Blackbox Manifold

Issue 10: Michael Farrell

Bush Christie

The strangers and travellers were all in place

Only one of them wore a murderer’s face

His name was – Mary Gilmore came in then

Making firm statements about the victim:

Banjo Paterson had always liked him

Apparently he owed Henry Lawson six bob

None could remember him having a job

But a poet will always go easy on a sloth

For reasons of euphony, sense or both

John Shaw Neilson was revising in his head

His attitude relaxed towards the dead –

The croaked (all’d seen a few). Adam Lindsay

Gordon too appeared. The dead bloke

Had been speared and poisoned. The

Latter they found out about later. Except

Of course, the poisoner, who sat there

Knowing – but were they the spearer

Also? Who in the room was good at

Throwing, apart from Bennelong? It

Wouldn’t be him, he’s playing detective:

A too predictable upsetting of fictive

Structure. Lawson had been known to

Loose a billy into the scrub when swinging

It to make tea. He wouldn’t poison either

One who owed him money (the IOU

Was well-known and had been larger).

Uncharacteristically quiet was Charles

Harpur thought Bennelong, who had

Himself been speared but never serious-

Ly. Ned and Dan Kelly played snooker.

Ned appeared to have breasts but they

Were coconut shells shied away from

Shaw Neilson who’d been playing a

Game of ‘horse music’ with Gordon.

Ned of course had the track record.

But the deceased was not of the police.

Gilmore was preparing a jack o’ lantern –

Something she’d picked up in Paraguay

She said. Probably a lie, and she had a

Strong pumpkin-cutting arm … She

Lit a candle and put it in Jack’s head.

Bennelong couldn’t eat her bread. Pat-

Erson splashed a little gin at Lawson’s

Burning card hand, which could have

Made it worse, but luckily didn’t.

Lawson had nodded; his cigarette

Caught the edge of an ace or a card

With a face. It’d been a good one

Anyway, Lawson claimed. Harpur

Raised a brow at the waste of the gin

Though currently convinced that drink

Was a sin and could lead to anything.

Mary Fullerton was looking in the bible

For a letter; while Henry Kendall listened

In order to write about it later. It was tribal –

Bennelong was convinced – he didn’t buy

The swaggie tag that’d been stuck to the

Murderee. There was more camaraderie

Under the surface than he cared for. This

Was no knife-fight in a dunny over honour

Or money, but some thick coves hiding in

The smoke of a stove in a Shearer’s hut

Where treacle did for bush honey. He

Needed a clue: it was in the woodpile

By the stove – a review of a new book

Of not-so-innocent Austral verse. The

Wind changed and a spear went through

The reviewer – a handy piece of wood

Too it was and confiscated … The news-

Paper was dated a week ago. All claimed

To have been at the beach or the snow

Holidaying, not paying attention to lit-

Erary affairs. They spoke in threes and

Pairs. Where did the Kellys come in then?

They were no more poets than Bennelong

Himself. Though ‘E’ took notes on their

Diction. The case became one of dereliction.

An Animal Named Richard III

Like a book in the basement of a Melbourne

university / What is the text of a

tiger? A photograph’s entrails might show

evidence of Dick Burbage. Notions such

as these may harden a book (they may not

but what of the animal named Richard

III? Adam as Shakespeare. A king is

a non-fiction category, say fictions

An animal flexing of genders. Don’t

be tired: in the streets roam diverse creatures

that would conquer all younger commentaries

An animal can be read, and reread

A blueprint (or hologram) takes on flesh

whether shorter or longer means cutting

of the tail or the neck. Well might you think

such mutilation destabilising

Let the inducers proclaim that all known

unicorns are white: black logic will rear

its Southern-conditioned head. But that’s by

the-by. We don’t know what kind of verse it

speaks. Volatile, stamping, wanting-to-be

free … perhaps. Beside the River Clarence

runs the old animal, Richard Three. Ghosts

of poetry, Freudian sentinels

guide and block its way. A truth like sardine

twins glimmers in the drool of its tongue. Keys

that once jangled on its neck or tail are

muffled. It is not fearful, nor is it

faithful, a flapping of dry bedsheet round

a Tower. Valued, dedicated, it

has diasporic eyes / incorporates

disintegration, believes its own hair

about its ears. Call it keeper of a

tragedie – it will not come: it others

family. A complex image, then. What’s

a clock but a book of time. Of forces

Machiavellian is Richard

III, a play. It has no confidants, yet’s

interactive, fluid, a very Duke

of culture: every expression its own

imperfect couplet, intricate quatrain

By definition, lap-oblivious

The Fragmented

Like a woman in a blue dressing gown

as her husband leaves town. The self …

divided. ‘What about our island?’ says

the man when his girlfriend asks him why he

stays with her. One of them has cancer

all of them have hopes and dreams. They’re just …

characters. They don’t represent …

anything: they say that to each other

When they meet by accident on …

beach years later. Or they produce a new

sexuality like a rose out of

the old. ‘It’s like I had no skin before

they shout, putting on their fantastic new

suits. A woman is lightly …

reprimanded for shutting her lover

in a cupboard for fifteen minutes. ‘I’m

not a woman’ she says, ‘women are bold

brasserie-damp. They make red sails in …

sunset and all that jazz.’ The man arrives

in his hometown, returning with a good

job and a woman in a blue dressing

gown. ‘I thought Marie stayed in the city

to focus on her career, where …

universities are apple pies to

cook your children in.’

                                    ‘She did stay but split

into two, this is also Marie …

Marie runs into the house to change. There

are workers renovating the kitchen

‘Do you want to drill or glue, Han …


                  ‘No, you have to choose.’ Marie

tries to dodge their equipment in her …

slippers. They applaud her adroitness. ‘No,

mum’ he says, ‘this isn’t my gay self, I

wouldn’t bring my gay self to the country

‘Well what’s he doing for Christmas?’

                                                           ‘Don’t …

worry I’m sure he’s having a good time

The mouse is of a particularly …

nondescript personality …

practically thought of as ‘inframice’ by

other rodent friends. Which does lend …

certain conceptual cool to …

mouse’s being or ‘beos’. At …

moment of conception of her own …

adoption, she feels a fragmenting as

if going off to other, unlived lives

The ex is met at a café or at

Coles, and our whole beauty is restrained, re-

channelled; beauty is not something we will

let the ex desire. The one with cancer

goes on a two-year holiday; no one

ever knows. The hopes and dreams are killed by

the chemo and something stockier grows

in their place. An unflowering rose is

still a rose. The insomniac mouse is

disordered. It has sleeping selves: it’s …

divided against this identity

that it drinks into, as Marie stirs …

café au lait and sits down with her …

mother-in-law, knowing that she isn’t

living, renovations coming along

They’re running from and writing to each …

other, their different outfits glinting in

the light. The plural seagull celebrates

these shards: human, personable shards, as

they splinter like kicked glass, like broken …

perspective or an othering sharing

Each one like a quote drowning in the sky

Michael Farrell co-edited Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets (2009). Recent publications are open sesame (2012) and enjambment sisters present (2012). He grew up in platypus/timber country; a tea drinker, he now lives in Melbourne's coffee belt.