

The plastic strips flap in the doorway still

Sad alchemical colours to ward off evil.

[The New Australian Poetry, page 74]

Tim Thorne

The poet comes home like a blue-arsed fly

Too late for the real summer, too soon

For the winds that take the corner of the year

On two loud tyres — the screech of March.

I light the fire and wait for my life’s details

To dry out — buckled paperbacks,

The sleeve of an early Dylan record

(Young jew-angel’s face, cowboy mystery,

Holding his guitar’s neck like a flowering tree)

A man could die waiting between these hills.

Outside in gumboots, moving rocks around,

Channelling off the water, watching it take

Used-up petals like brain cells with it, down

To the flats where my brackish eyes are set like traps,

I am immune here, acting without itch,

Connections all leached, open, waiting.

One day, too late for insects, bleak with peace,

After a month of my turning stones by the moon,

The hills will hear the brash harmonica

And send a patly scored reply in gusts.

And in that instant as the axis tilts

Someone will cross the sags, his clothes blown dry.



Your highway body,
My love a sideflower
Indigo-petalled like a
Jealous kiss.

That married bastard mauled your

I wore my red scarf over the Shoalhaven
And saw how sadly straight the
Road was.

[The New Australian Poetry, page 75]

Tim Thorne


The sun aches,
My diesel head has
the knowledge of smiles
that knock. Fuel / need is somewhere
like a flake / is a shining giveway.

Methedrine and bitumen
pave the way / torn cans
flash / and all the backs that built it:
Balmain guernseys bent in the rain / I am
bruised between midday and gravel edges.

High in the cab / Christ,
the sky’s so loud / what are
the D.M.R. doing in my spine?
Exhaust / various metallic colours:
and my vertebrae are the broken white line.



My bakelite mantle set pulled him in
Through the whine and crackle of KZ and I
Drummed on a dented pencil tin
To ‘Danny Boy’ or ‘Mona Lisa ’,
Tensing my hands and jaw as his art
Made seven syllables of ‘heart’.

Five p.m. was too early to get
Anything like a good reception
And I broke the volume knob off that set
Trying to bring America closer,
Or if not America, then at least
Stan the Man, oracle and priest.

Masturbation and vandalism
Came with darkness, but first the radio

[The New Australian Poetry, page 76]

Tim Thorne

Would spurt its sweet, commercial chrism,
The god would descend through static, lift up, up,
Up to the top of the ‘Cashbox’ chart
All seven syllables of my heart.



Slide your fedora forward. Tilt yourself
at a similar angle from the wall. Move.
The big getaway this time. The big Ford’s
near rear wheel spins: a can of film.

Somewhere out on the highway you will meet
your successor. You will know him by this mark:
the right-hand thumb-skin roughened by the thread
that opens up the shifting spanner’s smile.

You must pretend you haven’t noticed him.
Keep your eyes low. Grab a meal. Drive away.
We have replaced you, but you’ve only lost
a fantasy. Stick to your real work.

Poet Tim Thorne, photo courtesy Nigel Roberts.
Poet Tim Thorne, photo courtesy Nigel Roberts.



      I       Behind the Phoenix Foundry

Mallarme’s curse rides over Launceston,
Autumn sticks to the foundry yard.
This morning had the old trick in it:
the air virgin, dry,
pretending cleanliness.

What is tempting now
is the easy elision, the colour-coded sketch:
to surround the sonnet with absence
like a page

[The New Australian Poetry, page 77]

Tim Thorne

Let the hero go spinning out into his margins.
Open the tombs.
Observe the chemistry of after-death:
nitrogen, seepage, the skilled craft
of bacteria.

The racks of angle-iron are bright
with flux. Oxygen creates
these orange flakes. Real gases
control the world. Two kids
play here, off the street, safe,
in harmony with the tough scrap.

      II       Fisherman

Where is the old stability?
The dinghy wobbles on the ebb.
Who will come home
past the long island?
(Eucalypts stand green.)
No-one coughs blood. This is not Valvins.

Through the heads with the tide:
one, singing at the tiller,
shirtless impresario,
burnt against the clouds?
Idle speculation.
Thank god and Dampier our swans are black.

      III      Against Mallarme

This is a canny pioneer country.
The trees stay the same colour
until they’re scrubbed and
trucked and chipped and sold.
The unnerving smell of the bush
has been a challenge to the genius of man
for cyclic comfort. Man,
on his own terms, wins, and gets
Pinus radiata where birds don’t go.

[The New Australian Poetry, page 78]

Tim Thorne

Even while the mist of fish blood
spreads, ‘effulgent haze’, from
the hard hope of the knife,
the fisherman knows
that one day the catch will be
something stranger even than his song.

A leaf from an imported tree
falters, then settles.

The kids are called in to the terraces.
An absence of their playing remains.

The poem, however, refuses to hang about,
will neither be caught nor rust,
is not dependent on seasons,
but is being forged

in the haul, in the furnace,
the real grave and the game.


shall appear at the window while I’m
writing at my childish desk;

shall rake the room with a shadow,
the horn of his beak undeniable.

I will not look up, but will
know his big eyes like

paper. When bone crumbles,
what remains is very white.

His beak crunches through
all kinds of art.

My friend, the novelist,
has sent the owl here

[The New Australian Poetry, page 79]

Tim Thorne

with his nerveless probing,
his sincere lack

of honesty, the face
full of desire.

The owl has taken my words.
How to die honourably?

Never let the owl win!
The owl wins.


The ship hangs from hawsers.
It is loaded with fictions
and would move.

The prevailing rationality
of the waterfront is Wittgenstein’s.

Metal cups keep the rats
from trading plague.
But myth has used the gangplank
on two legs.

Big Jim is invoked
by cynical clerks.
‘Ecstatic surrender’ is hidden in containers.
Of course we fought the owners,
the bloody Dutch, the N.C.C.,
Menzies and Chifley both:
the irrational officers of pseudo-thought.
But Krupp and Haddy were rational men.
Cranes are more rational than bent backs.

There is your mystification:
not in the cargo but in its handling,
not in the ghost-crewed vessel
vanishing, but twisted in with
the steel rope.

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