Blackbox manifold

Issue 15: Chris Andrews

Lost-Combination Lockout

Where’s the photographer who declined

to capture the startling colour-spills

that vanish in the Antarctic blue

and white — the blood of an albatross,

a rill of chartreuse penguin urine —

preferring to pursue the almost

imperceptible textures of fog?

I suppose she’s back in Wellington.

The snows of yore are in the cycle.

But what about the ring-in king who

banished that thinker to archive-land

for being a hopeless finisher?

Did he have the foggiest idea

of the leaps his courtier had made

in the long art of combinations?

And that decisive King of Denmark

whose name escapes me, where does he ride?

The snows of yesteryear are in you

and the ashes of a future fire.

Early speedcubers have arthritis.

Dull cucumbers wither on the vine.

Where are they now, the glinting hatchet,

the van to die in, that banished clerk?

After tantalizing me for weeks

with the promise of a solution

that would go clack like a wet mailbox,

that line vanished back into the dark.

Vertical (II)

To the head-kicker on probation,

stroked and softly glowing tie-silk says:

Pretty ruthless, but it’s just too soon

to tell if ruthlessness is enough.

Stare all you like; we don’t blink either,

and the timer is running. Outside:

sunny, light winds, twenty-five degrees.

The city’s effortless ugliness

mined by figs and bolting lorikeets.

For a man with a stiff neck, stretching

on a street corner, a clear sky reads:

MARRY ME ERIC. He waits to see

the first M blur as the final A

is traced, before going underground

to spend this golden day engraving

dog tags, bullet cases and love locks

that will face the harbour or the sea

amid a gradually swelling crowd.

It’s fluorescence versus marigold

at the formerly charmless café

in the underpass. A couple sits.

To the man with a bitter mouthful

of foot, ruefully contemplating

a future mined with moments it will

always be just too late to avoid,

stepped-on shoe-leather says: You’re harmless

enough but who’s entirely harmless?

The Object Cell

When I look up again, the lemon

is swinging and the bulbuls are gone.

The dusty dormer window’s ajar.

I think it’s The Queens of the Stone Age.

Nice garden, but I can’t just sit here

waiting for the dead palm frond to drop.

Keys, thumb-drive, pencil, glasses: mobile.

Two Maronite sisters walk ahead.

The fallen orange is turning blue.

May lights up the enclaves of autumn.

When I reach the place of the hanged bat

it has vanished and a magpie sings:

this is liquid syllabicity.

Another CCTV camera

has enriched the owner’s compound eye.

I know it’s not the Kings of Neon,

but what could be sinister about

a cypress tower’s grey interior?

The next time I look up, the orange

is gone and the cloud’s a pure slate blue.

I smile at a silhouette but it’s

another person altogether.

The loyal rivalry of my feet

has brought me to this corner again.

There it is: the mini aqua dome

of the Greek church, paler than the sky

on one side, darker on the other.



Ordinary morning, Canterbury Road:

some aggressive car-body language

between Forty Winks and Captain Snooze.

A little bird tells our quipping hosts

that the backing singer who came through

the blind auditions on fire now feels

like a used tissue. Never easy,

sending people home, said judge and coach.

But the truth is it gets easier.

A byte from the man who knows what can

count as a live issue in the eyes

of an ordinary Australian

in a marginal seat. New season,

new ways to dramatize exclusion

and feed the national dream of a home

where the features are stunning and beer

has a dedicated fridge. Old news

but still true that corneal tissue

from the man on a bridging visa

who set himself alight is living

in the eye of an Australian.

Aeroplane shadows flash over us.

Fluid air traffic between a place

where the beaches are stunning and fear

is impalpable to visitors

and a place with stunning beaches where

mattress disposal is an issue.

Chris Andrews teaches at Western Sydney University. He is the author of two collections of poems: Cut Lunch (Indigo, 2002) and Lime Green Chair (Waywiser, 2012). He has also translated books of fiction by Latin American writers, including Roberto Bolaño's By Night in Chile (Harvill, 2003) and César Aira's The Musical Brain and Other Stories (New Directions, 2015).