Off the Edge

An Anthology of Poems and Short Stories by Canberra Performance Poets

(Boris Books, x + 150pp, $14.96 Australian, ISBN 0 646 25882 6)

Off the Edge is a collection of stories and poems by authors who have performed at a number of Canberra performance venues. There are 120 poems and stories from 47 authors ranging from 8 to 80, with an equally wide variety of experience, from first-time performers through to professionals. Moods range from the humorous to provocative to tragic.

Here are four of the poems from the book.

Two Pairs and a Loser

The old lady in the pink cardigan said G’day as she punched the buttons again.
"Oh dear" was her next comment as another line-up went awry.
Two pairs and a loser for me.
The wheels rolled around and the machine began to sing and she
beamed as the fifty whirled up on her meter.
Two pairs and a loser for me.
"Bad luck love" was all she said as she lit another cigarette.
Thick smoke and the babble of the crowd.
Nobody really talking, just whoops of the winner and the groans of the near misses.
Two pairs and a loser for me.
I look along the rows of the shining machines and I see the
mesmerising colours beckoning, flashing and calling.
Squillions are being changed by the bored woman in the cashiers cage.
Two pairs and a loser for me.
The other faces in the rows of coloured lights only reveal the pain.
Of battling odds greater than the locusts, drought and rain.
"Someone got the jackpot last week just after I left it".
The cardigan lady says to me.
"I only play this one and that one" she says.
Pointing a skeletal finger at the thief that just stole my last coin.
"Four million years ago I won a thousand on the one you are playing" the cardigan lady is telling me.
The scene around me as the machines whir and clang is like the bar scene from Starwars.
Creatures of every shape and size on dreams of fortune bent.
And I just threw away all of my next weeks rent.
Two pairs and a loser for me.
I walk away with a vacant stare contemplating suicide.
But would the fucking cashier care.
My pockets empty and my soul in despair.
No-one forced me to come and play.
The one armed bandit that just stole my pay.
And the people just keep going in with smiles on their faces.
To have their wallets emptied and their brains distilled.
While I walk home praying it will rain Grand Pianos.
Two pairs and a loser for me.

Stephen Hindy

Crime Street

Across Crime Street
Inscrutable professionals seldom glance
through bay windows and hedges
at government flats
lest working class residents
might glimpse back
at respectable homes
where I live.

In Crime Street
my letter box is often kicked off
A cheerful fellow with gaping teeth
borrowed my ladder with a few rungs
some time ago
and I leave my car unlocked
to avoid a broken window.

In Crime Street
unattended bicycles are inclined to leave
but VCRs are real cheap
It seems that drugs grow on trees
Louie and the gear
burn cash and guts
cars also combust spontaneously
neighbourhood watches
no one reports.

In Crime Street
saints go silently about their works
in skinny black jeans or tattoos
administering substances to those in need
a Laotian woman sorts glass and paper
and Our Lady of the Milk Crate
awaits her Son
On a third floor flat
madness lurks behind dusty curtains
where rag spiders watch.

In Crime Street
Socialists and police have a duty to visit
day or night
an artist sculptures metal
and a punk philosopher
insinuates science into poetry
the latest fashion is hoax.

At the appointed time
white suited aliens
arrive in government trucks
to poison weeds and remove oak leaves.

One day
according to the Plan
these crimes and miracles
will be erased
under tracks of commuter trams
running on schedule
between tasteful terraces

Hal Judge

Letter to a Fond Relation

Send me, I beg you,
no more possessions.
My tiny refuge
is crammed beyond measure
with paraphernalia
from all of the years; walls
are stretched tight and
already the mind,
restless and fevered
by thoughts of long night,
paints vivid impression
of children, grandchildren,
sifting, re-sifting
for treasure in trivia,
diamond in dust. Send
if you must, repeated assurance
of your love for me, although even this
is superfluous now.
So send in simplicity, brevity,
words to lie under my pillow
through a chill winter night.

Venie Holmgren

I Wished

I wished for you as a child waits
for her birthday
I wished for you with the renewal of hope
as rain fertilises fallow land
I wished for you as a sacred promise
of tomorrow.

I wished for you
to wish for me to whisper
sweet meanings in your hair,
lick your ear as the wind leaves
the back door open
to whisk with fresh air.

I wished for you to want to hold me
searing softness of palm
to stroke my ageing face
to flip the fickle hair
from my eyes gazing
into your round browness.

I wished for you to lick my nose
with your tongue
as a melting tingling ice cream
to grab my hand
pull me along
shout to the world our joy.

I kept my wishes secret
I wrote them on this page
I sang them in my heart:
two butterflies
the scent of roses
a gangly cloud all replied.

I wished my wishes
were wishes
that you wished.

Linette Bone

Copyright © Stephen Hindy, Hal Judge, Venie Holmgren, Linette Bone, 1995

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