24 Laurie (Laurence) Duggan

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[The New Australian Poetry. page 273]

Laurie Duggan


I laugh in the heat & am beheaded
just after we set sail for lovers paradise
the palms wave gently but no longer
does the soft drink of the future suffice
Instead we get our fingers stuck in rock candy
and the loads of annoying fan-mail roll in

Money is always a proposition but my
parachute fails on the way to the bank
and after plastic surgery nothing is the same
Thanks for the postcard, the coconuts
stun me continually. It’s like the first colour movie
yes, but where are the ice-creams of last summer?

      for John Forbes

I think continually of those who were truly great
in the supermarket     these canyons of
soap powder     holy frozen split peas
e.g. write a conceptual poem. imagine


[The New Australian Poetry, page 274]

Laurie Duggan

the woman fingering keys of a cash register,
all day long     Instant Pudding
Everyone’s in my new movie
a huge TEK toothbrush soars above the opera house
flies crawl across the T.V. tube
bridging the gap between illusion & reality like
the little cloud on the screen where Terry’s spit
narrowly missed the prime minister


      Melbourne 1940-71

      Winter Morning 1971

On the horizon there is disequilibrium,
a vagueness only, along the waterfront,
among the weatherboard corner shops
a smell of chips and battered saveloys.

Stone ice-cream stalls face Beaconsfield Parade,
metal shutters drawn across promises,
inane advertisements for vanished products;
the convent clock, almost motionless

Danks St., a clutter of narrow frontages,
bright purples, greens, and yellows, striped awnings;
circumferenced, a clipped style
ventures nothing.

Wrap about you an old gaberdine overcoat,
deep pockets lined with someone’s stale tobacco;
children trespass with makeshift instruments
the bright rotunda, painted seasons ago.

      St Kilda Notebook 1944

    the habitues drink till six then exit pissed to the street
where the fabled monsters enact savage rituals     men gather


[The New Australian Poetry, page 275]

Laurie Duggan

under the pier    wolf grins at a hangman’s noose
    the hornblower rants to the holiday crowds St Kilda beach
a woman opens her umbrella like ripened fruit    the lovers
walk the promenade under an arch of false teeth a    man
jerks some drunk’s cock in a downstairs pissoir    we piss
on the fence palings beaconsfield parade    a street sweeper
whistles to music from a third floor window    coloured
stockings hang drying in the sea breeze
    a garage mechanic whips his pet dog    by night he may
be found drowning cats near the old pier    he is generous to the children
    the sailor rapes and cuts up three fourteen year olds in
one prodigious night    bodies are visible under the tramwires
a half moon in the sky    they are collecting the pieces
in garbage cans
    the madame is powdering her nose    servicemen flock
dalgety street    the radio blares white cliffs of dover dancers spill onto the road    the wastebin is full of

      The Painter’s Letter 1942/46

There ought to be a means of structuring emotion,
as in the instance of wires strangling a blackbird:
                distrusting, for the present,
                any theory of ‘significant form’:
                academy rules of thumb.
The depth behind the image of an egg, for example,
representing the genesis of a murderer,
the victim’s ‘birdlike twittering’ referred to in
court transcriptions;
                             why he should use such strange images
                              seemingly unanswerable… or,
                              phrases in a different tongue;
                              the press totalitarian.
Given the intractable nature of cityscape,
how to weld into appreciable motive;
              SCENE: as set. Fitzroy St., St Kilda:
              the green vegetative shapes of lamp posts,
              an insinuating crescent symbol poised


[The New Australian Poetry, page 276]

Laurie Duggan

              immobile over the remnants of a body.
Singling out the chaotic, I cry, we are human,
symbol contracts, leaps suddenly off the canvas,
becomes the observer, that HE may question;
              radicalised through metaphor,
              motivated through structure.

      Interlude. The Poet 1944

The umbelliferous darkness thwarts the panes;
what poises anaemic above your bed tonight
o renovating virgin
                          o terra incognita
                          o freud o malley…
We each of us in turn had this dream:
              a butcher’s shop awaits the carnal night,
and now, bored with pentameter,
cock wilful snoots at a (thankful) bourgeoisie,
tinkle the virginals, thinking:

Surely the abyss is before us
for we have detected it grinning in the counterpoint
of savages (they call it civilisation over there…).
The prophets have forecast our doom
(I have seen the sky darken over Williamstown refineries).

