20 Philip Hammial

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[The New Australian Poetry. page 236]

Philip Hammial


I pull the huge book down from the bookcase. Rich full-colour photographs of the cars & their drivers, page after page. But first the text: it seems the inmates have races in these vehicles; they start on the roof & roll down a spiralling ramp to the ground floor. No one knows when or how these races originated.

Each vintage car is a true work of art: magnificent chrome-plated radiators through which (so one of the captions says) only the rarest blood can cir’ve culate; huge highly-polished brass head & tail lamps, their wicks trimmed by special attendants; brass horns that curl to animal & vegetable bulbs with the scaled reality of the mermaid; spoked wheels with the shimmering complexity of fire-rimmed, god-filled mandalas…

And the bodies of these small vehicles — no larger than go-carts — each one is shaped like the torso of its creator-driver, a fur or silk-lined outer skin into which the limbless inmate may be comfortably placed for his or her oneway roll at dazzling speeds down, always down the ever-narrowing ramp to the shock-rooms.


[The New Australian Poetry, page 237]

Philip Hammial


help yourself.

take it all.

take it all, I insist.
                    I’m sufficient.

I’m full, I’ve been
                    for the balms.

I’ve taken the balms: my life
                    is a heap of witness, o Gilead.


down, can’t we
cut the stops?

All age?

Now this is Zen & the Art of Braking the

                                (where we work: Luna Park)

All age.

We touch what we feel.

The simple pleasures
                    are lacquered with fear.

They stiffen & they come to pass.

About face, & we’re pushing
                    fit to kill/snuff
                    the candles/break


[The New Australian Poetry, page 238]

Philip Hammial


                    the bubbles, the burst
                    at reading speed, the screams
in their balloons, the thrust
of the needle
                                it’s done
                                (where we work: Luna Park)

All age.


I never feel suddensudden.
Nerves don’t shatter, I’m convinced.
My thrills are smaller than church.
Of course there’s this to consider.

Could I, with bellows, do it better?
How many times the same fence
                                makes a night, moon makes a field?
I have no word for the engulfing animation.
It must be a pure sensation to be shot in the Urals.

This purple, is it The Rider?
There must be at least one worthy of the name.
I wouldn’t know how to cinch a saddle.
I limit my hand to patty-cake.

Draw their trajectories!
                                            on a piece of paper!
Heave things up, the hustle
                                of the pilgrimage, the cost.
Manhours like flyhours.

Liken myself to the screendoor, why not?
It closes hydraulically. Fuck oil!

‘Tricycleous!, an interesting word, but let’s talk about

  it tomorrow.
If ever an exercise should be terminated.


[The New Australian Poetry, page 239]

Philip Hammial


I lunch through it, fork up
the whole spooky mess: the new
softer personality: the dangerous age
of the shivering chinchilla!


I don’t know who has given me this task or why I’m doing it. I’m pinning white cotton tails to the doors of all the asylums in this fogbound city.

Which is a problem in that this city is a sort of madman’s Baghdad. There are a thousand & one winding streets with a thousand & one doors on each, & every door (asylums all!) splits into two, into four, into six… as I pin.

Inside (I don’t know why but I always end up inside as soon as I’ve pinned a tail) most of the patients wear karate gear & spar constantly. It’s getting harder & harder to avoid the kicks & punches.

      OF GLORY

of glory & the criminal &
they pray for, they chew
their gruel for: but gruel
is like the moon; gruel is vague about
who walks with stops
for titillation while waves
overlap like suggestions
of water during interrogation, is nothing
extricable here? aren’t
there apples of wisdom here
to be bobbed for like stylites bob
for the unsayable
sunfish, to flex it out for
the perfect peace like a fisherman’s
muscle from moral fibre?


[The New Australian Poetry, page 240]

Philip Hammial


one day when Suzy stays
under the dead rain longer
than is necessary, one day
when she no longer has a predilection
for the women in the cave, for the black balloon
that descends through the cave’s
mouth for that purpose.


She works with the Moors. Showing some skin she lures a tattooed sailor to an alley where the Moors are waiting with their knives. Two words, LOVE & HATE, are found on the knuckles & removed. The sailor gets his just deserts.

When Sadie & the Moors take some LOVE & HATE they must do the 800 Celebrations. They must perform each other in the first & private person until they reach the last & public person. This last & public person is always behind a locked door. When Sadie & the Moors reach this door they must knock on it with LOVE & HATE. It opens, invariably.

The sailor is given his second chance. He must speak some lines in the third & every person that, unknown to him, can be spoken only by Sadie in her second. He trembles invariably, & spills the wine. As the first had his, so he is given them again.

He must be shoved aside or stepped over. The sanctuary must be entered. 1600 hands must be washed. Every hand must hold every other lest one of them disturb one of the thousand veils. Sadie’s dance

of LOVE & HATE could last forever, but again & again the last veil, a sailor’s blouse, is removed by LOVE & HATE


[The New Australian Poetry, page 241]

Philip Hammial

for the last time until she stands naked before them who, as always, would take her in that person, in turns.

& never that she must kneel on the stage & do the telephono, to perfection. As always

she pours the wine without spilling it. As always the words are perfectly there as she calls them across the lines.


We can hear her say that seizing
first the flag & then the rag
‘for proof of the lay’

We can hear her say that coaxing
the rod, forcing the issue
‘up from divinity’

We can hear her say that actualizing
the staff, its every inch
‘to insure the pilgrim’s grip’

We can hear her say that culling
a name, telling it down
‘for the keen effect’

We can hear her say that shifting
the stick, driving it home
‘for one of Mother Naught’s specials’

We can hear her say that zeroing in
eye for eye, tooth for tooth
‘until the stake is swept’

We can hear her say that going it
fist to mouth, one better
‘than a Christmas monkey’


[The New Australian Poetry, page 242]

Philip Hammial


The gas is good
It makes them dead.
We like them dead, & the dance before.

When they shuffle in we never look up.
We know nothing & never smile at these parties.

They shuffle in wearing gloves & thick glasses & take their seats.

They balance on their stools like goggled & gloved motorcyclists on the starting line,

Goggles to keep the insects from their weak eyes, gloves to hide the liver spots on their hands.

It’s a race to the finish, & as it progresses these motorcyclists cum skin divers begin to swim,

First the winner & then the others press their faces against the wall of the aquarium.

It’s our aquarium, & the conversation bubbles.

The bubbles rise to a surface & burst, & it’s good when that happens.

We like what happens when they burst, & the dance that follows.