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   Selected Poems







For my Father



Relieved to see

the cine-sound news

of Mussolini
swinging from a pole,

you redeemed yourself,
married an Anglo,
became king of a run down
Brunswick brick veneer.

Where middle Australia
grew lawn, you grew tomatoes,
and around the periphery
drove in stakes for a vine,

crushing your grapes
through thirty seasons
of home-made wine.

Like the crucifix
around your neck,
you wore your clothes for comfort,
not to conceal or impress,


sometimes getting a little pissed off
with the poses and accents
your children stressed:

'look, papa – look how we’ve grown!
how youth, knowledge and fashion,
weave about our lives and dress, '
to which non capisci niente! you’d replied,

looking away through onyx eyes
to tougher days and climes, soldered
by the vigour of a simple faith.

Working ten-hour shifts
down the road at Hoffman’s bricks,

feeding furnaces,

cutting back rock.

I can still see you now
in that old blue singlet,
winding down each day
with a bottle of red,
your face peppered
with brick dust
over a gossamer
of sweat, your black

Tuscan hair, splintered
with silver wisps,
a Temple Bar burning down
between your lips.



Myths and Make-up



I remember how
she would tell me stories
about the cycles
of the sun and moon:

romantic choreographs
that spoke
of love and poetry,
the visionary company of lovers

and all things perfumed.


She was young and beautiful,
in love with eternity,
a dainty bird,

a picture of naivety and grace;
yet, every day,

sat a little longer before
her mirror, masking

the  aggrievements of her

mellowing face.


Time was her nemesis,

silent, distant, approaching:

her constant aggravation,
about which old Khayyam

would muse and sing,
and Hamlet mourned,
of what, to a fallen bird,
providence may bring.


Imitation and Renewal


Persistence and passing are reconciled with each

other in eternal recurrence and also the individual

in his transitoriness finding consolation in nature.


                                        --- Chuang-tzu

A-buzz with the traffic
of plastic cards, neon and cabaret,
scraping the sky with stock

exchanges, dicker-wits, fashionably fixed
before the mirrors of their own 

inconsequential images.

Architects of a brief economy
sewn into the fabric of a mask.
But look: these little flowers

that tremble in the wind,
or flock of birds fluttering
through an evening shaft,

or tree with its seed and its fruit,
or clouds that move and shape
a formless sky, or stars that

bless us with their light,
resonate with a deep yearning,
that cannot be bought or sold,
pregnant, with the air of returning.


Testament 1


Don't expect a standing ovation

from me, for all those wagging tongues

between sharp teeth,

wowsers for war and wisdom,


pumping archaic brains,

toxic with superstition,

marching down history,

double-blind and cocksure,

to the thumpity-thump

of old battle hymns,

revelations and prayers.


I'd rather taste the mortalness

of her quivering flesh,

grounded in the fertile

gardens of her eyes,

than lend one syllable

of my crafted ink

to their dried-up, idealistic

bridal mires.


I'd rather save my applause

for a saner science,

its little discoveries won

with experience and compassion,

in the atmosphere

of a clearer air.

Only then

my friend, will it be

possible to speak of a light,

that between us

illuminates by degrees.




For my ol' mate Daniel Clarke Hacking, who

took a boat, a bottle of Johnny Walker, a fishing

rod and his troubled mind out to sea, and was

never seen again.



I once knew a bloke

who wouldn’t give to learn,

but stole to conceal;

his life, half-lived,

his gift, half-understood,

his perceptions, half-real.

I once knew a bloke

who’d rather turn than face,

who’d turn up the music

to numb with grace;

whose life was always

a-sailing out beyond


those warning signs within,

where whisky’s scourge

of sentimental muses,

sailed and assailed

his veins and breath;

where sentence after sentence

brought no rehabilitation

or relief, but merely,

a deeper bruising

below the skin.

I once knew a bloke,

who’d rather sink, than swim.



Here and Now


Now is the ever-present

we walk away from but never leave,

the light between, the moving image,

the cell, the scene, the face,


the harbour, where love sails

in and out, and we are left

to wonder, what was that?

And why?


This is where yesterday ends,

where tomorrow wants to be,

where escapes are plotted

and compromises made,


where the holy of holies

and the lags of security

sell promises to the blind,

where hope is secure and always

unrealized in a dream;

this is where our loveliest

and most painful memories


once lived, where all

our least and greatest ventures

shrivel at their root,

where inspiration

and despair find

their depth and height,


where beyond certainty and doubt

magic moves the opening of a flower,

turns grass green,

the grub to butterfly,

holds each star apart.


To depart is no answer,

and freedom is not to evade,

but to search the stars

for their meaning,


and to meet with clear vision

whatever faces us,

now and here,

where the distance ends.




The redolence of flowers,

mixed with the dew-kissed

pungency of departing dawn.


Runners on the Merri path,

the smell of coffee in lanes,

the singed vermilion edges


of clouds, splintering shafts of light

with flocks of bird song.

Bumper to bumper


towards peek hour,

everything moves forward

around the clock.




We recall, after the experience,
skin beyond skin, that undefinable melding
deeper in, the sharing of the sacred fire,
that burns away all that separates
memory and desire.


After such bliss, when the world
and its ways reclaim us, there are only
the ashes of hopes and dreams
to accompany our separate ways:
touchstones for our loss and grief.


And you, the great love of my life,
living out your compensations
in these kingdoms of the dead,
your ashes are beyond my rendering,
having known you for what they are not.


I See You There


I see you there,
down the sunny rain
of years, over asphalt,
token freeways, a-wash


with yesterday; where
fools and lovers
play minds like cards,


their eyes, stained
with the graffiti
of backstreet affairs,
desperate for less.


I hear you crying
beneath the cock-a-hoop
of beer and tickles,
grieving in silence,


in the aftermath
of every Tinder love affair.

The Jumper my Sister Knit


The pattern

was a fisherman's rib*

of the softest Merino fibre,

aqua-blue and white.


Every night

you'd sit by that old

Broad-ford firelight,


your eyes,

brimming with sisterly care,

compassionate and bright,

gracing with warmth,

the drop and pearl

of every stitch.


"Is it too loose? Too tight?"

And me replying,

with a hug and a kiss,

"No Est',+ it feels just right."


And now, against the evening frost,

a cold morning's bite

and the nip

of a noon-day chill,

three years in your grave,

and your fisherman-ribbed jumper

warms me still.




                                   * A knitting pattern.

                                       + I would often call my sister Est',

                                      which is short for Esther.


                    © 2019 Eugene Alexander  Donnini

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