In short, if change comes from chaos
what will be left us
but to float southward to some fabled land;
post-Brobdingnagian haven of penguins.

      Notebook 1954

Early mist obscures the window,
I can barely hear water across the promenade,
and read in the paper of Petrov,
the crackdown on ‘leftism’.

Warmth thwarts my purpose. A ‘temporary’ lapse
into hack reviews, plethora of cramped jobs,


[The New Australian Poetry, page 277]

Laurie Duggan

small beer after a decade of wilful images:
money for opium.

                            Asylum among mothballs, here
in the guesthouse, drowsy, listening to the wireless
distance a cold war.

Glut of mood,
stale froth on the glass’s side, familiar motif
tawdry as a wedding photograph,
a dead language becomes irrelevant;
life the only testament.

      Coda 1971

Inside the amusement park, scarred and shuttered,
we clutch gratuitous image, discarded style,
bumper cars stationary, clowns open-mouthed,
daylight deceives with false solidity:

twenty years on, re-animate the circus;
uncertain of stance, play heretic games,
insular in our respective tones,
remain as we are, neglect what we might be.


            Sometimes our feelings are so mild they
            seem like mere extensions of the English

Jack Spicer

After reading about Keats & Yates at Nigel’s

on the bus home
I confuse Randell Jarrell with
Ranald Allen


[The New Australian Poetry, page 278]

Laurie Duggan

At Nigel’s a note
        ‘at the Exchange Hotel 2.15-6.00’
I don’t know where it is

In Balmain you’re a foreigner from Newtown
Melbourne, it’s outer space

everything soft with water
        the rain hasn’t stopped for almost a week

the back room flooded

a conduit poured into the kitchen

now the sun’s out
        everything’s gone mouldy

down the end of Smith St.
        an old hotel opposite the warehouses
        gradually subsides
            built on sand

        blasted glass windows read:
            BEACH HOTEL

Terry buys a Kahlil Gibran diary
‘I was thinking of Omar Khayam’
John sells another book
‘Converting poetry to hamburgers’

Oxford Street.
        a man & a woman
        try to get a 1940’s radiogram
        into a 1968 Monaro


[The New Australian Poetry, page 279]

Laurie Duggan

above a shop, West Ryde
                                                NO PIANOS

‘Ways of thought of Eastern Peoples’
                                                                          Nakamura (c. 1959)

D.K. :
        Original idea of the ‘one-note Samba’?

L.D. :
                                               -Sam(ba)sara ?
                                                            Vol. XXX sec. A – G Folio (i)
                                                            also on Festival E.P. K3011


      being actually always careful
      to keep myself together & pursue
      Poesy & have a forwarding address

Allen Ginsberg


a vase of dead yellow chrysanthemums
green apple, persimmon, purple grape
capsicum, Chinese gooseberry

        LEGEND GIN ashtray

                                air conditioner

cerebral junk



[The New Australian Poetry, page 280]

Laurie Duggan

              nose sniff
‘it feels like winter’

                                  letterbox (empty)
                                  one advertisement

boiling water


‘N.S.W. shivers, snow in many areas…’
a towel steams on the kerosene heater

                ‘with a small room
                a small mess
                is (really……)’

            (What is the metre of the dictionary?)
                                    & what lines
                                            did Mr Thomas append
                                                          to these?

          lawnmower tracks out over Victoria Park
swimming pool half-full of dirty water
                                  the postgraduates
          fall asleep

                  ‘……to destroy large parts
                  of the archeological record
                  in the attempt to elucidate it’



        cars drive past looking at ‘real estate’

            I don’t know what I want

Dear Madame DeFarge……


[The New Australian Poetry, page 281]

Laurie Duggan

                dream of dancing on a whale
                & shaving fine hair off its body
                (still afloat & alive) with a razor
                                the size of a plough

my biggest problem this morning —
                if I want to take X number
                of books to the library I won’t
                be able to fit them in a shoulder-
                bag, but if I take my canvas
                I’ll want to carry more books


          rain drips through
          the tin roof
          missing the stereo